The epistle to the Hebrews is one of great importance as it is filled with very important warnings for one to heed. The warnings in this epistle include the first which we are going to be studying in this study: neglecting salvation and drifting away from God. The other warnings which we are also going to be taking a look over the next few weeks include: hardening one’s heart; being dull of hearing; departing from the word; living in sin willfully; falling short of the grace of God.
Before we get going in this study, I do want to point out that this epistle was written to Jews, especially to those of the community who had not believed in Christ. Though the author of this epistle is not truly known, many, including myself, credit this epistle to Paul. There are also some context clues that hint at Paul writing this epistle, for example, the writer was “in chains” – under arrest (Heb. 10:34) – which is a similar message that Paul shared with the Philippians (Phil. 1:12-14). Not only that, but the letter was written from Italy (Heb. 13:24) which is where Paul was delivered while under arrest (Acts 27:1).
I point out the authorship of this epistle because as we study this epistle, we are going to come across quite a few “we’s” and “us” and that is because the author shared in being a Jew. With this in mind, let us understand that while this epistle, and its warnings, were directed to Jewish non-Christians, they also serve as warnings for those who profess to be of faith in Christ today but don’t live in obedience (I will share more on this though in a moment).
Be Earnest to Heed the Word
So, let’s take look at the scripture of our study this week. In Hebrews 2:1, the writer stated, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” Again, I want to point out that the writer is saying “we” in the sense of also belonging to the Jews. The writer clearly points out that the Jews had heard something that they needed to heed.
So, what was it that the Jews had heard? If we look back at Hebrews 1, we will see that the writer spoke about how God, at various times and in various ways, spoke (Heb. 1:1). The writer mentions how God first spoke to their fathers through prophets, and then had spoken to them by His Son (Heb. 1:2). So, the writer was telling the Jews to earnestly heed – be attentive to – God’s message.
We have to understand that the writer was writing this epistle to a community that was made up of different sections when it came to the word of God. There were Jews that heard the gospel and received its message while other Jews had never heard the gospel and would be hearing it for the first time. You and I have to remember that the early church was made up of believers that were both Jews and Gentiles.
On the other hand, there were Jews who had heard the gospel, but chose to move differently. For example, some Jews heard the gospel, received the gospel, but could not let go of the traditions of the old ways. Peter was once in this group until his vision on the rooftop in Joppa began to change his mindset. Some others that had received the gospel included some Pharisees that argued that Gentile believers should be made to keep their traditions of old (Acts 15:5-21).
Lastly, there were those in the Jewish community that heard the gospel but did not truly heed the message of Christ. I liken those that were within this group of the community to the professed believer of today. You see, there is a drastic difference between the sincere believer and the professed believer— Do you know the difference? Well, the difference boils down to one’s commitment.
The professed believer is one that has had the gospel of God, maybe even believes in the word, but does not commit themselves to living by the gospel. The sincere believer heard the word, received the word, and committed themselves to living by the gospel. There are going to be many that will have heard the gospel, know of Christ, but won’t make it to heaven because they chose not to live in the rebuke and call of repentance of God.
You see, the word of God calls on one to make a choice— you have to react. Some will choose to live by heeding the rebuke of God and the call of repentance that came from Christ. Others, as the writer states, will drift away in their response to the gospel because they made the choice not to heed the gospel and commit themselves to live by the gospel.
Christ exalted above angels
Now, from that opening verse, we begin to make our way to a very important question that takes us deeper into the first great warning in this epistle.
Before we dive into the key verse of this study, let’s take a look at Hebrews 2:2 with the writer mentioning God’s word being carried out through the angels. The writer stated, “[God’s word] spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.” Steadfast: to be firmly fixed in place; immovable and not subject to change.
The reason why the writer brings up the angels, God’s heavenly ministers (messengers) is because the Jews held the angels in very high regard and honored them. From the very first chapter and throughout the rest of the epistle, the writer of this epistle was trying to get the Jews to understand that they should also honor Christ rather than disregard Him The notion from the mentioning of the angels is this: Christ is better than the traditions and thoughts of old that many of the Jews hung on to.
So, for example, in Hebrews 1:3-4, you will see the writer plainly state that Christ’s work of purging our sins and sitting at the right hand of the Majesty showed that He had become so much better than the angels. The writer then asked in Hebrews 1:13, “to which of the angels has He (God) ever said: ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool?”
So, if the Jews held the word of God spoken through angels so highly, then they should certainly regard His Son’s word more highly since He (Christ) is exalted above the angels by God. The problem, however, points back to what’s been established: many within the community of the Jews were more committed to the ways of old or committed nothing at all. The word of God, we should understand, demands a response; however one responds to the word will come a just reward from God.
Neglecting Salvation From God
To be very clear about this, there are two potential rewards that will come from God as is mentioned in Hebrews 2:2. Through the angels, “every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.” Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind when two angels came to Sodom to announce God’s judgment against the city; both were destroyed (Gen. 19:1-29). Again, God’s word is steadfast was delivered by heavenly beings (angels) or by man (through prophets, apostles, and ministers).
If God’s word spoken through others prove to be steadfast, what does it mean when delivers His word in person? You would have to think that if God personally delivers His message, then it most definitely will prove to be steadfast, right? This thought led the writer to ask a question: “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?”
Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed because of its wickedness; it was the just reward for those cities in God’s eyes. The just reward for the sinner is to be cast away from the presence of God for eternity (Rev. 20:11-15). Is there a way to escape hell? Yes, there is – one must have faith in the only begotten Son. However, if one does not have faith and and neglects salvation (disregards Christ) is there still salvation for them? What do you think, is it possible to escape God’s just reward for neglecting salvation?
Without God, there is no other way for one to become holy and righteous. You see, it is not possible to escape the just reward of neglecting salvation from the Lord as God would be going back on His promise, and Himself, if He did not cast away the sinner! The one thing the Lord cannot do is not be faithful! Being faithful, you should understand, is God’s nature.
How one goes about neglecting salvation
Some will say that there is no such thing as neglecting salvation since God and salvation aren’t “real”. In fact, such a statement would be the very act of neglecting salvation. To neglect: to give little attention or respect to; to leave undone or unattended to especially through carelessness; to disregard.
When one goes about neglecting salvation, the writer is making it clear that they have heard the gospel but chose to give it little attention or respect; they disregarded salvation. Again, I want to point out that the question of neglecting salvation was not and cannot be directed to those who are of sincere faith. Truthfully, some of us that walk by faith may be negligent in our prayer life, our studying of the word, and even our worship but still do our best to walk by faith.
So, the message of neglecting salvation can only be directed to those who have heard the gospel but chose to not to respond. To be clear, the gospel calls on all people to turn away from wickedness and follow the way of Christ. Again, consider that the writer in the very first chapter, and we will see throughout this epistle, constantly directed the reader’s attention to Christ as the writer was presenting Christ to the people!
So, when one hears the word of God but chooses not to to turn away from wickedness, we should understand that they aren’t disregarding the messenger. I find that this is one of the bigger issues when it comes to neglecting salvation: disregarding the messenger.
In the Old Testament days, when he led the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, Moses constantly faced the anger of the people; they blamed him when they were without water to drink or food to eat, as they believed Moses led the people into the wilderness to die. The problem, however, was that Moses was God’s messenger, a prophet, to the people. While they may have had disregard for Moses at times, they also had a disregard for the Lord which was often revealed through the people’s actions.
In his first letter to those of the church in Corinth, Paul spoke against those that spoke to the people about saying they are “of Paul” or “of Apollos” (1 Cor. 3:1-7). The people were doing what many do today in that they wouldn’t listen to the word unless a certain preacher was preaching. It certainly makes sense to discern whether or not someone is teaching or preaching sound doctrine but to refuse to heed sound doctrine because of who may be sharing it can put one into dangerous waters.
I tell you, it was truly tragic for those who could hear Christ teach and preach and those chose to disregard Him. It was truly tragic for those that could hear Paul teach and preach but still choose to neglect salvation. It is also truly a tragedy to as well because the gospel is so easily accessible and being preached around the world only for many to continue neglecting salvation.
The Just Reward of Neglecting Salvation
What is the just reward of neglecting salvation? Well, it’s certainly not inheriting the heavenly kingdom. No, those that neglect salvation will be cast away from God for eternity. Who is it that chooses to neglect so great a gift as salvation but a fool? This is a question that often arises in scripture. In proverbs, we often read about the fool being one that does not seek wise counsel as they despise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7).
Drifting into the just reward of neglecting salvation
The most frightening part about the warning of neglecting salvation is the person the writer is warning in Hebrews 2:1. I want to be very clear about this point: the writer was not warning the convicted sinner. You see, the convicted sinner doesn’t care one way or the other about heaven as they are fully committed to standing against the gospel.
For example, when we think of hell, we often think of those like Satan that belong in hell, don’t we? Satan, we know, is the great adversary of God, God’s children, and all that is holy and righteous— he belongs in hell. As John wrote in his first epistle, those that actively do not confess that Christ came in the flesh and are of the spirit of the Antichrist also belong in hell (1 John 4:3).
The most sad part about hell will be that hell is going to be filled with those that weren’t so actively against Christ. Hell is going to be filled with those that simply drifted into the just reward of eternal condemnation because they neglected salvation by having very little care. To drift: to become driven or carried along (as by a current of water, wind, or air); to move or float smoothly and effortlessly.
Personally, while I am not perfect and still give into temptation, I live my life in a manner to fight to stay away from eternal condemnation— I don’t want to go to hell! So, in other words, I care about my eternal life. Now, I hope and imagine that many of you who go over this study will feel the same way. So, to be clear, this warning is most definitely for those that are adrift spiritually.
Stop drifting away from salvation
Why do I share this study with all of you? I share this study for the very same reason, and will soon preach on this thought as well in the coming months. We are living in a world where many are essentially adrift at sea, spiritually speaking; nobody, not even the world’s greatest navy, can find and help them. There is only one that can both find and help those that are spiritually adrift at sea.
To you who are drifting away today, the Lord says through the Spirit, “[you] must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard.” What is it that we have heard? Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness (John 12:44-46).”
While Jesus did not condemn the world in His first coming, the Lord has promised to give His judgment on sin. As the writer said in Hebrews 2:2, if the angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, you should not think that the Lord, on whose behalf the angels work, is not going to judge every transgression and disobedience. To believe God will not judge sin is truly the thought of a fool.
So, let’s end on a note of encouragement to those that may be adrift: while no navy can find you adrift at sea, spiritually speaking, God is more than able to find and save you. Jesus once asked, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying (Matt. 18:12)?”
Jesus continued in the parable by saying, “And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish (Matt. 18:13-14).”
God desires for you to drift no more so, I encourage you to heed His voice— heed His warning and stop neglecting salvation.