Yesterday, we discussed that each of us needs to let the Word confront our own selfishness, pride, anger, lust, greed, and abusive speech. We need to let the Word correct us and keep us on the path of righteous living in this wicked world. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
In the first chapter of Hebrews, the author extolls the supremacy of Jesus, God’s eternal Son. He is God’s final word to us, the heir of all things, and the creator of the universe. He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature. He upholds all things by the word of His power. He made purification for our sins and now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high (1:2-3). He is far superior to the angels, who worship and serve Him (1:4-14). It is only after the author has set forth this doctrine that he gives this first warning. Sound doctrine must always be the foundation for practical application.
In the sinful world we live in, the devil and our own flesh wage war against our soul and tempts us to drift away from the gospel. To be honest, there are times that I drift — that I neglect to spend the time with our Lord to gain His direction. This warning from Hebrews is more than a gentle reminder that our sovereign Lord deserves my first attention, even when I’m tired or distracted.
“For this reason,” because Jesus is the glorious Son of God who went to the cross to secure your purification from sin, your salvation is indescribably great. Therefore, since God has spoken finally and fully through His Son, who is vastly superior to any other being, we should listen most carefully to what He has said. “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.” (2:1-4)
How can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Since every person is in imminent danger of facing that wrath, salvation is every person’s greatest need! Because God’s salvation is so great, the consequences of neglecting it are terrible. The gospel tells us: Christ has died for our sins; He was buried; He rose again the third day just as He said He would; And He has been seen. He is alive today effecting salvation for all who will come unto God by Him.
As sinners (Romans 3:23), we are all in danger of death under God’s just condemnation, namely, eternal separation from God in hell: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). God’s wrath abides on the one who rejects Jesus Christ (John 3:36). As Jonathan Edwards said “every sinner is like a spider dangling by a thread over a fire. Only God’s mercy keeps us from falling into the eternal flames.”
We aren’t saved because we know the gospel or have even had at some time an emotional response to the Gospel. We are only saved when we act upon what we know because we have faith and believe it is true. A casual attitude toward the gospel isn’t faith. As an act of your will you “call upon the name of the Lord” because you know He can save you. As an act of your will you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus believing in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead.
We put ourselves in danger, however, when we take a careless attitude of indifference and neglect. Usually drifting is inadvertent. If you’ve ever steered a boat, you know that if you do not deliberately keep it on course, you will drift with the currents. The stronger the current, the more you have to give constant attention to keep the boat on course. Since we live in the strong current of this evil world, we all are prone to drift with the culture. It doesn’t take an active rebellion or defiance against God to go to hell; it only takes a simple neglect of our salvation while we attend to other things.
To drift away from the gospel after you’ve been exposed to it is to turn away from God Himself, who sent His Son so that we could have His gift of salvation. The immediate cause of the Hebrews’ drifting was that they were facing trials and the threat of persecution. But even at other times, drifting is easy because all it requires is neglect. The author is warning the Christian Jews to keep from drifting. By using the first person plural pronoun, “we,” the author identifies himself with his readers; he faced the same temptations that they faced. They had the gospel, but many had become indifferent. Many of them were no longer meeting with the believers because of the persecution they were suffering, and some were even ready to go back to the Temple and its worship.
We need the same urgency today that the writer of Hebrews has. We can’t neglect our faith or drift away from it back to our old ways. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17) We must take heed in our own walk and pray for those around us. There is a battle, there is a strong drift-current. We must “pay more careful attention”.
God’s wrath is against the unbeliever, but His displeasure is against His sinning child and He personally will discipline severely. This is why the writer says: “The Lord shall judge his people.” He is speaking about judgment of believers who are His people but who are indifferent to the revelation given. And he adds: “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:30-31).
Commentators differ on whether the “penalty” here is for believers or unbelievers but it seems clear that these are believers since the writer of Hebrews includes himself using “we” or “us” several times. Also the word “salvation” means more than justification (forgiveness of sin) but often refers to our future inheritance and reign with Christ based on our obedience to Him in this life even as seen in Hebrews 1:14 that precedes these verses. “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” So the warning is to us as believers to not drift from the wonder and blessing of the gospel announced by our Lord Jesus Himself. “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb. 10:26-27)
So how do keep from drifting away from God’s love and truth? The word picture in the Greek (prosecho) is a nautical picture of a boat drifting away from the dock and headed toward the waterfalls. We need to quickly throw out an anchor. That anchor is our union with the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 6:19) which is strengthened and grows through communion with Him through time in His Word and in prayer – a dialogue with the living God. Our communion with Him can also be enhanced through corporate time in the Word and prayer as we fellowship with those who know Him, as well as through acts of service for Him.
When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become slaves to the righteousness (Romans 6:17-18). We need to spend time with our Lord and in His Word to correct us and keep us on the path of righteous living so that we are thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17) And we must be deliberate in our thoughts and actions to “…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)