Start, August 1, 1999

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Vessels unto Honour

2 Timothy 2:20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

The great house is the visible Gospel Church. As you drove to church today, you probably passed some church buildings. There will be many different kinds of people meeting in those visible church buildings today. And they will tell you they are meeting in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.:

1) Some are in church out of sincere love for the Lord. Their motives are to please the Lord in all they do, and they are assembled today out of obedience to the Lord and with the purpose of finding out how to please him.

2) On the other hand, there are many people who are in the visible church today for other reasons. Maybe they are there to please themselves, or to please their friends, or any of many reasons other than to please God.

In chapter 2, Paul warned Timothy about false teachers in the church who will tailor the word of God to please the people rather than to please the Lord.

Paul's warning to Timothy is for Christians to be careful about who they serve and why they serve who they serve -- will they serve the Lord God or will they serve self and the gods of this world?

1 Corinthians 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

The person who serves any other "god" other than the Lord God will not be used by the Lord God. Paul instructs Timothy to study God's word, so that he will be a vessel unto honour, and fit for the master's use.

Purge himself from these probably refers to removing himself from any false teachers and teachings he has warned Timothy about in this chapter. But it also refers to v. 19, departing from iniquity, sin:

1 Peter 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

Those who want to be used by God must study the word of God; they must hear the word of God, and they must let God's word reveal sin. Then by the grace of God, they must confess sin and depart from that sin. Otherwise, all their "good works" will be as wood, hay and stubble when they meet the Lord.

Note an apparent conflict:

Romans 9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (See 2 Cor. 4:7, 1 Thess. 4:4, 1 Pet. 3:7. Gifts, Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12. 1 Pet. 4:10, &c.)

The Spirit tells us that God made some vessels to honor and some to dishonor. Though the following is from Romans 11, it still applies:

Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

Some vessels are to honour and some vessels are to dishonour, and God made each one. Here we see God's Divine Providence at work, and it is far too mysterious for us to understand. Romans 11:34 tells us that it is part of the mind of God that is past finding out.

2 Timothy 2:21 says that if one will protect himself from the errors and corruptions of the false teachers of v. 18, he will be a vessel the Master can use for his Kingdom work here on this earth.

2 Timothy 2:20 and 2 Timothy 2:21 appears to have a conflict.

V. 20, the gifts and callings of God are given to the will of God, not according to man's will. God alone determine who has what ability, and where that person is placed in life. God alone determiner if the vessel will be a vessel of honour or dishonour.

Yet we are told in v. 21, that if a man will purge himself, he can be a vessel unto honour.

In other words, v. 21 clearly presents God's Divine Sovereignty, and v. 22, clearly presents man's responsibility. How do the two go together? The only answer I have for this apparent conflict is quoted above,

Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

What appears to be a conflict to us, is no conflict with the Lord. It is part of the mind of God that is totally beyond the grasp of man's finite mind. In other words, in our wildest imagination, we cannot even begin to grasp God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. This is one of the many situations where we must say, By fait we understand. (He. 11:3.) By faith we understand that God's divine and sovereign grace works all things after his own will, yet he holds every person responsible for his every action.

Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

1 Peter 4:5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

Jude 1:14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

The context of this second chapter of Timothy tells us the best way to avoid error and corruption is:

1) v. 15, hard and serious study of God's word.

2) v. 16, avoid profane and vain babblings.

We must avoid empty discussions of useless matters. These are matters that will not make us any better nor worse for not developing them. (This refers primarily to the false teachers of v. 14, who are countered by study of God's word, v. 15. Then v. 16 is agreements over things that do not amount to anything, except strife and hard feelings.)

I suppose one of the profane and vain babblings is arguments over God's Sovereignty and man's free will. No matter how much we study and argue over it, we will never understand that doctrine.

But we are clearly told that our individual responsibility is to make ourselves fit for the master's use through study of his word, and by departing from iniquity. And we will be held accountable accordingly.

V. 22, flee also youthful lusts...

The context implies that one of the youthful lusts is to argue over the mysteries of God's word. Those mysteries include what will take place in the future, and the mystery of God's total Sovereignty over all things as carried out by his Divine Providence, and how man will be held accountable for how he uses his free will.

Notice who we are required to get along with: them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. The point of agreement with other Christians is, Do they call upon the Lord out of a pure heart? We could basically define this as complete trust in Christ along with the desire to know and submit to his entire word:

Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

The point of agreement IS NOT found in agreeing on the secret things of the mind of God. Paul tells us that we cannot know those mysteries.

We are commanded to study the word of God. But no mater how much study one does nor how smart he is, he will still have a very incomplete understanding of the mind of God. But every person can call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.

Pure heart -- Many times, motives will be apparent. The person is promoting self or promoting clearly false doctrines. The Spirit will bear witness of whether or not another is calling on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Thus the unsearchable judgments and ways of the Lord are not our point of unity. Rather, our unity is the willingness (out of a pure heart) to learn and do the mind of the Lord as it is clearly given to us and to our children.

We are to have love, patience and work at having peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

V. 23, refers back to v. 16. Foolish and unlearned questions... Questions that are of no eternal importance, and that we know will create conflict and strife.

V. 24, servant of the Lord refers primarily to ministers. A major qualification of a minister is not a brawler. (1 Tim. 3:3, Titus 1:7.)

Strive, engagement in a war of words, quarrel, dispute. However, we must confront those who would compromise the gospel.

Jude 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

Saints here is identified as the Old Testament saints. The gospel of grace and faith was delivered to and through them, though it was "hidden" from them.

Though the servant of the Lord must be men of peace, that does not at all mean compromise.

V. 25, the ability to change someone's opinion of something is not an ability to argue, but the truth given with a meek spirit. God is the one who must give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. The key word here is TRUTH, or the word of God.

Here again is one of the mysteries of the mind of God. Man is responsible, but God must give fallen man the spirit of repentance. The spirit of repentance causes one to accept the truth of God's word as the final authority, and then change his actions accordingly.

V. 26, God must give the spirit of repentance, but man is responsible to recover himself.

Snare of the devil... God must give the spirit of repentance to acknowledge his truth. The person is responsible for acknowledging the truth. If he does not, he gives himself over to the devil, and the devil can do with him as he will.

This could also be referring to the false teachers Paul has warned Timothy about. Those teachers can only be recognized by studying Scripture, primarily the Old Testament Scripture. The false teachers, rejecting the truth of God's word, are now captive to the devil himself. So Paul warned Timothy to avoid such teachers.