“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21).
I remember when I was young, my parents had two sets of dishes – an everyday set and a good set for visiting “company” and other special occasions. The good dishes had to be not just washed but polished up to remove even the smallest water spots because of the special occasions for which they would be used.
In Paul’s analogy, it’s not an occasional “special occasion” but an ongoing job for which the special dishes are needed, and Paul insists that we – as those special-purpose dishes – must be cleaned for that work. Now no one likes to have to wash dishes, and although it’s not always an easy task cleaning ourselves up spiritually, Paul tells us that’s what God wants us to do if we want to do His work.
Naturally, Paul understood that it is Christ who cleanses us in terms of our standing with God, but then as he says, we (“Those who cleanse themselves”) have to continue the work in getting ongoing sin out of our lives. Not that we have to be perfect for God to use us – none of God’s human servants has ever been perfect – but the important thing about the domestic analogy Paul uses is not that we are expected to be perfect yet, but rather the cleaner we are, the more we conform to His way of life, the more God can use us.
That is really a sobering but encouraging thought that applies to all of us. God is Holy and with His help we should strive to be, too, as the apostle John wrote: “…we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). But the reason for us to cleanse or “purify” ourselves is not just to “qualify” ourselves, but to be able to let God effectively use us in helping others. We are not just spiritually “washing the dishes” for the sake of becoming clean as an end in itself, we are to become the “…vessels for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”