Study in Hebrews. Presentation 03. THE FIRST WARNING THE DANGER OF NEGLIGENCE Chap 2v1-4. Presentation 03. Introduction. The author is writing to a group of Hebrew Christians who are in danger of returning to Judaism because
THE FIRST WARNING
THE DANGER OF NEGLIGENCE Chap 2v1-4
The author is writing to a group of Hebrew Christians who are in danger of returning to Judaism because
of their flawed understanding of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished. In our previous study we saw the way in which the writer established from scripture the superiority of Jesus to the angels.
Having encouraged his readers in 1v14 with a reminder of God's help for the faithful, he now urges them to be faithful. He warns against the possibility
of regressing spiritually and consequently losing out on their inheritance. Their familiarity with the O.T. Should have impressed upon them that Jacob's sons Reuben, Simeon, and Levi had done this.
The author precedes the development of this thought with a brief section in which he exhorts his readers to attend to what has already been said, a feature we shall find elsewhere in the epistle [3:7-11; 5:11-14].
Indeed, the number of unusual words and idioms used here suggest that the writer's intention is to confront the thought and life of his readers in a more arresting way than might have been achieved by a reliance upon more familiar words and phrases.
The meaning of "For this reason" in 2v1 is that since Jesus Christ is greater than the angels we should take the revelation that has come through him seriously. If the Israelites suffered severe punishment whenever they disobeyed the Mosaic Law which God gave them through angels, the punishment for disregarding what God has given us through his Son will surely be even more severe!
Later in the epistle we learn that the original readers were slow to respond to biblical commands [5v11-12]. They had not grown as Christians as they should have.
The writer took this opportunity to exhort them to "pay much closer attention" to what their teachers had taught them and to what they had read in the Scriptures. This Greek word used, “prosechein” means not only ‘to turn the mind to something’ but also‘to act upon what one grasps’
[cf. Acts 8v6; 16v14].
The readers were apparently regarding these things too lightly. Notice that God's words become the basis for the writer's
own 'word of exhortation' [13v22].
Their condition is likened to a boat moored at a dock or anchored in a safe haven. However, if they continue to neglect their attachment to the truth that does not change, then the currents of their age might carry them away from it. They might simply drift away from the truth that they had heard. This is a warning against apostatising, departing from truth once held.
All the warnings in the Bible against following false teaching are similar to this one in their intent. If we do not diligently remain in the truth - and to do so we must know it and remember it - we will depart from it. We live in a world that is striving to prize us from it. Satan also wants us to abandon it [Gen. 3; Matt. 4].
Drifting from the truth is surely the besetting sin of our age. As the metaphor suggests, it is not so much purposeful intent but indifferent neglect. Christians who neglect their anchor - Christ- begin to quietly drift away.
The teaching of Ch. 1 on the superiority of Christ was new
to this readership they had simply not anchored themselves
sufficiently to it and as a result were in danger of drifting,
the result of spiritual laziness rather than of deliberate choice.
There is no dramatic sense of departure but a gentle incipient
spiritual declension. So when the winds of opposition
come, the things of Christ are left far behind,
even out of sight.
“The word spoken through angels,” v2 refers to the Mosaic Covenant [Acts 7v53; Gal.3v19] For the Jews, it was the Law under which they lived. For them the will of God was unalterable and required obedience. Under the Old Covenant the connection between sin and punishment was clear and direct.
How much more could these readers count on the New Covenant, that had come not through angels, but through God's Son, dispensing punishment to the disobedient. This is especially true if that sin involves failing to give attention to all our responsibilities as Christians, the beneficiaries of such a great salvation.
The word “Transgression” refers to ‘overstepping bounds’, and “disobedience” to the ‘violation of God's will’ more generally.
The writer did not specify the punishment. It cannot be loss of salvation for Scripture specifically states that the truly regenerate will not lose their salvation [John 10v28-29; Rom. 8v31-39; Eph. 1v11-14; 1 Pet. 1v3-5]. And so those who disregard the gospel must expect a judgement that measures up to the gravity of their guilt in refusing to listen to God’s own Son.
In v3-4 the readers’ own judgement is appealed to by posing the warning in the form of a question. To neglect the gospel is to reject the benefits of salvation. The context [1v8-14], suggests that it is sufficiency of Jesus Christ and the rewards of the kingdom that were in danger of being forgotten.
The writer himself could have been negligent. He said, "How shall we escape?" not "How shall you escape?" [ v.1]. The most natural conclusion is that genuine Christians are in view in this warning, not simply unsaved professing Christians.
Note also that the warning is against ‘neglecting’,
not ‘rejecting’, salvation [6v19]. ‘Neglecting’
assumes one has something, whereas ‘rejecting’ assumes that one does not have it. The writer is
not encouraging sinners to become Christians;
rather, he is encouraging Christians to pay attention to the great salvation they have received from the Lord. More spiritual problems are caused by neglect than perhaps by any other failure on our part. We neglect God's Word, prayer, worship with God's people [Heb. 10v5], and other opportunities for spiritual growth, and as a result, we start to drift.
If the drift is unchecked we cannot expect to
escape the consequences of our negligence.
In order to encourage them on to take seriously the great truths they were in danger of neglecting the writer affirms that the witness of this gospel is threefold.
1. It was introduced by the Lord himself. “He came preaching the gospel of God” [Mk. 1v14]. Jesus Christ spoke of salvation during His earthly ministry [Matt.4v17; 19v28; Luke 12v31-32; 22v29-30]. Jesus is the author of this gospel.
2. The gospel had an indisputable provenance, “We heard it from those who heard”. The writer is a second generation Christian. He heard the message from an apostolic witness. The apostles taught the same truth as Jesus and by doing so confirmed his word. This gave apostolic preaching its content, authority and power Luke 24v44-49.
3. This apostolic gospel had been authenticated by signs and wonders. God testified to his approval of Christ's preaching and the apostles' preaching about Christ by providing authenticating miracles that showed God was with them [Acts 2v43; 4v30; 5v12; 6v8; 8v6, 13; 14v3; 15v12; 2 Cor. 12v12].
‘Signs’ emphasize that the miracles signify something. ‘Wonders’ emphasize the reaction of awe produced in those who observed them. ‘Miracles’ emphasize their supernatural origin and ‘gifts’ the graciousness of God in providing them. The original readers seem to have been people who had heard the apostles' preaching and had observed the miracles that accompanied that preaching.
An on-going debate within the church asks whether or not miracles have ceased. It is argued that 1 Cor. 13v8; Eph. 2v20 imply the temporary duration of apostolic ministry that included signs and wonders. Certainly signs and wonders are less common today in those lands that have the complete Word of God for God typically validates the gospel through his Word [Rom. 8v16; 1 Jn. 5v1-13].
At the same time miracles continue to validate the gospel, usually in places where either, the Word of God is unavailable or, in a faith environment that denies the veracity of Christian scriptures, the deity of the person of Christ and the historicity of his death on the cross - in Muslim lands for example.
The warning in v 1-4 is the first of five warnings in Hebrews [3v1; 4v16; 5v11; 6v20; 10v19-39; 12v1-29] and is the shortest and mildest of the five. All these warnings deal with drifting from the gospel, disbelieving the gospel, dullness toward the gospel, despising the gospel, and defying the gospel.
The first warning is linked to the entire argument of Heb.1. Because of the Son's superiority to angels [1v1-5], the angels' worship of and service to him at his coming [1v6-7], his future rule and sharing of joy with his companions [1v8-9],and his future subjugation of his enemies [1v10-14], the Christian readership would be foolish to neglect the significance of this instruction.
One of the greatest dangers of the Christian life is losing interest in what is familiar [8v9; Matt. 22v5]. The entire Epistle lays stress on steadfastness at almost every stage, and this is one of the essential marks of the true, growing, deepening Christian life [3v14; 4v2, 12, 13; 6v1, 19; 10v26; 12v27, 28; 13v8].
Therefore, the doctrines the epistle presents, the warnings it delivers, and the exhortations it gives all were intended to prevent spiritual regression and to encourage development toward spiritual maturity.