The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Timothy 3:1-9

Vessels of Dishonorable Use

We spoke yesterday of the vessels for honorable use, vessels “useful to the Master of the house, ready for every good work.”  Today, we take up the vessels dishonorable.  We also noted that the vessels for honorable use are honorable because they have repented and seek to walk with the Lord in holiness.  They have fled youthful lusts and passions and have embraced righteousness, faith, love, and peace.  But the vessels of dishonorable use are not so; they have not fled youthful passions and prefer to follow their pleasures rather than godliness.

So the Apostle provides us with a list that details the sinful nature and actions of such vessels.  It’s a fairly exhaustive list.  What troubles us is that we see ourselves in not a few of these descriptions.  This is to be expected of people pursuing godliness.  It is the knowledge of our sins and our lack of purity of heart which make us cringe when we read this list.  It is good that we should be so humbled, confess our sins, and receive forgiveness and reassure our hearts before Him (1 John 3:19-24).  But what the Apostle describes here are those for whom these sins are a state of being and out of which they live.  And when in the church, they invariably have an appearance of godliness but deny its power—by not repenting and pursuing godliness.  This is why I said yesterday, there is no godliness without repentance, no holiness without crucifying our passions.

So what else do these people do?  They tend to prey on the weak and unsuspecting, in this case women, perhaps the young and widowed.  These charlatans worm their way into their houses, minds, and hearts with motives matching their passions, pretending to teach them religion while wanting to defile their bodies, or at least lead them down the same path to hell on which travel, thus proving that their ascetical and religious ways were only cover for hypocrisy and lies.  What marks these out (both they and their victims) is that though they are forever talking, forever disputing, forever quarreling, forever “learning,” they are “never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth,” and this is because they never repented their evil deeds.

Paul uses Jannes and Jambres as examples of those who oppose the truth but whose folly is eventually manifest before everyone (1 Timothy 5:24).  In the end, vessels of dishonor crash upon the wheel of truth and are shown for the useless pots they were.  May God’s people be ever examining themselves and pursuing godliness that they may be the useful vessels God desires.


We have in verse eight the mention of “Jannes and Jambres [who] opposed Moses.”  It happened in later Jewish oral tradition and literature (Targum of Jonathan and Talmud and other sources now lost), that names were given to two of the Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses when he went to Pharaoh saying, “Let my people go!”  These are the magicians recorded in Exodus who copied Moses’ miracles and foolishly increased the plagues in the land.  But there came the time when they could mimic Moses’ miracles no longer and declared, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 7:1-8:18).  The names for these two magicians were well-known by the first century and had become a part of the tradition.  That Paul should refer to them as examples of useless vessels should not surprise us as they were pagans counseling a pagan king in their pagan religion.  Did Paul accept them as the given names of two of the magicians who stood against Moses?  If he did, he certainly knew that the names were a matter of Jewish tradition and not Scripture, and I seriously doubt he would have argued the point given that quarreling over such a trivial question (that is, if these were the actual names) would have been to engage in the very behavior he was condemning among the false teachers with whom Timothy was contending in Ephesus.  To sum, Paul simply used the account of the magicians opposing Moses in Exodus to show the relationship between them and the false teachers.  That he used the names provided for two of them in Jewish tradition made his comparison more vivid to Timothy and other readers of the letter.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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