Paul speaks frankly with Timothy of his past. “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent”(1 Tim 1:12-13). Yet Paul’s past is not the end of his story. It is truly a story about how “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost”(1 Tim 1:15). Paul’s regret over what he has done drives him to praise and serve Jesus and becomes part of the gospel he preaches (1 Tim 1:15).
Paul then urges Timothy to “wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme”(1 Tim 1:18-20). As much as Paul is a good example for Timothy, these men are patterns to avoid. Paul conjures up the image of shipwreck to describe their fate. To the ancient mind, shipwrecks are utter disasters. Cargo is destroyed, lives are lost, and ships are damaged. Yet shipwrecked faith implies a hopeful beginning—like the pleasant start of a voyage—that later turns terrible. As sad a commentary as this is on the lives of Hymenaeus and Alexander, it is also a sharp warning to Timothy: a good beginning does not guarantee a good ending.
It is possible for us to lose our faith—or to make a mess of it by failing to live up to our commitment. The potential to lose our salvation, though, is not just a matter for religious debate. It is a real-life concern that when we persist in sin and fail to maintain faith and a good conscience, our spiritual life can end in ruins.
------------- One Thing to Think About: What temptations or challenges might lead me to making shipwreck of my faith?
One Thing to Pray For: Continued connection to God—faith and a good conscience