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…
Who are they whom the apostle sees enthroned; his vessels unto honour; the people whom the law of creation praises and places on high? They are the "sanctified," he writes. A favourite epithet with him, which our translators frequently rendering thus, have sometimes rendered, "hallowed" and sometimes "holy," and the fundamental idea of which is "separation." Hence its ancient application to the firstlings of the Hebrew flocks and herds as being animals taken out from the rest, and set apart for God, to be laid upon His altar. St. Paul's sanctified ones, then, are God's sacred ones — God's saints. But that is not telling us much. What is it to be a sacred person, we ask; what is a saint? They, you know, have been designated "sacred" who have withdrawn from common mundane pursuits to occupy themselves mainly with religious exercises, in the performance of religious rites and ceremonies; and "saint," you may hear applied, not seldom, with half a sneer; to those who are interested in and zealous for theological dogmas, or scrupulous in abstaining from practices and amusements to which the generality are addicted, or given to church worship and pious talk. The real sacredness, however, the real sanctity in men, consists according to the implication and suggestion of the term employed here, in personal surrender to the Divine claims upon us; in separation from self-indulgence and self-will, from contrary inclinations and propensities, to be what Heaven would have us be, to cultivate conformity to the Divine ideal. This is glory, teaches the apostle; this is to enjoy rank and commendation; being good and doing nobly. But now, we have not advanced very far after all. Our explanatory words wait to be explained. What is it to be good and do nobly, to be worthy and act well our part, which St. Paul describes theologically as "sanctification," or devotion to the will of God? In whom is it exemplified? and our writer answers shortly: In those who are "meet for the blaster's use," or, more correctly, in those who are "useful for the Master." The saint, then, is eminently the useful person. Holiness is use. It is not in mere having, nor yet in being and doing, that it is reached; but in being and doing beneficially. But while without some use we are naught, there is a certain special use which it is necessary to yield in order to be a saint, and the yielding of which reveals and marks the saint. "Useful for the Master," says the apostle. He has been comparing society to a house containing divers kinds of vessels — of which house he has implied that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Head; and the hallowed vessels therein are the vessels, he tells us, that are profitable to Him. Now, we may be said to be profitable to another, as we are contributing to the fulfilment of his wishes and ideas, as we are instrumental in forwarding his views, in advancing his purposes. We are useful for Christ, can only be useful for Him in that way — by helping to promote His ends. And what are they? What was His grand passion, the object that burdened and consumed Him? Was it not, speaking broadly, and according to His own constant testimony, that men might be quickened and raised to live more abundantly? But here, probably, many an earnest, well-meaning soul will be moved to say, "I really do not know, I really cannot tell, whether or no I am of any such use in the world, and, what is more, I seem to have so little chance or power; my scope is so narrow, my ability so small." And as if to meet and answer these, and encourage and assure them, St. Paul hastens to add to the words, "Useful for the Master," the qualifying explanatory clause, "being prepared or ready to every good work." We do not know, we cannot tell, whether we are divinely helpful. Not a few are so to a considerable extent without perceiving it. They live sincerely and beautifully, and die wearily, unconscious of how noble or wide their effect has been. But while unable to decide concerning the amount of our helpfulness, we can tell whether we are ready to do every good work that may be done by us in our sphere; whether we carry about within us a spirit and disposition to serve; whether we are alive to each open door of opportunity and quick to enter in and occupy; whether we have a heart sensitively responsive to needs that appeal, to the calls and claims of the hour; whether our desire and aim is to make a good work of whatever is laid upon us to do, to do it according to our light and power in the best and perfectest way, let it be the painting of a picture or the sweeping of a room, preaching a sermon or managing a business. We can tell whether it is thus with us. But what then? Why the apostle implies that such alertness to do well at every step, on every occasion, is certain to involve the radiation from us of some helpfulness; that you may conclude you are for some use if only you are eager and anxious to discharge faithfully each duty as it presents itself, to answer duly to the requirements of the time and place, to the facts before you. And now a word in conclusion, concerning what is necessary in order to reach and maintain this hallowed state of use in preparedness for every good work. "If a man purge himself from these," says St. Paul, that is, from the vessels unto dishonour, of which he has been speaking, as mixed with others in the house — "If a man purge himself from these, then shall he be a vessel unto honour." It is intimated, you see, that none are found saints to begin with; that to become such and remain such we must need engage and persevere in effort, in effort to cleanse and emancipate ourselves; that there is that which has to be shaken off and risen out of. And there is, around us, morally adverse, morally opposing atmospheres, unavoidable contacts and intercourses that tend to deaden and depress, popular maxims and sentiments, prevailing ideas and fashions, the spirit of the world seeking other things altogether than the things which are Jesus Christ's, and encountered continually at every turn, insinuating and insidious. All this has to be resisted and surmounted.
(S. A. Tipple.)
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.