Summary: A Christian is to pursue righteousness, which means giving both to men and to God their due; at faith, which means loyalty and reliability which both come from trust in God; at love, which is the utter determination never to seek anything but the highest
Opening illustration: Many years ago, there was a learned Hebrew professor at Princeton Seminary named Robert Dick Wilson. He could read more than 30 Semitic languages! One time about twelve years after Donald Grey Barnhouse had graduated; he went back to the seminary to preach to the students. Dr. Wilson sat down near the front. After the message, he went forward and shook Barnhouse’s hand. He said, “When my boys come back, I come to see if they are big-godders or little-godders, and then I know what their ministry will be.”
Barnhouse asked him to explain and he replied, “Well, some men have a little god and they are always in trouble with him. He can’t do any miracles. He can’t take care of the inspiration and transmission of the Scripture to us. He doesn’t intervene on behalf of His people. They have a little god and I call them little-godders. Then there are those who have a great God. He speaks and it is done. He commands and it stands fast. He knows how to show Himself strong on behalf of them that fear Him.” He went on to tell Barnhouse that he could see that he had a great God and that God would bless him and his mission.
Let us turn to 2 Timothy 2 and check out whether we have a big-godder or a little-godder in us. Apparently the way we hallow Christ in our daily walk also shows whether we are hallowing (sanctifying; pursuing holiness) ourselves continually.
Introduction: Paul had been returned to a Roman prison but this time he was chained in a cold dungeon and everyone except Luke had abandoned him [ref. 4:11]. He was lonely and wrote this letter to his “son in the faith,” encouraging Timothy to take courage and “fan into flame the gift of God.” Paul wrote how thankful he was for Timothy [1:3-5] and exhorted him not be timid, ashamed, or fearful to testify about the Lord [1:8] even amidst the perilous days of Emperor Nero’s rule. Paul knew that he would soon be martyred for his faith. He therefore wanted to impart to Timothy key principles for ministering in the latter days. He calls Timothy to disciple others [v.2:2]; to endure hardship like a soldier [2:3-4]; to be as disciplined as an elite athlete [v.2:5]; and to work as hard as a farmer whose goal is a great harvest [v.2:6]. He is to be a workman that majors in the majors and “correctly handles the word of truth” [v.2:15]. And finally he is to be a vessel (i.e., a clean instrument) to be used for God’s glory [vv.2:19-26].
How to be vessels of honor?
1. Building on Firm foundation (v. 19)
The church is the society, the association which God has founded; the church is God’s foundation. Stand fast - Can never be overthrown; being as it were sealed with a seal, which has an inscription on each side: on the one, The Lord knows those that are his; on the other, Let everyone who calls the name of the Lord, as his Lord, depart from iniquity. As long as this foundation remained firm, there was no reason to be troubled from the few instances of apostasy which had occurred. The word “seal” is sometimes used to denote the instrument, by which an impression is made, and sometimes the impression or inscription itself. A seal is used for security Matthew 27: 66, or as a mark of genuineness; Revelation 9: 4 and ownership. It was used to denote the brandmark, what we call the trademark. The seal is an inscription which shows at once what it is and what it is designed to be. Just as the building of a church has a cross to seal it that it is a place of worship for Christians, the Word of God tells us that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1: 13). What a protective brandmark! The seal here is one that was affixed to the foundation, and seems to refer to some inscription on the foundation-stone which always remained there, and which denoted the character and design of the edifice. The allusion is to the custom, in rearing an edifice, of inscribing the name of the builder and the design of the edifice on the cornerstone. The foundation has two inscriptions - the first implying that God knows all who are his own people; the other, that all who are his professed people should depart from evil. The phrase "The Lord knows those who are His," has not been lifted from the OT but is very close to what Moses said to his rebellious friends and associates of Korah in Numbers 16: 5 “… Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him ...”