A Vessel for Noble Purposes
2 Timothy 2:14-26
(February 17, 2002)
We are going to spend the next few weeks before Palm Sunday and Easter looking at the issue of holiness.
We will look at a number of areas of holiness, such as our speech, our actions, and what have you. I think you will find the messages challenging and practical, so plan to be here, okay?
Today, I want to look at the issue of holiness in the life of Timothy, and the lessons we can learn from Paul as he addresses his young protégé.
To do that, I want us to look at a portion of Paul’s second letter to Timothy, as he addresses holiness in terms of clean and unclean vessels.
Please turn with me to 2 Timothy 2:14-26. If you’re using the Bibles in the seats, this can be found on page 842.
Please follow along as I read:
14 Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."
20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
In this passage we see Paul’s desire that young Timothy be a man set apart for God’s work.
My purpose today is to encourage you to that same standard of holiness, and also direction on how to come to that kind of a life of holiness.
I’m anticipating that the Holy Spirit is going to move during this time, and I hope you will be anticipating it as well.
So let’s get started, shall we? First, I want to look at the…
I. Purposes of a vessel.
There are two main types of uses for a vessel. There are more to be sure, but generally I think they can be broken down into two main purposes, and they are described back in verse 20:
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.
I’m going to reverse Paul’s order here and talk first about the type that is made for…
A. Ignoble purposes.
Ignoble basically means the opposite of noble. Ignoble purposes of a vessels could best be illustrated by thinking of things like bedpans, spittoons, or…
(uncover the toilet)
…this here toilet.
What do you think of when you see a toilet? Flowers, monuments, holiness?
No, you think of filth, or anything unworthy to be kept around.
The purpose of a toilet is ignoble. It has no honor. It’s meant to keep us from being contaminated with its contents.
Get the idea? That’s the first purpose or type of vessel. The next type are those vessels that have…
B. Noble purposes.
Noble purposes, as I’ve just alluded to, are those that are good and honorable. These types of vessels are sometimes made just for a specific special purpose to give honor to a person or special occasion.
I have an example of a vessel used for noble purposes. I’m sure you will recognize it.
(bring up the communion bread holder)
When you see this, you don’t think of garbage or filth, do you?
No, the very presence of this vessel brings to mind the reverence involved when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and the reverence of remembering the sacrifice of the cross.
We wouldn’t think of using this vessel for a bedpan or wastebasket, would we? Why, it’d be sacrilege, right?
And the reason we would think that is because this vessel was made for a specific purpose. It’s not just any ol’ plate with bread in it.
This vessel has been separated for service. Noble service.
Now, you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?
I want to invite you to be a vessel used for noble purposes.
But to be a vessel used for noble purposes, something has to happen. Our Scripture passage today tells us in verse 21:
If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
We need to get rid of those things that make us unclean, and get hold those things that reflect a clean life.
So let’s take a look at what a clean vessel looks like, as it describes a person of God.
II. Attributes of a clean vessel.
In your outline you will see space for two items, both of which are described in more detail in our passage.
The first is…
A. Clean speech.
Listen to some of the words Paul uses here in talking about our use of speech:
Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene.
We are told to stay away from foolish arguments and to gently instruct those who oppose us.
Why? So we can show them up with our fancy linguistic grasp of all things theological?
No. We gently instruct them, as verse 25 says, in the hope that God would grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.
There is no place in the kingdom for religious one-upmanship. When I meet with someone involved with a cult, my goal in talking isn’t necessarily to prove my point, although that is involved, the idea is that I want God to move in the life of that person so he can recognize truth.
Quarreling and godless chatter are obviously not things that characterize Christian character.
Speaking of character, that’s the next thing we need to be a clean vessel.
B. Clean character.
The keys to a clean character are laid out by Paul in statements like these:
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
And this one:
22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Timothy was leading a growing church in Ephesus, and he had to be careful that his character was beyond reproach.
It was extremely important that people saw that Timothy was living a life that pleased God and brought honor to His name.
But what about those of us who aren’t in such high profile situations? Are we exempt from the need for a clean character? I don’t think so. It’s every bit as important.
Clean character is a necessity no matter what our station in life.
We need to move on, because we have a bit farther to go before we shut it down this morning, okay?
So we know the difference between vessels with noble purposes and ignoble. And we have an idea of what a clean vessel looks like in the life of a Christian. So then we have to ask…
III. How do I become a clean vessel?
For the rest of this message, I am going to assume that you would like to be clean vessels.
And I’m also going to assume that while some of us here today are that type of vessel, some here are not.
That’s just the way it is in churches, so don’t think I’m picking on anybody in particular, okay?
Well, the first thing that needs to happen in order to be a clean vessel is that you need to…
A. Be saved.
You need to have trusted Christ as your Savior, receiving the forgiveness of sins and the salvation He bought with His own blood at Calvary.
You do that by first admitting your need for forgiveness and turning from your sins with God’s help. The Bible says that all have sinned; that means me, and yes, that means you.
Believe that Christ died for you and rose from the grave, and call on Him for forgiveness and eternal life.
If you’re serious, He’ll do it. And you will walk out of here knowing that your sins are forgiven and you will spend eternity in heaven when you die.
If you don’t have that assurance this morning, I want to lead you in a prayer right now so you can invite Christ into your life to give you a new birth and a new life in Him.
Next, in order to be a clean vessel, you need to…
B. Be sanctified.
What does sanctified mean? To be sanctified means to be set apart. In the Scriptures it specifically means being set apart for God.
Jesus said in John 17 that He desired that His followers would be sanctified by the word of truth from the Father.
Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians that the believers there would be sanctified through and through.
We are initially set apart and sanctified when we came to Christ, and that continues as we grow in Him.
But there comes a time in a believers life when we come to a point where we need to decide who we are really going to live for: ourselves or God.
God has been speaking to us, and we see that He wants to do a work in us and through us, but we need to be willing to submit everything to Him.
It takes a major adjustment in our attitude to God and our relationship with Him.
He wants to set us apart entirely for His work and purpose, perfecting our hearts in love for Him, and giving us the power of the Holy Spirit to say no to willful sin.
There are two parts to this wonderful work we call “entire sanctification.”
The first part is…
1. Our part: consecration.
Consecration basically means that you are committing everything to God, endeavoring to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, which Jesus says is the first and greatest commandment.
You are placing your whole life on the altar, dedicating your entire being to God.
In practical terms, that means that you’re deciding to live your life purposefully to glorify God in all aspects of your life.
You will do your job for His glory. You will relate to your family for His glory. You will worship for His glory. You will do everything possible to enhance your relationship with Him.
You are consecrating yourself for Him and His glory.
That’s your part. Then there’s…
2. God’s part: sanctification.
When you consecrate yourself to God entirely, the Holy Spirit fills you entirely, setting you apart and empowering you to live the life you have committed to living.
Because you see, you can’t do it on your own. You need the Spirit to give you the motivation and the ability to live for Him.
As I mentioned before, He cleanses you, making you a vessel fit for noble purposes. He gives you the power to walk away from temptation and to run to Him.
If you are running around in defeat, it may be that you need to let the Holy Spirit do this wonderful work in your life.
Let Him have His way with you. Believe me, His ways are ultimately better than yours and mine.
Allow the Spirit’s sanctifying power to live in you starting today.
There is another type of vessel that I haven’t mentioned. It’s a vessel that can be used for good or bad, it generally doesn’t care.
Here it is: a grocery bag.
In my house a grocery bag brings in the groceries, then gets put aside for use in a wastebasket.
It doesn’t care. Unfortunately, a lot of people who call themselves Christians are like that grocery bag.
Let me encourage you to separate yourself for noble purposes, by asking God to separate you for His work and His glory.
Remember, your part isn’t to make you noble. That’s God’s part. Allow Him to make you a vessel fit for noble purposes.
Let Him cleanse you and perfect your heart in love to Him, and to empower you to His service.
I want to address something that I’ve wondered a time or two before I started getting a handle on this whole issue of vessels and sanctification.
What if you were a clean vessel once, set aside for noble purposes, but you allowed yourself to become a vessel for ignoble purposes?
Maybe you’ve allowed sin to pollute you and dirty you so that you feel unworthy to be used for noble purposes.
Let me assure that forgiveness and cleansing are available for you, just as it is for me and anybody else who wants it.
The Bible says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins. And that’s not all. That verse goes on to say that not only does God forgive, He purifies us from all unrighteousness.
He purifies. Now that’s good news, amen?
Let Him do that for you today, won’t you? You are never so dirty that God can’t clean you up.
I’m going to ask Dixie to come to the piano and begin playing our closing chorus as I wrap this up.
And as she’s playing, I want to invite anybody who would like to consecrate themselves to God entirely today to pray along with me.
We are going to pray. And after we pray, I want every head to remain bowed, and every eye to remain closed for just a couple more minutes, okay?
Just keep playing, Dixie, as I pray.
Lowell, come and lead us as we sing our closing chorus.