2 Timothy 2:19-26
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 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. 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. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (vv. 19-26)
In our consideration of the earlier verses of this chapter we have seen the believer presented in five different aspects: as son, soldier, athlete, husbandman (or farmer), and workman or artisan. And now in these closing verses we come to consider him in two more characters: first, as a vessel for the display of the glory of God; and, second, as the servant of the Lord.
All that we have here is in view of declension and corruption coming into the professing church. It had begun already and, as we have seen, Hymenaeus and Philetus were misleading many. There is something rather interesting about their very names, which suggest that these men were of agreeable and pleasant character, and yet they were using their natural charm to mislead God’s people. Hymenaeus is really the “singing” man; the word means “a wedding song.” Philetus is the “kissing” man; the name means “a lover.” The two would make quite a combination! These two false teachers were seeking to mislead the churches.
You can never be sure about a man just because he has a nice, attractive personality. Satan’s ministers, like Satan himself, can appear in very persuasive roles. And so the Apostle tells us to be on our guard. No matter how much false teaching may come in, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure.” Our blessed Lord said to Peter, “Upon this rock [Christ the Son of the living God] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). All the power of the enemy has been brought against the church of God down through the centuries, but the church abides and will abide until the Lord comes again. “Having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” We may not know for certain, but it is not for us to judge.
We are responsible, though, to walk in the truth and depart from error. “And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ [or, of the Lord] depart from iniquity.” Separation from known evil is mandatory. We are commanded to depart from iniquity, or lawlessness, to depart from self-will, and this includes all forms of ungodliness and worldliness. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from [lawlessness],” depart from having his own way. This will settle many questions for young Christians. So many young Christians say, “Is it wrong to do this? Is it wrong to do that?” That is hardly the question for you as a Christian to ask. Rather, one should inquire, “Is this something that is profitable? Is it something that will help to make my Lord more precious to me? Will it draw me closer to Him?” Every Christian should have the desire to please the Lord Jesus Christ. True Christian living is subjection to His will.
In the next verse the Apostle uses a little parable. He says, “In a great house [that is, a house of a wealthy person, a mansion] 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.” As you enter such a great house you may see on the sideboard in the dining room beautiful silver, golden, or cut-glass goblets, and other vessels, while out in the kitchen and in the cellar there will be earthenware vessels and vessels of baser metal. “Some to honour, and some to dishonour.” The vessels unto honor are for the pleasure of the family and are used for the refreshment of their guests. These vessels are displayed openly where all may see them. They must be kept clean and bright, and after each using they must be separated from the other vessels of less value.
“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour.” Every Christian should be a vessel for the display of God’s glory in this scene—a vessel unto honor. But in order that this might be, we need to be clean, not only clean ourselves but also clean as to our associations. We are to purge ourselves by separating from evil associates and from everything unholy in our lives. Thus we shall be vessels “unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
Let me try to illustrate this. Suppose we are in a great house. The host has brought some friends home, and he desires to refresh them. So he goes into the dining room and looks for some beautiful goblets, but there are none. He calls a servant and asks where the goblets are—the silver goblets, or the cut glass, whatsoever they may be. The servant replies, “Why, there was a banquet here last night, and all the vessels are out in the kitchen to be cleaned.” The host directs him to go out and clean them and bring them to him so that his guests may be served. The servant has to separate these valuable vessels from all the mixture that is out there in the kitchen sink. Every piece has to be purged, individually cleansed, and so made fit for use. Then he brings them in and presents them to the host, who takes the vessels and uses them unto honor.
You see, Christians are like those vessels. There is a sad mixed condition in Christendom today, saved and unsaved, often united in the same church fellowship. There are those who profess to know the Lord and those who have never confessed Him, and people wonder why there is so little power and blessing. If you want to please the Lord who has made you His own, you must separate yourself from all that is unclean. Then you will be “a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
Paul adds, “Flee also youthful lusts.” Youth is the time when natural desires predominate, when carnality and concupiscence are very manifest. We are to flee these things. We are not to allow them to have dominion over us. On the contrary, we are to “follow righteousness, faith, [love], peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” We are to be separated from those who are unclean, and to fellowship with those who walk before God in righteousness and holiness of life.
In the next place we are warned against occupation with trivial matters. He says, “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” After we have taken our stand for God, after we come out from the world or from some worldly church where the truth is no longer preached, it is so easy to be self-satisfied and occupied with minor questions, and thus lose the sweetness and attractiveness that should characterize one who is separated to the Lord Himself.
In the next verse we have the seventh aspect in which the believer is presented in this chapter. “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.” It is difficult sometimes to be faithful to the truth without becoming quarrelsome. We are called upon to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). We are not to be contentious or querulous, manifesting a bad spirit about right things, but we are to be characterized by the spirit of grace even as we stand firmly for the Word of God. “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.” The man who opposes the truth is working harm to himself. We need to remember this. It will make us kind and considerate as we seek to recover them from error, “if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Some who were the bitterest enemies of the gospel have been won for Christ by faithful dealing. “And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
This second chapter of 2 Timothy has a very important message for us in these times of declension, when corruption and false doctrines abound on every hand. It is a time when believers in the Lord Jesus Christ need to be more careful about their contact with things that defile the Spirit. We need to take to heart these words, and separate ourselves from everything unclean and everything unholy. We need to yield ourselves entirely to the Lord to be guided and directed by Him that we may be vessels unto honor. Let us so manifest Christ in our lives that we will make the truth attractive to those who do not know Him. Sometimes we do harm to the very cause for which we stand because of the harsh and unkind spirit that dominates us. It took a long time for many of us to see some of these things, and, therefore, we should be patient and sympathetic in dealing with others who have not yet understood them.
In writing to the Philippians, the Apostle says, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (3:15-16).