Handfuls on Purpose

by James Smith, 1943




Timothy is being warned against a cankerous error that had overthrown the faith of some; but no amount of error can alter the "foundation of God."

I. The Foundation. It is "the foundation of God" (v. 19).

1. It is Sure. "It stands sure." This Rock, as a foundation for God's building, is as firmly established as His own Eternal Throne, for that Rock is Christ (Matthew 16:16), and He lives and abides forever (1 Corinthians 3:11).

2. It is Unmistakable. Having this inscription: "The Lord knows them that are His." Every individual soul that is trusting in Christ is known personally by Him. This is not true of any other religion under Heaven. Multitudes bow to dead prophets and false gods, but the worshipers are individually unknown by the objects of their adoration. "I know My sheep" (John 10:14).

II. The House. "In a great house there are different vessels" (v. 20). This "great house" doubtless refers to the "Church of God" (1 Timothy 3:15). Which is the biggest and most self-evident concern in the world, because it is the strongest, built on Jesus Christ, who is the embodiment of Eternal Truth. It is great, because it is occupied by a great tenant, the Holy Spirit, who is through Christ's Body, the Church, seeking to fulfill the great purpose of God in the salvation of men. It is a great house, has been a-building for over 1900 years, and is still being "added to".

III. The Vessels. In every great house there are vessels of different value and design, suited for all useful purposes. "Some gold and silver, some wood and earthenware" (v. 20). Some to honor and some for common use. Those of gold and silver get the position of honor, because of their more perfect character and special fitness for the higher and more conspicuous service. Those servants who may be classed with the "wood and earthenware" types may be just as useful in their own sphere as their more honored brethren. The gold and silver vessels are not looked for in the lowly but indispensable work of the kitchen. God's servants have all their own place in the great house of God. Some prophets, some apostles, some pastors, some teachers, some evangelists, and some who may be the "wood and earthenware," who are taken no special notice of, but who are waiting and ready to be used for anything that the Master appoints. These vessels, though different in character, all belong to the same great house, and owned by the same Master, and are all needed for the one purpose, the fulfilling of their Lord's will. All have not the same gifts and qualifications, but all are partakers of the same grace. There is no occasion for envy or jealousy. Each one might say: "By the grace of God I am what I am."

But the alchemy of Divine grace is suggested here. It is possible for a common vessel to be transformed into a vessel of honor. "If a man purge himself from all that is false and unclean, he shall be made a vessel unto honor, sanctified and made meet for the Master's use, fully equipped unto every good work" (v. 21). "Behold, as the clay is in the hand of the potter, so are you in Mine" (Jeremiah 18:6). "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10). "Lord, what will You have me to do?"



This joyful testimony was written by Paul the prisoner, while lying in a dungeon at Rome, waiting the hour of his doom. It speaks of—

I. A Victorious Past.

1. As a Soldier. He had "Fought a good fight" (v. 7). He had gone through a glorious contest. He had fought "the good fight of faith" against all the principalities and powers of evil, seen and unseen. It was a good fight, because it was for the goodness he had discovered in his God and Savior.

2. As a Racer. He had "finished his course." His course was specially marked out for him (Acts 9:15, 16). The track Divinely ordained for this runner had many obstacles, which proved hard for flesh and blood. "The Holy Spirit witnesses in every city saying that bonds and afflictions abide me" (Acts 20:23). It is ours "to run in the way of His commandments;" it is His to help us to finish.

3. As a Believer. He had "kept the faith." He had guarded the truth revealed to him, and preached and presented the Gospel of God's grace as revealed in Jesus Christ. If any man "preach any other Gospel let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8).

II. A Peaceful Present. "I am now ready, and the time of my departure is at hand" (v. 6). He was ready, like ripe fruit, to fall into the hand of Him to whom he belonged. Death to him had no sting or terrors; to him the grave had no victory. To depart was to be "with Christ, which is far better" (Philippians 1:23). "Be you also ready." Our readiness does not consist in the amount of good works we may have done, or the number of years we have lived, but in that "quietness and confidence" in Jesus Christ which brings the strength of His prevailing peace into the heart, and that calmly whispers: "Father, not my will, but Your be done. You have redeemed me, O Lord. Into Your hands I commit my spirit." A Scotsman lay dying in a country home, while a snow storm was on. His daughter said: "Father, will I read to you." He answered: "Na, my lassie, don't trouble. I thatched my house in calm weather."

III. A Blissful Future. "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord will give me" (v. 8). The crown of righteousness is the reward that is kept for and bestowed upon those who have lived the righteous, God-pleasing life. It is not only for an apostle, but for "all them that love His appearing." Does not this imply that loving His appearing has a gracious and inspiring influence on the life? This faith in, and this looking for, the Coming of the Lord is no vain and fruitless imagination, but a holy incentive to a righteous life. "He who has this hope in him purifies himself." "When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away" (1 Peter 5:4). The Second Coming of Christ is the enlightened believer's perennial expectation and the world's only hope of deliverance (Romans 11:26).

"Behold I come quickly: and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12).