Referring to David as the king-to-be (about 20 years of age), God stated to Saul, “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Sam 13:14). When chosen to be king, it was not because of “his appearance or on the height of his stature. For the Lord sees not as man sees…the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). A young man said also that David “is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him” (1 Sam 16:18). As a result, “David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer” (1 Sam 16:21).
It could be said of the young David, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (Prov 22:29). Similarly, we serve the King and hope to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:21, 23). Until then, whether or not we serve the kings of this life, we want to be faithful in our service to our King, knowing that our faithfulness merits nothing for salvation, though it provides for reward in time to come.
Some passages from Proverbs mention how to serve in the presence of a king, and they instruct us in how to live our lives as we prepare to one day stand before the heavenly throne. What might they say to us as we consider how to live this life in preparing to meet our King?
· Walk wisely to please the King. “A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor, but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully” (Prov 14:35).
· Watch your words around the King. “Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right” (Prov 16:13).
· Tread carefully around the King. “A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it” (Prov 16:14).
· Be genuinely godly since the King knows your heart. “He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend” (Prov 22:11).
· Be loyal to the king. “My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, for disaster will arise suddenly from them, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?” (Prov 24:21–22).
· Let the King praise you in His own good time. “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble” (Prov 25:6–7).
Whether or not our wisdom lets us stand before kings today, may we live to please the King both now and when we stand before His throne.
From Paul’s letters to Timothy, leaders in the church can gather quite a bit for how to deal with so-called teachers who profess Christ but deny Him in word and deed.
Be an example in the midst of false teachers. In in event that one might “despise you for your youth” (or later, for that matter), “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). In the presence of false teachers, a godly example of a teacher is worth a 1,000 words in and of itself. The difference between right and wrong will be all the more obvious.
Keep away from the influence of false teachers (2:20–21). When Paul speaks of the one who “cleanses himself from what is dishonorable” (2 Tim 2:21), he uses the picture of honorable vessels being cleansed by separating themselves from dishonorable vessels (cf. 2 Tim 2:20). Instead, we should pursue what fits our faith “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22).
Tell false teachers to stop teaching different doctrine (1 Tim 1:3–4). Timothy’s task was clear. He was to “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” (1 Tim 1:3–4).
Confront and correct false teachers in a proper manner (2 Tim 2:24–26). Speaking of “the Lord’s servant” as one who is “correcting his opponents,” Paul requires this servant to be “kind to everyone…patiently enduring evil” (2 Tim 2:24). With this kindness and patience, he also corrects “with gentleness” (2 Tim 2:25). The goal is never to simply shut down the opposition and destroy them. Their souls, too, are at stake. With a proper rebuke, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:25–26).
Use witnesses when dealing with false teachers publicly before the church. In the event that the false teacher is an elder in the church, we should “not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim 5:19). Should such a one “persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim 5:20).
Hand them over to Satan (1 Tim 1:19–20). Along with this public rebuke, the persistently unfaithful are put out of the church, which is Paul’s meaning when he speaks of Hymenaeus and Alexander and said, “I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim 1:20). These men likely led others in “rejecting this, that is, “faith and a good conscience” (1 Tim 1:19), creating spiritual warfare in the church (cf. 1 Tim 1:18).
Some points of contact in 2 Tim 2:20–21 are easy to identify. First, “a great house” in 2 Tim 2:20 refers to the church. In 2 Tim 2:19, the immediately preceding verse, Paul spoke of “God’s firm foundation,” which, in context, is people―“those who are His” and “everyone who names the name of the Lord.” Second, the “vessels” in 2 Tim 2:20 (whatever their material―gold, silver, wood, or clay) refer to people. That these vessels are either “for honorable use” or “for dishonorable” is immediately applied to people in 2 Tim 2:21―“anyone” can be for “honorable use” by being cleansed from what is “dishonorable.” Third, the honorable vessels (gold and silver) are faithful believers (like Timothy), and the dishonorable vessels are the false teachers in 2 Tim 2:20. The contrast between Timothy and his opponents in the surrounding passages (2 Tim 2:14–19, 22–26) implies as much.
We can now better understand how Paul applies his metaphor in 2 Tim 2:21. The metaphor takes a slight twist in 2 Tim 2:21 in that “anyone,” whatever vessel he may be (even the one for dishonorable use), may be cleansed by cleansing himself, literally translated, “from these,” which refers to the vessels designated, “some for dishonorable” use in 2 Tim 2:20. To clarify, rather than the vessel being cleansed by being washed from filth upon the vessel itself, its cleansing comes from being separated from the other vessels. Further support for this understanding is in 2 Tim 2:22 in which Timothy was to pursue good things “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart,” that is, he was to fellowship with one group within the church and not the other.
If, then, vessels are cleansed by separating from vessels of dishonorable use, silver and gold vessels maintain their honorable use by their continued distinction from the dishonorable use of vessels of wood and the clay. And, insomuch as “anyone” in 2 Tim 2:21 may cleanse himself, wood and clay vessels may also have an honorable use by removing themselves from the other wood and clay vessels that continue in their dishonorable use. Applied to the characters in the text, false teachers could be cleansed by removing themselves from other false teachers who continue in error. In the language of the immediately following passage, 2 Tim 2:25–26 would describe such a situation as “opponents” to whom God granted “repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,” having “come to their senses” to “escape from the snare of the devil.”
It would seem from 2 Tim 2:22 that Timothy was to cleanse himself from youthful passions, but this is not all of what is meant in the metaphor in 2:20–21. In separating himself from false teachers, Timothy would likewise “flee youthful passions,” “having nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies,” and “not be quarrelsome” (2 Tim 2:22–24). As Timothy cleansed himself from bad company, so also would they not corrupt his good morals.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.