2 Timothy – 2:20-21
“In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for noble use, some for ignoble. If anyone purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work.”
Most of the commentators take this reference to “a great house” to refer to the church. They see the church as the house of God, which is the term Paul used for this in his first letter to Timothy. But, if we compare what other Scriptures say on this, we discover that Scripture itself forces us to extend this analogy not only to the church, but to the whole world. Every person in the world is a possible vessel for God to use, regardless of what his attitude about God may be.
Scripture reveals that God uses his enemies, even the devil, to accomplish his work. In the story of the Exodus, in the Old Testament, we learn that not only was Moses the instrument of God but so was Pharaoh… In Isaiah we are told that Nebuchadnezzar was the servant of God (Jeremiah 27:6), even though he was a Babylonian pagan. Cyrus the Persian king is called “God’s anointed one,” (Isaiah 45:1). So, Scripture itself supports the idea that God can use anybody, believer or nonbeliever.
Many nonbelievers will raise the question about the sovereign justice of God. In other words, if God uses someone for whatever purpose, how can God hold that person responsible? What’s your opinion?
In this passage in Second Timothy it is clear that the analogy between a house and vessels breaks down when it is applied to human beings. In our homes pots and pans have no choice as to what they are going to be used for — that is entirely up to the householder — but in Scripture it is very clear that, when this is applied to human beings, a choice is involved.
We see that in Verse 21: “If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use.” We have no choice of whether we are going to be used of God or not; the choice we have is what God is going to use us for. That is up to us; it is put in our hands. I grant you we are not dealing with the whole question of the sovereignty of God here. Paul is not dealing with the way God brings about his purposes in man, but he is facing us with a clear responsibility to make a choice in the question of how God is going to use us, whether it will be for a good purpose or not.
Choice determines the way God uses us. “If a man purifies himself” — that means man has something to do with it; he has to purify himself. God will never set man’s will aside. One of the most remarkable things about the Scriptures is how they preserve for us what we regard as our highest dignity, which is the right to exercise our own will. God does not force us to be used of him; it must always be a willing choice on our part.
When it says, “he must purify himself,” that does not mean that we have the power to deal with our own sins, to cleanse our own lives. We do not have that power. But it does mean that we are responsible to use the cleansing that has been provided.
Example: If you have been working on your car or in the yard and your hands are dirty, you go into the bathroom to clean yourself up with soap and water — you deliberately choose to use the soap and water provided — when you have done so you say, “I’ve cleansed myself.” It was not you that did the cleansing (it was the soap and water), but you used that which was provided.
You can go into a bathroom with dirty hands and there is soap and water there, but if you refuse to use them you will come out just as dirty as you went in. You cannot blame the bathroom for that. You cannot blame the soap and water for that…How does that apply to the church?…
Now notice the result: “If any one purifies himself … he will be,” Paul says, “a vessel unto honor, consecrated and useful, ready for any good work.” He will be “consecrated.” He becomes adaptable; God can use him in many different ways. Life becomes a tremendous adventure as you dis-cover the innovative ways in which God can use you.
2 Timothy – 2:20-21