Hebrews 2:1-4… Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
After a clear exposition in Hebrews 1 as to the superiority of Christ over the angels, the author of Hebrews seeks to draw a conclusion as signified by the word “therefore” in 2:1. All doctrinal teaching demands a response. There is no purpose in teaching doctrine unless there is a conclusion to draw from the information given so as to bring about a life transforming application. And the application the author of Hebrews is seeking throughout this ancient letter is obedience to Jesus Christ because there is no one who rivals him, for He is God.
The specific obedience the author seeks is found in v. 1: “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Of course the information the audience had heard was that Jesus Christ was the Messiah – the long awaited Savior and Prophet. That kind of information was important! It mustn’t be ignored in favor of angels or any other idea that might trivialize Christ’s superiority. The danger of not paying closer attention to the message of Christ was that of drifting away from it, and the author introduces this as a warning.
The two phrases, “pay closer attention” and “drift away,” both have seafaring nuances. “Paying closer attention” was a phrase used in relation to tying a boat to a dock and making sure it was secure. And “drifting away” was a phrase used for a ship that coasted by a harbor. Taken together these two phrases warn the audience to be cautious not to slip past the only dock of salvation and to secure themselves to the gospel of Jesus Christ above any other. Obviously the Jewish audience who had professed belief in Christ had become somewhat apathetic and were in danger of drifting past their intended goal because of their indifference to the doctrine they had been taught about Christ. As a result of their indifference they were in danger of making shipwreck of their lives (cf. 6:19). That is why the conclusion drawn in v. 1 is so important.
There are a handful passages and contexts in Scripture that speak of people drifting away from their faith (Mark 4:1-20; 1 John 2:19). This has resulted in the widespread belief today that one’s salvation can actually be lost. The issue is not, however, that a person can lose his/her salvation. Salvation is a gift that comes from God – a gift that is eternally secure (Eph. 1:13-14). There is nothing a person can do to lose his/her salvation. The question is not “can one lose salvation?” rather, the question should be “who truly has salvation?” The writer of Hebrews wrote primarily to a Jewish audience who had professed faith in Christ (10:32-34). Secondarily, he wrote to some who had intellectually believed in Christ but had not committed their lives to Him (6:1-8). And third, he wrote to some who simply didn’t believe at all (9:11-13). Hebrews 2:1 is addressed to people who make a profession of faith but who may not be truly saved. They wavered in their actions and were in danger of drifting away from the faith they professed.
Food for Thought
Many Christians tend to have a casual and indifferent attitude towards sin. This was Adam’s downfall, and it is has proven to be the downfall of many people in history who profess belief. But true belief in Christ manifests itself through a steadily growing faith – a faith that gets deeper as time passes. Deeper faith guards against drifting away, so pay more careful attention!
Hebrews 2:1-3… Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
The OT Law (Ten Commandments; the law given to Moses) was clearly connected to angels. The Jews believed that the angels mediated God’s Law to Moses and Israel because of certain passages in the OT. For instance, Psalm 68:17 says, “The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness” (of course Mt. Sinai is where Moses received the Law). And Moses himself wrote: “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned on them from Seir; He shown forth from Mt. Paran, and He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; at His right hand there was flashing lightning for them” (Deut. 33:2). These two passages certainly indicate that angels accompanied God when He gave the Law to Moses.
The NT also alludes to the belief that angels mediated the Mosaic Law for Israel. Stephen, speaking in Acts 7:38, speaks of at least one angel who accompanied Moses at Sinai: “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mt. Sinai, and who was with our fathers.” Then Stephen again says in v. 53: “the Law as ordained by angels.” Paul says as much in Galatians 3:19: “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator until the Seed would come to whom the promise had been made.”
Now this truth is important because if the angels were the mediums through which God’s OT Law was given, and God’s Law was not to be broken, then how much more so important is the message mediated to the world by God’s Son, whose name and essence is completely and ultimately superior to angels! Under the old covenant of the Law if a man committed adultery, murdered, coveted, lied, etc., he was to be put to death (Leviticus 24:14-16). Equally, if a man worked on the Sabbath day he was to be put to death (Numbers 15:30-36). “Every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution” according to Hebrews 2:2, and that was under the OT covenant mediated by angels. Therefore it is important because Jesus is superior to angels, so if what angels mediated was disobeyed and just retribution was given as a result, then to disobey Jesus, to drift away from him, was an even greater disobedience because he is superior to angels.
God’s judgment upon Israel was severe for seemingly petty sins, but He judged them nonetheless because they knew better. They just determined to live without Him in defiance of Him. This is why in v. 3 the author asks the question: “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” The word “we” refers to the first-century readers of Hebrews, the Jews. Since God had spoken through His Son they should now give heed. If they neglected to heed this warning there would be no “escape.” To allow themselves to drift would be to apostatize. No wonder the writer urgently warned to “pay closer attention to what we have heard.” What they heard was the message of salvation. To neglect that would doom them for eternity!
Food for Thought
God loves us! He, like a parent or a coach who loves his children or players, urgently warns his people to stay the course, to keep from drifting, and to hold firm to the faith. How many souls reside in hell today who drifted past the harbor of salvation – who were oh-so-close to it but who chose to take God’s warnings for granted. God shows His love through His Word. His warnings are not to be taken lightly. We must pay more careful attention to Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 2:2-4… For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Now since the Son of God is superior to angels (Heb. 1:5-14), then the word the Son declared is superior to the word the angels mediated, namely the OT Law. And because every violation of the OT Law received a just retribution (v. 2), then there can be no “escape” for those who neglect the “great salvation” that Jesus Christ offers (v. 3). Of course Christians can never be in danger of neglecting salvation since they already have it and can’t lose it. This warning then is for those who are already intellectually convinced about Christ but who have not committed their lives to him. They are the ones who, because they have not devoted themselves entirely to Christ, are in danger of drifting and of missing the harbor of salvation (cf. 2:1).
What was this “great salvation” the author speaks of? The answer to that question is the message of the four Gospels and the rest of the NT. Jesus came as God in the flesh. Whereas it was man’s fate to die for his sin, Jesus died in his stead. Whereas it was man’s responsibility to follow the OT Law, Jesus fulfilled the Law on man’s behalf. Whereas man’s sin was constantly needing atonement through the sacrifice of animals and the spilling of their blood, Jesus Christ was the perfect Lamb of God who made the perfect sacrifice when he died on the cross. He atoned for sin, and sat down at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3). Jesus offered the Kingdom of God to everyone who would simply believe in Him as the promised Messiah. Of course believing that he was the Messiah was no intellectual leap of faith given that he fulfilled hundreds of OT prophecies, performed miracles, and was himself raised from the dead. This offer was, and is, the offer of grace by faith. All one need do is receive it. This is the “great salvation” – one that is superior to the covenant of works the Jews strove for through adherence to the OT Law.
The latter part of v. 3 says that the “great salvation” was first declared by the Lord Jesus. Then after he ascended into heaven, 50 days after his resurrection (Acts 1), God anointed Jesus’ disciples with the Holy Spirit, and they were given the gifts indicative of apostles to carry out the task of teaching Jesus’ words to the world. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians: “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs, wonders, and miracles” (2 Cor. 12:12). Now the author of Hebrews claims that the apostles confirmed the words spoken by Jesus, for they were eyewitnesses of what Jesus said and did. The author of Hebrews was obviously not an apostle or an eyewitness, for he claimed that the message of Christ was given to him by an apostle… “it was attested to us by those who heard” (v. 3).
But because the apostles were still alive in the first century, signs, wonders, and miracles were being performed in order to confirm their testimony. These miracles were God’s confirmation by the power of the Holy Spirit given to the apostles. It was God bearing witness about Himself through the miraculous in order to validate the Son’s superiority.
Food for Thought
The message of Jesus is a believable message. He is a man of history who claimed to be God. His followers had a life-transforming experience, and their message was confirmed. Most of them died martyrs’ deaths because they were so convinced. God’s message is clear, and it’s believable. It must be received by faith. To reject it is to reject a great salvation.
Hebrews 2:1-4… Διὰ τοῦτο δεῖ περισσοτέρως προσέχειν ἡμᾶς τοῖς
Through this it is necessary (PAI) abundantly to be alert for (PAIn) we the ones
ἀκουσθεῖσιν, μήποτε παραρυῶμεν. 2 εἰ γὰρ ὁ διʼ ἀγγέλων
having been heard (APPtcp), not then we may not drift (APS). For it the one which through angels
λαληθεὶς λόγος ἐγένετο βέβαιος καὶ πᾶσα παράβασις καὶ παρακοὴ
having been spoken (APPtcp) word became (AMI) firm and all transgression and disobedience
ἔλαβεν ἔνδικον μισθαποδοσίαν, 3 πῶς ἡμεῖς ἐκφευξόμεθα τηλικαύτης
received (AAI) just payment how will we escape (FMI) so great
ἀμελήσαντες σωτηρίας, ἥτις ἀρχὴν λαβοῦσα
having not taken care of (AAPtcp) salvation, which beginning having received (AAPtcp)
λαλεῖσθαι διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐβεβαιώθη,
to be spoken (PPIn) through our lord by the ones having heard (AAPtcp) into us was confirmed (API)
4 συνεπιμαρτυροῦντος τοῦ θεοῦ σημείοις τε καὶ τέρασιν καὶ ποικίλαις
testifying together on (PAPtcp) of God in signs both and wonders and in various
δυνάμεσιν καὶ πνεύματος ἁγίου μερισμοῖς κατὰ τὴν αὐτοῦ θέλησιν;
Powers and of spirit holy divisions by he of them want?
· Therefore… stress the importance of drawing relevant conclusions from the doctrine taught.
· A teacher may know truth, but w/o compassion he’s not so good. Sermons demand action.
· Paul worked to transform his audiences (1 Cor. 9:19-23); Jesus (Matt. 23:37; John 5:39-40).
· In Hebrews 13:22 the entire letter is referred to as a “word of exhortation.”
2:1… So we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
· Pay closer attention… tying a boat to a dock and making sure it was secure
· Drift away… used for a ship that coasted by a harbor.
· The audience professed belief; had become apathetic; danger shipwreck (cf. 6:19).
· Warning passages of drifting: (Mark 4:1-20; 1 John 2:19); not loss of salvation
· We must avoid a casual and indifferent attitude towards sin (like Adam).
· True belief manifests itself through a steadily growing faith which repels drifting.
· Story of the prostitute
2:2… For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, The OT Law was clearly connected to angels.
· Psalm 68:17… Deut. 33:2… Acts 7:38… Acts 7:53… Galatians 3:19…
· Every transgression/disobedience received a just retribution (Lev. 24:14-16; Num. 15:30-36)
2:3… “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”
· Escape… to flee; how will we flee if we drift away from such a message?
· Christians are never in danger of “escape.” Warning is for those not quite saved.
· How many souls reside in hell today who drifted past salvation… who didn’t listen
· Great salvation… The NT’s revelation of Jesus Christ who took the curse
2:4… while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
· The pamphlet that claimed saying “praise the Lord” and “Hallelujah” very fast for ten minutes would bring about a strange language then the HS.
· God often brings us to the edge of what to do... sermons are designed to give that push.
· To reject Jesus Christ is to reject God (e.g., football)
· Most folks don’t go headlong into hell. Most simply drift into it.
1. We must dwell richly upon the Scriptures in order to avoid the “drift”
o Your marriage will fail because you’ll slip into porn and/or adultery
o Your friendships will fail because you’ll have nothing to talk about
o You will fail at church and leave the church b/c you can’t relate or worship
o You run the very real risk of falling away from the faith you once professed.
2. God held true to His word in times past, so what makes us think He’s changed?
o God punished working on the Sabbath w/death (Num. 15:30-36)
o Blaspheming God’s name resulted in death (Lev. 24:14-16)
o Griping and complaining resulted in millions of deaths (Num. 14)
o Adultery, homosexuality, foreign gods, etc. all punished by death (Lev. 20)