Why does it say in 1 John 1 that God is faithful and just? He is faithful because he has promised to forgive and cleanse us of our sins if we confess them to him. If he promised us this and then didn’t do it, he would be unfaithful; he would be breaking his promises. But he doesn’t break his promises because he is faithful. Therefore, when we come to him we know that he will do for us what he said he will. Why do we know he will keep his promises? Because he doesn’t merely forget about our sin, but, rather, he provides cleansing on the basis of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Elsewhere, Paul uses this image of vessels for honor and vessels for dishonor in order to distinguish between those who are elect and those who are not elect, those who are believers and those who are not believers, those who are true teachers and those who are false teachers. And I think he alludes to that kind of distinction here in the context of having talked about those who are false workmen. I am sure when he talks about ignoble vessels he is talking about false workmen.

What does a bad workman do, spiritually speaking? Paul mentions two men who have wandered away from the truth. When we think of wandering away, it sounds similar to what he talked about in verse 15 with handling the truth in a correct and straight way. Certainly, that is a very valid idea, but Paul uses another image that carries with it an interesting element of meaning. The strength of the image is seen in the Greek word he uses here. It’s a word that has the idea of missing a target, which makes us think of archery. 

Paul wants Timothy to preach the Word the way a skilled workman does his job. When he is building a house, he makes sure that the walls are at right angles and that they are perpendicular to the ground. The doors are all hung at right angles and don’t stick when they open and close. A workman like that wants everything to be done well and exactly as it should be. That’s how Paul wants Timothy to carry out his ministry.

Now in this section he gives us three more images. First, he talks about a workman in verses 14-19, somebody who has a special skill. Then secondly, in verses 20 and 21 he makes a point about a vessel or utensil in the household of a great man. Lastly, in verses 24 through the end of the chapter, he describes believers as servants of the Lord.