By Bryan Ho
2 Timothy 2:20-26 reads “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. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
In these passages, Paul uses the illustration of a master with a great household. In this household, there are many vessels of different value and intended to be used both for special purposes and common ones. However, not all vessels have the same usefulness. In 2 Timothy 2:21, Paul says, “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.” In this text, the opportunity to be used or not used is based on our actions. We can all be used by God. However, the extent is up to us.
How can one become a vessel for honor – one that is useful and prepared for every good work?
Paul says, “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor.” The NIV translates it, “Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes” The NASB says, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor.” Since “the latter” and “these things” refer to the vessels of dishonorable use, it probably refers to ungodly people with ungodly behavior. The word “cleanse” means “to clean out thoroughly, to completely purge.” Hence, our relationships affect how much God can use us. If our relationships are primarily with those who compromise with the world, love sin, etc, it will hinder our usefulness. Proverbs 13:20 says he who “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Another passage that immediately comes to mind is Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Conforming to those who live worldly lives negatively affects us. It affects our character and usefulness to God.
We need to separate from ungodly relationships to be fully used by God. When we do, God prepares us to be vessels suitable for every good work. I suggest to you that these good works are not limited to serving in church but in various areas, including family, friendships, business, schools, and community.
2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace”
We must pursue righteousness. Righteousness refers to right behavior in conformity with God’s Word. It includes various deeds that both honor God and others like giving, sharing the gospel, ministering to the needy, teaching God’s Word, etc. It also includes right thinking which ultimately leads to right action. If we are going to be used by God, we must pursue righteousness.
We must pursue faith. Faith refers both to being faithful and to trusting God. Those who are faithful can be trusted and used by God. We must become people who are dependable. However, we must also constantly pursue greater faith in God. Hebrews 11:6 says without faith it is impossible to please God. We must believe His Word and trust His promises to both please him and accomplish His works.
We must pursue love. God is love. He is the epitome of all things which are lovely and good. This is a God who shows us how to love those who are unlovable and those who hurt us. When we obey God and wants to do His will, this includes practising loving actions like listening, serving, and caring for others.
We must pursue peace. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men”, Rom 12:18. This means humbling ourselves, confessing our failures, and forgiving. Christ says if we don’t forgive others, God cannot forgive us (Matt 6:15).
2 Timothy 2:24, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.”
In continuing the illustration of a master with a great household, there are also servants in the household. The Greek word for “servant” is “doulos”, it can be translated “bond slave.” The type of person God uses is a servant. He is totally committed to serving God and others. When God looks for a person to use, he finds somebody who serves. Selfish people focus on serving their own needs and not that of God or others and therefore cannot be used.
Servants are kind. The word “kind” can also be translated “mild” or “gentle”. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” In the same way a mother cares for her child, the Lord’s servant must do the same for others.
Servants must teach. Paul said the Lord’s servant must be “able to teach”. Therefore, the primary tool of the Lord’s servant is God’s Word. He uses it to teach, rebuke, correct, and train others to look like Christ (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Servants must be patient. The word “patient” means “to bear evil without resentment”. Servants are often unappreciated and sometimes even treated harshly. In those moments, the Lord’s servant must not return evil for evil or hold grudges.
Servants must be gentle to others. The word “gentle” can be translated “meek.” It doesn’t refer to weakness but carries the sense of ‘power under control.’ Instead of responding with pride or anger when offended, the Lord’s servant responds with humility and courtesy. Christ called himself meek and lowly (Matt 11:29).