Gentle messenger: Devotional Commentary for October 6-12
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
20But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.
21Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
In last week's meditation, we observed how Paul urged Timothy to be a proven workman and a discerning minister of the Gospel. He exhorted him to watch out for false teachers such as Hymenaeus and Philetus, who distorted the truth about the Resurrection and sought to undermine the faith of some of the believers. Paul continued to signify his admonition to Timothy with a practical metaphor, comparing the church and its members to a large house with mixed content.
Paul drew Timothy's attention to a large house: a large house richly appointed with exquisite objects and other articles of lesser value. Such a sizeable house would certainly have furnishings, appliances, and vessels that are set aside for noble purposes and exclusive situations. There would be other articles of lesser value which are usually relegated to the mundane services of the household. Naturally, it would be the duty of the steward or the governess to carefully separate the objects of honor from the commonplace articles and use each piece appropriately.
In view of the context of the entire passage before us however, Paul's admonition to Timothy has nothing to do with a house or its mixed content. Unlike the soldier, the athlete, the farmer, or even the workman all of which pointed to Timothy, the large house and its mixed household goods probably represented the church, its members, teachers, and other Christian workers. Some members and teachers within a church serve honorably while others slip into dishonor because of their shameful practices and disreputable demeanor. However, those in dishonor do not have to stay in shame. They can be reformed and transformed into honorable service if they renounce falsehood, cleanse their ways, and commit themselves to knowing and proclaiming the truth. So Paul urged Timothy as a proven workman approved by God, to distinguish those who diligently seek the truth from the propagators of falsehood.
22Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
23But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.
Once again, Paul's counsel to Timothy reached beyond his pastoral relationships with his flock into his personal realm. He raised two very important areas of personal discipline. First, he told him to flee from youthful lusts. Second, he instructed him to avoid foolish and ignorant disputes.
In both cases, Timothy was strongly urged to make a radical behavioral change in his life as well as his service. That is, he had to remove his focus from passions and relationships which impose ungodliness upon him. So, Timothy would have had to run and stay away from every youthful passion so that he would be able to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peaceable fellowship with those who call upon the Name of the Lord and those with a pure heart.
Timothy would have had to avoid unprofitable and vacuous arguments leading to quarrelsome contentions. Otherwise, his communion with God and his service to the Gospel would have been undermined by strife and ungodly passions of the flesh. Timothy had to make a conscious decision and take a deliberate action to reject the flesh and embrace his new life in Christ under the Authority of the Word of God.
24And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,
25in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,
26and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
To be sure, Paul impelled Timothy to exercise the authority of the Word of God over temptations and contentious relationships so that he could minister to all, patiently and with a humble spirit. The servant of God should never be contentious. He should never serve with a combative attitude. Nothing should be expressed with a hostile or dismissive outlook. Instead, the servant of the Lord, in this case Timothy, must be gracious as he moves to exercise his authority as the teacher ordained by God.
If and when God gives the lost and the rebelling believer a penitent heart, the same shall be drawn to God by the Spirit's irresistible Power, being thereby delivered from bondage or captivity under satan's oppressive influence. Redemption and godly correction cannot be attained by contentious deliberation or quarrelsome exchange. The redemption of the lost and the correction of the rebellious believer are still the work of God accomplished by the Spirit of God in the hearts of those whom God chooses to touch.
Paul’s instructions to Timothy provide sweeping principles to church leaders then and now. Being the child of Christian upbringing and the student of Paul’s ardent teaching, Timothy was exhorted to be patient and gentle yet firm and truthful. Likewise, pastors, teachers, priests, church leaders, and all Christian workers are admonished to care for the flock patiently and communicate the truth with gentle persuasion.
They must resist evil and the passions of the flesh by drawing nearer to God and by applying the precepts of God's living Word to every situation in their lives and their ministries. Fleeing from temptation and avoiding foolish arguments does not warrant quarrelsome and dismissive attitude. While these aspects of human behavior must be by all means rejected, the servant of God must still minister to the person whether one is lost, a struggling believer, or a misled Christian.
Those who have received the call to spread the Gospel and care for the flock, are particularly admonished to be discerning and disciplined. They are called to be faithful and true. They are instructed to rightly handle the truth. They are urged to pursue righteousness in the way they live and serve, so that they serve God as vessels of honor.
True and sanctified earthen vessels appointed to honor, realize that there are disgruntled souls both in churches and the world at large who are not friendly to the things of God. They also know that both salvation and judgment belong to God. So they serve God in His love and gracious mercy, patiently and gently calling the lost to come and receive rest from our Father of surpassing Peace. Like Timothy, we are exhorted to reflect the Person and Character of Jesus Christ so that we might be a fitting conduit to convey the Grace of God to those who are moved by the Holy Spirit.