Have you ever felt that your faith in God was shipwrecked? Is that even possible? Can it be that a faith grounded in the One True God could one day end up damaged, obliterated, or drowned out?
I wrestled with that question as I read 1 Timothy chapter 1. In the chapter, Paul writes, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith,” 1 Timothy 1:18-19.
How does a faith get shipwrecked? At first glance, I imagine a shipwreck as total destruction. There’s no way the Titanic was bouncing back from its epic battle with the iceberg. There’s no magical returning from the land of the dead like Captain Jack Sparrow and his vessel did, after his ship went down in a blaze of glory by the death grip of the Kracken. So if a shipwreck implies total destruction, then would we argue that the faith that is shipwrecked was never a genuine faith to begin with?
I believe in the perseverance of the saints, once saved always saved. Nothing can pluck us out of the mighty hand of Christ! However, one could try and argue a case for the losing of salvation in this passage. The Greek word used for “shipwreck” is nauageo. It is translated strictly as “to suffer shipwreck”. Paul clearly used it as a metaphor, so its right for us to understand it as one. However, did Paul’s metaphor communicate total destruction? I would argue yes. When we picture a shipwreck, we picture “sinking”. I would be hardpressed to imagine Paul is referring to a boat accidentally bumping into a buoy. Paul is implying a destruction, a severe blow. So does this mean its possible to lose your salvation? I don’t think so and I’ll explain why.
In the context, Paul is writing to Timothy to encourage him to “wage the good warfare”. Basically, he’s telling Timothy to be prepared and on guard against false teachings. If Timothy is overcome by the false teaching and is deceived by the enemy, he will begin to damage his solid faith. The pure faith that he once had in God and the gospel will be tainted and not truly taught to those he comes in contact with. Essentially, his faith would be worthless like a sunken ship.
If one’s faith is destroyed, it might be argued that they never had genuine faith to begin with. Maybe there was never a true conversion. I believe this is often the case, but not always the case. A sunken ship that stays sunk proves that conversion never really happened. However, a crushed faith that is resurrected out of the waters of the deep is possible, but its only possible with God. In other words, it is possible, if we don’t guard our hearts and minds that we can be deceived by the enemy, even to the point of shipwreck. However, the power of the Holy Spirit will always lead us back to repentance and truth if we’re truly saved.
Perhaps you have recognized a point or points in your life when your faith neared shipwreck. Perhaps you have endured shipwreck, but God has restored you. Be thankful to Him for His strong hand and mercy! Maybe you’re in the midst of a shipwreck. Is God pulling you back, or has your life ever truly been changed by the power of Christ? These are all good questions to ask. Whatever place you find yourself, know that God wants to keep you from the shipwreck, and desires His children to remain on guard, completely honoring the true gospel and His great truths.