Lesson #4: First Warning: Don't Drift (Hebrews 2:1-4) Part 2 - (Series: Lessons on Hebrews)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

(2:3) how shall we escape if we ignore so great 2 a salvation? This salvation1, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

"Salvation" is a word with which we are familiar with. It should always be remembered that it is a metaphor which speaks of the rescuing of the people by God. It also signifies a new quality of life; the word can be translated "health" or "wholeness." It refers to the new dimensions of personal relationship that are experienced by those who come to know the God who speaks. This is why the writer asks, "How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?" Salvation implies a personal relationship with the personal God.

Where did this great salvation originate? “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord,” was afterward “confirmed to us by those who heard Him.” It is God’s salvation, devised, executed and applied by Him. It is God’s greatest work, the only work that cost Him any humiliation. It is great because of the vast multitudes that benefited by it. It is great because it saves from so terrible a curse, even the wrath of God and a lake of fire. It is great in its power to rescue men from sinful inclinations and habits. It takes the vilest and washes him clean. Then it has such sovereign power to subdue the mightiest passions of the human heart, taming man’s ferocity, and bringing into captivity every thought and imagination. And it kindles such a flame of love in the human family, extinguishing feuds, banishing old hatreds, bringing forth such forgiveness to enemies and such good-will to all. Nor is there anything else that can bring such peace on earth and such good-will to man. The very atmosphere it creates is heavenly. Nor does all creation bring such glory to God as the gospel of His Son, the salvation we celebrate.

The term "ignore" suggests a careless attitude, lack of concern, a disregard for the gift of God. Both the old and new people of God were heirs to revelation. But the demonstration that the Son, through whom the new revelation came, was far superior to the prophets, and far superior to the angels, proves that the word which He brought was of far greater consequence. The greater degree of privilege enjoyed by the new people of God entails a greater degree of responsibility and, consequently, of peril if that privilege is callously disregarded. The question, "how shall we escape?" is rhetorical and implies that no escape is possible.

Where did this great salvation originate? The message began with the Savior. Now in this age of the marvelous grace of God, with one look to Christ, with only one step, salvation is ours; but to disregard and neglect the word brought down to us in God’s Son is to harden the heart, and sin soon claims its victim. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Remember, the preacher did not direct this sermon to born again, redeemed persons; not to those who are washed in the precious blood of Christ. The admonition is to those who will hear the gospel but will not accept it or receive it. It is better to never hear the Word of God than to hear it and refuse to obey it (John 12:48). Some would not accept it because it seemed too easy; salvation by pure grace, through faith, minus works was just too easy. They preferred the Law. They simply could not accept the simplicity of the invitation of Matthew 11:28-30: “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.”

(2:4) God also testified to it by signs, wonders, and various miracles 3, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The final words of this lesson focus on the line of tradition that stands behind the message which the preacher's audience had received. That tradition began with the activity of the Lord himself, who announced the word of salvation. It was "guaranteed to us" by accredited witnesses who heard Him. The creditability of the word they proclaimed was endorsed by God through "signs and wonders and many kinds of miracles and by the distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit" (2:4). God is presented as the Confirmer who made Himself known not only through the word of preaching but through acts of power as well. The supporting evidence that the message of the gospel is the new revelation through the Son is the experience of power in the lives of those who responded to the message of faith.

The confirming tokens, which we describe as the charismatic gifts, were actually an expression of God's love for the human family. They consisted of "signs" that point to the gracious activity of God, of "wonders" that cause us to stand back in amazement, knowing that we are in the presence of God, of miracles that call forth the acknowledgment that we could not accomplish these acts through our own resources, and of "Gifts of the "Holy Spirit" given to us in accordance to God's sovereign will. All of these are evidence of God's love. The supporting testimony was grounded in the will of the God who cares for His people.

The purpose of this confirmation of the Christian message is the validation that God has spoken definitely in Jesus Christ. In the face of such evidence, unbelief and carelessness can only be regarded as the expression of an utterly incomprehensible hardness of heart.

Summing up
The third paragraph of the sermon (2:1-4) demonstrates the depth of the pastoral concern of the preacher. His fundamental assumption is this: the character of the messenger provides the test of the importance and finality of his message. The dignity of Jesus as the Son of God demonstrates that the message of salvation, which had been received by the members of the house-church through accredited witnesses and had been endorsed by God, deserves the closest attention. It demands from us the posture of responsible commitment.

What then have we learned from the first lesson of the sermon? God does not abandon His people. His word is the pledge of His continuing presence. The word announced by His Son is the word to which we must cling. We turn our backs upon its reality to our own peril.

The possession of the gospel, of the apostolic witness, of the evidence of power bestowed by God, are tokens of God’s abiding love. They demonstrate His continuing concern to become open before us and to engage us in a dialogue through which we learn that He will never abandon His people.

The preacher confronts his frightened and distraught friends with the realization that God comes before them in a vivid and loving way in the new revelation they have received through the Son. The spoken word of God is the awesome reminder that God is with His people, even when they have an impression of His felt absence.

Special Notes
1 Salvation―it has a past, present, and future.
A. Past: Regeneration - Miraculous new birth. It is what happened to Saul on the Damascus Road. It is what happened to me on a Sunday in 1952.
B. Present Sanctification - progressive growth. In salvation, God placed me in His family and as to my state, I am positionally saved, but as to my standing, I am practically being saved.
C. Future (Potential): Glorification - one day I will inherit Heaven with Christ. My salvation is at the very center of who I am and it literally will affect every area of my life. Don’t fail to receive and enjoy everything that salvation includes; we must not miss the greatness of our salvation. America is a battleground covered with human wrecks created by neglect.

2 So great―verse 3 refers to our salvation as being “so great.” This is a reminder that our salvation is unequaled and unparalleled.

3 Various miracles―manifold powers; here it refers to the miracles that witnessed to the word, and gave confirmation that it was true.

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