Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (ESV)
And in him [Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph 2:22 NIV)
Paul has often declared that we are God’s temple. Preceding this passage in Ephesians, we are called fellow citizens of God’s household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus being the cornerstone of that foundation. When writing to Timothy, Paul’s allegory of a great house isn’t asking us to think simply of some rich person’s house. Every house has a foundation and Paul specified that it is God’s firm foundation in 2 Tim 2:19. Therefore we can discern a kingdom truth as he tells us about the vessels in this great house, God’s kingdom.
How Dirty is Dishonorable?
However, there is a difference between God’s house and an earthly house. The earthly house has really fancy serving dishes as well as chamber pots. We would call them toilets today. There is a significant difference between a gold goblet and a commode. No matter how much we scrubbed and disinfected a chamber pot, there is no way we would use it to serve food or drink. Yuk!
Now look at the comparison that Paul brings out when talking of the vessels in God’s house, the people who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus. Essentially, Paul is calling us chamber pots before we repent from our sins. We were dirty, defiled, and dishonorable; we were sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, drunkards, greedy, selfish, swindlers, and much more (1 Cor 6:9-10). But we were washed by the blood of Jesus from all those impurities and justified (1 Cor 6:11). Paul says that we are now cleaned up so much that we are set apart as holy and that makes us useful to God, who is the Master of the house.
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. (Isa 59:2 KJV)
Just as we would not even consider eating from a chamber pot, God turns His face away from sinners because we are too contaminated. This is about as bad as it can get. Separated from God with apparently no hope that He will hear anything we say. Note, however, that Isaiah says that He will not hear. It is His choice not to listen because of our sins. He still has the ability to hear us. If He were incapable of hearing because of our sins, there would be no hope for anyone.
“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 6:18-7:1 NASU)
The hope and the promise that we have from God is that we will be His sons and daughters. Can you imagine going from a despised, ignored, person to becoming a son or daughter. What a change, what a hope we have because Jesus has paid the debt of our sins for us!
These verses emphasize our part in getting clean. If these were the only verses in the Bible, then we would be left to think that it is by our efforts alone that we are cleansed. So don’t get the wrong idea, we are saved and given the ability to work on holiness because the Holy Spirit does the first washing (Titus 3:5). The word, therefore, in this verse clarifies that the work of perfecting holiness comes after we are sons and daughters, not before.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t regenerate everyone who says they want Jesus. He knows the true intentions of the heart. Only a true, repentant call to God for salvation will be heard by Him. A person in a foxhole who promises to go to church if his life is spared seldom keeps the promise because there is no repentance. Some walk forward at an evangelistic appeal to accept Jesus and are no different months or years later because there was not a call for repentance. These people usually are not seeking God and a holy life; they are looking for fire insurance for themselves.
On the other hand, there are some, who with a child like faith, turn to Jesus and are transformed. They may know little if anything of repentance. As they grow and mature in Christ, they begin to understand what it means to cleans themselves and seek to live holy lives. These learn how to trust Jesus and the power of His resurrection to overcome sin and live godly lives.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10 NKJV)
A major result in cleaning a pot is so that it will be useful. We are cleansed so that we will be ready to do good works. This further dispels the idea that we can be saved because we’ve been good enough. We are saved so that we can do good works. Apart from Jesus, there isn’t anything good that we can do. Jesus made that abundantly clear when He compared Himself to a vine and us to branches. He said that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:4-5).
I have a friend who is irritated by people who say that they are doing something for Jesus. I get what he’s saying. When some people say this, it comes off like they doing God a favor. However, that is not what most people mean and would be shocked at the suggestion. When I think about being created in Christ Jesus for good works, the emphasis is on Jesus. He has called me so I’m working for Him. I am responding to His call upon my life. As an example, we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). God is making His appeal through us to a lost and dying world to be reconciled to Him.
In summary, we are a great house because we are God’s house. We in this sense would be His Church where there are many different vessels for the Holy Spirit. Each of us is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t matter what kind of vessel we were before we were saved, we are cleansed upon our salvation. From that point on, with the power of the Holy Spirit we keep on cleaning out the garbage in our lives so that we can be useful.