By treasure, Paul meant the sacrament of God in Christ, which is made manifest to believers but which has been concealed from unbelievers with a veil. Just as a treasure is put in a hidden place, the sacrament of God is hidden within a person, in his heart. The reference to earthen vessels is an allusion to the weakness of human nature, which can do nothing unless empowered by God.1
For God delivers us from afflictions not when we are no longer in affliction (… Paul says “we are afflicted in every way,” as though there were never a time when we were not afflicted), but when in our affliction we are not crushed because of God’s help. “To be afflicted,” according to a colloquial usage of the Hebrews, has the meaning of a critical circumstance that happens to us without our free choice, while “to be crushed” implies our free choice and that it has been conquered by affliction and given into its power. And so Paul is right when he says, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed.”2
And unless we understand something that has escaped the notice of the many concerning praying not to enter into temptation, it is time to say that the apostles sometimes prayed and were not heard. How many thousand sufferings did they experience throughout their lifetimes with far greater labors, with far more beatings, with countless imprisonments, and often near death?3
We do not suffer because of doing wrong but for the sake of the body of Christ, which is the church. He suffered for us so that his life, which is eternal, might be made manifest in our mortal bodies, so that they too might become immortal.4
Here Paul is attacking those who have believed in false apostles, who claimed that Paul was suffering because he had little faith. According to them, faith ought to guarantee that there will be no suffering at all. But Paul shows that, on the contrary, he has endured all things precisely because of his faith.5
INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW:
They say, “We are able.” They say this not so much by the boldness of their own hearts as by the ignorance of the trial. For to the unknowing, war is a desirable thing, just as to the inexperienced, the trial of suffering and death seems to be a light thing. For if the Lord, when he had entered into the trial of his suffering, was saying, “Father, if it can be done, let this cup pass from me,” by how much more would the disciples not have said “we are able” if they had known what the trial of death was like? Great indeed is the grief that suffering holds, but death holds even greater fear.6
- COMMENTARY ON PAUL’S EPISTLES. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 231). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON PRAYER 30.1. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 232). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON PRAYER 29.4. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (pp. 232–233). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS 4. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 233). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS 4. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 234). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILY 35. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (p. 115). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.