Heb. 2:1-4 - EXEGESIS (Richison)
CONTEXT: Chapter 2 begins with a strong warning about the dangers of apostasy. Chapter 1 opened by explaining that Jesus Christ is the message of God. This chapter points out that those who have faith in Christ, but drift from that truth, will face dire consequences. The rest of the passage continues a series of proofs begun in Chapter 1. These are quotes from the Old Testament, used to prove that the Messiah is not an angel, but is superior to any created being. He is, in fact, identical to God. And yet, He became fully human in order to serve as our perfect high priest. Hebrews 2:1-4 is the first of five warnings in this epistle concerning spiritual error committed by believers. Since Jesus is God's message to mankind, ignoring Him will bring disaster. The writer of Hebrews points out that those who violated the Old Covenant suffered punishment. Therefore, those who violate the New Covenant can expect consequences. This gospel has been confirmed by witnesses and miracles, and needs to be given closer attention by the reader. Whether by accident, or on purpose, breaking God's laws always results in disaster.
NOTE: Vs. 1-4 give us the first among several solemn warnings in the book of Hebrews (He 2:1-5; 3:7-4:13; 6:4-8; 10:26-39; 12:25-29). The main problem in the entire book was that people with Hebrew background were reverting to temple sacrifices and other practices in Judaism. The book warns about the issue of letting New Testament truth slip away in five places. The warning in this chapter is the shortest of them all. The five warnings are found here:
This section of Hebrews makes a shift from didactic to exhortation (He 13:22). The author includes himself in the challenge of 2:1-4.
v. 1: For this reason we must pay much closer attention to [a]what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
Now the book of Hebrews turns directly to its audience; it will not allow truth to be unexamined in one's life.
1 Therefore [for this reason] - We have heard this expression for years: "Whenever you see a 'therefore,' look to see what it is there for." This is especially true for the "therefore" of our verse. This "therefore" draws a conclusion from chapter 1.
▪ By harking back to the first chapter, the "therefore" draws a very strong deduction from it. The supremacy of the Son calls out serious implications on our lives. The Mediator (the Son) of the New Covenant has superior status to angels as mediators of the Old Covenant (angels). There is no comparison.
▪ The argument is this: Because of the superiority of the Son (His person and office), the special revelation He brought directly from the Father, and His superiority over creatures higher than humans (angels), there is an imperative that we not become indifferent to the superiority of the Son.
PRINCIPLE: Doctrine and practice invariably wed with each other in the New Testament.
APPLICATION: The Bible involves both doctrine and practice. Truth always governs life. Its principles invariably relate to the reality of our lives. We cannot separate doctrine and life. Both relate to our faith.
The Bible uses doctrine to exhort believers to action. We do what we do because of what we believe. Superficial motivation based on emotion does not build the Christian life as it should be.
Eternal matters are at stake when we engage with the Bible. To develop an indifferent attitude or not pay close attention to what it says has serious implications.
we must - The original readers of Hebrews were in grave danger of letting their faith wear down to something less than it should be. As former Jews they decided that Jesus was the Messiah, the sovereign Son of God, but they were about to revert to their former practices as Jews. They were tempted to go back to the religious observances of their race. They came to believe that the stark, unadulterated grace of the New Testament was too much to take.
▪ The "we" indicates that the author included himself in the necessity of the challenge he was about to give. To claim that this passage speaks to non-Christians is to read into the passage something that is not there (interpolation).
▪ The word "must" is an appeal to God's revelation. Because God said it, we must take it seriously. God made a clear and unmistakable revelation in His Son (He 1:2), so there is no option but to listen to it.
▪ There is no alternative for believers but to pay attention what this passage in Hebrews says. The word "must" indicates the logical necessity of taking heed of the seven Old Testament quotes of the previous chapter. If the readers did not do so, they would not inherit the benefits of the kingdom.
give the more earnest heed - The author of Hebrews challenged himself along with others in what he was about to warn. It is necessary to give full attention to the truths of chapter 1.
▪ "More earnest" is an emphatic comparison meaning more fervently. Christians are more accountable than the Israelites when we disobey the Word because we have much greater revelation-the revelation of and by the Son (He 1:2).
▪ "Earnest" is a word of intensity. Readers of the New Testament are to pay closer attention to what God said through His Son than the readers of the Old Covenant given through angels.
▪ "Heed" means attention. In ancient Greek, this word was used for a captain holding his ship on course toward the harbor. This word is set in contrast to the word for "drift away" later in this verse. Giving "heed" is to apply the mind in a certain direction. We need to concentrate on something, give attention to it. If we do not apply our minds to a subject, then the object of what we think about will fade and become less real.
PRINCIPLE: Exposition of the Bible is not an end in itself.
APPLICATION: The imperative in this verse is more than good advice. When we fix our minds on truth and apply it to our lives, something wonderful happens. If we take seriously what God says and believe His Word, it will be efficacious. We cannot believe something without understanding it, without objective consideration. We cannot do this without giving attention to it. We must always keep it before our minds (Ps 119:9, 11).
to the things we have heard - The phrase "the things we have heard" refers to New Testament revelation given through the apostles as well as to the first chapter of Hebrews. This is especially true when it comes to the Son's revelation (He 1:2). There are serious issues about questioning the validity of God's truth.
▪ What was "heard" was the truth revealed in the Son. It is all that has been said in chapter 1 about the superiority of the Son.
lest we drift away.- Believers must be on guard against drifting away from the truth they heard revealed in the Son. The Greek word for "drift away" occurs only here in the New Testament. There were believers in the audience of the writer of Hebrews that were in danger of reverting back to Judaism.
Since some converted Jews began to slowly drift back toward Judaism, the words "drift away" warned them against doing so. The words "drift away" form a nautical term for a ship drifting from the destination of reaching port due to high winds. It is important to hold a ship on course toward the harbor. A drifting ship carried by winds and currents will not reach the port. To be blown by every wind of doctrine is spiritual instability. To drift from the truth taught by God's authorized agents is a dangerous thing.
▪ All the wonders of Christ's superiority of chapter 1 can be lost if we do not focus on who and what He is and has done.
▪ Later in Hebrews the writer warned Christians that they had not grown in Christ as much as they should have (He 5:11-12). Most believers do not grow in the knowledge of what they believe. The Word of God does not intersect with their lives. It is as if it is hardly there. This is especially the case when it comes to allowing Christ to be the center of our lives. If we allow truth to drift away, then we put ourselves in spiritual danger.
PRINCIPLE: The Word of God requires our full seriousness.
APPLICATION: There are Christians who associate themselves with the truth that is in Jesus. They love to go to church and fellowship with believers. They may even love to hear about the wonder of who Christ is, yet they will not allow themselves to fully own all that He is and does in order for it to impact their lives. They profess truth but not possess it.
▪ Christ Himself is the answer to all doubts about Him.
▪ We have a fixed reference point when it comes to truth. Biblical truth does not move; it is absolute. We can count on it. If we chose to move away from it, we do it at our own peril. The Bible is not something we can treat with carelessness or indifference. We must get a firm grip on truth if we are going to live the Christian life properly (He 6:19). It is not possible to be certain about our faith without getting a firm hold on what God says in His Word.
▪ There is a danger to drift from the faith, but there is a need to establish a safeguard to protect it. Christians must be keenly attentive to what God says in His Word. It is imperative for Christians to connect God's message to what is going on in our lives. It is not enough to learn facts of the Bible; rather, it is necessary to accept exhortations and warnings so that we become true to our experience in life (He 13:22).
v. 2: For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, For if [and it is true] the word spoken through angels - Verses 2-4 compare the Word brought by angels and that brought by the Son. Verse 2 speaks of the retribution imposed on those in the Old Testament who resisted God's revelation.
For if [and it is true] the word spoken through angels - The "if" here indicates that the word spoken through angels was true. It can be counted upon. When they as its agents revealed Scripture, it was authoritative and accurate revelation from God's viewpoint.
▪ The "word spoken through angels" was when God gave the law at Sinai (Deut 33:2; Ps 68:17; Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19). God revealed the Mosaic Law through angels. God gave the Law to define the conditions of blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience for the nation Israel (Deut 28-30).
proved steadfast [binding], - The word "steadfast" throughout the book of Hebrews expresses something that is sure or certain. In biblical parlance truth is something that is fixed (He 3:6, 14; 6:19; 9:17). The word "steadfast" means binding or firm. God's Word is unyielding.
▪ The word that God revealed through His angels was binding-that is, legally valid. This word occurs again in verse 3 (yet again in He 3:14; 6:19; 9:17). God's Word has eternal validity. He does not change what He revealed. When God speaks, it is always legally valid. Revelation in the Old Testament was binding in the sense that it is unchangeable. This is because revelation was spoken by God Himself.
and every transgression and disobedience - The terms "transgression" and "disobedience" refer to disregard of God's revelation. "Transgression" means to violate a clear standard of Scripture. It carries the idea of stepping over a clear line. It is to do what the law prohibits. "Disobedience" refuses to take to heart what God has said. Disobedience is to neglect to do what the law requires. Both of these terms are explicit rejection of God's will revealed in His Word.
received a just reward [retribution, penalty], - The law under Moses rendered a penalty for those who violated or transgressed it. The "just" retribution has nothing to do with initial salvation of the soul but with the loss of blessing for the nation Israel. "Reward" or retribution here does not refer to obtaining or losing salvation or eternal life. The penalty relates to loss of inheritance. God never takes sin lightly. He always prescribes the appropriate action for any infringement of His Word.
▪ The first chapter argues for a deliverance that Jesus will provide. It is possible that some believers will lose part or all of their inheritance.
▪ Internal references (e.g., brethren, etc.) Hebrews was written to believers. Here are some indications:
PRINCIPLE: It is possible to lose the reward of our inheritance.
APPLICATION: The retribution in this passage is not loss of salvation but loss of inheritance. Scripture clearly affirms that Christians will not lose their salvation (John 10:28-29; Eph. 1:11-14; 1 Pe 1:3-5). The writer of Hebrews could not lose his salvation. How can a writer of Scripture lose his salvation? Note the "we" in this verse: "How shall we escape?" Rather, the issue is whether we will reign with Christ in His kingdom (He 2:8-9). The status of how we will jointly reign with Christ is at stake.
v. 3: how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, - There is consequence to ignoring the Son's superior salvation. The first warning passage comes to a climax in verse 3. If believers failed to come to grips with Old Testament revelation given by angels, how much more is the failure not to believe the revelation given by the Son.
how shall we escape - The "escape" has to do with the "just" reward or recompense of the previous verse. God does not give the specifics of what He will do in this passage.
if we neglect [ignore] - "Neglect" can mean ignore. This word is used of Israel ignoring God's covenant in Hebrews 8:9, which is a quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34 (the New Covenant). There is no escape from discipline if believers neglect or ignore God's Word (1 Ti 4:14). The issue here is not rejecting what God has said but neglecting or ignoring it.
so great a salvation [deliverance], - The concept of "salvation" is the link between chapters 1 and 2. "Salvation" occurs seven times in this book of the Bible.
▪ "Salvation" here is not salvation from hell. It is eschatological salvation dealing with Christ's ultimate salvation. Most occurrences of "salvation" in the Bible do not refer to initial salvation of the soul but to danger, such as when Peter shouted "Lord, save me" from drowning in the Sea of Galilee. Noah was saved from drowning in the flood (He 11:7). The word is used for salvation at the coming of Christ (He 9:28; 1 Pe 1:5). The context determines which idea of salvation is at stake.
▪ The "salvation" mentioned here is the same as that of Hebrews 1:14. Believers will share in the Son's triumphal future kingdom (He 2:5). It is possible for believers to neglect the future blessing of their participation in Christ's kingdom. If believers become indifferent to their future kingdom inheritance, there will be consequences that they cannot "escape."
PRINCIPLE: It is possible to lose our inheritance but not our salvation.
APPLICATION: Drifting from God's Word is even more egregious when we view all the means of God's revelation. There is a difference between rejecting and neglecting salvation. Our verse does not claim that a person can lose his or her salvation. The problem with some of the original readers of Hebrews was that they ignored or neglected what God had to say to them. It is possible to drift from the hope of prophetic salvation. If so, we will not escape from the "just" recompense that God has in store.
which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, - The salvation of which the Lord Jesus spoke stands in contrast to the penalty about which the angels giving the law spoke. Jesus spoke much about His future kingdom while He was on earth (Mk 1:15; Mt 9:35). It is egregious to neglect what our Lord has said. Angels were agents of delivering God's word and Jesus is the ultimate Agent of communications from God.
and was confirmed to us by those [apostles] who heard Him, - The readers of Hebrews never heard Jesus speak directly. They were second-generation Christians. They received Jesus' words indirectly from the apostles who heard Jesus speak. The apostles were first-generation believers who preceded the time of the readers of Hebrews.
▪ The apostles who heard Jesus' words "confirmed" what He said. The word "confirmed" is a legal term. God gave mighty and legal evidence in the courtroom of those who heard Jesus face-to-face. He ratified this evidence by corroboration of signs and wonders through the apostles. This was the apologetics of a generation without a complete New Testament.
▪ "Was confirmed" comes from a verb meaning to bind. This is the verbal form of the word "steadfast" in verse 2. This verb indicates that the confirmation took place at one point in the historical past from the writing of Hebrews (aorist tense, passive voice, indicative mood). This word demonstrates that miraculous gifts did not continue after the apostles because the confirmation was completed by them. The emphasis is not on the miracles but on the message confirmed by miracles. Once the eyewitnesses died, miraculous gifts ceased.
▪ The Holy Spirit ratified the words of Christ by miracles and manifestations of the Holy Spirit though the apostles. Jesus personally confirmed the apostles' authority to write Scripture and found the church.
"By those who heard Him" is an indication that Paul did not write Hebrews. Paul received direct revelation from God Himself (Ga 1:11-12).
PRINCIPLE: The preaching of the Word takes precedence over miracles.
APPLICATION: If disregard for the law of Moses brought serious sanctions, then indifference toward the message of the Son will bring greater sanctions. God deals seriously with those who disrespect His Word.
As there was retribution for those who rejected God's revelation in the Old Testament, so God will discipline those who neglect the revelation of Christ in the New Testament. This passage does not define the nature of this retribution, but the author includes himself in the "we" of this warning.
v. 4: God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by ]gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. - The message of the previous verse received confirmation through miracles and gifts of verse 3.
God also bearing witness [testifying] - The only time the Greek word for "bearing witness" occurs in the New Testament is here. This is a legal term speaking of God's corroboration of the testimony to His salvation. The meaning of the verb is to bear witness at the same time together with. God brought together the witness of the apostles with miracles to confirm the message. This would bind together (1) "signs," (2) "wonders," (3) "miracles," and (4) "gifts."
▪ The Greek grammar of our verse suggests that signs, wonders, and miracles ceased by the time the book of Hebrews was penned, by the time of second-generation Christians. The "confirmation" of the verse 3 "eyewitnesses" or the apostles was no longer going on. "Bearing witness" depends on the main verb "was confirmed."
both with signs and wonders, - In addition to Jesus' words and those who heard Him, God gave the power witness to mighty confirming acts. "Signs and wonders" are miraculous actions. This may refer to both those that God performed in Egypt and those that Jesus and the apostles performed (Ex 7:9; Deut 6:22; 34:11; Ps 135:9; Isa 20:3; Jer 32:20; Acts 7:36; Mark 13:22; Acts 2:22, 43; 4:30; 5:12; 2 Cor 12:12).
▪ A "sign" focuses on the meaning of the miracle or points to a purpose of a miracle; a sign signifies something. It witnesses to the truth of what is said. The design of a sign is to convince the listener as to what is true.
▪ "Wonders" is something that happens outside natural law and produces astonishment. A wonder is an unusual or out-of-the-ordinary happening. It creates a sense of awe. The design of a wonder is to create dissonance in the listeners to break them out of their bias about what is true.
with various miracles, - The idea of "miracles" is mighty deeds or acts of power. Here the idea is of a demonstration of God's power. A miracle shows the supernatural nature or origin of an event. The word "various" indicates that God did a variety of miracles.
and gifts [distributions] of the Holy Spirit, - "Gifts" are the special, supernatural capacity to do the work of God. (The Holy Spirit bestows at least one of these gifts on every believer at the point of his or her salvation, which is not the term used here.) The idea of "gifts" here, however, is distributions.
All four types of miracles authenticated the message of the apostles (Ac 14:3; 2 Co 12:12).
according to His own will? - God witnessed by all four means listed in this verse by His "will."
PRINCIPLE: God verifies His message through a rich variety of divine activity.
APPLICATION: Signs, wonders, and mighty works marked the ministry of Jesus and the apostles (Ac 2:43). The "distributions" of the Spirit sealed the truth spoken by the Son. They corroborated the reliability of the message of the New Testament. At times, people need to go back to the foundations of what they believe.
Hebrews was written before the canon (assembly of books of the Bible) was completed. There was a need for signs, wonders, and miracles to ratify that these books were from God and not some concoction from men.
Heb. 2:1-4 - BibleRef
v. 1: For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. - Chapters 1 and 2 of Hebrews explain that Jesus is not an angel, or some other created being. The writer of Hebrews uses various Old Testament quotations to show that the Promised One cannot be an angel, but is in fact divine and identical to God. The intended audience of this letter is Christians with a Jewish background. This is the reason for emphasizing Old Testament concepts and passages. This also helps us to understand the context of the various warnings given in Hebrews, which become continually stronger as the book progresses. • Verses 1 through 4 of this passage offer the first of several warnings given in the book of Hebrews. This caution is mild, but includes an implicit criticism: these Jewish Christians are not being careful in their study of the faith. The original Greek of this verse uses the term perissoterōs to describe how the readers are to approach the faith. This word means "much more, more abundantly, or especially." These people need to be more committed to learning about the Word of God. • The purpose of this suggestion is obvious. Since there are false teachers and false gospels in the world, it's important for Christians to know the actual content of their faith, so they won't be seduced by counterfeit versions. The following verses will explain the consequences of drifting from truth.
v. 2: For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every violation and act of disobedience received a just punishment, - In verse 1, the writer of Hebrews described the most basic means of holding to the truth without "drifting," which is to pay close attention. In particular, the readers of this letter need to be concentrating more on truth than they have been. This is part of the first warning given in this book, and the gentlest. Later cautions will be more strident and involve higher consequences. The second warning, for example, occupies the entire third and fourth chapters of this book. • The consequence of drifting from truth into error is described in verses 2 and 3. If the message from God is true, and those who violate that message are punished, then those who fail to pay attention to the message are guaranteed trouble. God has spoken to His people (Hebrews 1:1), most recently through Christ (Hebrews 1:2). Those who broke God's commandments in the past were given exactly what they deserved. Verse 3 will point out that those who ignore the message of Christ have no real hope of avoiding the same fate. • The two words used here, referring to the behavior which is penalized, are important to understand. These are parabasis, translated as "transgression," and parakoē, translated as "disobedience." The Greek word for disobedience implies a deliberate, willful act. However, the term for "transgression" relates to the idea of "crossing a line." This term, in other words, includes unintentional mistakes as well as purposeful sins. This is part of the reality we live in: defying the truth, on purpose or not, will always result in consequences. Sincere or not, if we drift from the truth, we're going to get ourselves into trouble.
v. 3: how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, - Verse 1 through 4 are words of caution. Those who are shallow or casual in their approach to the faith are prone to "drifting" from truth into error. According to the writer of Hebrews, this is not a small problem. God's message has always proven itself true (Hebrews 2:2), and that message currently comes through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). In the past those who moved away from God's will suffered the consequences (Hebrews 2:3). With that in mind, what hope would a person have of avoiding disaster if they don't pay close attention to the truth (Hebrews 2:1)?
• Verse 1 admonished the reader to pay close attention to the gospel message. This verse emphasizes this by using the Greek word amelēsantes. This means "to make light of, ignore, treat carelessly, or neglect." The image is that of carelessness and apathy, as opposed to diligence. Verse 2 used two distinct Greek words for violations of God's message, including both deliberate and accidental offenses. Errors made "by mistake," as a result of negligence, are still violations of the will of God.
• There is sometimes debate over whether this verse is a reference to trouble in our earthly lives or eternal damnation. Clearly, the writer of Hebrews is speaking to fellow Christians. Verse 1 of this chapter, for instance, repeatedly uses the concept of "we." And yet, there are certainly ways in which ignoring the gospel can lead to eternal death, for those who are not saved. In short, this means that this warning is both about earthly and eternal consequences.
• For the saved believer, salvation is secure. It cannot be lost (John 10:28-29; Jude 1:24). However, Christians still live in a world of cause and effect. "Neglecting" the truths of the faith and falling into sin will always have consequences, from earthly problems to the loss of eternal rewards. For the unsaved person, neglecting Jesus Christ-treating Him with apathy or carelessness-means certain and eternal death (John 3:36).
• This message of salvation was proclaimed not only by Jesus, but also passed along by those who personally witnessed His ministry (Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:16).
v. 4: God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders, and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. - Prior verses warned that the consequences of "drifting" (Hebrews 2:1) from the truths God has given are dire. Both God's direct judgment as well as natural cause-and-effect will affect those who follow error (Hebrews 2:2). Since the stakes of Jesus' message are so high, we can't be lazy or casual about it and expect to avoid trouble. • In verse 3, the writer of Hebrews began to mention the supporting evidence for the gospel message. There, Jesus' direct testimony is offered along with the accounts of those who saw His ministry in person (Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:16). Here, the use of miracles and other supernatural events is used as further proof. The apostles were given the ability to verify their message via God's power (Acts 2:43; 2 Corinthians 12:12). • The reason for bringing up these proofs is to highlight how serious the problem of "drifting" really is. God has not been casual about demonstrating Himself to mankind (Romans 1:18-20; Psalm 19:1; Hebrews 1:1-2). His message is not obscure or disguised. It is not dependent on blind faith. And so, there are very few excuses we can make when we violate His will. As verse 3 pointed out, God punished those who disobey, and He has given us more than enough evidence. How can a person reject all that God has done, and shown, and then expect not to be judged accordingly?
Heb. 2:1-4 - T. CONSTABLE EXPOSITION
The Danger of Negligence (The First Warning) 2:1-4: Having just encouraged his readers with a reminder of God's help for the faithful (Hebrews 1:14), the writer next urged his readers to be faithful. He did so to warn them of the possibility of retrogressing spiritually and consequently losing part of their inheritance. Jacob's sons Reuben, Simeon, and Levi had done this.
v. 1: For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. - The meaning of "For this reason" is that since Jesus Christ is greater than the angels we should take the revelation that has come through Him more seriously. If the Israelites received severe punishment whenever they disobeyed the Mosaic Law that God gave them through angels, the punishment for disregarding what God has give us through His Son will be even more severe. Later in this epistle we learn that the original readers were slow to respond to Scriptural imperatives (Hebrews 5:11-12). They had not grown as Christians as they should have. The writer took this opportunity to exhort them to "pay much closer attention" (Gr. prosechein) to what their teachers had taught them and to what they had read in the Scriptures. This Greek word means not only to turn the mind to something but also to act upon what one perceives (cf. Acts 8:6; Acts 16:14). The readers were apparently regarding these things too lightly.
▪ God's speaking is the basis for the writer's own 'word of exhortation'.
▪ The writer illustrated their position. It is as though they were in a boat on a river or at sea. He pictured them moored at a dock or anchored. If they continued to neglect their attachment to the truth that does not change, the currents of their age might carry them away from it. They might drift away from the truth that they had heard (though not from their eternal salvation, cf. Hebrews 6:19). "What we have heard" is the antecedent of "it." This is a warning against apostatizing, departing from truth once held. All the warnings in the Bible against following false teachers are similar to this one in their intent. If we do not diligently remain in the truth-and to do so we must know it and remember it-we will depart from it. We live in a world that is striving to separate us from it. Satan also wants us to abandon it. The [five warning] passages in question are concerned with the danger of apostasy - apostasy is the central concern of the entire epistle.
▪ Having just encouraged his readers with a reminder of God's help for the faithful (Hebrews 1:14), the writer next urged his readers to be faithful. He did so to warn them of the possibility of retrogressing spiritually and consequently losing part of their inheritance. Jacob's sons Reuben, Simeon, and Levi had done this.
▪ The second step in the argument for Jesus' superiority shows him to be infinitely great because of the nature of the salvation he won. . . . The author precedes the development of this thought with a brief section in which he exhorts his readers to attend to what has been said, a feature we shall notice elsewhere.
vv. 2-3: For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,
▪ The word spoken through angels" refers to the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 33:2 LXX; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). [Note: See Moffatt, p. 18.] For the Jews, it was the Law under which they lived. For them the will of God was unalterable. It required obedience. Under the Old (Mosaic) Covenant the connection between sin and punishment was clear and direct. Even more so, the readers could count on the New Covenant that had come, not through angels, but through God's Son, to involve punishment for sinners. This is especially true if that sin involves failing to give attention to all our responsibilities as Christians who have received such a great salvation. "Transgression" refers to overstepping bounds, and "disobedience" to the violation of God's will more generally. Another less probable view is that "transgression" refers to sins of commission and "disobedience" to sins of omission. [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:282.] The writer did not specify the punishment, but it cannot be loss of salvation since Scripture specifically states that we will not lose our salvation (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:31-39; Ephesians 1:11-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5; et al.). In view of the context (Hebrews 1:8-14), the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and their own glorification and rewards seem to be what the readers were in danger of forgetting.
▪ The neglected salvation is not our final deliverance from hell, that is not the salvation 'about which we are speaking.' Rather, it is the opportunity to enter into the final destiny of man, to reign with Christ over the works of God's hands (Hebrews 2:8-9)." [Note: Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, p, 131.]
▪ Salvation includes far more than moral and bodily regeneration, for it embraces the covenanted kingdom of God, the inheritance of David's Son, the joint-heirship and reign with Christ." [Note: George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, 3:451.]
▪ Note that the writer himself could have been negligent. He said, "How shall we escape?" not "How shall you escape?" (cf. Hebrews 2:1). The most natural conclusion is that genuine Christians are in view in this warning, not simply unsaved professing Christians. The writer gave us no clues in the text that he had in mind unsaved professing Christians. Furthermore, everything he said can be and has been true of genuine believers.
▪ Unlike most modern congregations the early Christian church was an integrated community centered around the worship of God and the advancement of his kingdom. Economically it was a commonwealth, which meant that its members were not being pulled apart from one another by the pursuit of individual goals of success; they were devoting everything they were and owned to the strengthening of one another and the cause of Christ. Worshiping and eating together, the members were in constant communication [cf. Acts 2:42]. . . . Little time or distance separated the members of this body, so there was an unhindered communication of the gifts and graces of each one to the others." [Note: Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, p. 161.]
▪ It is emphatically NOT the same situation a Baptist preacher in the twentieth century faces when he climbs into the pulpit before eight thousand professing Christians. We are therefore fully justified in concluding that, when a New Testament writer uses a term like 'brethren,' he is not thinking that some may and some may not really be brothers, but he assumes and believes that all his readers are in fact born again.
▪ Since the [epistolary] writers themselves never explicitly say that they feel their audience is a mixture and since they everywhere make statements to the effect that they are talking to genuine Christians, we have no warrant for reading into their otherwise clear statements qualifications which they themselves never make."
▪ The warning is against neglecting, not rejecting, salvation (cf. Hebrews 6:19). "Neglecting" assumes that one has something, whereas "rejecting" assumes that one does not have it.
▪ "He [the writer] is not encouraging sinners to become Christians; rather, he is encouraging Christians to pay attention to the great salvation they have received from the Lord.
▪ "More spiritual problems are caused by neglect than perhaps by any other failure on our part. We neglect God's Word, prayer, worship with God's people (see Hebrews 10:25), and other opportunities for spiritual growth, and as a result, we start to drift." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:282. Cf. pp. 276, 277, 278.]
▪ Chap.1 glorifies the person of our great Savior, and chap. 2 exalts the work of our great Savior: our great salvation.
▪ By speaking of 'the hearers' (ton akousanton), all interest is concentrated on the message, not the office, of those who had brought the word of redemption to the community.
v. 4: God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. - Jesus Christ spoke of salvation during His earthly ministry (e.g., Matthew 4:17; Matthew 19:28; Luke 12:31-32; Luke 22:29-30). The apostles taught the same truth and by doing so confirmed His word. This is the gospel, in its widest meaning. God testified to His approval of Christ's preaching and the apostles' preaching about Christ by providing authenticating miracles that showed God was with them (cf. Acts 2:43; Acts 4:30; Acts 5:12; Acts 6:8; Acts 8:6; Acts 8:13; Acts 14:3; Acts 15:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12). "Signs" emphasizes that the miracles signify something. "Wonders" emphasizes the reaction of awe that the miracles produced in those who observed them. "Miracles" emphasizes their supernatural origin and "gifts" the graciousness of God in providing them. The writer intended that reference to these miracles would bolster the readers' confidence in the gospel that they had received.
▪ The original readers seem to have been people who had heard the apostles' preaching and had observed the miracles that accompanied that preaching. Guthrie believed the writer had not heard Jesus firsthand. [Note: Guthrie, p. 82.] This verse does not say that the signs and wonders had already ceased. They may have, but this statement does not say that. The prediction that they would cease occurs in 1 Corinthians 13:8. Ephesians 2:20 implies the temporary duration of apostolic ministry that included signs and wonders.
▪ Hebrews' references to the Holy Spirit are generally incidental; much of the space occupied in Paul's theology by the Spirit is filled in Hebrews by the exalted Christ." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 143.]
▪ I think signs and wonders are less common in developed countries today because most of these countries have the complete Word of God. God now typically validates the gospel through His Word (cf. Romans 8:16; 1 John 5:1-13). Occasionally we hear reports of miracles that validate the gospel, but they are usually in places where the Word of God is not as available.
▪ This is the first of five warnings in Hebrews (cf. Hebrews 3:1 to Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 5:11 to Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 10:19-39; Hebrews 12:1-29). It is the shortest and mildest one. These five warnings deal with drifting from the gospel, disbelieving the gospel, dullness toward the gospel, despising the gospel, and defying the gospel.
▪ The warning of Hebrews 2:1-5 is linked by dia touto ('for this reason') with the entire argument of Hebrews 1. Because of the Son's superiority to angels (Hebrews 1:1-5), the angels' worship of and service to Him at His coming (Hebrews 1:6-7), His future rule and sharing of joy with His companions (Hebrews 1:8-9), and His future subjugation of His enemies (Hebrews 1:10-14), the readers would do well to heed these eschatological teachings. Neglect of this eschatological salvation (cf. Hebrews 1:4; Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 2:5) may result in individual temporal discipline similar to that experienced under the Old Covenant (Hebrews 2:2). The 'salvation' of Hebrews 2:3 is the same as that in Hebrews 1:4. Hebrews 2:5 clarifies that the soteria under discussion is eschatological." [Note: Oberholtzer, p. 97.]
▪ One of the greatest dangers of the Christian life is losing interest in what is familiar (Hebrews 8:9; Matthew 22:5). The entire Epistle lays stress on steadfastness at almost every stage, and this is one of the essential marks of the true, growing, deepening Christian life (Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 4:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 6:19; Hebrews 10:26; Hebrews 12:27-28; Hebrews 13:8)." [Note: Thomas, p. 29.]
▪ The doctrines the epistle presents, the warnings it delivers, and the exhortations it gives all were intended to prevent regression and to encourage continuous dynamic development toward spiritual maturity." [Note: Pentecost, p. 31.]
In Hebrews 1:1-14 we have seen that the Son, i.e. Jesus Christ, has sent forth his ministering Spirits "to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation". They are none other than His human "fellows" above whom He had been anointed with the oil of gladness (1:9). Hebrews 2:1-4 commentary. Warnings to Those Called to Salvation.
Hebrews 2:1 - Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
What the author, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has explained in the previous chapter, is not to be considered lightly by those destined for salvation. I'm sure that he also had in mind the rest of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which the apostles have been preaching: That Jesus Christ, Himself God who had taken on the human form of His fellows had come to suffer and die in their stead.
Not only is He called "My Son", but also "Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah.9:6). Yet He did not consider it a shame to take on the form of man in order to make propitiation for them.
This, indeed, places a great responsibility on those so immensely privileged - even that He would receive them as His brothers (Matthew.12:49). All these graces are so precious that we dare not let the awareness of them slip from our mind and everyday living. We should hold on to what we have heard and learned so that it does not slip out of our grip and we drift away from it.
Hebrews 2:2 - For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and if every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward,
We see here that the word spoken by angels was steadfast because they were God's messengers, speaking His commands (Hebrews 1:1-14), and every transgression thereof and disobedience thereto received a just recompense of reward.
In Numbers 15:30-31 the punishment for blaspheming God is to be cut off utterly from among his people. All those who acted in contempt of God and his commands were punished accordingly (Heb.10:28; Num.15:36; Dt.13:6-10; Act.5:3-5; etc.).
But all these disobediences and contempt of God were under the Law given by angels. Now we have here something much more serious in the light of God offering Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, who gave His everything towards propitiation of man's sins.
Hebrews 2:3 - how shall we [then] escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by those who heard Him;
Let us weigh these two aspects against each other: V.2 holds forth the disobedience of divine commands - which was severely punished. Over against this stands the supremely gracious offer of love, propitiation, and salvation - a vastly more serious and weighty matter.
How shall we escape if we should neglect such a great salvation? It is obvious that we are here warned that the consequences of such a neglect will not be merely a physical punishment or a stoning. God's Word would lead us here to remember that there is something unthinkably more severe, namely the eternal fire of hell.
Indeed, many in the world would scoff at such a possibility. Others would object that our God is a God of love and will never think of such an eternal punishment. But they forget two things: Firstly: God is not only love, but He is also a righteous God. If He says so, it will be so. Secondly: God cannot lie and never will.
Jesus Himself warned that there is an eternal, unquenchable hell as punishment (Matthew.5:22; Mark.9:47). He confronted the Scribes and Pharisees and said: "Serpents! Offspring of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" 2Peter.2:4 even warns that even angels that sinned, were cast into hell and bound in chains of darkness. While foretelling the coming of Jesus the Christ, John the Baptist also warned that He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.
If those people of old did not escape the consequences of disobedience to the Law, how shall we then escape if we hold such a great salvation as offered by Jesus Christ, in contempt?
In the beginning, the author remarks, this great salvation ("The Good News") was announced by Jesus Himself. His first words, at the beginning of His earthly ministry, were: "Repent! For the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." (Mat.4:17; Mark.1:15). And, Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew.4:23).
For three long years, Jesus went about teaching, preaching and living the Good News of salvation. He gathered apostles around Him and taught them the Gospel, and in the end gave His last command: "Go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to all the creation"(Mark.16:15). He even promised that He would send the Holy Spirit, and "He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you."
That was the beginning of the Gospel, taught by Jesus Christ. That is why the author can claim that everything Jesus had taught them, "was confirmed unto us by those who heard Him".
Hebrews 2:4 - God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders and with different kinds of miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
Here is the latter part of the question started in v.3: "how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation..." if God has even deemed it fitting to confirm and impress the greatness, the truth and the importance of the Gospel of salvation with signs and wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit? Therefore our taking the Gospel seriously so that we do not let it drift past unheeded, is a matter of crucial urgency.
One of the first miracles whereby God bore witness to the Gospel after Jesus' earthly ministry is that He rose from the dead and many witnesses testified thereto (Act.2:32-33; 3:15). When the apostles went out and proclaimed the Gospel everywhere, the Lord worked with them and confirmed the Word by miraculous signs (Mark.16:20). Please read also Acts.5:1-16.
The day of Pentecost was a peculiar providence of God by which He intended to spread the Gospel. It requires special attention in order to understand this unique miracle by which God (as v.4 states) bore witness to the truth of the Gospel "with signs and wonders, and with different kinds of miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will".
I will try to explain the significance of Passover and Pentecost as briefly as possible, and it must necessarily be done in conjunction with each other in order to best understand the miracles by which God bore witness.
The feasts of the Passover and Pentecost have its roots in the Old Testament. The Passover was the first festival in the Jewish year, in remembrance of the Passover lamb slaughtered on the eve of their salvation from their Egyptian slavery (Exodus.12). This was also a pointer to Jesus and His crucifixion in propitiation (1Cor.5:7).
Exactly after fifty days later (seven weeks) the feast of the Pentecost (first fruits) was to be observed (Lev.23:16-17; Num.28:26). This "feast of the first fruits" was a prophetic pointer to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, even though the early Jews did not realize this significance.
Now we know that the Passover was held in remembrance of the Passover lamb slaughtered and its blood applied to doorposts so that the angel of death would "pass over" the Israelites so that they would not die like the first-borns of the Egyptians who held them in slavery.
Many thousands of Jews who had previously been dispersed to various countries, were now in Jerusalem (Act.2:5) for the feasts of the Passover and Pentecost. Act.2:7-12 mentions the countries from where they had gathered. So it happened that many thousands of Jews gathered and heard the (approximately 120) disciples "speaking in tongues" - in various languages delivering the message of the Gospel - according to God's own will (v.4).
Now here is the real miracle: 1,500 years before this, God had ordained the keeping of the Passover feast and the slaughter of the Passover lamb, as well as the keeping of the festival of the Pentecost. Now, 1,500 years later, Jesus, our Passover Lamb (1Cor.5:7) was crucified during the feast of the Passover, fulfilling same. Fifty days later, on the festival of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was for the first time poured out on the disciples of Jesus, fulfilling the festival of the First Fruits.
I believe that Jesus had this event of Pentecost in mind when He told His disciples: "And behold, I send the promise of My father on you. But you remain in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high."
As I remarked at the beginning of this series: the author of this letter in a remarkable way painted the close relationship between the Old and New Testament. God willing, we will in time see how he makes the two Testaments flow into each other, and how the "foreshadows" were fulfilled and became the "real reality".
PAY MORE CAREFUL ATTENTION
Key Verse 2:1
"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away."
In chapter 1, the author tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted above angels. He is the Creator God and the Heir of all things. He is the Sovereign King over heaven and on earth. He is the Son of God. He is Divine! Now in chapter two, the author wants to tell us more about the Lord Jesus. He wants to go back and tell us about his humanity. He wants us to remind us that Jesus became a man, and that when he did become a man, he became a little lower than the angels in heaven. He was made a man in the womb of the Virgin Mary and took upon himself our humanity. Why did he do that? Well, that's what most of the book of Hebrews talks about- the reason Jesus did so. We already said that Christ became a man to purify us from sin. And later lessons we'll talk in details how he did so. But in becoming a man, Christ does two other things as well. First, he reveals God to us. And SECOND, Christ represents us before God.
We can never forget the glorious truth that we have a representative in heaven- that, as a Christian, I have someone there who represents me. In all honesty, most people in this world have no one to represent them. Even if they have money, representation goes as far as their money goes. Strangely enough, many people are under the illusion that they are safe and can take care of themselves. But the truth is that no one is safe, neither in this world, nor in the next. In this world, people suffer from the mischief of other people, and in the word to come, they must face God's judgment. But not for the Christian. If you in Christ Jesus, you have a representative who represents you in heaven before the throne of God. It is really a joy to know that I have someone who represents me before the throne of God. You see, we know from Scripture that Satan is our accuser who accuses us before God day and night (Revelation 12:10). Satan never rests telling about all the sins that we have committed. Praise God that I have Jesus Christ who represents me in heaven and pleads my case. Why do we need a rep in heaven? Because "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:31) I don't want to. Neither do you.
If you would look at the first 4 verses of this chapter, we see the author is taking a break between talking about Jesus divinity and his humanity. In these verses, he gives his Hebrew readers the first of six warnings scattered throughout his letter as danger signals to avoid. He warns them to embrace the blessings they have in Christ Jesus and to make no mistake in abandoning the faith they were called to in him. We are not sure of the condition of those to whom he is talking to. Perhaps they were a mixture of believing Jewish Christians as well as Jewish-would-be-Christians who liked the gospel message but have not yet fully received it into their hearts. Some were steadfast in their faith, while others were still contemplating receiving the gospel by faith, while still others were contemplating returning to their Jewish roots. Whatever the case may be, some seem to have been in a very dangerous place in their spiritual lives, because neither the person of the Lord Jesus nor the gospel message was something to trifle with. To reject either was to reject life and salvation, and ultimately, to also reject the only Mediator a person has in heaven. So these first 4 verses are very important to all people, Christian and non-Christian alike. To the non-Christian, it is an invitation to receive Christ as Lord and to believe his gospel message. And for the Christian, it is a warning to the danger of ignoring what we already have in him.
Read verse 1. "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Where to begin with this magnificent verse! First of all let me remind you of who the author is talking about when he tells us to pay more careful attention to what we have heard. He is talking about the one he described in chapter 1. He is talking about the Son of God. We must pay more careful attention because he is the Son of God- because he is appointed Heir of all things, and through him the universe was made- because by his powerful word all things are sustained. Therefore, Jesus Christ is much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs, we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard of and from him. These words are serious. "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard." The new NIV puts it better. It says: "We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard." In other words, this is something more than a piece of good advice. It is a divine principle to live by- a command given to us by God to heed. And God doesn't give us commands at random. He does so with a purpose for our own good (2 Peter 1:19). Let me illustrate the seriousness of paying the most careful attention to what we have heard, or what we hear in the word of God. Listen to what Jesus said to those who wouldn't listen to his words: "A wicked and adulterous generation" he said to them, "The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here." (Matthew 12:39, 41-42)
Therefore, we have a tremendous responsibility to pay the most careful attention towards what we have heard! We have a duty to consider it carefully, as opposed to what? Look at verse 3- as opposed to ignoring such a great salvation! We will get to that, but for now, let us simply consider the meaning of paying the most careful attention. The Bible is full of words that emphasize thoughtfulness and meditation and reflection and decision and faith and such. But you have to believe these words and practice them. And when you do, that's when the word of God becomes effective in your life. But to believe them, you first have to understand them, and you cannot understand them unless you carefully meditate on them and pay most careful attention to them. Sometimes you need a coach to guide you through them if you're humble enough. If you are not, you'll remain a novice, and you'll never progress beyond yourself, and there's a danger of drifting. But with the proper training, you can go beyond yourself to become a great man or woman of God. But, that is how the truth of God's word is kept shining in your heart and mind until it produces the fruit it is meant to produce in your life. Paying the most careful attention! Most of us need coaching so that we can learn the self discipline we need to continue paying careful attention to what we hear, otherwise it is easy to drift.
But before we consider the meaning of drifting, let's think about what the author means by "what we have heard". What exactly have we heard? There is no doubt that what he is talking about here is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which the Hebrews have already heard. They had heard that Jesus is the Christ of God who had suffered and died on the cross for the sins of the world, had been buried and risen on the third day, and had ascended to heaven to the right hand of God Almighty. However, more directly what the author meant was all that he had been telling them in chapter 1 regarding the person and works of God's Son. In other words, he meant that they had heard that Jesus Christ is God's Son, the Second Person of the Trinity of the One God, The Heir of all things, and the God-Man, who now sits at the right hand of the Majesty of God, and who Rules heavens and earth. But as for us today, we can say that the author meant these words to mean all that God has said in his Word- the Bible. We have now heard the gospel preached to us in fullness from Genesis to Revelation. We have heard the complete message of God's grace delivered to us in person by the Son of God himself who is the Image of God and his representative, who also represents us before God. We have heard that we are his people redeemed by grace through faith in his blood. We have heard that Jesus will come again to take us to be with him in heaven, where we will bear his likeness and share his glory forever. We have also heard that while we live in this body we live by faith and serve his mission to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. We heard that we can do so by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. This is what we heard, and this is what we believe. The question is, are we abiding by what we heard? Do we live out what we heard? Do we fulfill the purpose for which we have been called? Are we preaching what we heard so that others may also hear what we heard, that they too may hear and believe and live? We must each answer this question.
Now we come to the most interesting and most serious part of this warning, where the author warns us: "So that we do not drift away". And the fault is always ours, when we fail to pay more careful attention to what we have heard. Unless we hold on firmly to them, (1 Corinthians 15:2) they leak out like water from a leaky vessel. According to the author, the danger seems to be very real. We cannot take this warning lightly. Even though we are saved from sin, sin is still working in the members of our body. And it affects us in such a way if we are not careful that if we are not careful, it makes it easy for us to hold on to the things of the world and to drift away from the things of God. That is why the author warns us. I believe the author was warning the Hebrew believers because some of them were on the verge of apostasy- that is- returning to their Jewish faith. He warns them against drifting from the gospel message and against denying Jesus as the Christ. He was warning them against drifting away from the truth about Jesus and his teachings, because drifting away from Jesus Christ is drifting away from the living God. They were in a very dangerous situation. Because of their severe suffering and persecution, they were about to renounce Jesus as the Christ and return to their Jewish faith in order to gain some recognition among the Jewish community and some benefits to ease their sufferings. They were about to give up the glories and blessings of Christ because they could not see the light of the gospel and the hope of the kingdom. How often must we remind each other that this world is passing and that our hope lies only in the heavenly kingdom- that we are only pilgrims in this world- that our treasure is in heaven- that our glory is in the cross- that our joy is in suffering- that our Christ is our model and in him we live and more and have our being! We must never ever drift from Christ and his word of truth.
There are many drifters in the world. Cain was the first to drift from God and his word. The first word of truth was to live by faith as his brother Abel had done. And so Cain became the father of all drifters. He Bible labels him as a "restless wanderer". In other words, he wandered aimlessly, without meaning or purpose to his life. He lived his life always looking over his shoulder fearing for his life. He was always anxious about everything and didn't have peace with men or with God. What do people need when they're like that? They need an anchor but Cain had none. So he kept on drifting further away from God until he perished. Most of the people of the world are like Cain, restless wanderers, drifters who have no anchor to their soul or to their lives. They just drift on the wind and are swept away. Who causes people to drift? The Bible tells us it's that "Great dragon... that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray." (Revelation 12:9) He leads people astray from God and his word, causes them to take pleasure in their sins and accuses them before God.
Drifting away is everyone's problem. Christians are also in danger of drifting. We often get distracted. We often get involved in worldly affairs. We get easily troubled. We get older and let many godly lessons we have learned in our youth drift away from our hearts. We get tired of fighting the good fight of faith and drift away into old habits. Some drift away to godless thoughts, others to immature behavior. The most important thing in our lives as Christians is to remain rooted and grounded in the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Paying the most careful attention to word of faith, meditating on it, reflecting, examining, challenging, repenting, devoting ourselves to the gospel of our Lord in total commitment so that we might not drift away. This is our sacred duty. We have a sacred duty, a responsibility as the people of God, called to serve Lord of glory and his church not to drift away, but to anchor in him and in his gospel.
Read verse 2. "For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment." What is the author saying here? He is giving us another reason why the message of the gospel must be given the most careful consideration. Actually verses 2 and 3 must be read together. But let's think about what he is saying here in verse 2. First of all, he is referring to the laws given to the people of God by Moses in the wilderness. They were delivered by the agency of angels. So, he is telling us that the message or laws spoken or delivered by angels in the Old Testament were binding, that is, that they were absolute and set in stone! They were so absolute and binding that when one violated the laws given by God, punishment was dealt accordingly. We remember Sodom and Gomorrah. We remember that the word given by the angels regarding the judgment spoken against these two cities was dealt with absolutely. Let me remind you of how powerful God's word in the Old Testament and its fulfillment is. Our Lord Jesus himself said: "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law." (Luke 16:17) That's how powerful the laws of God delivered by angels had been in the Old Testament were. When God spoke the law, heaven and earth listened. If God delivered a punishment for a violation, the punishment was dealt. But not all punishments were meant to be dealt with in this life. Some punishments were meant to be dealt with on the Day of Judgment.
Because God is a righteous and just God, every violation and disobedience of his law will be dealt with according to its degree of violation. As I said, some violations were and are dealt with in this life, but surely many will be dealt with on that great Judgment Day. No one will escape even one infraction of the Laws of God. Every human being will get his or her just judgment from God. Evil men will receive what is due them not only in this life but surely in the next life. Each person will receive their punishment according to the nature of the sins which they have committed. And no one will escape. That is what the Bible teaches us. That is why Christ came to this world. This is why we preach the gospel of good news, so that all might hear the good news and know that God in his mercy so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish in their sins, but have eternal life through faith in Christ. Every human being will surely be judged and punished for every infraction of the law of God- all except those who are found in Christ Jesus- all whose sins have been washed away by his blood- all who have made the good confession of faith and have found anchor in him.
Now read verse 3. "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him." This, then, is what the author is saying. Now, if the message spoken by angels was so powerful and absolute and binding, and those who disregarded it invited God's punishment, then how much more will it be for those who disregard the gospel of Christ, the Son of God, who is far greater than the angels, and who brought the message himself! If punishment was given to those who disobeyed the law given by angels, even greater punishment will be dealt to those who disregard the message brought by the Son of God himself!
There are things to consider here. How shall we escape "what"? Why does the author call this a "great salvation"? First of all, it is clear that he is talking about escaping God's wrath and God's judgment. And that is if, as he says, we ignore such a "great salvation". So what is this great salvation, and why does he call it so? To start with we can clearly say that Jesus Christ himself is our salvation. Yet, salvation is also the gospel message itself. It is the message of grace that the gospel offers us through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the message that calls us to repentance and to faith in Christ, in what he has done for us in and through his death and resurrection. The "salvation" here is his deliverance of us through his mediation for us before the holy throne of God. It is his inclusion of us in his glorious kingdom. It is in his accomplishment of restoring us unto his very likeness on that day. So it is not only a message of grace but also the very Person of the Son of God and the son of Man as well. It is also all that the Son of God and Son of Man has accomplished in us and for us for all time. As the Bible says: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9) This message of salvation itself is repeated in this letter to the Hebrews many times. This then is not merely a great salvation, not even the great salvation, but such a great salvation! It expresses the depth and width and height and glory of what the Lord Jesus has rescued us from and brought us to. Only those who have known the redeeming grace of Jesus can comprehend the author's exhilaration when he calls it "such a great salvation". To ignore it, to look back, to regret, to consider past life, to wish for something else is a blatant insult to everything that the Lord Jesus had done to bring us out of the filth of sin to the glory of his holiness.
Indeed it is a great salvation because of its nature, because of what the Lord God had saved us from! This is not just salvation from a bad situation, or from a bad dream, or from a bad marriage, or from a poor childhood, or from an alcoholic mother. This is serious! It is salvation from God's wrath; salvation from the power of sin in our lives; salvation from Satan's influence; salvation from slavery to the fear of death and so on! There is nothing more important in our lives than the "great salvation" that God has given us through Jesus Christ our Lord. How can we possibly ignore it? Yet, indifference to the gospel is a big problem today. Especially in the world, yet mostly among God's people as wel. How many people perish every day because they ignore this great salvation that God has offered them through his Son Jesus. They hear the gospel but they ignore the message. But what excuse do Christians have to ignore the message? The gospels are full of parables that warn of the dangers of ignoring the message of the gospel. And we are not talking about ignoring the fundamental call to believe the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Devout Christians believe that with all their hearts. But we are talking about what the author tells us here.
Look at verses 3b and 4. "This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." He tells us that this salvation was first announced by the Lord of glory himself. Jesus our Lord was the first to preach the gospel, the full gospel. His gospel was not only a gospel of death and resurrection. It was the gospel of his kingdom. He called us to repent of our sins and build new hopes in his kingdom. It was a gospel of repentance and faith in him. How often do we ignore that! "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) He preached a gospel of rest to us, that in our troubled hearts we should go to him for peace. How often do we do that! Or do we ignore that? Jesus said that he is the way and the truth and the Life. He told us that if we would be his disciples we must deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow him daily. Jesus told us that we cannot love both God and money, that we would end up loving one and hating the other. Do we listen carefully to him or do we ignore this teaching? Jesus taught us to love our enemies, how much more then to love one another! He taught us to forgive those who do us wrong, even seventy times seven. He taught us to be merciful, humble, gentle, generous and holy. How often do we carefully consider what he said! He taught us not to judge lest we ourselves be judged. Jesus' salvation for us did not come cheaply. He paid with his life to give us such a great salvation. We owe him our lives; we owe him our hearts; we owe him our obedience. Even if the whole world ignores this great salvation, we can't, we shouldn't. It is our legacy.
Look at verse 4 again. In those days, God testified to all that we have in our Bible not only by words but also through signs and wonders and various miracles which are all now recorded for us in the Bible. But mostly we have the testimony of the Holy Spirit poured out on every believer ever since Pentecost. Let us continue to testify to this great salvation God has given us. Let us not drift away either, but pay more careful attention to the word of God.