In his opening comments, the author of Hebrews stressed the superiority of Jesus. This included the superiority of his revelation over that of the prophets. And his superiority over the angels. Now he goes on to give the first of his five warnings. This one warns us to pay attention to the message delivered by Jesus.
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.Hebrews 2:1-4 NIV
Therefore. This word always points us back to what was previously said. To the superiority of Jesus’ message and to his being. What the author is going to tell us flows out of that.
I listen when my wife shares her day with me. It is important in the sense that she is important to me and it allows me to participate in her life. But there is no expectation that I am going to retain everything I hear. And I generally do not have to act on it.
But when my surgeon talks to me about the potential issues with my surgery, and what I need to do to recover quickly and well, I listen differently. I pay attention. Because what he is saying to me is very important.
And that is what the author says here. Pay the most careful attention to what you have heard. It is not just interesting information. It is important. And you will need to act on it. If we don’t we will be in danger of drifting away.
What does the author of Hebrews mean by drifting away? It would clearly seem to be something that believers are capable of. He is, after all, writing to believers. And it is an obvious concern of his that they do not do this.
My suspicion is that he is not specifically referring to one’s salvation here. Drifting is a nautical term. A boat that is not securely anchored will drift with the wind and tides. If we are not firmly anchored in the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, we will drift (Eph. 4:14). And, as we drift, we will get caught up in false teachings that sound good on the surface. But they will cause us much harm.
So pay attention to what Jesus and his apostles have to say. Listen carefully and make them a part of your life. They will protect you from drifting and going astray.
Ignoring a Great Salvation
For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?Hebrews 2:2-3a NIV
The message spoken through angels would appear to be the Old Testament Law given at Mt Sinai. Just what role angels played in the giving of this message is unclear. But the word translated as angel is also translated as messenger and could be referring to Moses.
But the idea here flows directly from the first chapter of Hebrews. The message of the Son is superior to that of the Old Testament prophets. And the Son is superior to the angels. So we should take even more seriously the message that he brings to us.
Disobedience under the Old Testament Law was punishable. The punishment depends on the specific disobedience. There were consequences for disobedience.
And if we are punished for disobeying the message given by angels, how much more should we expect to suffer the consequences for ignoring the message given by the Son. The consequences of ignoring the first were physical and temporary. But the consequences of ignoring the message of salvation are eternal. So pay attention.
So Great A Salvation
We might talk about being saved from an accident. Or from making a bad decision. Or delivered from a bad relationship. Salvation refers to deliverance from something undesirable. But the author of Hebrews means something other than these common usages. He is referring to a great salvation. The greatest salvation possible.
Salvation is a common term in the New Testament. Most commonly it refers to the initial act of being saved. But it is likely that the author here is referring to salvation in its eschatological sense. The salvation we are looking forward to. Deliverance from the destruction that awaits unbelievers.
Salvation Announced, Confirmed, and Validated
This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.Hebrews 2:3b-4 NIV
The author of Hebrews shares four aspects of this message of salvation that was delivered to us. It was first announced by the Lord. It was confirmed by the apostles. The testimony of God. And the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Announced By the Lord
In many ways, Jesus’ whole ministry was an announcement of the salvation he was bringing to us. In Matthew 20:28 he tells us that he came to give his life as a ransom. John 3:16 expresses that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. And in John 6:27; 10:28; 17:2 Jesus expresses that he will give eternal life to his followers.
But the most dynamic announcement of the salvation he came to bring was at the cross, where he gave his life for us. And three days later when he rose from the dead, conquering death. His announcement was not with words, but with his actions.
Confirmed By the Apostles
The last thing Jesus did before his ascension was to commission his disciples to take the message of salvation to the end of the earth (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). And they were faithful to that task. Acts records their proclamation of the gospel across the Roman world, starting in Jerusalem, and ending in Rome.
In Acts 4:20, after being forbidden to speak any longer about Jesus, Peter said “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” The apostles, and others who had known Jesus, were faithful to confirm the message of salvation first given by Jesus.
Signs and Miracles
The author says that God testified to the message of salvation by signs, wonders, and other miracles. These signs were manifested in the life of Jesus as well as in the ministry of the apostles.
In John 20:30-31, John expressed that Jesus did many signs that he did not record. But the ones he did record were chosen so that his readers might believe in Jesus and have life in him. In Acts 5:12-16, miracles are a daily occurrence in the early church. And in Acts 14:3 God testifies to the message of his grace spoken by Paul and Barnabas by signs and wonders. These signs served to verify the message of the apostles.
Why are there few, if any, of these highly visible miracles experienced today? They seemed to serve the purpose of helping to establish the validity of the message of Christ and his apostles. And to establish the church as the people of God. That is done now so that purpose has been accomplished. We still have their testimony though in the pages of the Scripture.
Gifts of the Spirit
A final authentication of the message of salvation is in the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the church. While miracles served to bring people into the kingdom, spiritual gifts serve as validation within the body of Christ.
How do we know that the church is not just another organization? We know it because of the way that God’s spirit works within us, equipping us for service.
- Hebrews: An Introduction
- Hebrews: The Supremacy of Christ (1:1-4)
- Hebrews: Superior to the Angels (1:5-14)
- Hebrews: A Warning to Pay Attention (2:1-4)
- Hebrews: We See Jesus, Crowned with Glory (2:5-9)
- Hebrews: Made Perfect Through Suffering (2:10-13)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Fully Human in Every Way (2:14-18)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Greater Than Moses (3:1-6)
- Hebrews: Failure to Enter God’s Rest (3:7-19)
- Hebrews: Enter God’s Rest (4:1-11)
- Hebrews: the Active Word of God (4:12-13)
- Hebrews: Our Great High Priest (4:14-16)
- Hebrews: Obedience Learned Through Suffering (5:1-10)
- Hebrews: Move Beyond Elementary Teachings (5:11-6:3)
- Hebrews: A Most Explicit Warning (6:4-12)
- Hebrews: An Anchor of Hope for the Soul (6:13-20)
- Hebrews: The Priesthood of Melchizedek (7:1-10)
- Hebrews: A New Priesthood (7:11-28)
- Hebrews: We Do Have Such a High Priest (8:1-6)
- Hebrews: A New Covenant (8:7-13)
- Hebrews: Worship in the Tabernacle (9:1-10)
- Hebrews: The Blood of the New Covenant (9:11-15)
- Hebrews: Entering the Heavenly Sanctuary (9:16-28)
- Hebrews: One Sacrifice for All Time (10:1-18)
- Hebrews: Enter the Most Holy Place (10:19-39)
- Hebrews: The Role Call of Faith (11:1-31)