Today, I will speak on “being an instrument for noble purposes.” In the first half of chapter two, Paul, in order to encourage Timothy who was pastoring the church at Ephesus, advised him to be strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ. And, Paul advised him to remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. The reason is that whatever problems Timothy was facing, the key to solving all of them is in Jesus Christ. By remembering who Jesus is, whatever we are suffering, we can endure it.
Last week, we saw that Paul said that quarreling about words is of no value, and only ruins those who listen, and he said to warn them before God because it destroys the faith of some. There were actually people in the church at Ephesus doing this–Hymanaeus and Philetus, whose teaching was spreading like gangrene (the Japanese translation says “like cancer”), and affecting the whole body.
In spite of this, God’s solid foundation stands firm. God’s solid foundation is the church. Even if there is such quarreling in God’s church, the church does not waver, because it is God’s, and God knows who are his. They will turn away from wickedness. So even those the church faces various problems andattacks, it does not waver. It most certainly cannot waver because it stands firm on God’s word.
If this is the case, how are we to be? That’s the subject for today. If the church is those who are in God, we do not waver from that firm foundation, and must become instruments useful to God. Just how can we become instruments like this?
I. Instruments for noble purposes (v. 20-21)
First look at verses 20 and 21.
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
What does “in a large house” mean? The “large house” is the church. Like in a large house, where there are not only articles made of gold and silver articles, but wood and ceramic, in the church there are different kinds of containers. Some serve noble purposes, some are made for ignoble purposes. Containers made of gold and silver are not only used for eating, but also are used as decorations. My mother-in-law had some heirlooms, and when she died my wife inherited them–a glittering silver spoon, fork, and tray, not for everyday use, but for special guests and occasions. As particularly valuable items, they are treated specially.
What would happen if these were treated in the opposite way, as a garbage can or container for leftovers? What a shame to use them as a trash can or leftover container, inconspicuously placed on a backyard porch, in some corner of the kitchen, or hidden inside a built-in cabinet. An ignoble use, inside a cabinet mixed in among less worthy articles. In the same way, there are all kinds in the church, and not all are the same, some are used for noble purposes, some are used for ignoble ones.
What is the standard for determining which is which? It isn’t having such great talent or ability. It isn’t how a person serves the church. It is a matter of how much he turns away from wickedness and cleanses himself from it.
Look at verse 21. Here it is: “If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. ”
Everyone, please imagine I have an expensive wine glass here. Would you drink from it if there were mold growing in the bottom of the glass? No matter how shiny a gold container is, if it is filled with trash it can’t be used. Before using it we’d check it to be sure it was clean. We would use a clean one. All the more so if we were to use it for a guest. Christians, God’s laborers, are the same. No matter how gifted or talented, if we are not holy we can’t be used by God. An instrument used by God, an instrument used for a noble purpose is one who has cleansed himself from the latter.
What is this “latter?” Hymenaeus and Philetus were written about before this. They had wandered from the truth, and destroyed the faith of some. In other words, instead of building others’ faith up, they caused people to turn from their faith. They were filthy instruments. You must turn from such wickedness, and become a noble instrument.
Isaiah prophesied about this. Isaiah 52:11: “Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing. Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the LORD.”
The people of God, Israel, were saved by God’s unilateral grace. They put on the garments of righteousness. All that was expected of them was that they would keep from defiling them. They were called upon to “Go out, go out, depart from them.” You have been saved from Babylon, clothed in beautiful new garments, so you must brush off the dirt and shake off the shackles. And then get out, and avoid that which defiles. You must get out of there, and cleanse your body. That’s what is worthy of a vessel of God.
Proverbs 25:4 records the same thing. “Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith.” Impurities. How do we get a good vessel? Remove the dross, the impurities. Do so, and we can become good instruments in our sleep. Now, what about removing the dross?
II. Becoming a holy instrument (v. 22)
Please look at verse 22.
“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. ”
Here, Paul is teaching what to avoid, and what to seek in order to become a useful instrument to God. First, the things to avoid are the evil desires of youth. This not only means lusts of the flesh, including sexual desires, but includes sin that goes well beyond that. That’s what Barclay’s Commentary says.
“Impatience is included in the meaning. That is, to go faster and faster without knowing it, in such a hurry as to not notice when something good has become harmful.
Next, self-centeredness is included. That is, to not be able to suppress your own ideas when their expression is arrogant. And to not know how to accept the superior points of another’s ideas, be sympathetic to them, and understand them.
And there is the matter of liking to quarrel. To debate more, and do less. To spend the night in heated discussion, but to leave problems unsolved.
And, to be overly fond of novelty. To argue against a reason simply because it is an old reason, and to ardent about something for the simple reason it is new. ”
When young, these feelings more easily control us. But not only in our youth. It’s true no matter what our age. We are to flee from this wickedness. How can a young person flee from these?
It’s here in Psalms 119:9-11.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
How can a young person keep his way pure? The author of the Psalms says it is by living according to God’s word. To seek God’s word with all our heart, and live in accordance with His commands. It’s important to fill our hearts to the brim with God’s word. Why? People talk of what is in their heart, and act according to what is in their heart. So what is in our heart is very important. If filled with God’s word, our behavior will change with it.And Paul not only advises us on the evil to flee from, but the good we should seek after. What are these good things? Four are listed. They are righteousness, faith, love and peace.
First is righteousness. What is righteousness? Righteousness is correctness. It’s not a matter of just being accepted as righteous, but as a Christian who has been accepted as righteous we must seek after righteousness. A Christian must always seek to do the right thing.
The second one is faith. Faith is to trust God. It is to listen to God’s word, to believe God, and to follow his direction. Through this our faith is strengthened, and we can grow. In many cases, the times when our faith is weak we are not listening to what God is saying. Or it seems like we are listening when we really aren’t. If we give priority to our own thoughts, we can’t obey God’s directions.
Jesus spoke of this in his parable of the sower. A certain person was sowing seed, some by the side of the road, some in rocky places, some among thorns, and some on good land. What happened to the seed sown by the side of the road? The birds came and ate it, so it couldn’t bear fruit. The seed sown in rocky places germinated, but without soil, it dried up in the daytime sun, unable to put down any roots. The seed sown among the thorns was covered by the thorn bushes when they grew, so that it, too, was unable to bear fruit. But as for the seed sown in good soil, some bore fruit a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold. The seed planted in good soil are people who hear the word of God, understand what it means, and by obeying and living it they bear fruit.
The next thing the Christian must seek after is love. What is love? I Corinthians 13 is well-known. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in envying but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (13:4-7)
We don’t have these qualities when we are born. They are God’s love, self-sacrificial love, giving love, agape love. God expressed this love to us by giving his own Son. A Christian knows God’s love, and accepts God’s love. But that is not sufficient, from then on he must become a person who lives in that love. A Christians must spend the rest of his life seeking after that love.
The fourth thing is peace. Peace is brought about by a right relationship with God, and a right relationship in respect to our interactions with others–a condition of accord and harmony. If we listen to God’s word and live in obedience to it, it will bring about peace, and if we don’t, it will generate confusion and not peace, conflict and not harmony.
Please look at Philippians 4: 8-9
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever your have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
How can the God of peace be with us? Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. And not just think about them, but we must put them into practice. And if the do, the God of peace will be with us.
Do you want to be an instrument for noble purposes? Do you want to be an instrument God can use? If that is your desire, you must flee from evil, and think about what’s is true, noble, right, lovely, all that is excellent. And put them into practice. If we do, the God of peace will be with us.
There is one more important thing to consider here: what it is to call upon the Lord with a pure heart. As a Christian we can’t seek after these on our own. It is with others who have a pure heart that we must do our seeking. That means the body of Christ, the family of God–the Church. A Christian must not go it alone, to separate himself from his companions, to become distant. It may seem easier to be without any friction with others, but throughout the Bible the stress is on doing it “together.” The joy, the power and the support can be found in that companionship.
The British missionary John Wesley put it this way. “A person must have friends. Otherwise, he must make them. No one is going to heaven alone.” What meaningful words, don’t you think? You can understand that by looking at the kanji for “person”–two leaning together and supporting each other. We live by supporting one another, and cannot live alone. The faith life of a Christian is the same; we must seek after righteousness, faith, love and peace along with others who call upon the Lord with a pure heart.
III. Don’t have anything to do with quarrels (v. 23-26)
Thirdly, one more thing that Christians in order to “be an instrument for noble purposes” (21) must be careful about is that they “don’t have anything to do with… quarrels.” (23) Please look at verse 23. Here it says, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” “Foolish and stupid arguments” (23) are arguments that have no content and are just an idea. However, such “foolish and stupid arguments…produce quarrels” (23) “It is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (14) In the Ephesian church such talk “spread like gangrene.” (17) However, “the Lord’s servant must not quarrel.” (24) Instead, the proper attitude of the Lord’s servant is to “be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (24)
- “Be kind to everyone” (24) The Lord’s servant is not to quarrel, but to “be kind to everyone.” (24) This is the attitude that Christians are to have. Most of the time when you quarrel both parties become emotional and excited and so from such a condition a good result will not be produced. However, with a kind and calm attitude when you communicate with calm words, the other person’s feelings become quiet and at times the other person will listen.
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.”
We are not to do something bad to someone because they have done something bad to us. Even if the other person is emotional, we are to respond with a calm attitude and with soft words. Therefore, let’s not quarrel, but “be kind to everyone.” (24) This is the kind of church we are aiming to be.
- Be “able to teach.” (24) The Lord’s servant does not quarrel, but studies the Bible well and is “able to teach.”(24) “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) It may look like this will take time, but walk on the correct road. It is the most reliable and closest road.
- Not to be “resentful”. (24) We need to not be resentful especially towards those who cause you misery. This is a very difficult thing to do. God wants us not to be resentful. Jesus said “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
- “Those who oppose him he must gently instruct.” (25) To instruct is to correct. However, that is not instructing with anger, but with gentleness. It is not by looking down on him, but with gentleness. He must correct with humility. If so, the cold heart that was frozen shut will by Christ’s warm love melt.
The reason why the Lord’s servant must take such an attitude is written in the last half of verse 25. “In the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” Also verse 26 says, “and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
In other words, they may be saved. God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:4) This is God’s will. Therefore, we as much as possible should strive to not be resentful and have attitudes in accordance with the will of God. Paul too said in 2:10 “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” We are the same. We don’t know who will be saved so we too need to “endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (2:10) We are the same we don’t know who the elect is, but there are such people . We “must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (24) Those who oppose us we “must gently instruct.” (25) It is God that “will grant them repentance,” (25), but it is the work of the servant of the Lord, us Christians, to lead them to repentance.
This is truly the kind of person that God uses as his instrument. The instrument that God uses is completely unrelated to how splendid, or gorgeous he is. It depends upon how holy he is. “If a man cleanses himself” (21) and flees from unrighteousness, “he will be an instrument for noble purposes.” (21)
Are you an instrument that is used by God? What do you need to flee from? Also what are you seeking after? First let’s begin by making our instrument ready as “an instrument for noble purposes…useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (21)