2 Timothy 2:20-21
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 honor…
The words imply a parable which is not formally interpreted. Rising as it does, however, from the thought of the "foundation" in ver. 19, we shall not be far wrong in assuming that the "great house" is (as in 1 Timothy 3:15) the Church of God. The sequel of the parable presents questions of greater difficulty. Are we, with the majority of interpreters, to identify the vessels made to honour with silver and gold, those of wood and earth with the vessels made to dishonour? In this case the difference between the two sets of vessels is, in the interpretation of the parable, purely ethical. All true members of Christ are as the gold and sliver, all unworthy members as the wood and clay. And, as the material of which the vessel is made does not depend upon itself, it might seem at first as if we had here, as in the parable of the tares and the drag-net, to interpolate the thought that the man whom the vessel represents may, by purifying himself, transmute his nature, and pass from the one class to the other. I venture to think that a different interpretation gives a far truer meaning. The classes of vessels correspond to the gifts which men have received (as in the parable of the talents we have the five, the two, the one), and each has its proper use and honour in the great house of the Church of God. But in each case, of the gold as of the clay, it is true that purity is the one essential condition of honourable use. The man of poorer gilts (to pass from the sign to the thing signified) may, if he keeps himself pure, be a vessel made to honour. If the silver and gold are allowed to be defiled by that which is unclean, if "holiest things find vilest using," then even they are in danger of serving only as vessels for dishonour, of showing (not ceasing even then to fulfil a Divine purpose) that the righteous judgment of God is against them that commit such things. In this case the words, "If a man purge himself" retain their full significance, and we have no need to interpolate the idea of a self-transmuting process, changing the earthen vessel into gold.
(E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.