2 Timothy 2:1-26 Vessels of Honor

Author: Dr. George M. Flattery

2 Timothy 2:1-26 Vessels of Honor

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Thoughts from 2 Timothy 2:1-26 Vessels of Honor

In verse 21 of this text Paul says: “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from these things [wickedness and error], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” My coming thoughts are about becoming vessels of honor.

When the Romans imprisoned someone, they made certain he would not escape. The prisoner was chained to a Roman guard around the clock. So, it was with Paul. He was bound physically, but he was unfettered in spirit. He was intent on fulfilling his mission. Not even imprisonment could stop him. Because of this, he was a prime example of his message.

Timothy was Paul’s youthful protégé, his lieutenant. He was a native of Lystra. Frequently, Paul called upon him for special assignments. He became Paul’s constant companion and assistant. The aging apostle, realizing his career might soon end, calls upon Timothy to receive and transmit his message—the gospel. He focuses on the teaching and training aspect of the Great Commission.

Paul writes to Timothy and charges him with an instructional task. Our text might be called the teacher’s or the trainer’s commission. It emphasizes entrusting the gospel to faithful men so that they may teach others also. Plucking some central ideas from this chapter, I note that Paul tells Timothy that he should: (1) Be strong and fulfill his task, (2) endure hardship and reign with Christ, and (30 pursue righteousness and truth and become a vessel of honor.

Many of our Facebook friends are in their most productive years of labor for the kingdom of God. Some have served for decades and have retired. Others are just on the threshold of their “great years.” All, however, can be “vessels of honor.”

More Thoughts from 2 Timothy 2:1-26 Vessels of Honor

Paul encourages Timothy to be a vessel of honor. As a vessel of honor, he should “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (verse 1). This can mean “in” or “by” the grace that is in Christ. Probably Paul intends to say “by means of” or “in the power of” grace. Paradoxically, it is by always being dependent on God that we are strong.

Timothy will need to be strong because Paul is giving him a crucial task. He has received a powerful and precious message. Now, he is to entrust this task to competent men who can transmit it to others who will be teachers. As Barclay says, “The teacher is a link in the living chain which stretches unbroken from this present moment back to Jesus Christ.”

In performing his teaching task Timothy will encounter difficulties.  Paul focuses on persecution and error. Like Timothy, teachers throughout the centuries have often faced these difficulties. Paul says, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (verse 3). A few verses later, he says: “I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned” (verse 9).

We are to take the task of teaching seriously. The Great Commission includes winning, teaching, and training. Here, Paul dwells on teaching. It also includes training others to teach. Those who are strong, who teach, and who train others to teach are among those whom we can describe as vessels of honor. It has been my privilege to work with many vessels of honor in accomplishing our task.

More Thoughts from 2 Timothy 2:1-26 Vessels of Honor

Paul encourages Timothy to be a vessel of honor. As we have seen, this involves being strong in the grace of Jesus Christ. Also, Paul points out that a vessel of honor endures hardship. Paul illustrates his point using three analogies—the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer.

Paul admonishes Timothy to “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (verse 3). The soldier does not entangle himself with “the affairs of everyday life” (verse 4). Typically, soldiers do not have civilian occupations. Their lives are devoted to the defense of our country and related matters. The application for us as Christians is that we need to focus on the tasks God has given us and do them with a whole heart.

Next, Paul points out that the athlete “does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules” (verse 5). It may be that Paul is referring to the rules of a specific game or possibly to the general rules of public games. For example, as others have pointed out, competitors had to swear an oath before the statue of Zeus that they had been in strict training for ten months.

As a third example, Paul refers to the “hard-working farmer.” Paul says, “The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops” (verse 6). Other than being hard-working, Paul does not mention his hardship, but we might think he has much at risk. The farmer does not control the times and seasons.

The soldier is upheld by the thought of final victory. The athlete is upheld by the vision of the victor’s prize. The farmer is upheld by the hope of the harvest. Each submits to his discipline and toil for the sake of the glory which shall be. It is so with believers in Christ. The believer’s struggle is not without a goal. We can be certain that after the effort of the Christian life, there comes the joy of heaven.

More Thoughts from 2 Timothy 2:1-26 Vessels of Honor

Paul tells us that a vessel of honor is strong in the grace of the Lord Jesus and suffers hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. In addition, he or she avoids error and teaches the truth.  Paul says that a “large house,” the church, has vessels of honor and dishonor in it (verses 20-21).

The vessels of dishonor are false teachers. Paul gives one example. He states that “among them [the false teachers] are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some” (verses 17-18). When teachers advocate false doctrines, the church suffers.

Vessels of honor must not only avoid false teaching but also teach the truth. Paul says to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (verse 15). The Greek word here translated as “accurately handling” means to “cut rightly.” This verb is a metaphor for how we should approach our teaching.

Concerning this metaphor, Barclay makes these applications: “So the man who rightly divides the word of truth, drives a straight road through the truth and refuses to be lured down pleasant but irrelevant bypaths; he plows a straight furrow across the field of truth; he takes each section of the truth, and fits it into its correct position, as a mason does a stone, allowing no part to usurp an undue place and so knock the whole structure of out of balance.”

As faithful believers in Christ, as vessels of honor, we need to faithfully study the Bible and accurately teach its precepts. It is the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, that guides us correctly through life.

More Thoughts from 2 Timothy 2:1-26 Vessels of Honor

We have been studying “vessels of honor” from this great chapter in Paul’s letter to Timothy. Today, I will summarize the main points of our discussions. Paul exhorts Timothy (1) to be strong in the grace of Jesus Christ and become a link in the unbrokenness chain of teachers, (2) to endure hardship and reign with Jesus, and (3) to avoid error and teach the truth. As he does these things, Timothy will be a vessel of honor.

We, too, can be vessels of honor. As I said earlier, it has been my privilege to work with many wonderful vessels of honor. Many of our colleagues have devoted their entire lives to faithfully doing what Paul talks about. Sometimes, they have done this at a great cost to themselves and their families. They have kept the faith and lived faithfully.

All who have faithfully served will be rewarded as vessels of honor in the future. As Paul says, “in the future, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

As wonderful as that is, there is another future scene that tells us what is in store for all who follow Christ. Surely, we shall be like the 24 elders in John’s vision who cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11). As vessels of honor, we shall be in the presence of our Lord. He is infinitely worthy, above all others, of praise and honor.

We shall be vessels of honor in His presence.

George M. Flattery, Ed.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.

Excerpts transferred from a series originally posted on Dr. George's Facebook.

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