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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 38 - 2 Timothy 2:20, 21 - The Great House - Its Master and its Vessels Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




The Great House-Its Master And Its Vessels.


     "In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good worth."-2 Timothy 2:20, 21.



     How full of admonitions and warnings is this epistle! Some of them are such as we should hardly have thought that Timothy required. Yet what warning is there which a sinner needs that a saint does not? Hear how the Holy Spirit spoke to Timothy, and speaks to us: 'Be not ashamed of the testimony of the Lord;' 'Hold fast the form of sound words;' 'Shun profane and vain babblings;' 'Flee youthful lusts;' 'Foolish and unlearned questions avoid,'-these are some of his exhortations to his son Timothy.

     He then takes for illustration the figure in our text,-of the great house, with its various vessels,-and uses this to enforce his counsels. Let us look at it now, in order to quicken ourselves thereby.

     I. The house.-It is called a great house,-a house of many rooms, many servants, many vessels. It may be a palace, or a temple, or the house of any man of wealth. In all these senses it shadows forth the Church of God.

     That is 'the house of God' (2 Timothy 3:15). And it is truly a 'great house;' great, when we consider its Builder and Maker, and the eternal purpose of the divine Architect; great, when we consider its cost; great, when we consider the length of time in building, the number and preciousness of its living stones; great, when we consider its size and glory and eternal duration. Truly there is no house like it for greatness; neither shall be in all time to come. It is so great, that it is called a city,-the city which bath foundations; so great, that it is called the habitation of God, the palace of the great King, the temple of the Holy Ghost.

     II. The Master.-(Mark 13:35; Luke 14:21) One house and one Master, one proprietor, one head, from whom the house gets its name. The earthly master and the earthly house (from which the figure here is taken) are of no consequence to us. But of the great house, the Church of the living God, it is of no small moment that we know the Master. Sometimes God, and sometimes Christ, is called by that name. The Master of the house and the Master of the family is Christ; the Head of the house is the same with its Builder and Maker; the Master and the house are worthy of each other,-both of them glorious. The house has cost the Master no small cost and labour and pains; and its glory is His glory. He Himself is its foundation, its cornerstone, and its headstone. Its walls are cemented with His blood; and everything about it has been provided with His own hands, and at the expense of His suffering and death. It is the house of life; yet its foundations are laid in death. He is the living Master of a living house; yet His death was needed for its erection. He is the best, wisest, kindest, noblest, and mightiest of Masters. Blessed are they who belong to His house; blessed the stones of its walls, and the dust of its pavement; blessed the vessels that are used in it, and the servants to whom the Master entrusts these in His varied service.

     III. The vessels.-In this passage the vessels are evidently the persons, whether ministers, or saints merely, whom Christ employs for the service of His house. Primarily and directly it is of ministers, such as himself and Timothy, that he is speaking; but his language is such as to include all the members of the Church-his 'great house.' Elsewhere these are called the house itself, the habitation of God, the temple of the Holy Ghost, the living stones of the great fabric; here they are 'the vessels' or utensils used in the various chambers, and in the manifold work of the house.

     These vessels are various,-some gold, some silver, some wood, some earthen; each for a different purpose; yet all for some use in the house, more or less honourable. For the words, 'some to honour, and some to dishonour,' do not mean that these latter were 'vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,' vessels to be broken or cast away, but simply for less honourable use; still useful, nay, indispensable, as in the case of some of our bodily members, of which the apostle speaks, as 'more feeble,' 'less honourable,' nay, 'uncomely,' yet 'necessary' (1 Corinthians 12:22, 24).

     Great, then, is the variety of service in the Church of God; of all different levels and ranks and purposes.  The most honourable is the golden vessel; the least honourable is the earthenware; but the great house needs this variety. The gold would not do the work of the earthenware, nor the earthenware of the gold; the silver would not do the work of the wood, nor the wood of the silver. Each has its own value and its own department. Each is useful, each is necessary, and none to be despised. Some are costly, some common; some for more, others for less dignified purposes; still none can be dispensed with. The work of the house could not go on without all.

     But the apostle speaks of the possibility of rising in the scale of dignity and usefulness; of a less honourable vessel becoming more honourable; of the earthenware becoming silver, and the silver becoming gold. 'If a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour;' the 'these things' being the evils and deformities and inconsistencies against which he was warning Timothy, such as profane and vain babblings, youthful lusts. There are Christians who are just Christians, and no more. There are Christians who live at a low rate, who are not very consistent, but cold and worldly. They have their use, however. They are vessels; but they are only of wood or earth. These the apostle exhorts to seek a higher elevation. Purge yourselves, he says, and you may yet become more honourable, rising from level to level, as you get quit of your inconsistencies. Thus you will become, (1) honourable; (2) consecrated; (3) suitable; (4) useful. Covet earnestly, then, the best gifts. Aim high. Press forward. Seek holiness, purity, honour, usefulness, in the great house of God.