A Vessel of Honor
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.(2 Timothy 2:20-21)
Having mentioned a firm foundation in 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul now uses the metaphor of a great house which contains all manner of vessels or utensils. Paul was apt to use this metaphor of vessels (Rom. 9:21; 2 Cor. 4:7). However, it is wise not to assume that Paul is making the same argument when using a similar metaphor. In fact, the context will show that he uses “vessels” to teach a different lesson in this letter than in his previous letters.
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.
▸ Vessels in the Great House Vary
It is doubtless that Timothy is to be this vessel of honor in contrast with those who are like Hymenaeus and Philetus. Timothy needs to be a vessel of gold and silver. These are valuable. They are used to decorate and to serve guests. Those common everyday vessels are of wood and clay are used for less dignified purposes, such as, a slop bucket or a chamber pot. Everyone has a variety of vessels in their home that they consider honorable whether they are a nice set of silverware or a beautiful vase used for flower arrangements. Likewise, vessels or utensils of dishonor range from the brush used to scrub the toilet bowl to the diaper pail in the nursery.
21a Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor,
▸ Vessels of Honor are Cleansed
The “latter” are the vessels of dishonor. Sin and sinners are contagious as is false teaching. They spread “like gangrene”. To be pure Timothy, desiring to be a honorable vessel, needs to avoid contamination. As Paul warned the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Cor 15: 33). Church discipline is necessary because of the leavening effect of sinful behavior in the church. “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened” (1 Cor 5:7). False teachers are also to be identified and avoided (Rom. 16:17).
It is interesting to note that the Greek term for “cleanses” is the same in 1 Corinthians 5:7. It is from this same Greek term which is derived the English word “catharsis.” It is a purging or cleansing.
▸ Vessels of Honor are Set Apart
An honorable vessel is made holy, or set apart for a special use when it is sanctified. Derived from the same root as the word sanctified is the term “saint.” They are set apart from sin and set apart to God who is Holy. “…those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Cor 1:2).
21c and useful for the Master,
▸ Vessels of Honor are Helpful
What good is a beautiful gravy bowl made of fine china if is has a crack in it so that the gravy leaks out all of the table? The Master of the house would not be honored. So a Christians who is of no use is really of no value and brings no glory to God.
21d prepared for every good work.
▸ Vessels of Honor are Prepared
Vessels of honor are prepared ahead of time to be useful. A stack of dirty expensive dishes are of no use when the guests arrive. They must have been cleaned of food remnants and dried and put up so they are ready when needed. Christians are only ready to do good works when prepared. Later in chapter three and verse seventeen, it is the inspired Word of God which equips us for every good work. What kind of vessel are you in God’s great house?
– Daniel R. Vess