The first chapter of Hebrews has established the vast superiority of Jesus, the Son. He is the final message of God to the world. The Son was appointed heir of all things and through him the world was created. The Son is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his very being. He uphold the universe by his powerful word. He made purification for sins and sat down at God’s right hand becoming more superior than angels because of the name he has inherited. We noted that the writer of Hebrews declares that this book is a “word of exhortation” (13:22). This book is written to encourage the people to not give up. After declaring the greatness and superiority of Jesus in these ways, the writer of Hebrews gives his first word of encouragement in Hebrews 2:1-4.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 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, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:1–4 ESV)
Because of the superiority of Jesus to deliver a superior message, we need to pay much closer attention to what we have heard. In the past God spoke by the prophets at many times and in many ways (1:1). But now God has spoken to us by his Son. Therefore we must pay closer attention to the message that we have heard from the Son. It is always the obligation of God’s people to hear. We will see that point made repeatedly when we study through the book of Deuteronomy. Listen to the Lord. Give attention to his word. These are reminders Moses gives to Israel. The same point is being made here. Notice the point in verse 1. We need to pay closer attention to the message we have heard or else we will drift away from it. This is the author’s great concern: you are going to drift away from the salvation message if you do not pay closer attention to it. Drifting happens when we neglect the great salvation we have. Life is like a river, not a lake. It is not possible for us to sit still or float in place. You are either moving toward Jesus or you are moving away from Jesus. There is not another option. Those who fail to give careful attention to the message of Jesus drift away. Please consider that drifting is the opposite of going on to maturity or drawing near to Christ, as the rest of this book will call for us to do. If we are not moving toward God we drift away. It is so important that this warning sink into our hearts. Without careful attention our spiritual condition will deteriorate. Have you ever noticed that in your life? Have you noticed the times when stopped pressing toward God and stopped carefully paying attention to his message that your spiritual condition quickly deteriorates? We must listen to what Jesus is saying to us, giving it constant, careful, regular attention.
Why We Must Pay More Careful Attention (2:2-4)
Now the writer of Hebrews wants to encourage us fully so that we will pay careful attention to this message so that we will not drift away. First, the writer begins by speaking about a message that was declared by angels proving to be reliable (2:2). This is referring to the Law of Moses given at Mount Sinai in the book of Exodus. We know this because passages like Deuteronomy 33:2, Galatians 3:19, and Acts 7:53 teach that the Law of Moses was delivered by angels. The writer says that Law of Moses proved to be reliable or firm. Every transgression and disobedience received a just retribution. Think about the seriousness of obedience that we see emphasized in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. That message, spoken by God, delivered by angels, and revealed through Moses was to be taken very seriously. The book of Exodus underscores the need to do everything according to the pattern. Leviticus drives home the message about the holiness of God and that the people were to be holy because God is holy. Numbers shows a whole generation of people not entering the promised land because of their disobedience to the Law. The message given at Sinai proved to be reliable.
Not only this but keep your mind fixed on Mount Sinai and the giving of the Law. The giving of the Law at Sinai was glorious on so many levels. It is was glorious because God said in Exodus 19 that he was coming down to reveal himself to the people. He revealed himself on that mountain with such glory that the people were terrified and could not handle the sound nor the smoking, shaking mountain. But God also revealed his glory in another way at the mountain. Remember that Moses desired to see God’s glory and God did reveal his goodness in his name. Here is God’s glory: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear that guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). Sinai was glorious. God revealed himself and met the people in such a glorious way that fear was struck into the hearts of the people. Now look at the warning in verse 3.
“How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” The salvation message that has been declared through Jesus is vastly superior to what was given by angels through Moses, though it too was glorious. This salvation far surpasses the word spoken through angels. We need to pay closer attention to this great salvation. Now what exactly is this great salvation that the author is referring to? The great salvation is God’s saving revelation culminating in Christ. The author is not referring to a particular aspect of the gospel but all that has been revealed by Jesus to his apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit. The author says we need to focus on the revealed message of God.
What do we do instead of focusing on this salvation we have in Jesus? What is our temptation to do with Jesus? Our temptation is to neglect it. This is the word the author uses in verse 3. We neglect what the powerful Son has done for us. We forget that God is working for us. We simply neglect all of it. We are not willfully rejecting the Lord in our hearts. But we do everything else and desire everything else rather than have a zeal and intensity for Jesus. How crazy is it that tv is more important to us? Sitting on the couch and watching something as senseless as television, or playing games on our devices, or reading people statuses online, or resting, or sleeping, or being entertained is more important that our salvation! We show that we would do anything else. We should be shocked at ourselves for the decisions we have made. We noted in our last lesson from Hebrews that the problem is our loss of awe for Jesus as to why we neglect the salvation we have been given. We would rather enjoy this life rather than enjoy Jesus.
Now I want us to think about this word that the author uses: neglect. We neglect things that we think are not that important. Think about the things you have neglected. Why did you neglect those things? Do you neglect things that are really important to you? No, not at all. The things we neglect are the things we do not value as being very important. If we do not value our job, then we neglect it. If we do not value our yard, then we neglect it. If we do not value our spouses, then we neglect them. Neglect speaks to lacking an importance or value to something. To neglect this salvation is to despise God’s revelation and treat it as nothing. We are saying that we do not care for it and are not concerned with it. We may say that we do care but our actions show that we do not when we neglect it.
Now we need to pull this sentence together. If the Law of Moses delivered by angels proved to be reliable in that every disobedience and transgression received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect what has been delivered to us by the Son which you hold in your hands today? You see that this is the point of the rest of verses 3-4. This message of salvation was declared by the Lord himself, Jesus the Son of God, not angels and not Moses. This message was confirmed to us by those who heard it spoken, like the apostles. Further, this message was confirmed by God testifying to the message by signs, wonders, various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit. Miracles were performed to prove the validity of the message given by the Lord Jesus through the apostles.
Now I want us to think about that for a minute because this is a very important statement by the author. The purpose of the signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Spirit were to testify and confirm the message declared. There is no need for such things today because those miracles and gifts were to confirm the message declared by God. Miracles do not exist for their own sake. Miracles do not point to themselves. Miracles attest and validate God’s major works in redemptive history. Miracles attest and confirm the truth about the identity and work of Jesus. The miracles validate this great salvation.
Friends, this is the completion of the first reason why we must pay more careful attention to what we have heard. We must be careful to pay attention to it and not neglect it because if the Law of Moses, delivered by angels, brought judgment for disobedience, what do we think is going to happen if we neglect Jesus’ message? Is it going to be better for us? No! This leads us to the second reason why we must pay more careful attention. This is not just salvation but it is a great salvation. This salvation was what the world was waiting for. It is a great salvation because of its origin in Christ. This message has come from the Lord and is great because it represents God’s final word. It reveals the character of the Lord Jesus. It is great because God testified to the message by miracles! Our salvation is too magnificent to be neglected or ignored. What the author is saying is that we need to pay careful attention to the message of Jesus because there is punishment for neglecting the message and because this salvation is so glorious is too wonderful to ignore.
What the author is saying is rather shocking when we think about it. Think about your favorite food, even if it is unhealthy. Think about a food that is so delicious and so desirable to you. Do you have that food in your mind? Can you imagine anyone having to tell you that you need to pay more careful attention to it and not neglect it? You do not have to tell me twice to pay attention to this delicious, desirable food. I am rejoicing to not neglect this delicious food! The author just said to pay more careful attention and to not neglect your greatest joy in life: this great salvation message delivered to you by the Son.
So what do we need to do so that we do not neglect this great salvation? Everyone is looking for life change. Everyone is looking for power to change their lives. Yet the method that God has given for is amazing life change is the method that most people do not want to explore. The gospel must be taken seriously. We must remember and organize our thoughts and lives around the gospel message of salvation every day. We need to look to our sinfulness and God’s holiness. We need to see the power of the cross of Jesus and the mercy and love of God displayed there. We need to ground ourselves in our identity as God’s adopted children. Life change and holiness are found in the message of Jesus (cf. John 17:17; 2 Corinthians 3:18). What we are failing to see is that we are neglecting our greatest joy. We are missing where joy in life truly belongs.
Neglecting the message is going to bring about a punishment because it is the final message of God delivered through the Son himself presenting a great salvation. How could we neglect it? It is too glorious and too important. We neglect this salvation because we know this salvation and do not think it is great or because we do not know this salvation and therefore have no idea that it is great. So yes, do not neglect this great salvation because we are not going to escape judgment if we do. But if that is all you have as your motivation you are truly missing it all. It seems that this is not enough motivation for us to keep us from neglect. The motivation is two fold: there is judgment and this is a great salvation. We need to give attention to the salvation message of Jesus so that we will see that it is a great salvation and by doing so we will not neglect it, but will pay much closer attention to it. In those moments of decision we must tell ourselves that we are forfeiting the greater for the lesser. We are neglecting something desirable and wonderful for something that is temporary and empty. Do not neglect this great salvation. It is more desirable than anything in life. Have you come to know it? Have you experienced this great salvation? Have you enjoy the salvation message declared by the Lord Jesus himself?