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, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)
The earth is covered with an incredible blanket of water that displaces seventy-one percent of the volume of the earth’s mass. From ancient days travel on the highways of seas was a dangerous and perilous journey yet many braved the unknown sailing to far parts of the globe. It took great faith to leave sight of land. Trusting in the guidance of stars and knowledge of navigational skills honed from generations of previous generations, nations explored the edges of the world around them. Many lost their lives perishing in storms, failed navigational information and as many lost at sea. The shipwreck was a real danger and feared by the boldest of sailors. To be stranded without means of returning home became a constant fear on the high seas. There was finality to being shipwrecked. When a ship was destroyed in a storm and the crew stranded, death was almost certain with little hope of rescue. Even those who did not sail the oceans knew the dread of a shipwreck. Paul uses this vivid fear to describe the condition of those disciples of Jesus who had faith in the resurrection of the Lord and had tasted the heavenly gift but had cast aside their faith. Rejecting the faith of God and deliberately violating their consciences, Hymenaeus and Alexander turned away from the love and grace of God to their serve their fleshly and carnal desires. It is not known the specific reason for the lost faith of these two saints of God but the end was devastating. Turning away from the only hope is to shipwreck the faith one had in the saving blood of Jesus Christ.
Faith is the assurance of things not seen and the reality of what can be hoped for in Christ. This faith must be constantly cultivated in the image of Christ. Rejecting faith will bring ruin to the eternal nature of man. There is nothing more tragic and sad than to see a ship that once sailed the oceans lie rusting at the bottom of the ocean or being torn apart on the shore. Peering closely to the rusting hull one can see how the vessel held a place of honor as a clean, powerful machine that served its purpose with glory but no longer. It lies destroyed and useless. For most ships there is no rescue. The decay has taken away any hope of return. When Paul wrote of Hymenaeus and Alexander it must have grieved his heart deeply to know of these men who once sailed the ocean of God’s grace as useful and purpose-filled children of God but now have scuttled their faith for the trappings of the world. He knew the end would be worse than the beginning for these men. This story is repeated in every generation and sadly among the people of God, many shipwrecks occur with regularity. Reading through religious papers of days gone by it breaks the heart to see names of men who once boldly proclaimed the gospel of Christ now lying shipwrecked in their faith to the Lord. Adultery took one man and criticism of the traditional perceptions of the church took another man down a rabbit hole of religious confusion seeking something unattainable. God is a merciful and just judge who knows the hearts of all men and declares who among the faithful have shipwrecked their faith. As the oceans of the world are filled with the wrecks of sea-going vessels of long ago, the spiritual ocean of God’s kingdom is littered with lives destroyed by the deceitfulness of sin.
The warning of Paul to Timothy was clear to charge the preacher to commit his life to the Lord without reservation. It will take waging a constant conflict of war to keep the soul safe from the shoals of Satan’s devising. Many rocks fill the waters of life that if not heeded will damage and bring destruction to the ship of faith. See the names of these once honored preachers of the gospel remind the timid soul that the wiles of the devil can destroy anyone. While little is known of the two men Paul mentions in his letter, it should serve as a warning that because Paul names them, they were men of note who lost their faith. Any ship can suffer shipwreck as the Titanic became a symbol of the great tragedy of pride. Sailing requires constant watch and careful sailing in dangerous waters until the day comes when the harbor of eternal rest is found. Do not give up the ship or take your eyes off the horizon of God’s love through the blood of Jesus Christ. As sailors used the North Star as their guiding point for travel, so must the child of God constantly keep his eyes on Jesus to find his way through the oceans of life. Above all, do not allow your life to be shipwrecked on the shores of carnality, desire, and pride. For some, there is no return.