When a shipwreck occurs valuables are lost or plundered. It is sadly possible to ‘shipwreck’ your faith. You can probably think of those you know who have done just that to themselves. Paul mentions two known to him (20) who were currently on the rocks. (But he still had hopes of their being salvaged, and I will return to the point later.)
However this short passage points out 2 clear ways of remaining on course; staying afloat on the high seas of faith:
- Hold on to ‘’faith’’ (19a). Always remember that there is a ‘’thief’’ who ‘’comes only to steal and kill and destroy’’ (John 10:10). He wants to take this precious cargo from out of your ‘hold’;
- Hold on to ‘’a good conscience’’ (19a). The ‘thief’ has also set his sights on seizing this oh so valuable commodity.
We need to keep right on trusting in the right Person (Jesus) and believing correct doctrine. (We should also hold on to prophetic ‘words’ which we have good reason to believe are genuine. See 18) Linked to this, we are to go on living the right way. Part of this right living is getting on with what God has called us to do, just like Timothy did, even though it may not necessarily be easy (18a). This is about calling and vocation; not just about moral conduct.
But we do these things with our eyes wide open. We are not naïve (or shouldn’t be) about the true nature of things. We know that we’re in a furious fight. It’s a fight all the way; a battle to the end of our days. But it is ‘’the good fight’’ (18b). It’s in a good cause. It’s a fight for right against wrong. And the God who is good is ‘’for us’’ so ‘’who can be against us?’’ (Romans 8:31).
‘’There are some, you know, who by relaxing their grip and thinking anything goes have made a thorough mess of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are two of them. I let them wander off to Satan to be taught a lesson or two about not blaspheming.’’ The Message.
In the mention of ‘’Hymenaeus and Alexander’’ who shipwrecked their faith, there is an intriguing note about Paul handing them ‘’over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.’’ This is generally taken to refer to excommunication. They were put out of the church into the world, which is Satan’s domain. But there is an implicit note of hope that this disciplinary measure will be corrective; that they will be ‘’taught not to blaspheme’’. Spiritual casualties can be healed and restored; the shipwrecked may one day find the wind of the Spirit in their once again unfurled sails. Me must hope and pray it will be so in a number of cases known to us.
Prayer: Pray today for those you know who have shipwrecked their faith.