Summary: # 3 in series on 1 Timothy. Five Steps to avoid spiritual shipwreck.
“Living For Christ In A Confused and Confusing World”
A Study of Paul’s Letters to Timothy
“Avoiding A Spiritual Shipwreck”
The closing section of the first chapter of the letter to Timothy concerns those who “suffer shipwreck.” I will venture to say that most of the ships that you can name this evening are notable because they sank. Most of us have heard of the RMS Titanic which sank in 1912 with 1,523 of her passengers. If you watch the Discovery Channel or the History Channel you may be able to name those which sank because of calamity like Titanic and the Edmond Fitzgerald; or Treasure ships like the Conception & Atocha; or victims of war like the Maine & Lusitania. The shipwreck Paul is referring to however, is not a physical shipwreck but a spiritual one.
Paul’s son in the faith, Timothy, was called to be a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ and to fight the good fight of faith. In this section of the letter Paul reminds him of what it means to be a soldier of Christ.
The normal Christian life is not short struggle after which we are pensioned out into a life of ease. We are always going to meet difficulties and enemies. The moment you become a Christian, you entered a lifelong battle. In Ephesians 6:12 Paul reminds us that we are engaged in a very real spiritual battle, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” This spiritual conflict is on the highest level conflict between God and Satan. It is also fought on the angelic level between Satan’s demons and God’s holy angels (Jude 1:9). And on the human level every day when we get up we need to remind ourselves we are at war, whether we like or not, whether we acknowledge it or not.
In fact we are fighting a war on several fronts; attacks of the enemy (temptations and snares), the hostility and animosity of the World (John 15:18) and internal struggles with our own flesh. Paul is giving instruction to Timothy that he is in the middle of a great battle in Ephesus and he must never forget it!
“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.”
It is a calamity for any Christian or any congregation to assume that they can take doctrine for granted. We are all under a constant barrage from the media, the intellectuals of our day and from false theologians to abandon the great truths of the Gospel.
In verse nineteen Paul speaks of those who “having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.” Paul says they have shipwrecked their faith by rejection of Truth. The word translated “rejected” (apotheo) means “to push something or someone away” and implies a violent or deliberate rejection. The reason that the two men named in this passage suffered ship-wreck was because they “rejected” or “put away” the faith. This move away from the truth is never made in an instant. No one wakes up one morning and says, “I think I will throw away testimony today. I think I will get out of the will of God.” As with great ships tragedy can come when ships are allowed to drift or when they are overloaded or when they lose momentum and start to flounder. Other things like torn sails or the loss of the rudder can also contribute to the demise of an otherwise great ship.
Everyone is this room could think of a person or persons who once walked with the Lord and have now made shipwreck of their spiritual walk. It happens!! Several years ago, we saw the highly publicized falls of Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart. But spiritual shipwrecks are happening every day. What we need to realize is that this is not something that can only happen to someone else, it can happen to you and me.
Verse nineteen actually explains why we have all witnessed people we regarded as outstanding Christian leaders who suddenly fallen. It was because they did not hold the truth they had taught in their conscience; that is they did not obey the truths they had taught! In verse twenty, two men are cited as examples, “Hymenaeus and Alexander,” both of whom are evidently well known to the church at Ephesus. We however, do not know very much about these individuals other than what we find in the second letter to Timothy. Of Hymenaeus we read in 2 Timothy 2:17-18, “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 over-throw the faith of some.” In the case of Hymenaeus it would appear that he rejected the true teaching of the faith and embraced false doctrine.