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Writing to Timothy, Paul said that some, “concerning faith have made shipwreck” (1 Timothy 1:19,20). Furthermore, he said some were guilty of throwing the faith of others (2 Timothy 2:18). Like a ship, our faith is designed to sail on the sea of life and withstand the storms it will encounter without floundering upon the rocks. It is designed by “the captain” of our salvation, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:10), whose sufferings perfected the way for us (1 Peter 2:21).
Paul had been shipwrecked three times; he had spent “a night and a day in the deep” (2 Cor. 11:25). In a small boat off the California coast a strong wind came up and we were concerned that we might capsize. It is a scary experience. All of us are familiar with the dreadful sinking of the Titanic. Through the centuries many ships have lost their way in a storm and crashed upon the rocks. As sad as these stories of lives lost at sea are, the shipwreck of a Christian’s faith will result in far greater consequences.
There are possibly many circumstances surrounding the shipwreck of our faith, but there is one basic, underlying cause. It is failure to use the Lord as our compass and guide through life. Since our faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 1:17; 10:17), then our faith heads for the rocks when we quit hearing the word of God. It’s that simple, and Satan knows it. Are you surprised that more people don’t know it too?
In Luke 8 the Lord taught the parable of the sower who went forth to sow seed. He taught that when the devil succeeds in taking away the word from a person’s heart, it is like seed sown by the wayside (Luke 8:12). The devil knows that if he can hide the gospel from people, they will be blinded to the truth, and be forever lost (2 Cor. 4:3, 4). Satan has more respect for the power of God’s word than do some preachers. He may not like the truth, but he knows what it did to him, and what it can do for others.
There have always been efforts to destroy men’s faith in the word of God, and we should expect such efforts from the enemies of the Truth. But, there are others who disguise themselves as Christians but are actually workers of Satan. Paul warns,“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14,15). There are those today who claim to believe but are simply making shipwreck of other’s faith.
Their attempt to question the credibility of God’s word would catapult our faith toward the rocks just as certainly as the calculated efforts of any avowed atheist or infidel. Several years ago a group of “scholars”, by a vote of 16 to 10, decided that the story of the Samaritan is true, but the one about the rich man and Lazarus is not authentic. Yet, these critics want to ignore that it was Luke who was inspired to write both accounts (Luke 10 & 16). The truth is that there are some who refuse to accept the reality of a place called hell, where the disobedient are tormented after death. Peter calls these people “willingly ignorant” who will not allow themselves to accept the destruction of man in the flood, nor in turn, will they allow themselves to think there might be “the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:5-7).
Others, under the cloak of theology or “science” (falsely so called), attempt to disprove the Biblical account of creation, the miraculous birth of Jesus, His death, burial, resurrection, and life after death. One article, possibly with good intentions, endeavored to provide medical support for the Bible account of Christ’s death. This, of course, was in opposition to the claim that he did not really die, but was only “resuscitated” after a period of unconsciousness. This report was partially based on a purported pathological analysis of a shroud that supposedly was wrapped about the body of the Lord. But as you know, the word of God needs no such support based on tradition and relics of questionable authenticity. Too many such pronouncements are merely the shallow conclusions of man with a higher degree of human wisdom, or some paper presented by a professor whose position of employment depends on his “continued discoveries”.
However, such efforts by the denominational religious world are not as much concern to us as those which originate within the body of Christ, which body is to be “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is not enough that we be on the watch for outside attempts to scuttle off the ship of faith, but now we must face the reality that there are those among the “digressive” churches of Christ trying to make shipwreck the faith.
What other conclusions can we reach, when some preachers contend that Jesus came the second time (Hebrews 9:28), at the destruction of Jerusalem in the year A.D. 70? And, college instructors who are looked up to and supported by members of the church of Christ openly advocate the theory of evolution. By these, students are pressured into accepting such faith-wrecking doctrines.
Others in the same places have produced a hymnal for churches of Christ which deletes reference to “rural imagery” such as contained in the song “Bringing in the Sheaves.” This preposterous idea would eliminate references to the parable of the sower, the parable of the tares, the vineyard parables, and the church as a sheepfold of Christ the one “true shepherd”. How can we possibly avoid shipwreck of our faith if we listen to such voices. What else can we expect, when portions of the word from which our faith is gleaned are deleted from our singing and teaching?
Any preacher who preaches sermons “without any scripture” is making shipwreck of someone’s faith. Faith doesn’t come by the not preaching and not hearing God’s word, but by “hearing of the word” (Romans 10:17). Others who aid and abet the cause of shipwreck are those who embrace the doctrines of Calvinism, or scoff at the idea of our needing scriptural authority for the things which we do and say (Colossians 3:17). Close behind are their shipmates who deny that there is any divine pattern for the work, worship, organization or mission of the church.
Our preachers need to quit trying to be so scholarly that they don’t even preach the gospel any more. They need to get back to Bible preaching, including rural or the “countrified” parables of Jesus, so men can see the truth of the kingdom and believe it and be saved. They need to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Only then can we avoid the rocks which cause shipwreck.
Don’t let anyone tell you that the Bible doesn’t mean what it says.... “That all things don’t actually work together for good to them that love God.” You and I may not always understand it but God’s word is true. Don’t let anyone get by with teaching that Satan is in charge of this world and in control of death and that the Lord does not call the saints home and that the death of a saint is a blessed event. Don’t let anyone say that the prayers of the saints are not actually heard by God. You know too much about the Lord’s teaching to allow all this. Don’t encourage, promote or support anyone whose work results in the shipwreck of the Faith.
WEARING A CROSS
Those in denominations who wear a cross on a necklace may be sincerely trying to let others know that they believe in Jesus but according to the Scriptures this is not authorized for the people of God. True Christians have never used a symbol of any sort, neither a cross, a dove nor a fish to exhibit their faith to the world.
Christians are aware of the Lord’s repeated prohibition to the Israelites against making any graven image for worship (Exodus 20:4,5; Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:16-19; et.al.).
Some of the harshest condemnation came upon those who would create an object to treat as sacred.
To place spiritual significance on an object which God did not is wrong. We do not doubt the sincerity and honesty of those who wear such an object today. Many of them have never taken the time to seriously consider the custom which has been handed down to them. They do not think of the cross as an emblem of torture, but evidently hope by wearing it, that it represents their love and appreciation for the sacrifice and suffering endured by the Son of God. However, to bow down before a cross or to look upon it as a sacred emblem, simply because our Savior died upon a cross is repulsive to thoughtful Christians.
True worshipers will not allow themselves to try to transfer the worship and admiration of our loving Savior’s sacrifice and shed blood for our sins to the object used to bring about His suffering and death. Why should anyone bow down before a cross or use a cross as a symbol? Our Savior died on a cross, the wearing of crosses is to knowledgeable disciples in very poor taste and inconsistent with New Testament worship and service.
One of the most cruel ways for taking a life or executing an individual invented by men is most likely the cross. This seemed to be a favorite method of punishment among the Romans who excelled in the torture of their enemies. It is obvious to us that if our Lord had been killed with a hangman’s noose or placed into a modern electric chair there are people in our society who would bow down and worship an electric chair or wear a little gold hangman’s noose on a chain. Preposterous! Just think about it.
An interesting commentary on the church of Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-12, which received no condemnation from the Lord, according to history, it was accused by the Jews of the time of being atheist because its members used no symbols. Remember friend, Jesus is no longer on the cross; he is risen. To have this image hung around ones neck depicting a dead Saviour is a horrible thing. Sadly men have listened to Satan and been told to make this image as the symbol of Christianity. However, true Christianity is not defined by symbols, it is represented in the actions of disciples of Christ by being the salt of the earth and light of the world.
The second command given to the children of Israel in Exodus 20:4 reads, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them.” The last phrase, “shall not bow thyself down to them” would seem to be the very condemning of those who practice such. Although the Old Law is not binding on us today Paul says, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
“But” someone asks, “doesn’t Paul say he glories in the coss?” Galatians 6 teaches brethren how to evaluate their own accomplishments as we assist others to make it to Heaven. He says in verse one, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.
“Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.
“As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (Galatians 6:1-18)
In the above passage the apostle contrast human pride with the thankfulness he knows for salvation brought through the blood of Christ. Just being where the Lord wanted him to be and doing what the Lord requests of him is nothing to boast of. He was saying that he had nothing to glory in outside of that which was accomplished at Calvary by Jesus Christ our Lord. Simply being able to say through Christ’s blood shed on that cross in that place He has provided a way for me to be saved from my sins is enough. Praise God!
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