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Thursday, August 12, 2010

truth and error 5: church pictures, vv. 19-21

Paul says several important things about the earthly church in v. 19…
Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” (2 Timothy 2:19)
First, the mixture and impurity – of right teaching and wrong teaching, the pure and the impure, the wheat and the chaff – does not threaten the foundation of the Church that God has established in Jesus Christ. Indeed, Jesus said that on the foundation rock of His name, even the gates of Hell would not stand against this Church. Secondly, that foundation is sealed with the affirmation that God is not confused by the mixture and impurity. God knows who are His; God can see the human heart; God is not fooled by words, arguments, or anything else. Nor, as one Presbyterian pastor commentator said of our own mixed, wheat-and-chaff denomination, is God surprised or somehow sucker-punched by the things we do.

Paul goes on to explore the nature of the mixed and impure earthly church, offering his own analogy for it in v. 20…
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. (2 Timothy 2:20)
He compares the earthly church (particularly the Ephesian situation where Timothy is pastor) to a large house, which has gold and silver vessels, which are lasting and serve a lasting purpose, and earthenware vessels, which have a temporary and limited purpose. The language of “vessels” is interesting, for it is the same word used elsewhere in Paul’s writings to describe human beings, created for God’s purpose and glory:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves… (2 Corinthians 4:7)
It is the power of God, poured into us “vessels” through His Holy Spirit, which transforms us from clay pots into the “gold and silver vessels” of v. 20. Like a household, Paul analogizes, the church contains those who know and trust in Jesus Christ, are filled with His glory and Spirit, and serve the honorable purposes of God through “every good work.” The church also contains those who are “in the right house” but who do not know Christ or serve him – and are vessels of dishonor.

And yet, Paul is not ready to consign anyone living to be “gold” or “earthenware” as he did in hindsight with Moses and Pharaoh in Romans 9. While Paul would uphold God’s sovereignty and perfect knowledge and will, all we can measure and know while we live is our own response to God’s grace in Jesus Christ. So, Paul holds out hope for Timothy and others to repent and change and prove themselves vessels useful to the Lord. So he can write in v. 21…
If anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:21)
Look to your own life. Clean up your act. How do you do that? It is through conviction, repentance (turning to God in humility), receiving God’s gracious forgiveness, and responding to God’s invitation to serve Him.

And we will see at the end of this passage (in vv. 24-26) that Paul holds out hope, even for those who currently seem to be showing themselves to be vessels of dishonor.

What remains, though, in the verses for today, are some practical warnings against the kind of dangers that can distract a Christian from God’s calling and purpose. There are (at least) three dangers that can keep us from serving as “vessels of honor.”

Posts in this "Truth and Error" series:
1 - intro and core doctrine, 2 timothy 2.14-26
2 - word-wrangling, v. 14
3 - study, v. 15
4 - a local challenge, vv. 16-18
5 - church pictures, vv. 19-21
6 - empty talk, vv. 16-18
7 - immaturity and distraction, v. 22
8 - false teaching, v. 23
9 - kind to all, v. 24
10 - able to teach, patient, gentle, vv. 24-25
11 - gracious hope, vv. 25b-26a
12 - enemy clarification, v. 26b


Viola Larson said...

Robert I think this is the posting you were pointing to. It sounds like it is anyway.

I always come to the end of your posting feeling like you are not finished and that is good! Because I will come back and read the next one.

The posting is very helpful. In particular the idea that even the vessels of dishonor may change. And that it is God's business-he knows the ones who belong to him.

But your very beginning is probably the most important part that I need to be reminded of continually:
"First, the mixture and impurity – of right teaching and wrong teaching, the pure and the impure, the wheat and the chaff – does not threaten the foundation of the Church that God has established in Jesus Christ."

I am weary tonight; a friend just sent me the Social Justice News letter's wrap up of GA. Like I said I need to be reminded of your statement always.

Quotidian Grace said...

Robert, thanks for this series. It is so timely and helpful. Just want you to know that I'm reading!

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