|Vessels of Honor Purged from Vessels of Dishonor
I spent several years ago on email lists with Bill Thurman, retired chair of Classics (as in Greek and Latin) at UNC Asheville, and I had an opportunity to meet and study with him in person once. He was a Greek scholar and described himself as intermediate in Hebrew, though a friend of mine who earned a masters of Hebrew translation considered brother Thurman to be more advanced that he was.
I do not think I still have the post or if I do I do not know where to find it, but he had some insightful commentary on II Timothy 2, which I am using as the basis for my commentary here. Quotes are from the NKJV unless otherwise noted.
II Timothy 2
16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
According to Bill Thurman, the latter quote in verse 19 is likely a paraphrase of Numbers 16:26
And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.”
He argued that 'iniquity', or 'wickedness' in another translation. could refer to the set of persons or things that were characterized by wickedness.
It was important to withdraw from these wicked men because the ground would open up and swallow them and theirs. Withdrawing from them protected the Israelites from this judgment that would come upon those men. If they had stayed close, they might have been swallowed up, too.
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
He pointed out that 'the latter' ('these' in whatever translation he was using or generated on the spot) refers grammatically to the vessels of dishonor. The vessels of honor are to purge themselves from the vessels of dishonor. If we think of it in lines with the analogy, we would not set the gold dinner plate face down on top of the chamber pot. We would separate them.
One aspect of being sanctified is to purge oneself from vessels of dishonor. To understand it in this context, the men Paul is focusing on are teachers of cancerous teachings. He specifically named men who were teaching that the resurrection had occurred, which ran contrary to a central teaching of the Christian faith.
We see other passages that warn against false teachers such as II Peter, which warns that the false teachers (which were doomed for destruction, not just individuals who may have some doctrinal error) referred to in the passage were spots and blemishes while they feast with you (II Peter 2:13, c.f. Jude 1:12.) These were apparently teachers who were rather libertine in their own lifestyles and who ensnared others.
Revelation 2 also records a vision in which the Lord Jesus rebuked churches that had among them that held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, the way of Balaam, and rebuked a church for tolerating 'that woman Jezebel' who taught the people to fornicate and to eat food offered to idols.
2/19/20 3:35 pm