Honourable vessels are useful to the Master

Honourable vessels are useful to the Master – a sermon on 2 Timothy 2:20-26 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.

When Leonardo da Vinci was painting The Last Supper, he sought long in the churches of Rome for a model for Jesus. At last he settled on Pietro Bandinelli, a noble young man who was quite lovely in life and features. The painting progressed and after years Jesus and 11 of His disciples had been portrayed. But da Vinci was still searching for a man whose face was hardened and distorted by sin, a man whom he could use as a model for Judas Iscariot. Eventually he found a beggar on the streets of Rome with a face so villainous he shuddered when he looked at him. He hired the man to sit for him as he painted the face of Judas. When he was done and about to send the man on his way, he said, “I have not yet found out your name.” The man answered: “I am Pietro Bandinelli. I also sat for you as your model of Christ.”[1] The path that the noble young man from the church had followed in life led him into a state of destitution, disgrace and despair.

Why am I telling you this story? It’s because of the big contrast between the honourable position that this chap first had and the dishonourable one in which he found himself later. It’s the same sort of contrast that Paul paints for us in this part of his letter to Timothy, the contrast between honourable and dishonourable vessels – and we’ll get into that a bit later. But for the moment let’s just keep that image of Baldinelli in our minds.

Paul wrote both of his letters to Timothy to encourage, challenge, teach and train up the young pastor and also to warn him against the dangers that he would be facing. Today we’re looking at the last 7 verses of chapter two, but let me briefly put these verses into the right perspective.

  • In the first 7 verses of the chapter Paul challenges Timothy – and of course us as well – to pass on the gospel message through faithful kingdom ministry.
  • A few weeks ago we saw that Verses 8-13 are an encouragement to Timothy and to all believers to remember the Gospel of Jesus Christ, remember the unchained Word of God and also remember God’s nature.
  • And in verses 14-19 Paul instructs the young preacher on how to handle the Word of God properly, an instruction that is just as applicable to us today.

That’s the background against which our text is set. It was of course aimed at Timothy, but Scripture isn’t just intended for the ancient audience! It most certainly remains relevant through all ages too. Even though the primary application of our passage is directed at the young Ephesian pastor, the underlying principles are just as valid today as they were in ancient times.

So as we then come to verses 20-26 we have to ask not only what Paul’s take-home message for Timothy was, but we also have to ask ourselves how these verses apply to us today as we strive to live our lives in a way which is acceptable to God. And as we do so, we’re going to focus on the following three facets:

  • Becoming honourable vessels (20-21)
  • Being honourable vessels (22)
  • Living as honourable vessels (23-26)


[1] Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 1286.