VESSELS OF GOLD AND OF SILVER
2 Tim 2:19-21 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
Paul had just admonished Timothy to diligently study God's inspired word, rightly dividing the word of truth, that he might preach the pure doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ in a manner that would avoid controversy or contention. Without any doubt, there was much strife within the Ephesian church that resulted in vain debating. In preceding verses 16, 17, and 18, of this letter, Paul admonished this particular church of Christ to shun profane and vain babblings, which would only result in more ungodliness. Such is the result when the word of God is altered or compromised in any way - when men and women add to or ignore any portion of God's word. False teaching within this, or any body of Christ, will eat as doth a canker like gangrene. It will corrupt, eat into, consume, and destroy the very soul of the church, and cause it to lose its spiritual benefit, to both its members as well as the community in which it exists. It is evident that Hymenaeus and Philetus were two influential members of the church of Christ in Ephesus. It is also apparent that they were responsible for much strife, which resulted from their ungodly teaching. These two, members of this congregation of Christians, Paul said, have erred from the truth of God's inspired word.
Continuing the thoughts of these preceding verses, Paul says of these two men: Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some (Vs. 18). The error that they were teaching about the resurrection,was causing some to abandon the faith,by which they came to know God, and the salvation that He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ. In error, they taught that the resurrection is passed already. We don't know for sure but it is possible they taught that the new birth of a Christian, that results when one is resurrected from the watery grave of baptism, was the last resurrection mankind would ever achieve. In other words, they falsely taught that there would be no future resurrection. This erroneous teaching was due to a lack of knowledge regarding God's promised future life after resurrection from physical death. However, this we are assured about the resurrection: Christ Jesus, Himself. He said: Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29).
This may have been similar to the error about resurrection that was also taught by some members of the Corinthian church. This fact was revealed in Paul's first letter to this particular body of Christ. He wrote: Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (1 Cor. 15:12-19). The fact that our Savior, Jesus Christ overcame death, and appeared to numerous men and women after He arose from the grave, assureds all that read God's word, that they, too, will be resurrected, and those in Christ, having lived a faithful life on earth, will enjoy the hope of eternal salvation in Heaven.
Most of the world in which we live is filled with men and women that totally reject God and His Son, Jesus Christ as their Savior. And we are assured by the examples noted above, that there are many that teach error within the body of Christ. Nevertheless, Paul assured Timothy, and all others that read this letter, that the foundation of God standeth sure. Faith in God will never exist in those that reject Him. Within others, faith in God will be shaken by a personal lack of knowledge of His word, and/or by hearing and believing the error of false teachers. But those that will find eternal salvation, are those few that accept the steadfast foundation laid by God that standeth sure. The church, in which this assurance can be found, is the church of Christ, and it is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:20).
Those that hear and obey God's call unto salvation, and are baptized for the remission of their sins, make up the church of Christ (See Acts 2:38 & 47). Here, in the lesson text, Paul compares this church to a spiritual building that is founded on the gospel message of salvation, spoken of by the prophets of God, and given to Christ and His apostles through God's Holy Spirit. Its "dimensions" are foursquare with all measurements originating from its true origin in Jesus Christ, ...the chief corner stone. To continue this analogy, Paul says that this spiritual building, representing the church of Christ, has this seal - that is, this inscription written upon this chief corner stone, which reads thusly: "The Lord knoweth they that are His." All members of the body of Christ have this assurance: God knows each follower of Christ. They are His children; they are fellow heirs of His Son, Jesus Christ. Nothing more wonderfully comforting can be said about, or to, a man or woman here on earth, than the assurance that they belong to their Creator, the Heavenly Father. Indeed, they are His.
The inscription on the chief corner stone continues with these words: And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. Not only does God know all of His children that accept the name of Jesus Christ as their Savior, but they must also depart from iniquity - they must depart from following all evil ways found in the world. Holy lives are required by God in order to become, and remain, His children. It is a godly principle that is spiritually inscribed on the chief corner stone of every body of Christ. It has been spiritually, and permanently, placed there for, not only His children to observe, but that the world may also recognize this body as the church of Christ, in which the hope of eternal salvation may be found.
Notice the further analogy Paul makes comparing the body of Christ, not only to a physical building having a corner stone, but also to the contents of that building. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. What makes up the church of Christ, are the members God has added to it, after obedient baptism for the remission of their sins. Those that become Christians, and faithfully grow stronger, as they feed on the word of God, are compared to honorable vessels of gold and of silver. They have the character of these strong, enduring metals. However, some newborn Christians fail to grow, and to do the will of God. Failing to diligently study God's word will result in the misapplication of its truths. Such Christians as these bring strife into the church, by allowing false teaching to enter and, in error, be accepted by some weak Christians. False teachers are self-serving, and fail to use their talents to serve God and others; they are harmful and destructive to the church of Christ. Such erring members of the body of Christ are compared to dishonorable vessels ...of wood and of earth that are perishable, easily worn, and soon fail to serve spiritually profitable purposes.
These dishonorable vessels fitly describe Hymenaeus and Philetus, mentioned above as false teachers of doctrinal error, within the church of Christ at Ephesus. Their false teachings was required to be made known to all members of the congregation, and replaced with the true word of God. The last verse of the lesson text assures us of this fact. It reads: If a man therefore purge himself from these (false teachers and their teaching), he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
These words are inscribed on the corner stone of the church of Christ: "The Lord knoweth them that are His; let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." Christians must purge the iniquity of all false teaching from their midst. It has no place, in His church, and among His people. His children are to become, and remain, honorable vessels of gold and of silver. Their service to the Lord, and the good works for which they are intended, are never to be diminished.