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
Here again are our five words:
- [περισσοτέρως ἡμὰς προσέχειν] ‘pay much closer attention‘
- [παραρυῶμεν] from the verb pararrhueō ‘to drift away‘
- violation / act of disobedience
- [ἀμελέω] ‘neglect‘
I laid out the meaning of the first two key words in the previous Gem and told you we would go on to cover the other words as well. But let me first pick up on what I said in Gem 2045. . . Nobody starts out intending to drift away or backslide; it just creeps up on us. As a result of Covid it is estimated that many have slipped out of the habit of going to church and sitting under the teaching of the Word of God. It is easier to just sit in front of the TV for an hour and even be doing other things while we watch. It’s easier to be distracted by the phone or a text message. You might say, “Yes Ian, but I am still doing church. I am still listening to the sermon.” Granted but with more distractions to contend with. It helps to have a group of people gathering to watch the service together, for those who do that. But the difference between that and being in church together is significant. Tania and I went down to Hamilton to celebrate our granddaughter Vaeh’s birthday, some weeks after the event. While there we had the opportunity to go to a church where they were meeting as a body but observing the limits put on the crowd gathered. It was so nice to be back with the Church. The Church is not the building or the institution in New Testament terms; it is the people, the body of believers.
The verse which came to mind instantly as I was typing the previous Gem, Hebrews 10:24-25, is all about meeting together and encouraging one another. Yes, church is worshipping, listening to the Word of God being read and preached, praying together and for one another. Can you repeat the words of the verse now without reading it? Is it written on your heart, readily available in your mind for the Spirit to remind you of the truth at a moment’s notice? The power of the body, the Church, is found in not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Who would have thought that we could no longer attend church by choice? For valid reasons to ensure we didn’t pass on the virus to one another or to impact people who were immune compromised. But it snuck up on us and suddenly we were in a situation we couldn’t have imagined would happen. In the last days more of those unexpected forces will come to draw us away, both deliberate or through unforeseen circumstances. But one thing remains the same, let’s not neglect the meeting together in order to encourage one another. You are all aware I am sure of the illustration of the one red hot coal taken out of the fire and placed on the hearth by itself. You know what happens to it. Don’t let that be you. Don’t drift.
I am sure you see that I brought the principle around to us. Remember I told you the writer to the Hebrews included himself in the audience he addressed. That’s fascinating, because he was the one who was exhorting the others to not drift back to Judaism and abandon Christ, the Son! I think he knew that he could just as easily drift as any of them, despite the fact that the danger was clear to him and prompted him to address the matter with the Hebrew Christians. Remember these believers were likely facing the onset of Nero’s persecution against Christians. A very significant external factor to force them to abandon Christ and return to the safety of Judaism which was sanctioned as a religio licita under Nero. We may well find ourselves in a similar position in years to come.
Now let me lead you deeper into the mind of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews. Our next words to look at, which I combined together in point 3 are:
Violation and Acts of Disobedience
These two terms are specific, discrete actions that we take contrary to the Law of God, the Torah, the operating principles God laid out in the manual for life – the Bible. The writer was not castigating these Jews over the ways they may have broken the commandments. Rather he is contrasting the old Judaic system and the words spoken through the angels to the prophets with the message of the New Covenant, the Gospel, the Good News that came through Christ. That old way was binding and unalterable he wrote. Every violation and act of disobedience related to the Old Covenant received due punishment. To be punished we had to have done something requiring punishment – i.e. a specific act worthy of punishment. But now under the New Covenant, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation. Those words have huge implications. Think on them for a while and contrast them with neglecting the Word.
[ἀμελέω] Neglect[ἀμελέω] “neglect” is the word the writer uses in verse 3 of the passage in focus. It is a very interesting word. When you consult the lexicon you become aware that [μελέω] is virtually a synonym of [prosechō]. The meaning for [μελέω] across all lexicons are in harmony with the meanings attached to [prosechō]: to regard, care for, focus on, to heed, attend to, pay attention to, hold in focus.
If you have paid careful attention to what I did in the preceding paragraph you will see I gave you a different verb from the one used in verse 3 of chapter 2. [μελέω] and [ἀμελέω] are completely different verbs. The one is the polar opposite of the other. The negative Greek particle [ἀ-] has been attached to the verb [μελέω] resulting in the verb [ἀμελέω]. The best way I can describe the process is by saying it is akin to the difference between ‘typical’ and ‘atypical’; symptomatic and asymptomatic; political and apolitical; ‘moral’ and ‘amoral’. It is akin to the use of the prefixes: il-, im-, in-, un- etc. So of course the resultant meaning of [ἀμελέω] is: ‘to neglect’, ‘be negligent’, ‘have no regard for’, ‘to disregard’, ‘lack concern for’, ‘not care about’, ‘be careless’, ‘make light of’.
The Jews believed the Law was given through angelic mediation. I am sure the writer of Hebrews has in his mind the kind of thoughts the Jews had regarding the Old Testament, the thing that Stephen challenged them over in his speech in Acts 7. Remember Stephen was a Hellenist, a Greek speaking believer who dared to challenge the Jewish leaders on their lax attitude to God’s dealings with them throughout their history. Read the full speech for yourself and if you want more read the Gems I wrote about Stephen’s Speech (Gem 1472 to 1481).
“Moses was with our ancestors, the assembly of God’s people in the wilderness, when the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai. And there Moses received life-giving words to pass on to us.”Acts 7:38
“You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”Acts 7:53
Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.Gal 3:19
Both Paul, the Pharisee, and Stephen, the Hellenist, reiterate the notion that angels were the intermediaries involved in bringing the Law. Yet the lax attitude to what the Lord required was called out by Stephen as he retold the Jewish history. The story was one of God’s people neglecting His warnings and so they experienced punishment. The choice of words the writer used are interesting to say the least. The contrast here is between the specific acts of violation and disobedience as compared with the indifference of neglect and drifting. If every act of violation and disobedience was punished in past times, then what about these Hebrew Christians who had heard the Gospel which came to them not through angels and prophets but by the Son Himself. How would they escape if they neglected so great a salvation? In other words the message of the Gospel; the message that Christ Himself communicated. In past times it came from God through angels to the prophets. Now it had come to them from the Son and some heard it first hand from Jesus, Messiah. Others heard it through ear witnesses if they weren’t an eye witness. These would have included the disciples, Matthew, Mark, John, Peter and James. Some of them would have heard it from Luke and Paul. Paul, who said, “I pass on to you that which I received from Christ. . .” What does that mean? Likely as not what Paul received from the LORD on the road to Damascus when he encountered the resurrected Christ and during his time of isolation.
Many of the ones the writer had in mind when he was writing were those who knew first-hand or at least second-hand from those who heard from the LORD or from others who had seen and heard. The inference being: How can you Jews who have followed Jesus after what you heard, neglect ‘so great a salvation”. I am not intending to exegete the words “so great a salvation” for you. Why? Because it would do you good to compare the Gospel of the New Covenant with the message of the Old Covenant for yourself. And if you have your wits about you, you will be aware that the writer himself makes the comparison later in the letter. See the list I gave you in Gem 2027 of all the things that the Son is greater than.
I sense now your question might be: “So where does that leave us Ian?” We are not in the same category as the Hebrew Christians, some of whom may have seen and heard Jesus and if not that close, had had the privilege of hearing Peter, Paul and Mary. I am sorry, I couldn’t resist that little allusion. It is not like we are that close as to have heard first or second-hand. Really? That is what you think? Friends, we live on the power side of the resurrection of Christ. Remember Paul’s words in Philippians 3:10-11. I am not going to give you the links for it. It should be fresh in your mind if you have been following the Gems for a while. It is easy for you to go back and see all that I wrote back then in the Gems on Philippians.
Peter himself wrote:
They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.1 Peter 1:12
and Peter also wrote:
And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him — speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.2 Peter 3:15-16
This is why the writer of the letter also wrote about “God confirming the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever He chose.” Friends we live with the Holy Spirit within us. That which God spoke of eons ago is now ours. God confirms His Word through signs and wonders and miracles and the gifts of the Spirit. Those manifestation gifts which manifest God and make His involvement and closeness clear to us. If you are not sure what I am talking about, check out the Gems I wrote on the Manifestation Gifts. (Gem 424 to 449) As Paul would say in the letter to the Roman Christians, the same people as are reading this letter, “we too are without excuse.”
Every day of your life, you have a choice to heed to promptings of the Holy Spirit or to neglect them.Ian
The most dangerous response to the Gospel for you personally to adopt is indifference.Ian
The difference between making a difference, and making no difference is Indifference.Ian
It’s always easier to make a POINT than it is to make a DIFFERENCE.Andy Stanley
When God has selected you, it doesn’t matter who else has rejected or neglected you. God’s favour outweighs all opposition.Heriswita