Summary: 2 Timothy 2:20-26 shows us how to serve God.
Harry J. Heintz shared the following story:
Recently I glimpsed the glory of finishing a task well. At Arlington National Cemetery, I saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. I had watched that ceremony several times before, always moved by its solemnity and precision.
This time, however, I witnessed something new. When the changing of the guard was completed, the commanding officer asked us to remain standing in silence. Sergeant Jennings had completed 27 months of this special duty and wanted now to pay his respect to the unknown soldiers. A guard escorted his family to a place of honor.
The commanding officer handed Jennings four roses. He approached the great Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers from the First World War, knelt, and placed a rose before it. Then he moved with solemn dignity to the tombs honoring unknown soldiers from the Second World War, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, kneeling to place one red rose upon each. He returned to his commanding officer and stood before him. At attention, with their eyes locked, they shook hands. Then Sergeant Jennings carefully removed his white gloves and returned them, his work finished. He saluted his officer, greeted his family, and left.
With tears running down my face I thought of standing before my Lord Jesus someday, taking off my gloves and handing them to him.
Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy is the last letter he wrote. He knew that his earthly journey was going to end soon. But he also wanted to encourage Timothy to persevere in his service to God. In chapter 2 of this letter, Paul urged Timothy to remain faithful in his teaching ministry—especially in opposing false teaching. Paul used six vivid images to illustrate Timothy’s strenuous labor. So far, we have looked at the images of a dedicated soldier (vv. 3-4), rule-following athlete (v. 5), hardworking farmer (v. 6), and approved worker (vv. 14-19). Today, I would like to examine two more images that Paul used to inform Timothy that his labor for the Lord would be challenging.
Let’s read 2 Timothy 2:20-26:
20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:20-26)
2 Timothy 2:20-26 shows us how to serve God.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Metaphor of the Clean Vessel (2:20-22)
2. The Ministry of the Lord’s Servant (2:23-26)
I. The Metaphor of the Clean Vessel (2:20-22)
First, the metaphor of the clean vessel shows us how to serve God.
Paul wrote in verse 20, “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.” Paul introduced an illustration to show the different functions of people in the Church. The “great house” is God’s house, the visible or professing church.
But what are the “vessels”? The Greek word for “vessels” (skeuos) refers to “an object used as a container; especially for carrying or storing liquids.” Commentator John Stott notes, “The use of the term elsewhere in the New Testament suggests that they stand not simply for members of the church, but for the church’s teachers.” He goes on to mention several texts to support this assertion. For example, Jesus said to Ananias about the newly-converted Saul of Tarsus, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Years later, Paul described himself and his fellow-workers in a similar way when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay.” In both these passages, “instrument” and “jars” translate the same Greek word (skeuos) that Paul used in verse 20 of this letter to Timothy. Paul used the image of a vessel to indicate that he carried the gospel to people.