This free Bible lesson follows our hassle-free format. The basic version makes it easy to teach with very little preparation or outside materials. We’ve also suggested more activities so you can expand the lesson to best fit your ministry setting.
This is part two of a four-part series titled The Hardship and Glory of Service to Christ. (link to series index coming soon) It is a study of 2 Corinthians 3 & 4 designed for older elementary children. Use the optional activities listed below to adapt it for other age groups or ministry settings.
Lesson Title: Treasure in Jars of Clay
Bible Reference: 2 Corinthians 4:1-7
Printer Friendly: this lesson.
Target Age Group: 5th – 6th grade
Learning Context: Sunday School or Kids Church
Target Time Frame: 30 minutes
Main Idea: God has given believers the magnificent treasure of the Gospel, and it is only through His power that the Gospel transforms lives. He has chosen to use us, worthless vessels, to spread the ministry of the New Covenant.
Memory Verse: 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (ESV)
Gospel Connection: The Gospel is the treasure we have received that allows us to have the knowledge of the glory of God. A result of the Gospel is gaining this knowledge personally through a relationship with God Himself. God has chosen His people to be vessels that proclaim this knowledge, though it is only through His power that people are transformed, to His glory.
Learning Aim: After this lesson, students will know that when they accept Christ, they receive a magnificent treasure, the knowledge of the glory of God. This knowledge has been granted to us through Christ for God’s glory, that we may proclaim it to all peoples. Look for the Learning Outcome Test section in our Basic Teaching Plan below.
Basic Supply List:
- Find an old jar or vase that looks completely worthless. An empty milk carton or plastic bottle would also work. Inside, place something of great worth, like jewelry, money, or even a beautiful bouquet of flowers. If you choose to use a vase, one that leaks water would be perfect for the object lesson.
- Marker board (or poster sheet) with the memory verse written out.
- A copy of the Scripture passage for each student, they will be marking portions during the study.
- Other supplies may be needed for the optional activities. Please read them carefully if you plan to add them to the lesson plan.
Other Notes: In the teaching plan below the words in italics are meant to be read aloud. The regular text is simply directions for the teacher.
> > > > Basic Teaching Plan < < < <
Object Lesson Introduction
Display the ugly, worthless vase with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. SAY: What do you think of this vase? (Allow time for thoughts) It is very ugly, dirty. It leaks water, making it worthless as a vase. What would you think about placing this beautiful bouquet of flowers in such a worthless vase? (Allow time for response) The vase does not deserve the beauty of the these flowers!
SAY: Today’s Scripture passage speaks of jars of clay or earthen vessels. These were valueless containers in the Bible, just like this vase. Listen closely as we study it together to find out how we are like these jars of clay.
Refresher of the New Covenant Conecpt
One essential aspect of living in service to Christ is sharing the Gospel, which is sometimes called “the New Covenant.”In the New Covenant, the veil of separation has been torn between us and God. We are able to know God personally and have a relationship with Him. Our ministry or service to Christ is about sharing our knowledge of the New Covenant with all peoples! This is an awesome truth that is a treasure and brings light to the hearts of those who accept Christ!
Introduce the Scripture Passage:
Ask for volunteers to read 2 Corinthians 4:1-7. This passage is written out at the end of the lesson to make things easy, feel free to use the translation of your choice.
Verse by Verse Explanation & Discussion
Give each student a copy of the 7 verses. Ask them to look at each verse as you go through and discuss them, highlighting/writing things they want to remember.
- v. 1 “…having this ministry by the mercy of God…” SAY: This is the ministry of the New Covenant, the Gospel of Christ. It is the ministry of Christians to spread the news of the freedom we have in Christ to everyone. The truth of the New Covenant allows these believers who are in the midst of persecution to not lose heart. Why would the truth of the New Covenant keep these believers from losing heart? [God’s great mercy has given them the New Covenant. They know how great He is since their hearts have been unveiled, and this pushes them on to be obedient in their service [ministry] to Him.]
- vv. 2-3 SAY: They are not using cunning or changing God’s word in any way. Their consciences before God are clear, and they speak only the truth. So, if their message of the Gospel is still veiled to anyone, it is because they are unbelievers. Why do you think the truth of the Gospel would be veiled to unbeliever? [Their sin deceives them; Satan deceives them; because it is impossible to see the light of truth in the darkness of their hearts]
- v.4 SAY: Verse 4 tells us that their minds are blinded, unable to see the light of glory of Christ, a glory beyond comparison, the glory of the one and only God.
- vv. 5-6 SAY: Paul states that the apostles are not proclaiming themselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord. They are servants for Him as they speak His Word, for God has made the truth clear to them. It is not about themselves, but all about Christ. He has shone in their hearts, giving them the light of the knowledge of glory of God through Christ. Why does Paul emphasize that they are simply servants of Christ? [He knows God is the One ultimately transforming people. He is humble, recognizing their smallness and God’s greatness. Paul desires for God to receive all the glory. They are simply being obedient to God in response to His great mercy.]
- v.7 SAY: The knowledge of the New Covenant has shone light into their hearts, unveiling them to God’s glory. This knowledge is through Christ, and it is their treasure. Paul recognizes their worthlessness before God, but He has chosen to give them this valuable truth, to free them from their sins and bring them to Him in order to show His surpassing greatness. As His servants, He has chosen them, jars of clay, to spread this truth.
SAY: This treasure is for us if we accept Christ Jesus as our Savior and Lord. When we become followers of Christ, the veil in our hearts is torn and our darkened hearts are filled with light. This light is the knowledge of the glory of God that we have heard about through God’s Word and that we begin to experience as believers through our worship and prayers.
Continuation of Object Lesson:
Bring out the vase once more. SAY: v. 7 Jars of clay were valueless containers, readily discarded, being cheap and always available to people in Paul’s day. The difference between these worthless jars and the treasure of Christ is huge! Paul’s main purpose in calling himself and the apostles jars of clay is to reveal that human weakness presents no barrier to the purpose of God. The worthlessness of the vessels is evidence that the magnificent power which occurs when the Gospel is preached, the change that takes place in human lives, is God’s and not the apostles.
SAY: We are like this vase. Just as this vase is completely undeserving of this beautiful bouquet of flowers, we are utterly undeserving of the treasure of Christ. But God has chosen us! He has chosen you and me to share the awesome and amazing truth of His love and grace! As we realize how weak and undeserving we are, I want you to see how great God’s love and grace is for you, that He would still choose to use you to share His Word with all peoples. Let’s close our eyes and reflect on this truth together now.
Allow them to sit for one full minute in reflection. It will seem to pass by slowly, but resist the temptation to speak, even if the moment feels awkward. Times like this help teach students the beauty of stillness before the Lord. At times it is only through disciplined stillness before Him that we can hear Him speak. When the minute is up, close the time in prayer.
Learning Outcome Test: Have your students describe what this looks like in their lives day to day, really stressing the application of it, what it would look like to humbly realize the greatness of God’s gift in Christ and allow that to motivate us to boldly share our faith.
> > > > Optional Activities < < < < <
The following suggestions will help you expand and customize our basic lessons. We always value your opinion, so leave a comment and help make this resource better for other readers.
Memory verse: Ask for a volunteer to read the memory verse aloud from the marker board. Work on memorizing it together. Use any of our creative methods for memorizing Scripture.
Craft: Make jars of clay for students to take home as a reminder of this Scripture. Write the Scripture reference “2 Corinthians 4:7” on each jar.
Spreading the Gospel: Ask your students to think of ways they can share the great truth of the New Covenant to others. Have them write their ideas on a marker board. Discuss fears in sharing the Gospel. Ask: Why do you think we are so afraid to share this light of the knowledge of the glory of God? Remind your students that unbelievers respond in negative ways because the veil has not been removed from their hearts. They are blind to the truth. Because our hearts have been unveiled, we know God is the One, true God and can have confidence in standing for Him as we spread His Word.
Dissect a Phrase: Write “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” on a marker board. Have your students dissect the meaning of this phrase. For example, ask, What is light? What does light do? What is Paul saying provides light? [knowledge] Knowledge of what? How do we receive this knowledge? [through Christ in the New Covenant] Why is the New Covenant so much more glorious that the Old? [God’s glory was hidden in the Old Covenant. His people were not able to fully see Him and know Him. In the New Covenant, we have full access to God. We can pray to Him anytime and all the time. We can know Him deeply and have a relationship with Him. His glory is no longer hidden!]
Make the Connection: All of terms in this lesson can get confusing. Take time to define together New Covenant and Gospel-they are interchangeable. Right it on a marker board. After making this connection, ask how God’s glory is connected in both of these. Example:
- New Covenant<Christ<veil is gone<access to God<know Him<experience His glory
- Gospel<Christ<died and rose<our response<accept Christ<part of New Covenant
Light: Illustrate the light the knowledge of God brings to our hearts. Make your classroom completely dark.
- Ask: what do you see? [nothing]
- State: Before Christ, our hearts are in darkness. We do not see clearly who God is, and His glory is hidden from us.
- Shine a flashlight on your face. Ask: What can you see? [Your face!] State: Just as you can now plainly see my face, when we believe and trust in Christ for our salvation, the light of His truth allows us to see God and His glory fully and clearly.
Real Life Application: Tell a story of a missionary or some individual who really was not anything special but God used them in a mighty way to spread the gospel because they gave themselves fully to Him. William Carey or Bill Wallace might be good example.
> > > > Supporting Materials < < < <
2 Corinthians 4:1-7 from the New Living Translation:
1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (ESV)