Victoria Park Christian Centre
Suite 1, 342 Albany Highway, Victoria Park 6100, Western Australia
How many of you saw the movie “Titanic”? Do you remember the line, “God Himself could not sink this ship”? But sink it did, with 1500 people on board! The Bible tells us that we can shipwreck our faith. Paul writes about it to Timothy:
Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well,holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
Earlier he instructed Timothy to stop the false teachings that were causing controversial speculations (1 Timothy 1:3,4). Speculations are theories or opinions formed without firm evidence which become controversial or debatable – “that’s only your opinion” faith. This is shaky faith as there is no firm foundation and so, does not spread the gospel. Again Paul combines faith with a good conscience but has added the word sincere to faith. Sincere faith is true faith which later he reminds Timothy was in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5).
So putting this together the traditional teachings of the church passed down the generations and lining up with scripture combined with a good conscience is needed to battle against the wind of change that is blowing the church off course.
Shipwreck is a terrible and frightening thing. I don’t think that Paul had forgotten his own sea perils. Three times he had been shipwrecked and feared for his life (2 Corinthians 11:25). Once the ship he was in was tossed along for 14 days by the Adriatic sea we are told in Acts 27. In our text Paul is likening the gravity of shipwreck to those who preach false doctrines and those souls who jump on board and are sucked down in this shipwreck.
We know that Gnosticism had crept into the church in Ephesus as Paul talks about godless chatter and opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word Gnosis, which means knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20). Gnostics taught that all matter was evil and that the soul was trapped inside this evil matter of a body which could only be released at death – this is called “dualism”.Gnostics believed that resurrection was merely the spiritual raising of souls from the death of sin. They took this false teaching from misunderstanding Colossians 2:12.They taught that once you were a believer you had been released spiritually from the confines of your evil flesh and you can progress heavenward and be united with God. This was achieved by understanding the secrets of angel genealogies and divine energy.
The Bible does NOT teach that matter is evil. Quite the reverse! Right back in Genesis 1 God declared all matter good (Genesis 1:31). The Bible does NOT teach spiritual resurrection either then or now. Such a teaching is blasphemous as our eternal hope is tied to a physical resurrection (Philippians 3:20). So we see that our resurrection body is going to be like Jesus’ resurrection body. Jesus arose from the dead in the flesh and so shall we.
WHO WERE THE FALSE TEACHERS?
Our text reading identifies two of them as Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:18-20). If we sail towards 2 Timothy 2:17-18 we meet up again with Hymenaeus. Paul likens the rapid spreading of gangrene throughout a limb which must be cut off as similar to his insidious teaching.
Now a departure from the accepted religious teachings is called heresy. Hymenaeus is preaching a heresy. When I studied heresies at Murdoch University they taught me that heresies ALWAYS diminish the character or work of our Lord Jesus. Modern day examples that we will be familiar with are the Jehovah Witnesses. They do not believe that Jesus is God but a prophet or even an angel. They take away from Jesus His god-like status. The Mormons believe that God was once a man and that man can become a God. It’s polytheism (many gods) and is a salvation by works and not by grace through the salvation brought about by Jesus Christ. So, if you want to spot a heresy – just think about the new teachings and whether or not they take away from the character and work of Jesus. The Gnostics in Jesus’ day took away from the importance of the fact that Jesus rose in the flesh so that we could one day also rise in the flesh. If you are following a heresy you are on shipwreck coast.
If anyone believes that the resurrection has already happened then the good life starts right here and now! Paul hints at it this “HMS Bounty” ship belief in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:8). What an apt analogy is the HMS bounty ship from British History for Christian was the surname of the mutineer and he later burned the ship off Pitcairn Island. Belief that the good life has started now – the health and wealth gospel we call it today – is mutiny – a heresy! The Bible teaches self-denial and taking up a cross (Matthew 16:24). Can you find one disciple who was rich in the New Testament? On the contrary James says that they were poor (James 2:5). So why are so many Christians claiming our spiritual ship as HMS Bounty.
Gnostics also believed that there was much work for you to do outside the commands of Jesus. These were done to secure your salvation. Secrets and actions not mentioned in the Bible but introduced as a new gospel. Paul reminds the Galatians that there is no other gospel except the good news of Jesus Christ, his character and finished work on the cross at Calvary (Galatians 1:9). It’s the old, old story passed down through the ages – not by works but by grace (Romans 11:6). You see they’ve taken away from Jesus again. It’s their works now and not Jesus’ works.
Our reading likens the soul to a ship. Now, a ship sails best when it is kept even by not being overloaded on one side. Faith must be a living faith and must be based on a definite creed. You cannot be a believer unless there is something that you believe. We look to Jesus and what he did for us to carry us on (Hebrews 12:2) as a solid faith is through Christ Jesus. This is the Christian belief based on sound biblical teaching that God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – created the world in its entirety and it was good. That He wanted to make mankind in His own image to share His love and delights with us. That Adam and Eve who were our representatives sinned by disobeying God then evil cruised in and death ruled. That God sent Jesus the Son to become a human to save us from sin and death and reconcile us to God. That Jesus was fully man and fully God. That Jesus lived a sinless life in complete obedience to God and showed us the way to live a life of obedience. That He came to destroy the works of the Devil and rescue humans who were still in their sin and trespasses. That He voluntarily went to the cross as the blood sacrifice – the Lamb of God. That He took our sin, our shame, our curse and everything that was dividing us from God and each other. That He finished His work on the cross and opened the way for us to be in a right relationship with God. That He died and rose again so that we can die and rise again. That He is risen and has been exalted to the right hand side of God and has been given all power and authority. That death doesn’t have a hold on us anymore as He freely offers us eternal life. That He is going to return for us soon and take us to heaven. That He will judge the living and the dead. That He loves us and offers all the freedom that He died to give. That this salvation is by faith in Jesus and that what He did is enough! It’s the faith that has been handed down from generation to generation. It’s Jesus character and works that brought the salvation and it is done – complete. All we need to do is believe – nothing else but believe! God even gives us the faith to believe. This is what the Bible says and what has been taught down the ages and is the true teaching of the Christian.
Paul says all we need is faith and a good conscience. If its faith that drives us forward then faith is the wind in the sails or the engine coursing the ship through the waves. I think that a good conscience is the compass. Today modern ships use a sophisticated navigational system comprising of computerised navigation charts which work off sensors installed in different positions around the vessel. The system is designed to offer accurate and continuous position, navigation and safety information to ensure the crew navigate the seas without incident. This is like the Holy Spirit together with scripture and theChurch reminding the Christian sailor of its position. If you are praying, reading scripture and listening to the teachings which have been taught down the established churches then any deviance will result in an alarm being sounded. Without the two together – engine and navigational system you wouldn’t want to go on a sea journey and Paul says that without faith and a good conscience we’re heading for peril.
Some ships are sunk on their maiden voyage like the Titanic. When you are young and just starting out on your Christian sail do not think that it’s always going to be a plain sailing. Many a young person on their youth or maiden voyage are shipwrecked by false doctrines especially aimed at the youth. There’s one such false teaching by a man called Bill Hamon that parallels that of the New Order of the Latter Rain Movement which included a doctrine called the “Manifest Sons of God.” Besides Bill Hamon, Paul Cain and Rick Joyner are bringing this dangerous reef philosophy. In brief, this is the belief that before Jesus can return a generation of super-believers sometimes called a “new breed of man” or “Joel’s Army” must emerge. That God is preparing a great end-time army. Theologically, these groups think something like this. God has lost control of the world to Satan and is trying to re-establish control over the world through a special elite group of believers. The church has to bring the world back to God’s authority before Christ can return. This includes its social institutions.
Believe this and you’re listing on both sides and you will soon be sunk! It’s is a heresy because it takes away from Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Jesus said that He had come to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and in the garden of Gethsemane He says that He has finished the work He was given to do (John 17:4). Come on young people – don’t throw your compass overboard. Right your listing ship and set your course anew, fixing your eyes on Christ.
Shipwreck sometimes comes at the end of your voyage. Maybe you’ve been a Christian a long, long time. You’ve weathered everything that the devil and his elements has thrown at you such as typhoons, blinding fog, scorching tropical heat and you’re a proud ship. The reefs of youth and its temptations are far behind you and you’re so accustomed to the sail that you turn off your navigation system or pay little head to it. You think you can navigate the rocks easily enough when POW – you hit the reef and a great hole is dug out of your side. You list but it’s too late – you’re sunk. This is what happened on the Costa Concordia. The captain turned off the alarm system for the ship’s computer navigation system as he thought he knew the seabeds well. He didn’t believe that he could make a mistake but it happened and his mistake cost 33 people their lives.
There’s a common heresy that affects proud people. They believe that as Christians they are now no longer sinners and as such do not need to confess their sin or be cleansed from unrighteousness. They claim that it is impossible for them to sin (1 John 3:9). They have misread the tide and turned off the alarm just like the captain of the Costa Concordia did. Scripture tells us that we are sinners (1 John 1:8-10) and our Lord’s prayer taught us that we should ask daily for forgiveness. This heresy takes away from Jesus’ work of sanctification. Come Christians let’s set our path straight by steering with faith and a good conscience. Let’s celebrate our Lord and Saviour with the same firm beliefs as the early church. Its Jesus and Him alone that keeps us from shipwreck (Jude 1:24-25). Praise His Holy name!