My dad was a Caterpillar mechanic by trade. He had a lot of tools, and he taught me the importance of good tools and of taking care of your tools. If you have good tools and if you take care of them, they will be useful, ready when you need them. If, on the other hand, you leave them laying around all over the shop or the job site, you don’t put them away or you don’t clean them before you do put them away, then they become useless.
In 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul is giving final instructions to his true child in the faith. Paul gives many passionate pleas to Timothy in this short letter. He tells him to fan into flame the gift of God (1:6), and to not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner (1:8). He urges him to follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me (1:13), and to guard the good deposit entrusted to you (1:16). Paul, again and again, is reminding, commanding, and exhorting Timothy. He warns of the dangers of false teachers, and declares the authority and power of the Scripture.
Paul was at the end of his life. He was most likely in prison again in Rome, and he wanted to ensure that Timothy stayed faithful, and that the work of the gospel for which Paul had labored and suffered continued to the next generation.
There is a verse in chapter two that I especially like. In the midst of Paul’s call to Timothy to pursue personal holiness, there are a couple of statements that I find particularly encouraging. In 2 Timothy 2:21, Paul says, Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. Using word pictures that are rich in Old Testament allusions to Temple worship, he states that those who cleanse themselves from what is dishonorable (sin) will be useful to God, ready for every good work. Now, this verse is not an argument for works salvation. This verse is speaking to those already saved. Salvation, and the holiness that God provides by his grace through his Son Jesus Christ, is fully a work of God. We are the recipients of the righteousness and holiness that God reckons to us when we place our faith in Christ’s completed work. Yet, the New Testament speaks often of our pursuit of holiness as well. Those whom God has made holy are to pursue holiness. This is what Paul is referring to here. And what I find so encouraging is how clearly Paul stated the cause and effect relationship between pursuing holiness (cleanses himself from what is dishonorable) and being useful to God—being a useful and ready tool in the hand of the Master.
Someone who is holy is useful to the Master, ready for every good work.
Someone who is holy fulfills his or her purpose in life. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Someone who is holy brings glory to God. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)