“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.” (2 Timothy 2:20)
The “house” referenced here by Paul to young Timothy is the “house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and temple were the dwelling place of God and the center of worship led by a high priest from the tribe of Levi.
Now, we are members of the Lord’s “house” (Hebrews 3:6) and are like “lively stones” that are being “built up a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5), led by Jesus, who is the “high priest over the house of God” (Hebrews 10:21).
This “great house” has many “vessels” in it of different values. Some are “honorable” instruments (vessels of high value) that serve in the New Testament economy in some parallel function to that of the vessels of the inner court of the tabernacle and temple. Those instruments of gold, silver, and brass (Exodus 25; 2 Chronicles 4) each played a part in the liturgical worship, designed as part of the “schoolmaster” to teach us about the law of God (Galatians 3:24). The more public and formal the use, the more valuable the vessel. The most valuable were set closest to the Holy of Holies.
There are also vessels of “dishonor” in the great house. The tabernacle and temple had “earthen” vessels for certain functions (Leviticus 14). These were expendable—necessary, perhaps, for some short-term need, but not valuable. Since the church now functions as the “pillar and ground” of the truth, the “honorable” vessels are expected to purge themselves from that which is “dishonorable.” HMM III