Paul, from prison, to Timothy on elders, and the Church.
“20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of clay, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, having been prepared for every good work.”2 Timothy 2:20-21 Legacy Standard Bible
John Calvin’s Commentary
20. In a great house. He now goes farther, and demonstrates by a comparison, that when we see some who, for a time, made a show of distinguished piety and zeal, fall back shamefully, so far from being troubled on account of it, we ought rather to acknowledge that this arrangement is seemly and adapted to the providence of God. Who will find fault with a large house, in which there is abundance of every kind of furniture, and which accordingly contains not only those articles which are fitted for purposes of display, but likewise those which. are of a meaner sort? This diversity is even ornamental, if, while the side-board and the table glitter with gold and silver, the kitchen is furnished with vessels of wood and of earthenware. Why then should we wonder if God, the head of the family, so rich and so abundantly supplied with everything, has in this world, as in a large house, various kinds of men, as so many parts of furniture?John Calvin’s Commentaries.
Commentators are not agreed, however, whether the “great house” means the Church alone, or the whole world. And, indeed, the context rather leads us to understand it as denoting the Church; for Paul is not now reasoning about strangers, but about God’s own family. Yet what he says is true generally, and in another passage the same Apostle extends it to the whole world; that is, at Romans 9:21, where he includes all the reprobate under the same word that is here used. We need not greatly dispute, therefore, if any person shall apply it simply to the world. Yet there can be no doubt that Paul’s object is to shew that we ought not to think it strange, that bad men are mixed with the good, which happens chiefly in the Church.
21. If any man shall cleanse himself from these. If the reprobate are “vessels for dishonor,” they have that dishonor confined to themselves, but they do not disfigure the house, or bring any disgrace on the head of the family, who, while he has a variety of articles of furniture, appropriates each vessel to its proper use. But let us learn, by their example, to apply them to better and worthier uses; for in the reprobate, as in mirrors, we perceive how detestable is the condition of man, if he do not sincerely promote the glory of God. Such examples, therefore, afford to us good ground for exhortation to devote ourselves to a holy and blameless life.
There are many who misapply this passage, for the sake of proving that what Paul elsewhere (Romans 9:16) declares to belong “to God that sheweth mercy,” is actually within the power of “him that willeth and him that runneth.” This is exceedingly frivolous; for Paul does not here argue about the election of men, in order to shew what is the cause of it, as he does in the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 9); but only means that we are unlike wicked men, whom we perceive to have been born to their perdition. It is consequently foolish to draw an inference from these words, about the question whether it is in a man’s power to place himself in the number of the children of God, and to be the author of his own adoption. That is not the present question. Let this short warning suffice against those who bid a man cause himself to be predestinated; as if Paul enjoined men to do what they must have done before they were born, and even before the foundations of the world were laid.
Others, who infer from these words that free-will is sufficient for preparing a man, that he may be fit and qualified for obeying God, do not at first sight appear to be so absurd as the former, yet there is no solidity in what they advance. The Apostle enjoins that men who desire to consecrate themselves to the Lord cleanse themselves from the pollution of wicked men; and throughout the Scriptures God gives the same injunction; for we find nothing here but what we have seen in many passages of Paul’s writings, and especially in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians,
“Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.”
Beyond all controversy, we are called to holiness. But the question about the calling and duty of Christians is totally different from the question about their power or ability. We do not deny that it is demanded from believers that they purify themselves; but elsewhere the Lord declares that this is their duty, while he promises by Ezekiel that he will send
“clean waters, that we may be cleansed.”, (Ezekiel 36:25.)
Wherefore we ought to supplicate the Lord to cleanse us, instead of vainly trying our strength in this matter without his assistance.
A vessel sanctified for honor means, set apart for honorable and magnificent purposes. In like manner, what is useful to the head of the family is put for that which is applied to agreeable purposes. He afterwards explains the metaphor, when he adds, that we must be prepared for every good work. Away within the wild language of fanatics, “I will contribute to the glory of God, as Pharaoh did; for is it not all one, provided that God be glorified?” For here God explicitly states in what manner he wishes us to serve him, that is, by a religious and holy life. 2 Timothy 2:20-21
John MacArthur Study Bible Notes
2 Tim. 2:20 vessels. The Greek word is very general and was used to describe various tools, utensils, and furniture found in the home. In this “great house” analogy, Paul contrasts two kinds of utensils or serving dishes. some for honorable. In a wealthy home, the ones made of precious “gold and silver” were used for honorable purposes such as serving food to the family and guests. some for dishonorable. Those made of “wood and clay” were not for any honorable use, but rather those uses which were repulsive—disposing of garbage and the filthy waste of the household. See notes on 2 Cor. 4:7.John MacArthur Study Bible Notes on 2 Timothy 2:20-21
2 Tim. 2:21 anyone. Whoever wants to be useful to the Lord for noble purposes. Even a common wood bucket or clay pot becomes useful when purged and made holy. cleanses himself. See note on v. 19. The Greek word means “to thoroughly clean out,” or “to completely purge.” For any wastebucket in the house to be used for a noble purpose, it would have had to be vigorously scoured, cleansed, and purged of all vestiges of its former filth. what is dishonorable. The vessels of dishonor (v. 20). Associating with anyone who teaches error and lives in sin is corrupting (Prov. 1:10–19 13:20; 1 Cor. 5:6 11 15:33; Titus 1:16)—all the more so when they are leaders in the church. This is clearly a call to separate from all who claim to serve God, but do so as filthy implements useful only for the most dishonorable duties. 2 Timothy 2:20-21
Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary
Here we see what we may comfort ourselves with, in reference to this, and the little errors and heresies that both infect and infest the church, and do mischief.Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary
I. It may be a great comfort to us that the unbelief of men cannot make the promise of God of no effect. Though the faith of some particular persons be overthrown, yet the foundation of God standeth sure (v. 19); it is not possible that they should deceive the elect. Or it may be meant of the truth itself, which they impugn. All the attacks which the powers of darkness have made upon the doctrine of Christ cannot shake it; it stands firm, and weathers all the storms which have been raised against it. The prophets and apostles, that is, the doctrines of the Old and New Testament, are still firm; and they have a seal with two mottoes upon it, one on the one side, and the other on the other, as is usual in a broad seal. 1. One expresses our comfort – that the Lord knows those that are his, and those that are not; knows them, that is, he owns them, so knows them that he will never lose them. Though the faith of some be overthrown, yet the Lord is said to know the ways of the righteous, Ps. 1:6. None can overthrow the faith of any whom God hath chosen. 2. Another declares our duty – that every one who names the name of Christ must depart from iniquity. Those who would have the comfort of the privilege must make conscience of the duty. If the name of Christ be called upon us, we must depart from iniquity, else he will not own us; he will say in the great day (Mt. 7:23), Depart from me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity. Observe, (1.) Whatever errors are introduced into the church, the foundation of God standeth sure, his purpose can never be defeated. (2.) God hath some in the church who are his and whom he knows to be his. (3.) Professing Christians name the name of Christ, are called by his name, and therefore are bound to depart from iniquity; for Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, Tit. 2:14.
II. Another thing that may comfort us is that though there are some whose faith is overthrown, yet there are others who keep their integrity, and hold it fast (v. 20): In a great house there are not only vessels of gold, etc. The church of Christ is a great house, a well-furnished house: now some of the furniture of this house is of great value, as the plate in a house; some of small value, and put to mean uses, as the vessels of wood and earth; so it is in the church of God. There are some professors of religion that are like the vessels of wood and earth, they are vessels of dishonour. But at the same time all are not vessels of dishonour; there are vessels of gold and silver, vessels of honour, that are sanctified and meet for the Masterʾs use. When we are discouraged by the badness of some, we must encourage ourselves by the consideration of the goodness of others. Now we should see to it that we be vessels of honour: we must purge ourselves from these corrupt opinions, that we may be sanctified for our Masterʾs use. Observe, 1. In the church there are some vessels of honour and some of dishonour; there are some vessels of mercy and other vessels of wrath, Rom. 9:22, 23. Some dishonour the church by their corrupt opinions and wicked lives; and others honour and credit it by their exemplary conversation. 2. A man must purge himself from these before he can be a vessel of honour, or meet for his Masterʾs use. 3. Every vessel must be fit for its Masterʾs use; every one in the church whom God approves must be devoted to his Masterʾs service and meet for his use. 4. Sanctification in the heart is our preparation for every good work. The tree must be made good, and then the fruit will be good. 2 Timothy 2:19