Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.
The question in this post’s title might seem odd to you. Most of us wouldn’t think of ourselves as being a vessel.
But if we want to know not only who God is but what His thought is concerning us, we must come to the Bible. It’s the Word of God that reveals God to us. And it also reveals that we human beings are created by God as vessels.
We’ll read some key verses, together with notes from the New Testament Recovery Version, that reveal this fundamental truth to us. Knowing the meaning and significance of being a vessel will greatly affect our Christian life.
What is a vessel?
The dictionary defines a vessel as an object that’s used to hold, or contain, something. It might be made of materials such as glass, metal, wood, stone, or clay. Things like a bottle, canister, or mug are all containers. Their purpose is to be filled with a particular substance.
For example, a mug is made specifically to be filled with a beverage like tea or coffee, and the tea or coffee needs the mug to contain it.
Now that we’ve reviewed what a vessel is, let’s look at a few verses in the Bible that speak of us as vessels.
Vessels in the Old Testament
Lamentations 4:2 says:
“The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how they are esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of a potter.”
Of course, the precious sons of Zion are people, and here it says they are esteemed as earthen pitchers, which are vessels.
And Isaiah 64:8 says:
“But now, Jehovah, You are our Father; we are the clay; and You, our Potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.”
A potter is a person who makes pottery by shaping bowls, bottles, and other kinds of vessels out of clay. Here, Isaiah calls God the Potter, and His people the clay that He formed into vessels.
These verses should remind us of Genesis 2:7, which tells us that “Jehovah God formed man from the dust of the ground.” We human beings are earthen vessels, the handiwork of our Creator God.
Vessels in the New Testament
Now let’s read some verses in the New Testament that refer to us as vessels.
Romans 9:21-23 say:
“Or does not the potter have authority over the clay to make out of the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor? And what if God, wishing to demonstrate His wrath and make His power known, endured with much long-suffering vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He had before prepared unto glory?”
The apostle Paul here echoes the Old Testament verses in Lamentations and Isaiah that portray God as the Potter and man as an earthen vessel. Paul goes further to reveal God’s desire is to have human beings as vessels of honor, who are vessels of His mercy, prepared unto glory.
Note 1 on verse 21 in the Recovery Version helps us understand what this means:
“This indicates that God chose us that we might be vessels of honor to contain Him. God created man as a vessel to contain Him, and out of the many vessels He chose us to contain Him, the God of honor, that we might be vessels of honor. Finally, He makes known His glory upon us, the vessels, that we might become vessels of His glory (v. 23). All this is out of His mercy and according to His mercy; it cannot be obtained by our efforts. For this reason we must worship Him, and we must worship Him for His mercy!”
What an astounding fact! God created us to contain Himself.
Before we were saved, we were empty vessels. We felt purposeless because to contain God is the meaning of our existence!
Although this thought may be unfamiliar to us, the Bible clearly reveals God made us as vessels that He could enter into and be joined with. In this way, God’s life would be man’s life, and God would be everything to man.
Vessels created in God’s image
Just as every kind of vessel is designed with its intended content in view, God designed and created us in a very special way. Genesis 1 says that God created the different plants “according to their kind” and every living creature “according to its kind.”
But of man, Genesis 1:26 tells us:
“And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”
We human beings were made in God’s own image and according to His likeness. Being in God’s image means we inwardly correspond to God. For example, God has divine attributes of love, light, holiness, righteousness, and man was created with virtues that correspond to these attributes. God loves, thinks, and decides, and we do too.
God creating us according to His likeness means we’re in God’s form. Just as a photo of a person is a likeness of that person, we are in the likeness of God. Since we were made in God’s image and likeness, we match God.
What was in God’s heart when He shaped us as vessels in His image and according to His likeness? His desire was that we would contain Him, be filled with Him, and express Him on this earth.
For this, God made us with a very special part: a human spirit, the deepest, innermost part of our being.
Our human spirit has the unique ability to contact, receive, and contain God. Because we have a spirit, we vessels can receive God and share God’s own life. This is how God’s plan for us can be fulfilled.
Vessels contaminated then cleansed
But although Adam, the first man, was created as a pure, clean vessel ready to receive the life of God, Adam fell away from God. Through Adam’s disobedience, all mankind was polluted with sin by the devil. God could never enter sinful, polluted vessels, and such vessels could never express God. What’s more, God’s holy and righteous nature required Him to judge all mankind. It seemed all was lost.
Yet God held fast to his intention to be joined to man. So how did God solve this problem? In the course of time, God Himself became a man of flesh and blood named Jesus. Jesus lived a life on earth that manifested God’s love, holiness, and righteousness to people. His purity, compassion, and graciousness were shown in His conduct, words, and deeds. His living fully expressed God.
Then Jesus, the sinless One, died on the cross for our redemption. He bore the judgment of God that was upon all mankind so that those who believe in Him could be forgiven and cleansed from sin and saved from eternal destruction.
Vessels cleansed to be filled
To be forgiven and saved is truly stupendous, but that isn’t God’s final objective. Instead, those who believe in Jesus the Savior are cleansed vessels that can receive God.
To illustrate, let’s say we have a mug we want to pour tea into, but it has become very dirty. Certainly we’d wash the mug to make it clean. But we don’t just want a clean, empty mug. The reason we washed it was so we could fill it with tea.
It’s the same with us. Jesus died for us to wash us from our sins not just so we would be clean, yet still empty. He washes us so He can enter into us and fill us with Himself.
We worship and praise the Lord for accomplishing redemption with His marvelous goal in view: to come into us to be our content, our life, and our everything. Now let’s see how it’s possible for God to come into us.
How God entered us
After Jesus died for us, 1 Corinthians 15:45 tells us that the resurrected Christ “became the life-giving Spirit.” As the Spirit, He can enter into all who believe in Him and be joined to them forever.
So when we first repented and believed in Jesus as our Savior, two tremendous things happened to us: we were forgiven and cleansed, and we received the life-giving Spirit into our spirit.
This is how God became our content. Now He lives in us and wants to be everything to us. He wants to fill us completely. By being filled with Him, we can live a life that expresses Him. For instance, when we love others, we love them with God’s love. When we’re patient, it’s because we’re filled with God as our patience.
God wants to fill us entirely
We first received God when He came into our spirit. Now God wants us to continue to receive Him so He can fill our whole being, as we see from 1 Thessalonians 5:23:
“And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The last part of note 5 on this verse in the Recovery Version says:
“God sanctifies us, first, by taking possession of our spirit through regeneration (John 3:5-6); second, by spreading Himself as the life-giving Spirit from our spirit into our soul to saturate and transform our soul (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18); and last, by enlivening our mortal body through our soul (Rom. 8:11, 13) and transfiguring our body by His life power (Phil. 3:21).”
What is all of this for?
The goal of God’s filling us completely isn’t to make us better people; it’s for something much higher than that. It’s to make us vessels of glory so we can express Him, as Romans 9 tells us.
The focus of our Christian life
We may have had the thought that primarily we should be useful to God by doing many things for Him.
But the way God created us shows us this isn’t what God wants. If He did, He would have created us as tools, not as vessels. A tool such as a hammer is an implement you pick up and use to carry out a task. Once you’re finished, you set it down. The tool and the user are separate from one another.
A vessel is different from a tool. It can’t be used to perform a task. It simply contains the thing it was designed to hold. And the container and the content aren’t separate from each other, but one with one another.
God didn’t create us as tools. He doesn’t want to use us by having us do many things for Him, all while being separate from Him.
What God wants is for us to simply love Him and receive Him continually until we’re filled with Him in every part of our being. This is how He and we become one with each other more and more. Then what we do in oneness with Him will be an expression of Him. To be a vessel filled with Him is the point of our Christian life and what we should focus on every day.
How we can cooperate with God to be filled with Him
The most important way for us to cooperate with God is by being open to Him. All vessels have one thing in common: they have an opening, a mouth. This opening gives access to what they’re designed to contain. If a vessel’s opening is closed or covered, nothing can get in. The mouth of the vessel has to be open.
And just like all vessels, we humans have a mouth. In our practical experience, cooperating with God has much to do with opening our mouth to Him. When we open our mouth to the Lord, our heart is open and accessible to Him.
One major way of opening our mouth is in prayer to the Lord. When we pray, we can speak to Him about everything in our lives, both good and bad. As we fellowship with Him in prayer, He has the opportunity to enter into all our circumstances to fill us inwardly with Himself.
As we fellowship with the Lord in prayer, He may shine on us regarding sins we’ve committed. These sins are a barrier that prevent the Lord from being able to fill us. To remove this barrier, we simply need to confess our sins to Him. This gives the Lord a way to continue to fill us.
We can also pray prayers like this:
“Lord Jesus, thank You for making me as a vessel to contain You so I can express You to everyone around me. Thank You for living in me. Lord, I open my heart to You again. Fill me with Yourself more today.”
In this post, we’ve seen that the Bible tells us God created us as vessels to contain and express Him to carry out His eternal purpose. Let’s all practice continually opening to the Lord so we can be filled with Him. To learn more, if you live in Australia, you can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version. You can take your time to read all the commentary on the New Testament verses we mentioned in this post. We also encourage you to read The Economy of God, especially chapter 5. You can download this book for free here from anywhere in the world.
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