by Steven Chan
Text: I Tim 1:18-20: “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
- We have heard of shipwrecks. The most famous one was the Titanic which was touted as “unsinkable” and sadly, hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage, and sank. Many put their faith in that ship and its captain. But they lost their lives.
Noah built a ship according to God’s instructions, and that ship saved the lives of Noah and his family as well as the animals that were brought into it. It did not suffer a shipwreck.
- The apostle Paul used the analogy of a shipwreck with regards to those who have lost their faith for various reasons. Like Noah, we are all in the ship of faith, or “faith-ship” destined for the port of heaven. When we became Christians, we boarded that “faith-ship”. Unfortunately some have suffered shipwreck with their faith and are at risk of suffering the loss of their souls. They failed to navigate the stormy weather of the trials and tribulations of this life and suffered shipwreck of their faith.
- The Bible warns us about the danger of losing our faith.
Heb 3:12-15: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
- The Bible gave us the example of how the Israelites who left Egyptian bondage under the leadership of Moses, failed to enter the promised land (rest) because of their failure to continue to believe, to trust and to obey the Lord:
Heb 3:16-19: “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
- The Bible warns us that just like the many Israelites who failed to enter the promised land (rest), Christians today need to be careful lest we also fail to enter the promised home of heaven:
Heb 4:1-3: “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them,[a] not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”
- But didn’t the Israelites believe God when they saw the signs and wonders performed by God in Egypt such as the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea? Didn’t they act on their faith and made their journey towards the promise land? Yes, they did. But the problem was that their faith was not one that was continually trusting God and being totally submissive/obedient to God’s will (Heb 11:6; James 4:7; Psa 81:11 -ESV). When they saw the giants in the land of Canaan, they lost their trust/faith in God’s promise to give them the land.
- They had a faith that was very superficial and did not go into their heart. They needed a faith that works! Not a dead faith. Not one that does nothing for them nor cause them to do anything to glorify God. They had a faith like the one described by James 2:19-20:”You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”
- They had a faith that was like the seed sown on rocky ground and among the thorns as described by Jesus in Matt 13:20-22: “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.”
Their faith had “no root”; it failed to serve as an “anchor” that could stabilize their life, and so they were not able to “endure” the storms of life.
- Jesus taught that we need to have a faith based on the hearing of the word of God (Rom 10:17) and doing/acting on it (James 1:22) – liken unto the man who built his house upon the rock: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matt 7:24-27)
- They needed a faith that goes beyond just trusting God for physical provisions.
- The signs performed by God in Egypt was to facilitate the children of Israel to trust God in all things and to be willing to submit to His will. But while they saw the “signs” of the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, they failed to understand what those events “signified” – that God is all powerful and that God’s protection is with them; they can trust Him in all circumstances. Unfortunately, when they met some hardship along the way, they murmured and complained against God: “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”[a]8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all[b]these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
- When Jesus fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 small fish, the people wanted to make Him king (John 6:14-15) but their faith was superficial and purely focused on their physical needs. He withdrew and did not allow them to make Him king. Later when they saw Him again, Jesus said to them: “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:26-27). After Jesus had taught them about their need to believe in Him as the bread from heaven and that He is able to give them eternal life (John 6:29-58), they replied: “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this,said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?… 6 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:60,66).
When Jesus asked the 12 whether they will also go away, Peter replied: ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”(John 6:68).
This was the purpose of the signs performed by Jesus Christ. While the 5,000 were fed, the sick healed, the lame walk, the blind see, and the dead raised, the purpose was more than just meeting or alleviating their present physical needs; it was meant to make them believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that believing we may have eternal life in His name (John 20:30-31).
So, while being in Christ brings lots of blessings in the fellowship among members of the body, the central truth of having eternal life in heaven should never be overlooked. When brethren fail us and disappoint us, we should not allow these things to shipwreck our faith and cause us to depart from the living God.
- The warning of making a shipwreck of our Faith and THE Faith (i.e. the body of truth revealed in the New Testament – Jude 3), is for everyone and not just for certain ones. It matters not whether you are a church leader, preacher, Bible class teacher, Sunday School teacher or an ordinary member of the church. Every one of us need to be careful lest we fall: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”(1 Cor 10:12-13)
The apostle Paul himself was wary of the possibility of him falling away as well when he wrote: “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”(1 Cor 9:27)
- The apostle Paul gave examples of believers who had made a shipwreck of their faith.
He mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander as two believers whom he had delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme just as Paul had similarly instructed the church at Corinth to do the same with regards the man who had his father’s wife (1 Cor 5:5). Please note that these people were members of the church. The Bible requires that actions be taken against them so that they may repent and be saved (James 5:19-20; 2 Cor 2:5-11) and so that the Faith may not be undermined/blasphemed (1 Cor 5:7; 2 Pet 2:1-2)
What was the reason for Hymenaeus having made shipwreck of his faith and that of the once for all delivered Faith? In his second epistle to Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote: “And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some”(2 Tim 2:17-18). Straying from the truth of God’s Word, erroneous teachings is an important cause of a shipwrecked faith.
The reason for God placing us in His body, His church, is for us to be strengthened in our faith and grow spiritually mature so that we will not be “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine introduced by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph 4:11-16). In the church we have protection by the sound teaching of God’s word by faithful men (2 Tim 2:2), exhortation/edification and prayers from fellow brethren (Heb 3:12-13; 10; 24-25; 1 Cor 12:24-27;14:26). But when one is delivered to Satan (who is the ‘prince of this world’ – John 12:31; ‘god of this world’ – 2 Cor 4:4; 1 John 5:19), it means that he is no longer within the protective support of the body of Christ – until and unless he repents (1 John 1:6-10)
- Some of the icebergs that may cause us to be shipwrecked are:-
- The iceberg of false teachings: Man-made teachings cannot set man free from sin; only God’s truth can (Matt 15:8-9; Rom 16:17; Gal 1:6, 8; John 8:32). In the same epistle to Timothy, the apostle Paul warned: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commandingto abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”(1 Tim 4:1-3) Again: “Preach the word! Be ready in season andout of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”(2 Tim 4:2-4)
- The iceberg of “speculative teachings” which are just for “disputes” or for “arguments” sake and are not aimed for “godly edification” of those who hear them: Paul wrote to Timothy: “you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” (1 Tim 1:3-4). There are some things which have not been revealed by God (Deut 29:29). We should not teach matters for which God has not revealed to us in the Bible. “The purpose of (our teaching) the commandment is love from a pure heart, froma good conscience, and fromsincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5).
- The iceberg of “the philosophies of the world, or false knowledge”: The apostle Paul wrote thus: “avoiding the profane andidle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge (oppositions of science falsely so called – KJV) — 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.” (1 Tim 6:20-21). Some have been deceived into thinking that science has proven that there is no need for God. They have forgotten that it is God who created this world (Psa 8:3;19:1; Rom 1:20) and that man is so wonderfully made (Psa 139:14); man is able to reason, to discern between right and wrong and to appreciate the aesthetics of beauty and of the emotion of love – their origin of which a non-living, non-intelligent mechanical process of evolution can never explain. One Christian scientist has written: “we now know that the simplest life form is far more complex than anything humans have ever made. It is far more reasonable to claim that a space shuttle can randomly assemble and launch itself than to claim that a simple life form can arise spontaneously from random chemical interactions.” (‘Evolution is religion – not science’ – Michael G. Houts, Apologetics Press)
- The iceberg of a heart that is “hardened by sin”: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:12-13) The devil can ensnare or entrap us in our sins if we are not careful (2 Tim 2:24-26; 1 Pet 5:8).
- The iceberg of “biting and devouring one another”: The Bible says: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not useliberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, evenin this: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”[b] 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Gal 5:13-15). We need to realize that our brethren are not our enemies. Our enemy is the devil. He may enslave some of our brethren through his devices and taking advantage of our weaknesses (2 Cor 2:11). We need to recover those overcome by sins with meekness and gentleness (Gal 6:1; 2 Tim 2:24-26)
- The iceberg of “loving the things of this world” (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4). Paul wrote: “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim 4:10). The pleasures and pressure of this world can cause our faith to be shipwrecked too.
- We are in a spiritual battle against the devil as he seeks to cause our faith to be shipwrecked. We must be actively engaged in this fight (2 Cor 10:3-5) by taking the full armour of God (Eph 6:10-18) and resisting the devil (1 Pet 5:9; James 4:7). The Bible says that we need to hold on to our faith until the end: “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.”(Heb 3:14). “Blessed isthe man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”(James 1:12). Towards the end of his life on earth, the apostle Paul wrote thus: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”(2 Tim 4:6-8).
Let us hold on to our faith and not allow any iceberg to hit our “faith-ship” such that we suffer shipwreck of our faith and the loss of our souls throughout eternity. Let us put our faith in Jesus Christ as the captain of our souls and of our ship. He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Let’s trust God to help us navigate the challenges of our lives. He will strengthen us, guide us with His wisdom, and help us in our needs (Phil 4:13; Eph 3:16; Heb 4:16). He will pilot us safely towards the port of heaven.