Grace For The Journey
It is about Jesus Christ
Our need to fix
Our eyes upon Him,
Look to Him,
And love Him
As the most
In all the universe!
Jesus is the One who saves us, comforts us, strengthens us, and sustains us. Through Jesus Christ families cope and find hope and strength.
This letter is a call
To stay faithful to Christ,
Keep our eyes
Focused on Christ,
We will be in Hebrews chapter 2 this morning. We have studied chapter 1 and were blessed by these opening verses in chapter 1 that the One True God, “who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoke to us by His Son.” We talked about what that means “In these last days,” from the point of the writer of Hebrews and on into eternity. Jesus Christ is the fullest and final revelation from God. This does not mean that God no longer communicates to us after the coming of Christ, that He no longer speaks, but rather that all communication from God finds expression in Jesus Christ as the fullest and final, most decisive revelation of Himself to creation. He is THE Word of God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. There is no other way God will make Himself known to us than through Christ. That is the idea. This does not mean He does not speak to us still today, but that He has made Himself known to us most fully and finally in the Son. As in Colossians 2:9, “In Him dwells all the fullness of God in bodily form.”
Then the writer tells us more about the eternal Son of God, about His person and His work. He is “the brightness of the Father’s glory” and “the express image of His person” or “the exact imprint of His nature.” He is God! And the Son “by Himself purged our sins and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High,” having a position and a name so much better than the angels. Jesus Christ better, greater, and more superior than the prophets, more superior than the angels. That is chapter 1 in a nutshell.
The first word of chapter 2 is “Therefore,” a word that indicates the author does not intend a break between chapters 1 and 2 but carries the idea of continuity. The content of chapter 1 flows into the content of chapter 2. “Therefore,” that is, “in light of all this doctrinal teaching in chapter 1, now do this.” Something to know – chapter 1; now something to do – chapter 2.
A reminder that every doctrine has a duty.
All the theology of chapter 1 finds
Expression in actions now called for
In the beginning of chapter 2.
Those who have had the privilege of going to the beach in sunny Florida, South Carolina, or the gulf shores – oh, to be there right now – you know something of what it means to be carried by the ocean’s current. You leave your chair, towel, and beach stuff on the shore and you go out into the water to splash around, throw a ball, body surf, etc. After some time you look back to the shore where you had left your towel, chair, and beach stuff and it seems you are a quarter mile away down the coastline! What happened? You thought you were staying in one place. How did you get down here? How did you drift? You drifted because you were not really paying attention to where you were. Your eyes were elsewhere, focused on other things. You were not paying attention and so you drifted.
The writer of Hebrews warns of this very thing in the spiritual realm. He says in verse 1, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed,” or “all the more careful attention,” to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” This passage is about preventing spiritual drift, drifting away from Jesus.
Drifting away by not giving “the most earnest heed to the things we have heard,” not paying closer attention to the things we have heard, listening carefully, and living by the Word of God and the Gospel of God, the living Word, Jesus Christ. Drifting away by neglecting what the writer describes in verse 3 as “so great a salvation.”
I have a simple descriptive outline to guide us through these four verses. The first main point . . .
I. The Neglect of our Great Salvation – Verses 1-3a.
The writer warns us to not neglect this great salvation that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the One who is greater than the prophets and greater than the angels. This is the first of many warnings in Hebrews. There are a couple of important truth brought out here . . . First . . .
A) Neglecting God’s Word Leads To Drifting – Verse 1.
Verse 1 says, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” Remember that chapter 1 is about the superiority of Jesus over the prophets and over the angels. Since He is superior to the angels, well then we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard about Christ and from Christ because the message of the gospel – the message of salvation in Christ – is a message far and away more superior to any other message.
In chapter 2 the first thing is a command or a duty – something we must do. And the connection with chapter 1 is very important. Chapter 2 begins, “Therefore” (For this reason). In other words. chapter 2 begins by telling us that chapter 1 is the reason for this duty. Because God has spoken by his Son in these last days, and because He is the Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, and Redeemer of the world – “Therefore (“For this reason . . .”) “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.” The first command in this book is that we give heed to the Word of God in his Son. We could boil down the two chapters so far to this: In these last days God has spoken to us by a Son . . . For this reason we must pay closer attention to this Word that he has spoken. In other words, God has spoken by his Son, so listen, listen very carefully.
Now here is a command that we need desperately to hear in our day. What do you listen to? Whom do you listen to? God has spoken through His Son, do you listen to what the Word of God says about Him? How does your listening to the Word compare to your listening to other things? When we want to listen to someone, we make provisions for listening. If we want to listen to a musical group, we make sure that we have a tape player in the car. If we want to listen to the news, we make sure there is a radio in the kitchen or that we have a TV and that we have it turned on at the right time. If we want to listen to a missionary who is in a critical situation overseas, we make arrangements to take the time to hear it.
On and on it goes. We all want to listen to something. And we make plans for our listening and we make sure we are not distracted. How does all this compare to our listening to God’s Word to us in His Son? Are you listening to that? Are you making time and provisions for that?
What Hebrews chapter 2 verse 1 is saying here is that in the Christian life we must go on listening to God’s Word about Jesus. We must do this with very close attention. We cannot treat this casually. We cannot act as if we already know all we need to know, or that we have nothing to gain from listening to God’s Word. There is an urgency here in this verse. Literally, it says, “It is exceedingly necessary that we give heed to what we have heard.” It is not just an option that you can do if you are especially spiritual, or have a crisis in front of you, or special occasion to give more focus to God’s Word. This is a word to all Christians: it is “exceedingly necessary to give heed” to the Word of God.
This is not an isolated command in the book of Hebrews. This concern is repeated several time through out the letter. For example, Hebrews 3:1 says, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus.” That is the point of Hebrews 2:1 –Listen to Him . . . Consider Him . . . Focus on Him . . . Stay close to Him . . . Keep him in your thoughts. Learn more and more about Him every day – learn more about what He is like, what He says, and the way He sees the world. In Hebrews 12:1-2 the author says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus.” There it is again: “Looking unto Jesus.” Consider Jesus . . . Listen to Jesus!
One of the great burdens of this book is
That we the readers will see how serious
It is to listen to the Word of God,
Consider Jesus, and fix our eyes on Jesus.
This is the first commandment in the Book. It is not a difficult command: Listen! Consider! Look! These are not hard things to do – unless we don’t want to do them. The first command of this book is not “look to Jesus,” but “listen and learn of Jesus.” He is not commanding us to work for Him, but to seek Him and surrender to Him. All our spiritual life-changes come from that (2 Corinthians 3:18).
If we fail to give earnest heed or fail to pay attention to the things we have heard, if we fail to go on listening to the Word, the living Word made flesh, about whom we read in the written Word, if we fail to listen carefully – we will drift away; we will drift away from Jesus.
The second important truth is . . .
B) Neglecting God’s Word Leads To Destruction – Verses 2-3a.
A second reason for paying close attention to what we have heard of God’s Word through His Son is, if we do not do this, we will drift into destruction. Consider this word “drifting.” It means “float by.” It is what a piece of bark, a leaf, a dead fish does in the river – it floats by the boat that is being rowed upstream. It takes no life and no motion to float by. One need only do nothing, and you will float by. Hebrews says that if we do not vigilantly pay closer attention to the Word of God, we will float by – we will drift away from God’s Word. We all know people that this has happened to. Some are reading this blog. There is no urgency . . . There is no vigilance . . . you are not focused, listening, considering, or fixing the eyes on Jesus. And the result has not been a standing still, but a drifting away.
That is the point here: there is no standing still. Someone has said that “the life of this world is not a lake. It is a river.” And it is flowing downward to destruction. If you do not listen earnestly to His Word, consider Him daily, and fix your eyes on Him hourly, then you will not stand still; you will go backward. You will float by.
Drifting is a deadly thing in the Christian life. And the remedy to it, according to verse 1 is, “Pay close attention to what you have heard.” That is, consider what God is saying in his Son Jesus. fix your eyes on what God is saying and doing in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This is not hard stroke to learn . . . as we learn to do it we can swim against the stream of sin and indifference.
The only thing that keeps us from swimming like this is our sinful desire to float with other interests. But let us not complain that God has given us a hard job. Listen, consider, fix the eyes – these are not be what one would call a hard job description. It is not a job description – It is a solemn invitation to be satisfied in Jesus so that we do not get lured downstream by deceitful desires.
Psalm 90:14 is a powerful truth that relates to this. In that verse the psalmist declares, “O satisfy us early with your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” That is our “job” as Christians: being satisfied early with God’s love, mercy, and grace spoken to us in His Word about the Son of God, so that we may rejoice and be glad throughout all our life and be free from the deceitfulness of downriver desires.
Verses 2 and 3a tell us why this is so dangerous, “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”
Failing to pay close attention to God’s Word and the drifting away that results is described in verse 3 as “neglecting so great a salvation.” And this is extremely dangerous. How dangerous? So dangerous that if we go on in the way of neglecting this great salvation – not listening to Jesus day by day, and not considering Jesus, and not fixing our eyes on Jesus – the result will be that we will not escape. That is, we will not escape the judgment of God (Hebrews 12:25; 1 Thessalonians 5:3). We will be lost. We will not inherit eternal life. We will perish in hell.
Drifting is infinitely dangerous. Oh, that I could waken you all to be joyfully vigilant in living the Christian life of looking to Jesus, and considering Jesus, and listening to Jesus. If we neglect this great salvation, and drift into the love of other things, then we will not escape. We will perish. The mark of the true child of God is that that he does not drift for long. If you are drifting this morning, one of the signs of hope that you are born again is that you feel convicted for this – a rising desire in your heart to turn your eyes on Jesus and consider Him and listen to Him in the days and months and years to come. One of the signs that you may not be born again is that you hear what I am saying and feel no desire to guard against drifting.
The argument given in verse 2 for why we will not escape if we drift and neglect our great salvation is that the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment. In other words, in the Old Testament God did not yet speak directly through His Son on the earth. He spoke through intermediary messengers. Hebrews says angels were involved in the revelation of God’s Word. Nevertheless, the firmness of this mediated Word was so great that every neglect and rejection of it was punishable with a just recompense.
Now, something much greater has come: God has spoken to us not through angels, but unmediated through a Son. God Himself stood forth from heaven in Jesus and spoke a great salvation with His lips, His life, and His death. The writer says, if we neglect this great word, we are much more guilty than the Old Testament people who disobeyed the Word of God given through angels, and therefore we will not escape.
As always in the Bible, God graciously is giving us in this Book positive and negative incentives to embrace our great salvation and listen to the great Savior. Negatively, He says that we will perish if we drift away from the word of God and neglect our great salvation. Positively, He says that this Word is such that how could anyone not want to listen, linger around, and live in this Word — hearing from the Creator of all things, the Upholder of all things, the Heir of all things, and the Ruler of all things from the right hand of Majesty, and the Purifier of all our sins, if we will trust Him? How could we not want to pay attention to this Word and consider Him and fix our eyes on him!
What the writer does next is to argue from the lesser to the greater. What he is saying, in essence, is that if the message in the Old Testament, namely the Law – if the Law was such that when you neglected it or sinned against it, you received just punishment, how much more will your neglecting the message of the New Testament, the Gospel, how much more will your neglect lead to destruction – given that it is so much better?
Verse 2 declares, “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.” What is the word spoken through angels? Context indicates that the writer is talking about the Law – namely the Mosaic Law as handed down by God to Moses on Mount Sinai – this is the word, the law is “the word spoken” and it was spoken “through angels.”
“The word spoken through angels,” describes the Mosaic Law, which was “received” … “by the direction of angels” (Acts 7:53). The idea is that the law was delivered in some way to Moses by the hands of angels. The idea that angels had a role in bringing the Law to Moses is found in Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:53, and in Galatians 3:19. Josephus also repeated this idea in his ancient history (Antiquities, 15.53).
“Proved steadfast,” carries the idea of the Mosaic Law being was “consistent” and “strict” in the sense that every transgression and disobedience received a just sentence. It also needs to be taken seriously.
That may be a new teaching for some. You may wish to study that further. A couple of good references to get you started are: Acts 7:53 where Stephen is preaching to the unbelieving Jews and says, “You who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it” and Galatians 3:19. “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.”
More to the point, the writer here is arguing that if this law that was handed down through the agency of angels proved steadfast and sure so that everyone who transgressed against it, or disobeyed it, or broke it received a punishment – how much more this message handed down by the Lord Himself; who is “much better than the angels,” how much more will the neglecting of His message result in even greater condemnation?
And the words the writer uses are “how shall we escape.” Verse 3 says, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. The answer is, we will not escape. Just as no one can violate God’s law with impunity, without giving an account, without receiving a just punishment – so no one who ignores the Gospel will escape the judgment to come.
Now again, this is a very real warning. The writer imagines there are some to whom he is writing who may well be on the path of destruction by drifting from the Lord. The greatness of the salvation increases the greatness of the destruction. Only those who persevere in their faith prove to be children of God. If we drift, we drift to our peril. Like people on a raft in a river floating merrily downstream, totally unaware, and oblivious to the impending waterfall that lies just a few yards beyond them, that will plunge them to destruction.
Neglecting God’s Word, God’s message, leads to drifting and leads to destruction. The neglect of our great salvation. The second point which describes . . .
II. The Nature of our Great Salvation – Verses 3b-4.
How shall we escape …” If we must take the word which came by angels seriously, then we must take the word that came by the Son of God even more seriously. The Son is proven to be greater than the angels, so His message should be regarded as greater. A greater word brought by a greater Person having greater promises will bring a greater condemnation if it is neglected.
“If we neglect so …” The ancient Greek word translated “neglect” is also used in Matthew 22:5 of those who disregarded the invitation to the marriage supper (“they made light of it”). It means to have the “opportunity,” but to “ignore” or to “disregard” the opportunity.
This was a word to believers,
Not to those outside the faith.
The danger described is
Not rejecting salvation,
But the danger is
The Book of Hebrews was written not primarily as an evangelistic tract, but as an encouragement and warning to discouraged Christians. It was written to those who neglected an abiding walk with Jesus.
“So great a salvation,” When we consider something “great,” we will naturally pay attention to it and not “neglect” it. If we do not consider something great. we leave it to convenience rather than to commitment. The phrase, “so great salvation,” is a striking reminder of what God has provided in Christ. The word “so” is similar to the instance in the familiar passage, “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), and it expresses an unfathomable depth. Therefore, if we neglect something, we probably do not consider it great. Yet our salvation is great, because:
- We are saved by a great Savior.
- We are saved at a great cost.
- We are saved from a great penalty.
A reason many neglect their salvation is because they never see it as salvation. They see it merely as receiving something, not as being rescued from something.
“Spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed,” This word was spoken by Jesus and confirmed by eyewitnesses (those who heard Him). Then it was confirmed with “signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit” given by God. i. In saying “and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,” the writer shows that he was not a “first generation” Christian. He heard the message second-hand through the apostles and eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry.
God does confirm His word with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. But He does it all “according to His own will,” not on the command of man.
Jesus said miraculous signs would follow those who believe (Mark 16:17). If there is no element of the miraculous, one may question whether there is true belief in Jesus or if the word of God is truly being preached. The preacher must give God something to confirm. On the other hand, the Spirit brings such miracles and gifts “according ot His will.” Miracles cannot be “worked up” and “brought about” by human effort or emotion. Much damage is done by those who do not think enough miracles are happening, and want to “prime the pump” with the enthusiasm of the flesh.
It is hard to say which is worse – the denial of miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or the counterfeit of them. Either error is dangerous.
The second part of verse 3 through verse 4 describes something of the nature of our great salvation in terms of how it came to us. This great salvation is . . .
I. Announced By Jesus Himself – Verse 3b.
Verse 3b says, “. . . which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord.” This message came not from a prophet nor through the agency of angels, but someone so much better and greater, this saving message was “spoken by the Lord,” announced by Jesus Himself. Jesus Christ spoke of salvation during His earthly ministry (Matthew 4:17; 19:28; Luke 12:31-32; 22:29-30).
II. Attested by Human Eyewitnesses – Verse 3c.
The disciples were those who heard Him. They gave first-hand human testimony, eyewitness accounts who attested to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They did not receive the message from anyone else. They heard Him themselves.
Incidentally, this verse is one of the reasons why scholars do not believe Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews, because Paul would never say that he heard the message from someone else. Remember how he opened the letter to the Galatians? Galatians 1:11-12: “… the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Direct revelation from Jesus to Paul.
The apostles taught the same truth and by doing so confirmed His word. This is the gospel, in its widest meaning. By speaking of “the hearers” all interest is concentrated on the message, not the office, of those who had brought the word of redemption to the community. 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 (Acts 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6, 13; 14:3; 15:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12). The word “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” declare 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.
It is too much to read into this verse that the writer and his readers belonged to a second generation of Christians, Hebrews 5:12 shows that they were not new converts. The original readers seem to have been people who had heard the apostles” preaching and had observed the miracles that accompanied that preaching.
This is the first of five warnings in Hebrews (cf. Hebrews 3:1-4:16; Hebrews 5:11-6:20; Hebrews 10:19-39; and Hebrews 12:1-29). It is the shortest and mildest one. These five warnings deal with . . .
1) Drifting from the Gospel,
2) Disbelieving the Gospel,
3) Dullness toward the gospel,
4) Despising the gospel,
5) Defying the gospel.
The warning of these verses is linked by the phrase “for this reason” with the entire argument of Hebrews 1. Because of the Son’s superiority to angels (verses 1-5), the angels, worship of and service to Him at His coming (verses 6-7), His future rule and sharing of joy with His companions (verses 8-9), and His future subjugation of His enemies (verses), the readers would do well to heed these eschatological teachings. Neglect of this eschatological salvation (cf. Hebrews 1:4, 2:3, 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 1:5. Hebrews 2:5 clarifies that the “salvation” under discussion as eschatological.
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 of faith, and this is one of the essential marks of the true, growing, and fruitful Christian life (Hebrews 3:14; 4:2, 12-13; 6:1, 19; 10:26; 12:27-28; 13:8).” The doctrines the epistle presents, the warnings it delivers, and the exhortations it gives all are intended to prevent regression and to encourage continuous development toward spiritual maturity.
Authenticated by God’s Power – Verse 4.
Verse 4 says, “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.”
God authenticated the Gospel message with signs, wonders, and miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. The miracles did not make Jesus Lord. They merely served to confirm His message, to bring greater glory to Him. Jesus would still have been the Son incarnate if He never performed a single miracle. In fact, there were times He refused to perform miracles when people asked Him to do them! He is God. He does as He pleases. And God authenticated the message of the Gospel through spiritual gifts, gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed among the children of God. God distributes these spiritual gifts not according to man’s wants or abilities, but “according to His own will.”
How do we apply the main teaching of this passage? Let me share some biblical truths that will help us do that.
How to Keep from Drifting…
Perhaps you could imagine a horrific scenario: You have committed a most egregious sin and brought shame upon yourself, your family, your church family, and most importantly, you have brought shame upon the name of Christ. Imagine, then, that you could go back in time and do something to prevent this terrible spiritual drift. What would you do? Well, you would apply these questions to yourself.
Three Questions To Ask Myself:
1. Since God Sanctifies Us Through His Word (John 17:17), Am I Daily Listening
To His Word And Reading His Word?
Verse 1 states, “Therefore we must give the most earnest heed, or pay the most careful attention to, the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”
- Am I giving my most attention to that which I have heard by getting into the Bible and opening my mind and heart to it every day? If I don’t, I will drift.
- Am I daily listening to God’s Word, reading each morning from the Bible, or some other time of the day, reading the Word, seeing Jesus in the Word, hearing Him?
- Am I listening to the gospel message through music, through prayer, through worship? Am I daily listening to Him? Second question:
2. If Not, What Is Keeping Me From Hearing Him?
What are the things I have been giving my heart to and my ears to instead of giving my heart and eyes to Jesus? What is pulling my gaze and focus off of Christ? This answer will be largely determined by how you spent your time last week on the TV, internet, social media, entertainment, and so on. Those things are not bad in and of themselves, but they become bad when we are listening to them more than listening to Him.
Thirdly and finally . . .
3. What Do I Need To Do To Change This?
What steps will I take this week to get into the Bile and put myself in a position to listen to Jesus?
There is very real danger here. Drifting is not always gradual. Drifting can happen quickly. The reason texting while driving is prohibited is because in just a second you can begin to drift without even realizing it. You have got your eyes on the wrong thing. Spiritual drifting is even more dangerous. Spiritual drifting happens when we take our eyes off Jesus. This is one of the most important benefits of reading the Word, memorizing Scripture, attending worship, going to Sunday school, and sharing the gospel – they help in preventing spiritual drift.
See the point of this?! It is not legalism . . . It is not, “If you want to be a good Christian, then read your Bible.” It is better put this way, “If you are a Christian who wants to keep from drifting, read your Bible.”
If you are a Christian, only one of two things will be true of you today . . .
1) You are either moving closer to Jesus
Or . . .
2) You are drifting away from Him.
There is no neutral position. And your actions are likely causing others to do the same. A dad who moves closer to Jesus tends to bring his family closer to Jesus. A dad who drifts tends to cause others in his family to drift downstream with him. Turn to Jesus. Commit to Him. Repent from your sin and turn to Him. Listen to His Word. Be captivated by Christ!
If you are not a Christian only one thing can be true for you . . . You are separated from Jesus and drifting further away from Him with each passing day. Turn back while there is time. Open your heart and listen to Him! The Bible says in Hebrews 3:15, “Today if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart.” Turn to Him and be saved.
Whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, in either case, the answer is the same: Turn your eyes upon Jesus and be captivated by Christ.
Pray . . . “Dear Lord, keep us from drifting this today. Holy Spirit help us see Jesus for who He is; cause us to willingly fix our gaze upon Him, that we may love Him more than anyone or anything. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus…”
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”