Theme: An Honorable and Clean Vessel
In this week’s lessons, Paul reminds Timothy of those things he is to avoid, as well as those that he must practice, in order to please the Lord in his life and service.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:14-15
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.
This is important because I don’t think Paul would ever be saying that in the church of Jesus Christ there are some Christians whom God has elected to ignoble tasks. We think that way. We say there are some who have important jobs to do and some who have unimportant jobs to do. Some are noble, and some are ignoble. However, Paul is not saying that at all. Rather, when he uses that terminology he’s talking about people who aren’t even believers. According to Paul, every Christian has a noble task to do. After all, what could be more noble than proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who need to hear it?
But he is also making this further distinction between vessels that are clean and those that are dirty. God uses clean vessels. Therefore, even though he has called you to do a noble work if you are a Christian, you must present a clean vessel to him, not one contaminated by the filth of sin and the desires of the flesh. Why is being a clean vessel important? Because God himself is holy, and if we would serve him we have to be like that as well.
Talking about the need to be clean reminds me of a story told by John Gerstner at an address he gave at the PCRT. He told about this little boy who was coming into the house with his friend, and the two of them tracked dirt all the way through the living room. The boy’s friend was dismayed at what they had done and said, “Oh, look at the dirt! What will your mother say?”
The little boy replied, “Oh, she won’t say anything.”
To which his friend answered enviously, “Oh, I wish I had a nice dirty mother like that.”
Gerstner’s point is that some people wish they had a nice dirty Jesus like that—one who doesn’t care all that much about the sin in your life and whether you are holy or not. But Jesus isn’t like that at all. He’s the holy Christ, and if we would be used by him we must be holy as well.
At this point, you might say, “But I’m not holy; I’m sinful, and I carry the contagion of my evil deeds along with me. What am I to do about it?” The Word of God speaks very clearly on that because in 1 John 1:9 we are told that if we confess our sin—and we all need to do that—God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we come to him with the dirty vessels of our life, we are told that if we confess our sins, because he remains ever the faithful God, he will be faithful toward us and cleanse us from it all. Moreover, we will be made the clean vessel that is suited to be used in the work that he has for us to do.
What incorrect view might we hold about differing tasks people do in the context of the church?
Explain Paul’s point about dirty and clean vessels.
Application: Are there areas in your life that you know you are not taking as seriously as you ought? What things are you going to start to do today to make your life a cleaner vessel that God commands and in which he delights?
Key Point: Why is being a clean vessel important? Because God himself is holy, and if we would serve him we have to be like that as well.