The Danger of Comfort and Culture
In Hebrews chapter one, we learned that Jesus is: The Heir of heaven, the Cause of creation, the Source of God's glory, the perfect Image of God, the Sustainer of the universe, the Atonement for our sins, The Owner of the supreme name, the Ruler of the eternal Kingdom.
So chapter two begins… "THEREFORE (In light of everything we've learned in chapter one) WE MUST GIVE THE MORE EARNEST HEED TO THE THINGS WE HAVE HEARD, LEST WE DRIFT AWAY. 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, which at the FIRST began to be SPOKEN BY THE LORD, and was CONFIRMED TO US BY THOSE WHO HEARD HIM, GOD ALSO BEARING WITNESS both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Hebrews 2:1-4).
This passage is the first of five warnings that we encounter in the letter to the Hebrews.
1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
I. A Fervent Focus (Heb. 2:1a)
"We must (lest we drift)"
A. For the Converted
There is a sinful tendency to take for granted this great salvation by which we have been redeemed.
For the Jew this would mean sinking back into the culture and tradition that was defined by the Law. Christians sometimes think that we understand Jewish worship because we have read the Old Testament. But for the Jews it was not just the Law it was the commentaries, the rabbinical teachings that clarified and expounded on the meaning of the Law. These Rabbinical teachings were first passed down orally but were eventually written down to make books called the Talmud. And there was no single school of thought, remember the disputes of the Pharisees and Sadducees? These represented different rabbinical philosophies. A full Talmud is like a set of encyclopedias, 20 volumes or more and it contained opinions on everything for Jewish life, and theology. For the converted Jew, turning from these traditions to focus on Jesus would be very disorienting, and returning to these traditions could be very comforting. It is not exaggeration to say that many Jews worship their genealogy (as sons of Abraham), and traditions, instead of worshiping the God who chose Abraham and gave the Law.
Gentile converts do the same thing when we neglect worship, to return to our traditions. As a kid I would take the bus to Sunday school, and then my parents would pick me up before church so we could go to all the Cowboy games. Maybe your tradition was hunting, fishing, camping, playing golf, or working out in the yard and garden on Sunday. In some parts of the country Sunday brunch is a big deal. People sleep in a little, read the Sunday paper, then go to brunch. You can see the temptation for any Christian to slip back into your traditions, neglect worship, neglect Jesus, and take your salvation for granted. Obeying God will often be contrary to your desires.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!...Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts" (Rom. 6:1&12 NKJV).
B. For the Curious
Some are not yet converted, they are checking out Jesus to see what he is all about. They are also checking us out, to see what differences they find in the life of believers. Jesus is the only Way, Truth, and Life. When the curious investigate the gospel, test the claims of Christ and respond to Him in faith, the Spirit of God opens their darkened eyes and converts their troubled souls.
The eyes of man focus on many things that do not bring lasting satisfaction. In the book of Ecclesiastes, we read how King Solomon set out to find earthly satisfaction focusing on: riches, achievement, sex, relationships, power, and even religion; yet his conclusion was, "I have SEEN all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, ALL is vanity and grasping for the wind" (Eccl. 1:14 NKJV).
Without a focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, life is shallow even for the wealthiest and most influential person in the world.
II. A Heartfelt Hold (Heb. 2:1b)
"give the more earnest heed (lest we drift)"
The phrase "give more earnest heed" is a strong warning. In Greek, the word prosechein is used and in this context it is most likely a nautical term meaning, "to hold a ship toward port" since the author also uses another nautical word pararrein ("to drift"), in the same verse. The thought of navigating on a steady course is the meaning communicated to us. What a wonderful way for the writer to picture the sense of drifting from the truth of God's Word. The sailor needs to watch a compass, a landmark, or the stars to stay on course; we just need to stay focused on Jesus.
In 1 Timothy 1:18-20 the apostle Paul advised young Timothy about two (believers) in the church who had "suffered shipwreck" spiritually because they had drifted away into the rocks and reefs of doctrinal error. Jesus warned His disciples that in the "last days" false teachers would flourish, and false prophets and "christs" would abound (Matt. 24:23-26).
We have been given the inspired, inherent Word of God to keep us on track. We "HOLD FAST the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful" (Heb. 10:23 NKJV).
B. For the Curious
Securing your soul to anything but the Gospel of Jesus Christ, results in a shipwrecked life. Many harbors appear safe, many shores seem welcoming, but disaster lies just below the surface. In Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (NKJV).
It is not enough to intellectually acknowledge Christ as a "good teacher" or "good man" and possibly more. Even the Muslims call him a prophet. Everyone must trust the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior. Some folks miss heaven by 18 inches. They profess Jesus with their head, but they do not possess Jesus in their heart.
III. A Riveted Reverence (Heb. 2:1c)
"to the things we have heard, lest we DRIFT away"
A. For the Converted
It bothers me when Christians are irreverent about the things of God. I fear, in this age of grace, that we've forgotten just how HOLY and AWESOME God is.
Throughout his letter to the Hebrews the author regularly references God's judgment on Israel's complacent disobedience. More will be said of this later, but we must remember that while God is indeed loving and gracious, He is also holy and just and not to be taken lightly.
In Phil. 2:12, Paul admonished us to, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"; meaning that we are to actively pursue obedience in the work of our own sanctification. Seeking after Jesus is a lifetime pursuit. We were once "sinners in the hands of an angry God" as Jonathan Edwards once preached (sin agers God). We were enemies of God (Rom. 5:10), by birth and by choice, storing up God's wrath against ourselves for the "Day of judgment" (Rom. 1:18). But now we have been justified by the precious blood of Jesus Christ! We must never take this for granted!
This great salvation we so freely enjoy was bought with a great price. Christ temporarily gave up His glory, sacrificed His Person, and put aside His power for OUR SINS; to save us from the wrath and judgment of Almighty God! This should humble every believer and lead us to a riveted reverence.
B. For the Curious
Before man can reverence God, he must first receive Him. John writes in His gospel, "He [Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe on His Name" (John 1:10-12 NKJV).
Reverence for God cannot be expected from those who have not received Him. In 1 Cor. 2:14 Paul writes, "But the natural man does not receive the things of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them for they are spiritually discerned" (NKJV). Again he says in 1 Cor. 1:18, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (NKJV).
Those who are lost need more than a moral lifestyle, they must be born again.
2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 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
IV. A Just Judgment (Heb. 2:2c-3a)
"a just reward… how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation"
The author adds weight to his warning by reminding the reader in verses 2&3 that if God "rewarded" disobedience and neglect under the shadow of the law then, how much more will His swift and sure judgment be in the Light of the Lord now.
A. For the Converted
It is one thing to take lightly or neglect the blood of sheep and goats (Old Testament sacrifice for sin), it is quite another to take lightly or neglect the blood of Jesus Christ!
It is one thing to forget about the Ten Commandments and the more than 366 rules, regulations, requirements and restrictions that were added to them. It is quite another to forget to simply Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus gave us a hint about the weight of just judgment that awaits the casual Christian in Matthew 12:36, "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give an account of it in the Day of Judgment" (NKJV).
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:21&22 Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (NNKJV). He then says in Matthew 5:27&28, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (NKJV).
You see the Law contrast the Holiness of God to the sinfulness of man. Its intent was to drive man back to God for forgiveness. The Day of Atonement reflects this idea perfectly. Yet through the rabbinical traditions, some got the idea that they could keep all the Law, and they created this attitude of self-righteousness that Jesus condemned. And some still struggle with "how do we move from the Law to Grace"? Some churches have this hyper-dispensationalism to where they won't even read the Old Testament; but that is so wrong. Galatians 3: 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. The old saying was "you can't get people saved, until you first get them lost". That's what the Law does; compares God's holiness to my sinfulness; and makes it obvious I can't be good enough, or religious enough, to earn God's favor. I need a redeemer!
1 John 1:9 promises, "If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just for forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Anything you cover from God will one day be uncovered by Him; but anything you uncover to God will be covered by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
B. For the Curious
A popular argument against faith in God is this, "How could a loving God send so many good people to an eternal hell?" There is a fatal flaw in that statement. God is indeed loving and hell is definitely eternal, but people are NOT GOOD!
The Bible tells us plainly that, "There is none righteous, no not one" (Romans 3:10), and "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), and that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23a).
The flaw is the idea that man can be good enough, that somehow I can balance the bad with enough good to be acceptable to God. If I killed a member of your family and was put on trial, but on the way to court I see a car plunge into the lake, so I pull over, dive in and save two people. Can I go to court, and say "I killed one but I saved two" and be innocent of the murder? Of course not; I am still guilty of the crime.
V. A Ratified Revelation
4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
A. How It Was Revealed (v.3b)
Jesus Himself was THE MESSAGE. His birth, life, teaching, miracles, death, and glorious resurrection was God's Word to man! "God SO LOVED the world that He gave us His only Son!"
All Old Testament teaching was revitalized by Jesus, and all New Testament truth is revealed in Jesus. He clothed the truth in flesh and blood and lived it out every day before the watching world.
B. How it Was Ratified (v.4)
The Message to man that was revealed in Christ Jesus was ratified in two unique ways.
1. By the truthful witness of the disciples (v. 3c)
For three-and-a-half years these men walked and talked with Jesus, listened to His teachings, learned from His example, and were won by His "infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3). Peter writes, "We have not followed cunningly devised fables" (2 Peter 1:16 KJV). John also says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life – the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was the Father and was manifested to us" (I John 1:1-2 NKJV). The disciples were first-hand witnesses of the glory of God as revealed in Christ.
2. The witness of God (v.4)
"God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will".
The signs and wonders were to convince the Jew, for "the Jews require a sign" (1 Cor. 1:22). The "various miracles" were to convince the Gentiles. And the "gifts of the Holy Spirit" were to confirm the message to the Christian.
The author of Hebrews demonstrates that this Message of salvation that was preached first by Christ, then by His disciples, was confirmed by God Himself with Supernatural signs and wonders. Because of who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done, and because of the truth that Jesus is, there is no escape for those who neglect salvation through Him.
Jesus Himself said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day (of judgment) come on you unexpectedly" (Luke 21:33&34).
Focus on Jesus as the source and sustainer of all things from creation, to resurrection.