JARS OF CLAY - VESSELS OF
© Carlos Padilla, June 2012
Jesus Christ spoke to Paul, after he fell to the ground and said to him: “Saul,
Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the
Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick
against the goads.” Acts 9:4-5.
Paul had not been born again yet, but he was a man of God, a jar of clay being
formed that would be called to apostleship, and he certainly fulfilled his
mission. But before he saw that light, brighter than the midday sun which
blinded him, he was on his way to fulfill his mission. A mission which he
thought was God's will, but for God it was not, not because Paul had not learnt
the Scriptures properly, since he was brought up at the feet of
Gamaliel, who today would be
considered a theology professor, and Paul graduated with profound understanding.
The Lord would use it to reveal to him the true interpretation, the one we read
in his letters and in the Gospel of Luke. This interpretation has been a gift of
God to the whole Church and for every believer who comes to the Scriptures and,
through Them, is transformed into a disciple of Christ.
But Paul was a jar of clay being formed, unfinished, and that still needed to be
placed in the furnace to be fired, in the spiritual furnace which is the burden
of our own cross and that emanates from the Cross of Christ. But Paul would not
only be a good jar of clay for glory, but a vessel of oil for anointment of the
Church throughout the times until today, in his teachings inspired by the Holy
Spirit in the Bible and by a life of Christian example. Paul would be a useful
and chosen vessel for the Lord. We can also be those vessels or tools that God
designs as the Potter, but our outer shell, the clay, must be pliable in the
hands of our loving Father.
Let us go deeper into the process of forming the jars of clay and vessels of God
in order to understand what we must do on our side to become vessels for honour
and for the glory of God, to be efficient disciples of Jesus Christ. The
question is: Which type of jars or vessels are we? The answer in the Bible is:
Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like
this?"... Romans 9:20. God's individual answer is closer than we think if we let
Him fill our souls with the Holy Spirit and His oil of anointment.
FROM THE WHEEL TO THE OVEN
all know that the potter places the clay on a wheel that goes round while he
shapes the jar or vessel, Jeremiah 18:3. That piece of clay needs water to be
flexible and receive the shape that the potters wants for it. Likewise,
Christian life needs the living waters of the Spirit to be shaped. Lord I am
thirsty of you! is what the Christian soul will shout. Once the jar or vessel is
finished, it is placed inside a oven to harden. Just like the pieces of clay,
in our Christian life we have placed ourselves in the Lord's hands and we have
allowed Him to form us and, once we come out of the oven, we can be useful for
the glory of God. If, on the contrary, we have hardened and we do not allow God
to work on us and we don't even receive the water, we need to be broken and
formed again. We need to go, like in another parable, to the
carpenter's workshop to repair the wood of our life, creased, splintered,
worm-eaten, to be polished, repaired, waxed and have oil applied. And, coming
back to the Potter, we see that God does not place in the oven unfinished jars
or vessels, or the ones that are dry and hardened.
Many times in our lives we go ahead in our projects, diligently, but our
projects are opposed to God's will, or we want to do them at a time which is not
God's time, and He stops us abruptly, He has to throw us to the ground, or
break us, like He did to Paul, as we read at the beginning. A Christian has to
watch permanently - watch without ceasing - in his personal relationship with
Jesus Christ, so that the Holy Spirit speaks to his heart and receives the
blessing of the Father, the unmistaken direction of what to do with his life.
God places us in the way of he Great Commission if we are finished tools by our
virtue to carry water, oil or wheat. Whoever does not allow God to work in
his life, it will not be a life of honour.
Obedience is an essential pillar of our relationship with God in order to become
a vessel for honour. Like Our Father, to whom we always say "let Thy will be
done", is what is consistent in our relationship with Him, to do that will of
His for us. Oswald Chambers wrote about Psalm 25 regarding the relationship with
God as our Father, that He who knows every detail in our individual lives and
rejoices in sharing His joy and sorrows with us, but do we let Him speak to us
or do our prayers leave no room for Him to talk to us?
the beginning of our life with God we have many questions and requests, but when
we mature in the relationship, the biggest sign of friendship with the Lord is
that we share our joys and sorrows, not just pray and pray begging for things
all the time. We are jars of clay and although we are fragile when compared to
the greatness of our Maker, we are filled with God's water of life, and that
life contains the friendship with His Son Jesus.
Our God is a consuming fire, says
the Bible is Hebrews 12:29, and therefore if we have been properly formed in His
hands, if we have looked for our purpose in God's hands, whom we can ask until
we find the answer, we can come to that fire in His temple, to His Presence,
like an oven to solidify our clay for blessing in His presence.
FROM THE FIRE TO THE MISSION
jars for honour for water and vessels for honour for oil, as in the story
of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, we have to take these gifts to the church
and to the world, to our neighbour who does not know God but needs him even
though they don't know. This is how we used to be without God in the world,
but when we were called, we were made for honour, to take the glory of
God in jars of clay to the world: ... For the gifts and the calling of God are
irrevocable... Romans 11:29.
But if we do not listen to God, if we follow the call of the Great Commission
once we are saved, after we are born again, if we allow our outer shell of clay
to harden, then it becomes a hypocrite outer clothing, arrogant, against the will
of the Potter and our Maker will have to break the jar and refuse it. Jesus Christ
used to accuse scribes and pharisees along these same lines, calling them
hypocrites and whitewashed tombs which appeared beautiful outwardly, but inside
are - and also are today - full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness; who
clean just the outside of the jar. Brood of vipers! How can you escape the
condemnation of hell? Matthew 23. This was also the preaching of his cousin John
the Baptist, when he used to say to them: "Who warned you to flee from the wrath
to come?" Matthew 3:7. The wrath which the flee from and that leads them to
condemnation and hell is the one that breaks the hardened jar of clay.
jar made of clay, but of another type, of another chemical-spiritual
composition, although we are dust and to dust we shall return, and clay is dust
and water, the other clay I refer to is the mud of sin, the put in the oven but not in God's
oven, but in the oven of
a life matured in obstinacy and arrogance, far away from God. A life that has
not began from that "repent", without reconciliation, not born again. Or even
some who call themselves believers, without reading or studying the Bible,
without deep and intimate prayer with God, without preaching or witnessing in
public, without good works at his reach to love his neighbour, without
fellowship in the church, without so many
things that are part of Christian life. When we don't live the life that Jesus
Christ taught us, God has to break
the jar of clay of our "old man" and place
our soul in a new and clean jar of clay which this time will be placed in His
oven, after repentance.
The vessels of wrath are those who oppose God, the enemies of the Spirit, those
who are at the devil's mercy, of his power in the darkness of this world. Their
lives are for wrath because they do not obey God, they waste their time, they
live looking for the pleasures of worldly life, money, the lie of a false and
temporary happiness, etc. They do not doubt to heart others in the way,
they hate, kill, lie, are fornicators and adulterers, ungodly, merciless, and
condemnation comes to them soon. Their lives build this ungodly society we see
around us, with famine, injustice, false religion, abomination, bondage for the
glory of the world, not for the glory of God, a life where they are only
building bricks for Pharaoh. But this is what we all were before we knew Christ,
and thanks to the undeserved grace of God's mercy and
compassion, we have been rescued from another oven, the furnace of hell, and we
have been made children of God by the power of the Cross of Christ, for His
glory. Because before He was crucified and resurrected, Jesus said: ...These
things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you
will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. John
we are of the kind that allows God to form us, who respond to His call, because
God's call is irresistible, because His love overtakes us, and because by faith
we trust that He is our Maker. And mercy triumphs over judgment, and that mercy
is in the Christian heart, reformed by God. Yes, we were predestined to serve
God and worship Him, and enjoy His love and His presence through His
irresistible Grace, because God knew us before the foundation of the world,
because God is omnipresent and eternal. This is how
Simon of Cyrene was chosen to carry the Cross for Jesus Christ, and the
children of this Simon are counted as disciples: Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13.
The same way that the historical fact of the existence of the Holy Roman/German
Empire in the hands of Charles I of Spain and V of Germany, would help the
Protestant Reformation reach out to all those countries under his power because
they were connected, in spite of
the abominable crimes of the "Holy Inquisition" which would demolish
it, from the beginning in some countries, but in which Jesus Christ would open
the door ultimately. Today the Bible translated to every language is found worldwide, and its
number one best seller every year.
All of these concepts about predestination, double predestination and free will,
would cause great debates in the times of the Reform, and they still do today in
the church. If reformed doctrine is, just going back to the Bible, then why were
there so many fights? Because they did not have the Bible like we have it, until
it was translated, until they returned to It, until it was studied in
freedom, without the dogmas of the tradition of men of religion. But before the
Reform there were already some sparks of reformation in different places and
centuries who had already received the revelation of the Spirit of the Gospel
and the Awakening. Before, during and after Luther, who is not the only reformer, there were other translations of parts of the Bible,
especially into Latin. But Luther was who received the call to translate it into
the language of the people, which was the real change in the situation. Then Reina Valera into Spanish and Tyndale into English,
together with Luther into German, would change the world forever. How many
of us have converted reading the Bible?
The three Lutheran "Solas" and the additional two by Calvin are the five "Solas"
of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Soli
This result of God's fire in the Reformation gave these fundamental pillars of
Sola Scriptura: Scripture is the only divine authority for salvation; traditions
or other books cannot contradict the Bible or be compared to it, no matter how
old they are or how much tradition they contain.
God's Grace alone is that gives us salvation through the work of the Son on
the Cross. The Grace of God is the source of forgiveness. We do not know sin
unless we know Grace. We do not convince our selves by the guilt in our
Sola Fide: Only faith on that work of the Son is sufficient for salvation, and
man cannot earn it through his own merits, good works or works of the Law of
God. Good work are to be done because we love our neighbour, not as a merit to
save ourselves. Let us do them because of others - not ourselves.
Solus Christus: Only Christ is the mediator, the saviour, the redeemer of man
for eternal life.
Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God alone. Our Christian life, whatever we do, must be
for His glory only. God is who created us, loved us and saved us.
We should preach
this every time and everywhere taking the fire of the mission of the Gospel in
the Great Commission, a the instruction of Acts 1:8, from the
moment that the Holy Spirit comes upon us, from Jerusalem, in all Judea and
Samaria and to the end of the earth.
FROM THE MISSION TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Once we have reached the life of blessing and mission which God has made us or,
we can walk in His hand trusting and joyful, waiting for our redemption for the
Kingdom of God, even if we have to wait for some time in this life. And it is of
great blessing to live serving God and our neighbour, as the apostle said: For
to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21. But it also
fills us with hope about death and resurrection of the body when it is announced
that He would prepare dwellings or mansions for us and return. These mansions or
dwellings are the new vessels of the Spirit, our new heavenly and eternal
bodies, which do not get sick, old or die but they are the Temple of the living
The jars and vessels are chosen souls
by the grace of God. Spiritual
receptacles made to be filled with the Spirit of God. Our soul, which is His
temple, full of water of the Spirit and anointment oil. In this jar we find the
water that will take away our thirst, Christ's living water which fills the soul
that has surrended to Him. With oil in the lamp of our heart, the light
of God illuminates our life for eternal life, as in the story of the ten
The clay is the soul softened by the Spirit of God to receive the Gospel. The
soil that is mixed with water, our soil, is our soul and the water is
the Word of God. When one is in clay means that God is preparing the
soil to receive the seed, the Gospel of the Cross of Christ; but the soul has to
accept that water to be softened and to receive it in depth. If the soil is
hard, the seed bounces off and does not go any deeper. The new soil once
softened and maid clay, is the material that God uses to make
our jars, our souls to hold His treasure: His Spirit.
Christians who carry God's water and oil, we will dress with the Spiritual
garments of the Anointment, to share, enjoy and serve our brethren, because
they are the Kingdom of God on Earth until the perfect comes. We will
do and enjoy as Psalm 133 says, as vessels of the Spirit.
And finally, as the prophecy of Revelation says, we will emanate prophetic oil
like the two olive trees in chapter 11, verse 4, which are the two witnesses of
the final times, before the appearance of Chris in the clouds, "...and every
eye will see Him..." Revelation 1:7. We will carry the pure Word of God,
untainted of traditions, denominations and other human yeasts. We will proclaim
the sound doctrine of the Cross of Christ that emanates the salvation of the
Grace of God, through faith in the work of Jesus Christ, and we will light the
fire of the presence of God and the hope of the Kingdom of God, for His glory
until His coming.
...But indeed, O
man, who are you to reply
the thing formed say to him who
formed it, “Why have you made me
21Does not the potter have power
over the clay, from the same
lump to make one vessel for
honor and another for dishonor?
22What if God,
wanting to show His wrath and to
make His power known, endured
with much longsuffering the
vessels of wrath prepared for
23and that He might make known the
riches of His glory on the
vessels of mercy,
had prepared beforehand for
whom He called, not
of the Jews only, but also of
the Gentiles?. Romans 9.
...A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.” 2So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.”3Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. 4And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” 5So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. 6Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. 7Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.” 2Kings 4.
...The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: 2“Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” 3Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. 4And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. 5Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 6“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! 7The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. Jeremiah 18.
...“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. 11“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. Matthew 25.
...And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2.
DISCIPLES IN THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY WHO WERE JARS AND VESSELS FOR HONOUR
Peter and Paul were formed in God's pottery wheel, re-shaped from Judaism until they left the great apostolic legacy to the Church today. Martyrs, as those of the early church, brothers who died in the arena of the circus until the times of Constantine, they suffered another oven: martyrdom, but this one leads to the presence of the Lord. They were jars and vessels of clay for honour and glory of God.
Ireneus, Clement, Tertullian, Origen, were formed in God's pottery wheel, re-shaped from the initial church until they left their great legacy of basis of doctrine as masters of a world under construction in their times, but they were the base of the councils that would forge the orthodoxy of the faith. They were jars and vessels of clay for honour and glory of God.
Augustine of Hippo was formed in God's pottery wheel, re-shaped from Plato's philosophy until he left his theological legacy that would influence the Church until today: The City of God.
Thomas of Aquinas was formed in God's pottery wheel, re-shaped from the Catholic church and monastic life, and although he was forged in Aristotle, knew how to work until he left another theological legacy that would influence the Church until today, bringing it closer to a faith that was easier to comprehend and a more comprehensive and philosophical faith: Suma Teologica, a work which has been compared to a gothic cathedral. These two giants of faith: Augustine and Thomas, would bring Christian faith closer to the world of philosophy, Plato's and Aristotle's followers. They were jars and vessels of clay for honour and glory of God.
Martin Luther was formed in God's pottery wheel, re-shaped from the Catholic church until he started the great legacy of the Protestant Reformation, from God's oven. Before him, many brothers fought to reform the Church in its deviations in theology, way of life and order, such as Wycliff and Huss. Others, like Cardinal Cisneros who contributed with the Complutensian Polyglot Bible, before Luther's times. But the translation into vernacular languages would be the one to receive God's blessing. Other versions would come after the German translation, such as the King James', and then the Spanish Reina Valera. These brethren were jars and vessels of clay for honour and glory of God.
John Wesley was formed in God's pottery wheel, re-shaped from the Anglican church until he left the legacy of the Methodist church, based on pietism, the Moravians and the Great Awakening. The poor, the living faith on the new birth of the Spirit, the preaching of that living faith preached in open air. The ordination of laymen who were chosen by the Spirit instead of traditions. Together with his brother Charles, who composed thousands of hymns, they were jars and vessels of clay for honour and glory of God.
Billy Graham and his evangelistic ministry, was formed in God's pottery wheel, re-shaped from the local church to pray across the world and lead missions in the end times for the Great Commission. A jar and vessel of clay for honour and glory of God.
All of these, and many others that cannot be listed here, with their mistakes and defects, with the limits of their own mind, their circumstances and denominations, were used by God as vessels for honour for one reason: the sincerity of their faith and their obedience to God. They were all placed in God's oven, and God made them into jars and vessels that would carry the water, oil and wheat and the Church could take and receive at each different time.
You and I, brother or sister, also with our own mistakes, defects, influences from whichever society or denomination, but with a pure heart and true faith, and obeying God, we have been, are and will be formed in God's pottery wheel, re-shaped from wherever we come from until we are made into whichever vessels of clay for honour and vessels of water, wheat and oil for whichever anointment God gives us. As Creator of the universe, which is also like a jar of clay where we live provisionally and that will also be placed in God's oven, man's life does not find God by evolution but by creation and intelligent design of God's science, not ours. We cannot form ourselves for God. The Holy Spirit will always fill our vessels-souls and whilst we are being formed by Him, will provide the sources of living waters inside us, as long as we watch and we come to keep the nights watches of the Lord.
God's oven is in His presence, because God is a consuming fire. If we serve the Lord with our heart, we will also be like fire of the Spirit, baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire, as John the Baptist used to announce, Matthew 3:11. Jesus said that He came to send fire on the earth" and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!" Luke 12:49-50. And also the Christian.
We are made of clay, made for a purpose, but clay is an allegory that reveals our fragility and dependence on our Creator and Father. Paul used to say that he was what he was by the grace of God, and inspired by the Lord he wrote: ... For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven... 2Corinthians 5:1.
Intimacy with God is the source of Grace that consolidates us daily, the fire of the oven that turns us into jars and vessels of God for honour, until the Son comes and takes us to His eternal kingdom. To Him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.