Study 7 THE PARABLE OF THE LARGE HOUSE
PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 2 Timothy 2:20-26. Key verses: verses 20-21
These verses in 2 Timothy 2:20-21 present to us a parable in the form of a word-picture. The picture is of a large house in which there are many articles or utensils, and of the master of the house who uses these. The “large house” represents the professing Church, and the Master of the house is the Lord Himself. What are the utensils? They are Christians whom the Lord wants to use in His service. In the New Testament Christians are represented as ‘saints’, denoting their union with Christ; ‘believers’, denoting their faith in Christ; ‘lights’, denoting their influence for Christ; ‘soldiers’, denoting their warfare for Christ; ‘disciples’ denoting their discipline for Christ; and, Christians are also represented as ‘vessels’ (KJV), emphasising the truth that the Lord of the house wants to use them for His purposes (Acts 9:15, and compare 2 Corinthians 4:7). The emphasis of this parable is usefulness in the service of God. Let us look at these vessels whom God would use:-
1. THE VESSELS ARE THERE IN ORDER THAT THEY MAY BE USED
The utensils in a large house, whether they belong in the kitchen or the dining-room, whether they are vessels of gold, silver, wood or clay, are there to be used. Christians are in the Church for the same purpose; we are saved to serve (Ephesians 2:10). The Lord calls us not only to come to Him (Matthew 11:28), but also to go for Him (Matthew 28:19). God wants to use us. Sometimes when we are about to start some form of Christian service we pray, ‘Lord, help me!’ – but we should really pray ‘Lord, use me!’ – because it is not we who are doing the work with the Lord’s help but the Lord who is doing the work through us.
2. THE VESSELS ARE REALLY NEEDED BY THE MASTER
Can you imagine any large household without the equivalent of vessels of gold, silver, wood and clay – without utensils for washing and cooking, eating and drinking? Such vessels are absolutely necessary, and it is the same in the Church where the Lord is Master. He needs vessels to perform His great purposes in the Church and in the world, and how He needs vessels into which He can put the treasure of His grace and love, men and women whom He can use for spreading the Gospel of His grace! In 2 Kings 4:1-7 we read the story of a bankrupt woman who was told by Elisha to borrow vessels from all her neighbours. She did so, and then a miracle was performed. The world around us is bankrupt but we are the vessels in which and through which God is wanting to pour the miracle of His grace so that the needs of men and women may be met. So the Lord has a very real need for you. He wants to use you just where He has placed you – in the home, the office, the factory, wherever it may be. He cannot do His work in the place where you are unless He can use you as a vessel, a channel, of His grace. Now see that:-
3. THE VESSELS ARE FOR DIFFERENT PURPOSES
Some are of gold or silver or wood or clay. They are all different because they are for different purposes. This applies in any household, and He has need of each kind in the Church. He needs Peters and Pauls, Andrews and Lydias, men like Matthew and men like Barnabas. It is an encouragement to notice that the Lord uses a great many ordinary vessels (1 Corinthians 1:26-30); but he does not only use ordinary vessels. Some are extra-ordinary, for 1 Corinthians 1:26 does not say, “Not any of you were wise by human standards, not any were influential; not any were of noble birth”, but the word is “not many…“, which implies that He does call some wise, influential and noble people into His service. We rejoice that the Lord uses a great variety of people (1 Corinthians 12:1-25 and Ephesians 4:10-13)! Now notice the next important truth:-
4. THE VESSELS THAT GOD USES MUST BE AVAILABLE
There are three words or phrases to notice here in verse 21:-
- (1) Notice the words “made holy”. What do they mean? – “set apart for a holy purpose” or, available for the Lord to use. Could that be said of you? Have you made your life available to the Lord for Him to use you? Are you at His disposal? (2 Samuel 15:15).
- (2) Notice the phrase “useful to the Master”, meaning – “ready for the Lord to use”. Could that be said of you? – look up and compare 2 Timothy 4:11 and Philemon 11.
- (2) Notice the phrase “prepared to do any good work”, meaning – “ready for anything” – look up and compare the case of Philip who was ready to preach to the crowd in Samaria (Acts 8:5), and just as ready to leave the crowd and go to preach to one man in the desert (Acts 8:26). Are you ready for anything?
But it is very important to notice that there is one special condition that must be met before God can use us:-
5. THE VESSELS THAT GOD USES MUST BE CLEAN
Notice how verse 21 begins. After all, we would not use dirty utensils in the dining-room or the kitchen. God can use anyone or anything, but Scripture states that those whom God uses must be clean. We must have clean hearts to worship Him (Psalm 51:10); clean hands to work for Him (Psalm 24:4); clean feet to walk for Him (Psalm 119:9); and clean lips to speak for Him (Isaiah 6:5) – look up Isaiah 52:11. So before God can use us we must be cleansed from everything that is contrary to His will – wrong associations (2 Corinthians 6:14-18); unclean habits (compare verse 22); and from doubtful things. Notice the words – “If a man cleanses himself…” We are to do the cleansing; the action is ours, not God’s – look up 2 Chronicles 29:15-16 and 2 Corinthians 7:1.
In conclusion, notice that in verse 21 we read, “If a man cleanses himself…he will be an instrument for noble purposes.” What does this mean? The late Canon Guy King suggests that the vessel is not to be honoured, but the vessel is to bring honour to the Lord. This is a very challenging thought with which to close this study.