Monday, March 16, 2015

Purposed or Improperly Used?

goblet from
Romans 9:21 (AMP)  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same mass (lump) one vessel for beauty and distinction and honorable use, and another for menial or ignoble and dishonorable use?

Melanie Baker-Nash Did a great job with Saturday's post about that verse.  But there was a response on one of the social media sites that led me to think a little more needed to be said.  Not everyone knows the background.  And that can lead to misunderstanding and discomfort.

Our illustration comes from Mangum Pottery.  In fact, the link will take you right to the page where that's available.  I saw the picture on the web and thought it looked like a vessel of honor.  So, as we said last time, we thought we'd include a link.  We'll talk about that goblet or vessel after the break.

We could consider the thought to begin here:

Isaiah 64:8 (KJV)  But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

Notice that it says "all" are God's workmanship.  Not just religious leaders, not just heads of state, not just company owners, not just those who have accepted salvation.  You get the picture.  God loves us so much that He'll  work the lumps of clay until they can no longer be used.  And there are actually two different layers to this scenario.  Follow my train of thought.

First these verses have relevance in regard to our salvation.  God is molding us in ways that draw us into a relationship with Him.  Our free will can deviate from that, creating imperfections in our clay.  Which makes it useless for honorable use.  But the moment we determine to return to God, our clay has all the impediments filtered out.  We become fully usable by God.

The other application is in regard to our functioning within our relationship with Christ.

Ephesians 4:11 (KJV)  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

The "office" of each of these is a spiritual gift from God to those individuals and to the Body of Christ.  And Paul expands on that truth in verses 12-15.  We'll let you read those for yourself.  But it's basically to get us anchored in Truth instead of false doctrines.  To equip us to be vessels of purpose.

1 Corinthians 12:27-30 (KJV)  Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.  And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.  Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

This passage reads much like what we shared in Ephesians, but it's quite different.  Ephesians 4 was dealing with the fact that God gave some individuals spiritual gifts for all our benefit.  Here, if we were to summarize Paul's thought to the Corinthians could be summed up as "Do we all have the same gifts and calling? Heck no.".  And, although Paul talks about the governmental and spiritual gifts, his thought extends further.  

Our gift and calling could be as a ditch digger.  If that's our calling from God, and that's what we're doing, then we are a "vessel for beauty and distinction and honorable use".  Like the goblet in our illustration, we are beautiful being in the function we're intended for.  

If we go back to the tail end of Romans 9:21, we read of "another for menial or ignoble and dishonorable use" or, in the King James, a "vessel of dishonor".  And that all sounds very ominous, at least in the English.  In the original, on this level, the meaning is an improperly used vessel.  To illustrate, picture having the goblet in our illustration and a matching flat plate.  And you're serving soup.  The goblet will work well.  But the flat plate isn't going to handle much soup.  It's an improperly used vessel for that purpose.  A plate has a different function.

Note, here, that we're not looking at a God ready to stomp on us because we made wrong choices. What we see is guidance toward what will maximize our joy.  That happens, on both levels, when we're fully functioning in our gifts and calling.  And it may be that those change with the seasons of our lives, one preparing us for the next.

You may be asking, by now, "How do I figure that all out?".  And the answer came via a blog post by J Michael Cunningham, titled "How Should We Then Think?".  He shared Acts 17:11.  To give the full context, we'll start with verse 10 and go through verse 13.

Acts 17:10-13 (KJV)  And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.  These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.  Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.  But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.

The Bereans were known for deeply studying the Word.  This wasn't like the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes who were looking for knowledge and ways to control people.  The Bereans were in love with God and studied to learn more about the Person they loved and how to please Him.  They were the epitome of 2 Timothy 2:15, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.".

We can be Bereans, too.  Get under a good pastor/teacher, attend well taught Bible studies.  And study on your own.  Let your pastor and other mature believers guide you in growing your own study library.  Then dig in.  You'll be amazed at what happens.  We've had more than a few nights where we'd get studying and God would open up whole vistas.  Suddenly it was way past bed time because God got us excited.  If you can, get into Bible college, even if you audit the courses.

The more we know about God, the more we see how great He is and how much He loves us personally.  Get to know Him by studying His Word.  Not as a task, but in the same way we'd get to know anyone we love.  It's just that the tools to do that are different for getting to know God.  And you can do that whether you have fifteen minutes a day or hours you can devote to it.  But be prepared to have your spiritual mind blown in the best sense.  God is fantastic!  Are you ready to be blessed to a whole new level?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Bill, can you add any detail on how Romans 9:21 applies to salvation? You seem to connect our making wrong choices with the dishonorable use. - But the verse says that the potter decided which would we honorable and that which would be dishonorable.