Learning the Epistles – Study 168
Introduction: These verses contain the first of the five parenthetical warnings found in Hebrews. We must pay careful attention to these warnings if we are to make it to spiritual Canaan, the land of spiritual rest.
We must keep in mind that no book in the Bible is addressed to the unsaved. The books of the Bible are always addressed to the people of God, those who are born again. Therefore, the warnings found in Hebrews are not warnings to the lost but warnings to the saved. Heresy has come from teaching that the five warnings in Hebrews are parenthetical warnings written to the lost. Two false doctrines in particular have come from Hebrews being taught out of context:
- That you can lose your salvation.
- That you can sin away your day of grace.
These warnings are to the saved and give a strong message to the backslider. This particular passage deals with the neglecting of the salvation that every Christian has already received, not the rejecting of the salvation God is offering unbelievers. It is a sin committed by the saved, not the lost. We can understand this passage better if we examine four phrases carefully:
- “Therefore we ought.” The phrase “we ought” emphasizes the fact that “we must.” The writer is, no doubt, speaking here of essentials, not incidentals. This passage speaks what a Christian must do, not what he may do.
- “Give the more earnest heed.” This phrase means “to pay careful attention.” No one becomes a good Christian automatically or accidentally. If you are to become a good Christian, you will do so on purpose. It will demand concentration and effort on your part. “More earnest heed” refers to hard work and diligence.
- “The things which we have heard.” This phrase refers to the Word of God, teaching, and preaching. We must heed God’s Word or experience God’s judgment.
- “Slip” is a nautical term and refers to “drifting away.”
- “How shall we escape.” Here, we are reminded that carelessness about our spiritual growth and spiritual matters in general will result in judgment from God.
- Does God judge His people? Yes, but not in the same way that He judges the lost. A Christian needs to distinguish the judgment that God’s people experience from the judgment that the lost experience.
- The difference is found in two words: condemnation and chastisement.
- Condemnation, that is, eternal death, refers to God’s judgment of the lost and results in spending eternity in Hell. Chastisement refers to God’s judgment of the saved, and suggests the pictures of a father carefully and lovingly disciplining his children.
- Hebrews 12 is a key chapter in the Bible that deals with the chastening of the saved.
- To “neglect so great salvation” refers to carelessness on our part in caring for the essential things in the Christian life. (And there are a number of essential things in the Christian life!)
All five of the parenthetical warnings in Hebrews have to do with our relationship to the Word of God. In this lesson, we will see the first warning for God’s people.
1. Drifting from the Word of God through neglect.
- Hebrews 2:1-4, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?”
- For most of us, drifting away from the Word of God goes unnoticed. It happens slowly.
- The following illustration is nearly worn out, but it fits so perfectly here. When I lived in Minnesota, I was the camp director at Camp Patterson in Mankato for four years. Camp Patterson was located next to beautiful Lake Washington, one of the more than 10,000 lakes of Minnesota.
One day, while the campers were having their horizontal time, I went fishing in a canoe with another counsellor. It was a windy day, and we didn’t have an anchor. Before I knew it, our canoe had drifted close to the shore. We neglected to anchor ourselves down and drifted away from where we needed to be. So, we had to paddle back out to the middle of Lake Washington. We did this several times, because we never put an anchor down. We could have caught more fish if we hadn’t spent so much time paddling back to where we needed to be.
- This is clearly illustrated in Hebrews 2:1, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”
- Those, away from the Lord ask “What happened? I was so close to God, and now I am so far away.”
- It is always a series of events and never just one thing that happens. Proverbs 6:10-11 and 24:33-34 say, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.”
- The end result of this neglect is that we get further and further away from the Lord because we are further from His Word than we once were.
- This neglect is easily recognized though oft-ignored. We need to stop neglecting:
- Our walk with the Lord.
- The Word of God.
- Our prayer life.
- Our witness.
- Our faithfulness to church.
- Our service for God.
- Our tithing and other giving.
- The godliness of our language and habits.
- The control of our anger.
- The guarding of our hearts.
- Our response to the preaching of God’s Word.
- The cleaning up of our lives.
- Our Christian testimony.
- Our lives as children of God and the making of excuse as to why we can’t live like Christians ought to live.
Conclusion: Every Christian has been or is presently practicing the neglecting of their great salvation and, therefore, not growing. If you have been neglectful, you can make it right starting right now.
This is why Peter wrote, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue…“ (2 Peter 1:5) and why the author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.