1For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every violation and act of disobedience received a just punishment, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders, and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. [NASB]Hebrews 2:1-4
So what makes us think we can escape
if we ignore this great salvation
that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself
and then delivered to us
who heard him speak?
I trust the propositional analysis layout didn’t put you off; it does throw some people into confusion. Laying a connected piece of writing out in propositions enables us to ensure we understand what the writer meant which makes following their train of thought easier to follow.
I am sure you can see now how these thoughts connect back to the way in which the author began the letter. The author has told us why we are not to neglect this great message. So what is the reason? Because of Who gave us this message! This message of the Good News of the New Covenant was not delivered by angels to prophets. This message came directly from the Lord Jesus Himself. Oh now I get it. In past times God spoke to his prophets through angels in many different ways and at various times, but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. The writer has taken the time to explain to us the reality and the implication of God speaking to us directly through His Son. That is the reason why the author warned us not to neglect this message of salvation.
Much has been said and written about the fact that the writer includes himself in this warning. But he doesn’t include himself among those who heard directly from the LORD. He is the one warning his fellow Jews to heed this message and not to neglect it. But he deliberately includes himself among those who need to heed the warning. That is interesting. Assumedly he is very aware of the possibility of slipping back into Judaism when the heat comes on the Christians, the temptation to turn from following Jesus and go back to the synagogue. After all he cared enough and was motivated enough to have written this letter. Why include himself if he is so motivated? Perhaps as some commentators have suggested, it is an example of him identifying with his audience to ease the sharpness of the warning. The writer was warning those Jews who were showing signs of defection of the dangers of forsaking Christ and returning to Judaism by reminding them.
Yet there is a degree of separation for this writer. He was subject to the warning but he had not been one of those who had heard the LORD personally.
. . . and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him . . .Hebrews 2:3
Given the circumstances of how they had come to know the message of salvation, how could they escape the pending judgement if they did not receive the Gospel? This message for them was in fact delivered by the Lord Himself, this Son he has been comparing with the angels. What’s more we have seen there is no comparison if they are stacked up against each other: angels and the Son.
So we now have this unfolding sentence of relatives clauses, explaining in detail what the writer was meaning. This great salvation was:-
- mentioned by the Lord Jesus Himself
- then delivered to us
- by those who heard Him speak
I am sure it is clear to you that there was a chain of communication mentioned here. The writer of Hebrews was not one who heard Jesus directly, but he had heard Jesus message of salvation through those who had heard Him first hand. I.e. they were ear witnesses, although likely as not they were eye witnesses as well. So the chain was Jesus > those who heard Him speak > the writer. The author of Hebrews was relaying this message on third hand. But the power of the communication chain was that it had come from Jesus Himself in the first instance. It had not been relayed through angels to the prophets long ago and passed on by word of mouth or by written word. This author had received the message from those who had heard Jesus for themselves. That gives a whole new meaning to the words eye witnesses, only in this case it appears to be ear witnesses. The sense of this string is that it was immediate and personal. The immediate nature of the witness from those who had heard it first-hand brought confirmation and conviction. The writer of the letter was now communicating that same message to those who were in danger of turning back to Judaism and the writer includes himself in that group. The writer was part of those who need to respond.
You and I are included in that group as well by virtue of the fact that we have read the letter. I am reminded of what John wrote:
For I have given them the words that You gave to Me; and they have received them and truly have known that I came from You; and they have believed that You did send Me. I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours . . . I do not pray for these only, but also for those who shall believe in Me through their word . . .John 17:8-9, 20
You can see by these words that John was including us in this chain of people who would hear this message of salvation. ‘Those-who-shall-believe-in-Me-through-their-word’ are you and me. Their word could either be the oral chain of communication or the written chain of communication. Either way we have been given the words the Father gave to Jesus related to the Good News of the Gospel. The only difference is most of us reading this today are not Jewish and considering going back to the synagogue when persecution comes on us for being a Christian, a follower of the Christ. But does that matter? While it’s true that we may not be considering going back to the Judaism, there are many ways to lose our confidence in the message we once heard. Especially so when the cost of following Jesus is death. Let me remind you again of the background to this letter. The letter was likely written when the Christians, who were converts from Judaism, returned to Rome following Claudius’ death in 54 AD as I told you in Gem 2024. With Claudius out of the way, many Jews began to come back into the city and to the body of believers in Christ. It took a few years before the persecution under Nero gained momentum. It is around that time that the letter to the Hebrews was written.
As John has reminded us, we too must pay attention that we don’t drift away from Christ. There are many reasons for us to drift away. You don’t need me to remind you of what they are. Just look again at the Parable of the Sower – Matthew 13 // Mark 4 // Luke 8 which I pulled apart extensively in 18 Gems when I covered the Gems of Luke. You could just satisfy yourself with reading the Parable of the Sower in one of the above accounts like we most often do or you could use the Harmony feature of E-Sword to go deeper still and read all three accounts. Following which you could survey what I wrote in the Gems on the Parable to see how to get even more out of the text.
In the next Gem I wish to explore one of the key words in this section – Drifting. If you feel so inclined by all means do your own research on this word for yourself before I work on the Gem. Allow the Holy Spirit to spur you on to dig deeper for yourself.
I don’t care how many times it’s underlined in your bible, if you aren’t doing it you don’t know it.Joyce Meyer
When a Christian stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs.Corrie ten Boom
No Bible, No Breakfast, No Exceptions.Tim LaHaye
Until you decide that your spiritual development is worth at least 15 minutes a day in the Word of God, you will remain a mediocre Christian.Tim LaHaye