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2 Timothy 2.20-26 Ex Notes

2 Tim 2:20-25 Ex. Notes

BARNES:  But in a great house - Still keeping up the comparison of the church with a building. The idea is, that the church is a large edifice, and that in such a building we are not to expect entire uniformity in all the articles which it contains.

There are not only vessels of gold and of silver, ... - You are not to expect to find all the articles of furniture alike, or all made of the same material. Variety in the form, and use, and material, is necessary in furnishing such a house.

And some to honour, and some to dishonour - Some to most honorable uses - as drinking vessels, and vessels to contain costly viands, and some for the less honorable purposes connected with cooking, etc. The same thing is to be expected in the church. See this idea illustrated at greater length under another figure in the notes at 1 Corinthians 12:14-26; compare the notes, Romans 9:21. The application here seems to be, that in the church it is to be presumed that there will be a great variety of gifts and attainments, and that we are no more to expect that all will be alike, than we are that all the vessels in a large house will be made of gold.


2 Timothy 2:20-21OUR text begins with a 'but.' It, therefore, suggests something which may seem to contradict or to modify what has gone before. The Apostle has been speaking about what he calls the 'foundation of God,' or the building founded by God, whereby he means the Church. He has been expressing triumphant confidence that, as thus founded, it is indestructible, whatever dangers may threaten or defections may weaken it. But the very contemplation of that grand ideal suggests darker thoughts. He carries on his metaphor, for the 'great house' is suggested by 'the foundation of God,' and yet the two things do not refer to precisely the same object. The building founded by God which stands fast, whatever happens, is what we call in our abstract way, the 'invisible Church,' the ideal community or aggregate of all who are truly joined to Jesus Christ. The great house is what we call the visible Church, the organisation, institution, or institutions comprising those who profess to be thus joined. The one is indestructible, as founded by God; the other is not, being made by men, and composed of heterogeneous elements.

This heterogeneousness of its elements is suggested by the further metaphor, of the vessels of different materials, value, and use. The members of the Church are the various vessels. When we come down from the heights of ideal contemplation to face the reality of the Church as an organisation in the world, we are confronted with this grave fact, that its members are some of them 'gold and silver,' some of them 'wood' and 'earth.' And that fact modifies the triumphant confidence already uttered, and imposes upon us all very plain duties. So I wish to look now at the three things that are suggested to me here. First, a grave fact as to the actual condition of the Church as an organised institution; second, an inspiring possibility open to us all; and, lastly, a plain direction as to the way by which the possibility may become a reality.

I. Then we have here a grave fact as to the actual condition of the Church as an organised institution.

'In a great house there are vessels of gold and silver.' There they stand, ranged on some bufet, precious and sparkling, and taken care of; and away down in kitchens or sculleries there are vessels of wood, or of cheap common crockery and pottery. Now, says Paul, that is like the Church as we have to see it in the world. What is the principle of the distinction here? At first sight one might suppose that it refers to the obvious inequality of intellectual and spiritual and other gifts or graces bestowed upon men; that the gold and silver are the more brilliantly endowed in the Christian community, and the wood and the earth are humbler members who have less conspicuous and less useful service to perform. But that is not so. The Bible never recognises that distinction which the world makes so much of, between the largely and slenderly endowed, between the men who do what are supposed to be great things, and those who have to be content with humbler service. Its principle is, 'small service is true service whilst it lasts,' and although there are-diversities of operation, the man who has the largest share of gifts stands, in Heaven's estimate, no whit above the man who has the smallest. All are on the one level; in God's great army the praise and the honours do not get monopolised by the general officers, but they come down to the privates just as abundantly, if they are equally faithful.

And then another consideration which shows us that it will not do to take gold and silver on the one hand, and wood and earth on the other, as marking the cleavage between the largely and the slenderly endowed members of the Church, is the fact that the way to get out of the one class and into the other, as we shall have to see presently, is by moral purity and not by the increase of intellectual or other endowments. The man that cleanses himself comes out of the category of 'wood' and 'earth,' and passes into that of 'gold and silver.' Thus the basis of the distinction, the ground of classification, lies altogether in goodness or badness, purity or impurity, worthiness or unworthiness. They who are in the highest degree pure are the 'gold and silver.' They who are less so, or not at all so, are the 'wooden' and the 'earthen' vessels. The same line of demarcation is suggested in another passage which employs several of the same phrases and ideas that are found in my text. We read in it about the foundation which is laid, and about the teachers building upon it various elements. Now these elements, on the one hand 'gold, silver, and precious stones,' and on the other hand 'wool, hay, and stubble,' may be the doctrines that these teachers proclaimed, or perhaps they may be the converts that they brought in. But in any case notice the parallelism, not only in regard to the foundation, but in regard to the distinction of the component parts of the structure - 'gold and silver,' as here, and the less valuable list headed, as here, by 'wood; and then, by reason of the divergence of the metaphor, 'hay and stubble,' in the one ease, and 'earthenware' in the other. But the suggestion of both passages is that the Church, the visible institution, has in it, and will always have in it, those who, by their purity and consistency of Christian life, answer to the designation of the gold and the silver, and those who, by their lack of that, fail into the other class, of wooden and earthen vessels.

Of course it must be so. 'What act is all its thought had been?' Every ideal, when it becomes embodied in an institution, becomes degraded; just as, when you expose quicksilver to the air, a non-transparent film and scum creeps across the surface. The 'drag-net' in one of Christ's parables suggests the same ides, There are no meshes that ever man's knitting-needle has formed that are fine enough to keep out the bad, as the Church necessarily includes both sets of people.

I do not need to dwell upon the question as to whether in these least worthy members of that community are included people that have some faint flickering light of God in their hearts, real though very imperfect Christians, or whether it means only those who are nominally, and not at all really, joined to the Lord. The parting lines between these two classes are very evanescent and very slight; and it is scarcely worth while calling them two classes at all. But only let me remind you that this recognition of the necessary intermingling of unworthy and worthy professors in every Christian Church is no reason for us Nonconformists departing from our fundamental principle that we should try to keep Christ's Church clear, as far as may be, of the intrusion of unworthy members. The Apostle is not speaking about the conditions that ought to be imposed as precedent to connection with the visible Church, but he is speaking about the evil, whatever the conditions may be, that is sure to attach to it. It attaches to this community of ours here, which, in accordance with New Testament usage, we have no hesitation in calling a Church. We try to keep our communion pure; we do not succeed; we never shall succeed. That is no reason why we should give up trying. But in this little house there are 'vessels of gold and silver,' and 'vessels of wood and earth, and-some to honour and some to dishonour.' But whilst this necessity is no reason for indiscriminate admission of all manner of people into the Christian Church, it is a reason for you that are in it not to make so much as some of you do of the fact that you are in, and not to trust, as some of you do, to the mere nominal, external connection with the 'great house.' You may be in it, but you may be down in the back premises, and one of the vessels that have no honourable use. Lay that to heart, dear friends. It is not for me to apply general principles to individual cases, but I may venture to say that, like every true pastor of a Christian community, I cannot help seeing that there are names of people on Our rolls who have a name to live and are dead.

II. Now, secondly, here we have an inspiring possibility open to us all.

On certain conditions any man may be 'a vessel unto honour,' by which, of course, is meant that the vessel - that is to say, the man - gets honour.

And how does he get it? By service. If you will look at the passage carefully, you will see that after this general designation of 'a vessel unto honour,' there follow three characteristics of the vessel, which taken together make its honour. I shall speak about them in detail presently, but in the meantime let me point out how here there is embodied the great principle of the New Testament that the true honour is service. 'It shall not be so among you; he that is chief amongst you let him be your servant.' Just as Jesus Christ, 'knowing that He came from God and went to God, and that the Father had given all things into His hand, laid aside His garments, and took a towel, and girded Himself, and washed the disciples' feet,' so we, if we desire honour and prominence, must find it in service; and if we have by God's gift, and the concurrence of circumstances, possessions or resources of mind, body, or estate, which make us prominent and above our brethren, we are thereby the more bound to utilise all that we have, and all that we are, for His service. If a man is ambitious let him remember this that service is honour, use is dignity, and there are none other.

But now turn for a moment to these three characteristics which are here set forth as constituting the honour of the vessels of gold and silver. The first is 'sanctified,' or as it might perhaps better be expressed, consecrated. For, as I suppose many of us know, the foot, idea of sanctification or holiness is not the moral purity which goes along with the expression in our thoughts, but that which is the root of all evangelical purity - via, the yielding of ourselves to God. Consecration is the beginning of purity, and consecration is honour. No man stands higher, in the true Legion of Honour of the Heavens, than he who bears on his breast and in his heart, not a knot of ribbon, but the imprint of a bloody Cross, and for the sake of that yields himself, body, soul, and spirit to God's service. The vessels that are devoted are the sacrificial vessels of the Temple, which are sacred beyond the golden cups of household use, and yet the commonest domestic utensils may become honourable by virtue of their being thus consecrated. So one of the old prophets. using the same metaphor as my text, with a slightly different application, says that in the day when the Kingdom of God assumes its perfect form upon earth, every pot in Jerusalem shall be as the bowls of the altar, and on the very horse-bells shall be written, 'Consecrated to the Lord.' The vessel unto honour must be sanctified.

Then again, 'meet for the master's use.' On the great buffet in the banqueting hall, the cup in the centre, that belongs to the householder, and is lifted to his glowing lips, is the most honourable of all. Every Christian man amongst us may be used by the Christ, and may - more wonderful still! - be useful to Christ. That is condescension, is it not? You remember how, when He would, in modest prophetic pomp, once for all assert in public His claim to be the King of Israel, He sent two of His servants 'into the village over against' them with this message, 'The Lord hath need of him,' the humble ass. Jesus Christ needs you to carry out His purposes, to be His representatives and the executors of His will, His viceroys and servants in this world. And there is no honour higher than that I, for all my imperfections and limitations, with all my waywardness and slothfulness, should yet be taken by Him, and made use of by Him. Brother l have you any ambition to be used by Jesus, and to be useful to Jesus? And are you of any use to Him? Have you ever been? The questions are for our own hearts, in the privacy of communion with God. I leave them with you.

'Ready for every good work.' The habit of service will grow. A man that is consecrated, and being used by Jesus Christ, will become more and more useful all round. It ought to be our ambition to be men-of-all-work to our Lord. There is great danger of our all yielding to natural limitations, as we suppose them, and confining ourselves to what we take to be our role. It is all right that that should be the prominent part of our ministry in the world. But let us beware of the limitations and the onesidedness that attaches to us, and be ready for the distasteful work, for the uncongenial work, for the work to which our natural fastidiousness and temperaments do not call us. Let us, as I say, try to be many-sided, and to stand with our loins girt and our lamps burning, and our wills held well down, and say ' Lord! what wouldst Thou have me to do? Here am I; send me.'

III. Now a word about the last point that is here, and that is the plain direction as to the way in which this possibility may become a reality for us all.

'If a man purge himself from these.' These; whom? The' vessels to dishonour.' Get out of that class. And how? By purifying yourselves. So, then, there is no necessity of any sort which determines the class to which we belong except our own earnestness and effort. You remember our Lord's other parable of the four sowings in four different soils. Was there any unconquerable necessity which compelled the wayside soil to be hard and beaten, or the rocky one to be impermeable, or the thorny one to be productive only of thorns and briars? Could they not all have become good soil? And why did they not? Because the men that they represented did not care to become so. And in like manner there is no reason why the earthen pot should not become gold, or the wooden one silver, or the silver one gold - ay! or the gold silver, or the silver wood, or the wood earth. Paul was an earthen vessel, and he became 'a chosen vessel' of gold. Judas was a vessel of silver, and he became s vessel of earth, and was dashed in pieces like a potter's vessel. So you can settle your place. How do you settle it? By purity. Character makes us serviceable. Christ's kingdom is more helped, His purposes advanced, His will furthered, by holy lives than by shining gifts. And whether you can do much for Him by the latter or no, you can do more for Him by far by means of the former. And you can all have that if you will.

Only notice that purity which makes serviceable, and therefore honourable, and is capable of degrees as between silver and gold, is to be won by our own efforts. 'If a man therefore shall purify himself.' I know, of course, that whoever has honestly set himself, for Christ's sake, to the task of purifying himself, very soon finds out that he, with his ten thousand, cannot beat the king that comes against him with twenty thousand; and if he is a wise man he sends an embassage, not to the enemy, but to the Emperor, and says, 'Come Thou and help me.' If we try to purify ourselves, we are necessarily thrown back upon God's help to do it. But there must be the personal effort, and that effort must go mainly, I think, in the direction of effort to grasp and hold by faith and obedience the Divine Life which come into us and purifies us; and in the other direction of effort to apply to every part of our character and conduct the divine help which we bring to our aid by our humble faith.

So, brethren, we can, if we will, purify ourselves, and we shall do it most surely when we fall back upon him, and say, 'Give me the power - that I may perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.'

Some of us are vessels in another house. But Christ has bound the strong man and spoiled his goods, and taken from him all the armour in which he trusted, and the vessels which he used. And if we will only take Christ's liberation, and cast ourselves on His grace and power, then we shall be lifted from the dark and doleful house of the strong man, and set in the great house of the great Lord. Yield not your members as instruments of unrighteousness, but yield yourselves unto God, and your members as instruments of righteousness to Him.

Lesson 13: The Person God Uses (2 Timothy 2:20-22) - Cole

A man used to visit a tiny general store in the country. The proprietor has a clerk named Jake, who seemed to be the laziest man in the world. One day the man noticed that Jake was gone.

He asked the proprietor, "Where's Jake?" "Oh, he retired," was the answer. "Retired? Then what are you going to do to fill the vacancy?" The owner replied, "Jake didn't leave no vacancy."

That leads me to ask, "What kind of vacancy would there be in this church if you left?" It is God's clear intention that every one of His people be used in serving the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given gifts to each one to be used as good stewards. And yet for so many that name the name of Christ, their faith is like football-an occasional Sunday spectator sport. They are not serving Christ day by day. But if you truly know Christ, you can't be happy sitting on the bench or in the stands. You want to be in the game.

Our text reveals the kind of person God uses. You may think that God uses people who have impressive abilities and gifts. While spiritual gifts play a part, they are not the main feature in being used by God. As we saw in the national news recently, a man may be a gifted Christian leader and yet bring terrible disgrace to the name of Christ. Or you may think that God uses a person who has been to seminary and has a lot of training. While seminary has its place, I know of many men who graduated from seminary, but they're not even in the stadium, let alone in the game!

Or you may think that God uses a person who has a great knowledge of the Bible. While, as we saw last week, being careful students of the Bible is very important, it is not the main thing. You may be a renowned Bible scholar, and yet be detrimental to the cause of Jesus Christ.

The simple message of our text is that God uses cleansed people, who are defined by two characteristics:

God uses cleansed people who flee sin and pursue godliness.

Paul is telling Timothy how to deal with some difficult problems in the church of Ephesus, where he was ministering. In the verses just before, he has exhorted Timothy to use the Scriptures properly, not as Hymenaeus and Philetus, whose false teaching had led some astray. He reminds Timothy, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness" (2:19). Now he urges Timothy to be a cleansed man who flees sin and pursues godliness, summed up under four qualities: righteousness, faith, love and peace with the Lord's true people.

Paul uses the illustration of a large house that has different kinds of vessels. The gold and silver vessels are kept clean so that they may be used for honorable purposes, such as dinner parties. The wood and earthenware vessels are used for dishonorable purposes, perhaps in the kitchen or to carry out garbage or human waste. They often get broken and are cheaply replaced.

It would be easy to misapply Paul's point here. If you took his illustration to its logical conclusion, you could say that the dishonorable vessels serve a legitimate function and thus are just as necessary as the gold vessels. But that's not his point. Rather, the large house represents the professing or visible church. Some who associate with the church are truly born again. Others, such as the false teachers Hymenaeus and Philetus, are probably not born again. They are the vessels for dishonor. Paul is saying that no one should be a vessel for dishonor.

To put it another way, he is saying that God isn't going to use a garbage pail life to serve the pure gospel to a hungry world. Can you imagine being a guest at a wealthy home, where you're seated around a magnificent table? The kitchen door swings open and the cook comes out with a garbage pail and starts dishing the food out of the pail. Even so, God isn't going to use dirty lives to serve the good news of Christ to the world. Rather,

1. God uses cleansed people (2:20-21).

Note three things:

A. You must choose the type of vessel you will be.

Clearly, Paul is presenting us with a choice: Do you want to be a gold or silver vessel, used for honor, or will you be a cheap clay pot, used for dishonor? Again, you may think, "Well, both are used of God, aren't they?" The answer is, "Yes, but you don't want to be used as a vessel for dishonor!" It's interesting that Paul uses this illustration in Romans 9:21-23, although with a different emphasis:

"Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory...."

In that text, Paul is emphasizing God's sovereign right to do as He pleases with His creation. As the potter, He can do whatever He wants with the clay, and the clay has no right to challenge the potter. But in 2 Timothy 2:20-21, Paul's emphasis is on our responsibility to cleanse ourselves from the defilement of sin, especially the sin of false teaching, so that we will be vessels for honor.

The Bible is clear that as the Sovereign of the universe, God uses even evil people for His righteous purposes. He uses Satan and the demons, even though they are opposed to Him. In Moses' day, He raised up Pharaoh and used him to demonstrate God's power (Rom. 9:17). He used Judas in His plan of putting Jesus on the cross. Acts 4:27-28 explains, "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur." As Proverbs 16:4 puts it, "The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil."

If you're thinking, "Then we're just robots or puppets," you're wrong! The Bible also clearly declares that each of us is a responsible moral agent. Although God ordained that Judas and Herod and Pilate would play roles in crucifying the Savior, each of those men are guilty sinners, responsible for their terrible sins. You will fall into error if you let go of either God's absolute sovereignty or man's full responsibility for his sins. Paul's point in our text is, you have a choice: Will you be a filthy vessel that God uses for dishonor? Or, will you be a clean vessel that God uses for honor? You are accountable for your choice!

B. Cleansing is your responsibility.

Note verse 21, "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things...." In the context, "these things" refers to the false teachings that were being spread. It's worth noting that false teachings are not just mental mistakes-they are sins that need to be cleansed out of our lives!

When Paul says that a person needs to cleanse himself, he is not teaching that by our own efforts we can atone for our sins. If you could do anything in and of yourself to deal with your sin problem before God, then the death of Christ was pointless. But you can and must avail yourself of the means of cleansing that God has provided in Christ. That is your responsibility.

If you come into the house dirty after a day of working in the yard, you don't lick yourself clean like a cat does! Rather, you make use of the soap and water to cleanse yourself. The soap and water are the means of cleansing. But you make use of them by applying them to your body.

God provided the blood of Jesus as the means of cleansing us from all our sins (1 John 1:7, 9). There is a sense in which we are completely clean the moment that we trust in Christ as Savior. But we walk in the world, where we get defiled. When we confess our sins, we apply the blood of Jesus to our dirty lives. To be a vessel for honor, you must walk in the light, confessing all known sin to God. Vessels of dishonor walk in the darkness and do not cleanse themselves from sin.

So, you must choose the type of vessel you will be. Cleansing yourself to become a vessel of honor is your responsibility.

C. Cleansed people are sanctified, useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work (2:21).

(1). Cleansed people are sanctified.

The word means, "set apart" unto God. It is used three ways in the Bible. There is positional sanctification. Through the death of Christ, believers have been sanctified once for all (1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11; Heb. 10:10). There is also progressive sanctification. As we grow in Christ, we are progressively conformed to His image (2 Cor. 3:18; 7:1; 1 Thess. 4:3-7). Finally, when we see Jesus, we will be like Him, which is ultimate sanctification (1 John 3:1-3). In our text, Paul is talking about the process of progressive sanctification. We must be growing in the process of being separate from all doctrinal and moral evil, set apart as clean vessels for the Lord's use.

(2). Cleansed people are useful to the Master.

"Master" is the Greek word from which we get our word despot. It emphasizes Christ's absolute lordship. Paul's point here is that dirty vessels are not useful to the Master, except for purposes that you don't want to think about. Have you ever been in a restaurant and discovered a previous customer's dirty egg crusted on your fork or plate? You would rightly demand a clean fork or plate. The dirty one is not useful. In the same way, if our minds embrace false teaching and our lives are tainted by sin, we are not useful to our Master.

(3). Cleansed people are prepared for every good work.

Prepared has the idea of being willing and ready. The cleansed vessel is waiting for the Master to pull it off the shelf and put it to honorable use. Dirty vessels are not ready to be used.

Have you ever been angry when suddenly you have an opportunity to bear witness for Christ? You weren't prepared, were you? Or have you ever been grumbling about something when you encountered a brother or sister who needed a word of encouragement? You probably didn't even notice the need, let alone respond appropriately. But if you are cleansed, you're ready to serve the Lord in any good work that He sets before you.

Thus Paul's point (2:20-21) is that God uses cleansed people. He goes on to show what this looks like in practice:

2. Cleansed people flee from sin and pursue godliness (2:22).

There are two commands, flee and pursue. We are to flee from youthful lusts and pursue what we may sum up as godliness, broken down under four qualities: righteousness, faith, love and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart, that is, peace with other believers.

A. Cleansed people flee from sin.

"Now flee from youthful lusts...." We usually associate the term with sexual temptations, but as one older seminary professor told us, "Men, they aren't just youthful!" You don't outgrow sexual temptations. Where do you think we got the term, "dirty old man"? The word translated "lusts" may refer to any desires, although it usually refers to sinful desires. So while sexual temptation may be included in "youthful lusts," it's probably not the primary focus.

Rather, Paul was probably referring to wrong desires that younger men are more prone to than older men are. Calvin understood it as the propensity of younger men to lose their tempers and rush forward into a heated argument with more confidence and rashness than men of a riper age do (Calvin's Commentaries [Baker], on 2 Tim. 2:22, p. 232). In the same vein, Gordon Fee (New International Biblical Commentary [Hendrickson Publishers, 1988], p. 263) says that Paul is speaking of "headstrong passions of youth, who sometimes love novelties, foolish discussions, and arguments that all too often lead to quarrels." William Barclay related it to the faults of impatience, self-assertion, love of arguing, and love of novelty that stem from youthful idealism (The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon [Westminster Press, revised ed., 1975], p. 180).

So Paul was telling Timothy that while it is right to defend the faith against serious errors and to stand firm on the central doctrines of Scripture, there is a right and a wrong way to go about it. He will go on (2:23-26) to explain the right way. Here, he is warning against the wrong way, which is to be arrogant about how much you know, impatiently to blast those in error, and to be quarrelsome and self-assertive. The fruits of the Spirit include patience, kindness, and gentleness, along with self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Youthful impetuosity is not on the list! Paul says to flee from these youthful temptations.

The Bible commands us to flee from some other sins. 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, "Flee immorality." Don't flirt with it. Don't stand there and pray about what to do. Don't get near it. If it comes knocking, run for your life!

1 Corinthians 10:14 says, "flee from idolatry." You may be thinking, "Well, at least that one isn't a problem for me! I'm never tempted to set up an idol." Really? You're never tempted to set up anything in the place that rightfully belongs to God alone? You never allow watching TV or playing computer games to usurp the time that you should spend alone with God or serving Him? Run from anything that pulls you away from full devotion to God!

1 Timothy 6:11 (which is parallel to our text) tells us (in the context) to flee from the love of money. Are you tempted to gamble? Run! It's the love of money that feeds gambling. Do you look at the rich and think, "I want to live that way"? Run! Are you tempted to steal or cheat on your taxes or be greedy rather than generous? Run! Cleansed people flee from sin.

B. Cleansed people pursue godliness (righteousness, faith, love, and peace).

Fleeing and pursuing are opposites. It is not enough just to flee from sin. Also, you must pursue godly character qualities. The word "pursue" is the same word that is elsewhere translated "persecute." It means to go after it with a vengeance. Run hard after these four aspects of godliness:

(1). Cleansed people pursue righteousness.

This is a general term that refers to right behavior or conformity to the standards of God's Word. God's Word is not vague about how you should live. It doesn't offer helpful hints for happy living, if you feel like giving it a try. It gives us the commandments of God, which are for our good (Deut. 10:13; 1 John 5:3).

Years ago, an elder in my church in California told me that people like his wife, who grew up under austere, authoritarian religious fathers, could not relate to my preaching. When I asked why not, he said, "Because you preach obedience." I replied that whenever I preached obedience (which seems to be mentioned rather often in the Bible!), I tried to emphasize God's love and grace as the motivation to obey. But he insisted that people such as his wife, who grew up in these authoritarian homes, could not relate well to my emphasis on obedience. In fact, I've often been called "legalistic" because I teach that we must obey God.

But obedience to God's Word is not legalism! Paul commands us, "Pursue righteousness!" Go after it with everything you've got! David exclaimed (Ps. 40:8), "I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart." Hebrews 10:7 puts those words in Jesus' mouth. If you're growing to be like Jesus, you're growing in the delight of pursuing righteousness from the heart.

(2). Cleansed people pursue faith.

The Greek word here may mean, "faithfulness." We should be pursuing faithfulness, which is all too rare! It means that you are trustworthy or reliable. When someone gives you a job, you can be counted on to do it.

But the word also means "faith." We are to pursue faith. Faith is related to your concept of God. Is He mighty? Does He hear the prayers of His people and act on their behalf? Do you trust Him to do far more than you are able to do in your strength?

Many years ago, there was a learned Hebrew professor at Princeton Seminary named Robert Dick Wilson. He could read, as I remember, more than 30 Semitic languages! One time about twelve years after Donald Grey Barnhouse had graduated, he went back to the seminary to preach to the students. Dr. Wilson sat down near the front. After the message, he went forward and shook Barnhouse's hand. He said, "When my boys come back, I come to see if they are big-godders or little-godders, and then I know what their ministry will be."

Barnhouse asked him to explain and he replied, "Well, some men have a little god and they are always in trouble with him. He can't do any miracles. He can't take care of the inspiration and transmission of the Scripture to us. He doesn't intervene on behalf of His people. They have a little god and I call them little-godders. Then there are those who have a great God. He speaks and it is done. He commands and it stands fast. He knows how to show Himself strong on behalf of them that fear Him." He went on to tell Barnhouse that he could see that he had a great God and that God would bless his ministry (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Let Me Illustrate [Revell, 1967], pp. 132-133). Pursue faith!

(3). Cleansed people pursue love.

You say, "Well, I'm just a naturally loving person!" No, you're naturally selfish! That's why Paul commands, "Pursue love!" That requires getting your focus off of yourself and onto others, so that you can treat them as you would want to be treated. It means giving your time to listen to someone who is hurting. It means befriending someone who is lonely. Sometimes it means having the courage to talk to a brother (or sister) who is in sin with the aim of restoring him to the Lord. It means being patient, kind, considerate, and not easily provoked (see the complete list, 1 Cor. 13:4-7). Pursuing love means investing constant effort to love others.

(4). Cleansed people pursue peace with all who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Peace usually doesn't just happen. You have to pursue it deliberately, sometimes with much effort. It is debatable whether the comma should be inserted after "peace." With the comma, the sentence means that you should join with other believers in the common pursuit of peace. Without the comma, the idea is that the peace that you should pursue should be with other believers, here described as those "who call on the Lord from a pure heart." "Pure" is related to the verb "cleanses" (2:21), and thus refers to a heart that has been cleansed from sin. The implication of the command is that even though Christians all call upon the name of the Lord out of hearts that have been cleansed from sin, they still will have conflicts and misunderstandings with each other. Thus they need to pursue peace with one another.

The world's way of dealing with misunderstandings or conflict is to nurse hurt feelings, to spread gossip, and to stand up for your rights. God's way is to go directly to the one who offended and seek to be reconciled. Jesus said that this is so important that even if you are worshiping, leave your worship and first be reconciled to your brother (or sister; Matt. 5:23-24). Recognizing that it is difficult, Paul said (Rom. 12:18), "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." Pursue peace!


It's a great honor for an athlete to be put into the starting line-up of a big game. But even greater than the honor of being used by the coach is to be used by God. To be in His starting line-up, you don't have to have great talents. You have to be a cleansed person who constantly flees from sin and pursues godliness.