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Vessels…Useful for the Master

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15)

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal:
“The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” But 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. Therefore 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. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:19-26

The apostle Paul, whose faith and hope was in Christ Jesus, wrote his final epistle to Timothy from prison.

While he had been in prison for some time and had no expectation of a quick release, this letter is not a “woe is me” lament. He wrote, “For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him” (v. 11). Given the circumstances, Paul wrote things that a true servant of the Lord would want to lay on Timothy, his “beloved son” (1:2), whose responsibility and privilege it
was to perpetuate the apostle’s
faithful ministry.

Paul suffered trouble as an evildoer; Timothy should expect no less.

Paul is speaking to us also. As people of God preach the truth, they can expect to be rejected, railed upon, and suffer trouble. Yet Timothy—as well as God’s faithful people today—had reason to proceed with confidence because “the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His…’” (v. 19).

The Lord God will protect His own, and in His time He will vindicate both His message and His servant(s). Indeed, the Lord of the Church will guard and keep His Church of believers in spite of such as Hymenaeus and Philetus who overthrew the faith of some people through their “profane and idle babblings” (v. 16f).

In God’s time judgment will come to those who, like Korah, rebelled against Moses. Korah was told, “Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him” (Numbers 16:5). Korah was not that chosen one, for the earth opened and swallowed him.

Even so, judgment will come to all who stand against the Lord’s chosen and who, by their lies, seek to draw people after them. The example of judgment upon Korah is good reason behind the advice of Paul: “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (v. 19).

Anyone who names the name of Christ—that is, professes to be a believer in Him—puts himself under obligation to serve the Lord in word and deed. He commits himself to do so faithfully and honorably. He who in repentance and faith is cleansed of pride and conceit is set apart and useful in the service of the Lord.

Such a servant is to “flee…youthful lusts.” The context suggests that the apostle refers not to the avoidance of illicit passions—though a Christ-believer is also to flee from such!—but rather is referring to the selfish pursuit of a name for oneself that is gained through argumentation and intellectual pride.

Avoiding Foolish Disputes

While it is true of any child of God, it is most certainly true of a servant of the Lord that he is to avoid generating “foolish and ignorant disputes” (v. 23) to satisfy a pride in his intellect. He should avoid engaging in such argumentation generated by others.

Not infrequently it happens that discussions of religion degenerate into useless arguments and meaningless debates which—if they don’t deny Scripture truth—at very least serve no useful purpose. In this regard we might mention questions such as, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” or “What is the real date of Christmas and/or Easter?” (The latter question is advanced practically every holiday season by those whose desire is to besmirch Christianity.)

Interesting questions possibly, but useless. The devil uses such questions—as well as the desire to “win” such arguments—to steer attention away from more genuine matters of faith and salvation.

On our part, we will always want to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15), but we will want to do so in a manner that demonstrates gentleness, ability to teach, and patience.

In Colossians 4:6 Paul speaks of letting one’s speech “always be with grace, seasoned with salt.” The desire of the servant of God is not to win an argument or debate, but to speak the law and the gospel, “if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (v. 25).

Our calling is to speak of the wonderful works of God rather than to engage in useless speculation and idle questions. The Lord is served when His servants speak the truth
in love.

There is something self-satisfying to the flesh about winning an argument, one-upping another in a debate. However, when it comes to serving as servants and witnesses of God, the purpose is not to win an argument but to win the soul! Only through hearing the Word of God can those who are ignorant of the truth or who gainsay it “come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil” (v. 26).

The power of God unto salvation lies in the Word—the wonderful message of grace in Christ Jesus—not in the intellectual prowess of the one doing the witnessing. It lies in sticking to the Word, not in striving “about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers” (v. 14).

So, may the Word of God dwell in us richly, and then let us speak it to the glory of God. Such witness will benefit those who ask a reason for the hope that is in us and—by the power of the Spirit, we pray—even those who don’t ask.