Fit For The Master's Use

Posted in: 2008
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 9, 2008 - 8:45:38 AM

March 6, 2008


Or Vessels of Honor or Dishonor

“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let everyone 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 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” (2 Timothy 2:19-21).

Often, I have considered this passage of Scripture. It was perplexing. It was a source of bewilderment. How could God make some of His servants to be honorable and some to be dishonorable? The very thought that I may have been a “vessel of dishonor,” not by choice, but chosen of Him to be dishonorable, was most disconcerting. How frightening that would be.

I would reflect on these things for awhile, then, set them aside. Finally, I think the Lord granted me insight into the truth contained in the passage.

One time, while reminiscing about some pleasant childhood memories, I thought of my Grandfather and Grandmother Ballinger. I remembered their large two-story home. I recalled that “Pappaw” would let me park cars in his yard on Saturday afternoons when the Southern Methodist University’s football team played. I’d get a dollar per car. Ten, or twelve cars could be parked in the backyard. The football stadium was located across the street from their home. Then, I remembered their home during World War II. They took in room-and-boarders.

Dallas, Texas, during the War, was not the metropolis it has become. There were very few apartment houses, or complexes in those days. During the war, the population of Dallas began to boom due to the many industrial plants producing war materials. The city became a magnate for folks from a three, or four state area. People came to Dallas to work for the war effort, and there was a shortage of housing. Many thousands rented rooms in private homes. My Grandparents took in "boarders." They rented their bedrooms and provided home-cooked meals for them. I remembered that they had beautiful china and sterling-silverware. However, they did not use the fine china and silverware when they served meals to the "boarders." They were served meals on everyday dinnerware, and they used everyday flatware.

On special occasions, when my grandparents had guests, or the family members for dinner, the fine china and silverware were brought out to be used for these special occasions. This thought brought to mind 2 Timothy 2:19-21. The utensils which the “boarders” used with their meals could be said to be "vessels of wood, or earth." The fine china and silverware could be said to be “vessels of gold and silver.” Metaphorically speaking, the "vessels of wood, or earth (clay)" were vessels of “dishonor,” while the ones of “gold and silver” were the “honorable vessels.” The vessels which the boarders used were ignoble ones, whereas, the ones used on special occasions were vessels of a more noble use. Hence, in the Biblical sense of the words―vessels of dishonor and vessels of honor.

In the metaphor, the utensils which the boarders used could never, of themselves, become honorable vessels, nor could the honorable vessels, of themselves, become dishonorable. However, in the metaphor Paul uses, the vessels are likened to God's people. God's people could change their status. Verse twenty, in plainer words, says, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but there are also utensils of wood and clay, some for honorable and noble use and some for lowly or ignoble use.”

Along the same line of thought, the old expression—fit for a king could be applied. Their fine vessels (china and silverware) were fit (or meet) for use by the Master of the house.

Back to the text of vessels of honor and dishonor. What would it take to change their status? “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” (2 Tim.1:21). For a Christian to become a vessel of noble use, he must purge himself “from these.”

“From these”- From these what? It should be clear that whatever was said before verse 21 are the things a man should purge himself from. It is imperative that the student of Scripture make his interpretation in light of the context. The context starts in verse 15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” For the Bible to be the “word of truth,” it must be “rightly divided.” Only, as It is rightly divided, will It yield Its truth.

Verses 16 and 17 state, “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus.” According to the context, wrongly dividing the Word is considered “profane and vain babblings.”

Notice, what “ungodliness” is in the context; it is not “drinking, dancing, smoking, and cussing,” but rather, it is failure to “rightly divide” the Word. This failure is that which leads to ungodliness. The great sin of ungodliness centers around the handling of the Word of God.

What was it that caused the Apostle Paul to condemn Hymenaeus and Philetus? Was it their life-style?” Or, their lackadaisical sins of the flesh? No! It was their error concerning the Truth, "Who concerning the Truth have erred, saying the resurrection is past already: and overthrow the faith of some" The serious charge against them was that they wrongly divided the Word, resulting in error. Their error generated "more ungodliness." They taught that the resurrection was past. That was error and gendered ungodliness, instead of truth which produced godliness.

“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And let everyone that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity” (v.19). The context makes it abundantly clear that the “iniquity” is failure to rightly divide the Word of Truth.

Hymenaeus and Philetus were vessels of “wood and of earth;” consequently, not “fit for the Masters' use.” Had they purged themselves from this erroneous teaching, they would have become vessels of honor instead of vessels of dishonor. They dishonored the Word of God by wrongly dividing It.

Philippians 1:10 says, “That ye may approve things that are excellent (i.e., try the things that differ): that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.” If Hymenaeus and Philetus didn't recover from their error, they would stand insincere and with offence in the Day of Christ, meaning, that they would be ashamed workmen.

How many teachers and preachers, today, ignore the truth of Right Division? They are like the stars of heaven; there are so many, they cannot be numbered. Most act as though this truth is not binding upon them at all.

There is a remedy for vessels of dishonor. “And the servant of the Lord must not strive (i.e. with ignoble vessels); 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” (2 Tim.2:24-26).

Hymenaeus and Philetus were ensnared by the devil. The spiritual battleground has always been between light and darkness, between truth and error.

To avoid being ensnared by the devil, the man of God must follow the Divine command to RIGHTLY DIVIDE THE WORD OF TRUTH.

Tom L. Ballinger