Summary: The author’s call not to drift away is a powerful call on our current church practice.
This morning in our journey through Hebrews, we get to the first of the important commands which the author gives to his community. And the thing we have to understand about scripture is that when commands are given to people, they do not simply come from the author’s mind, based on personal experience. The commands come from a very important fact which is usually stated and put forward. The important fact that chapter two begins to unload is based in chapter 1. The author makes the point that IF God has spoken to his people, and IF God has spoken through his Son, and IF as the Old Testament tells us, the son is greater than the angels (which is what Chapter 1 has told us); if all this is true, therefore… (2:1). If God has spoken to us, it means something in our lives. IF God has spoken through his Son, it means something in our lives.
And so he says therefore we must “pay greater attention.” (v.1) In fact it probably means we must pay the greatest attention to what we have heard. We must not allow ourselves to be distracted. We must pay attention to what we have heard, not just because it is good advice, not just because it might work in the world, not just because it is practical (though it is all those things), but we pay greater attention because it comes to us from God, and what comes from God is faithful and true.
And he makes the point very clearly that as he delves back into Israelite history. It was the tradition of the Israelites that when Moses received the Ten Commandments on Sinai that the law was mediated to him by angels from God. It was a secondary deliverance of God’s word. And the law had penalties ascribed for disobedience, even as it was delivered from the hands of angels to Moses. The statement of the Law was “Do this, and you shall live.” That was the importance that God placed on his law, that every transgression was a personal insult to his holiness and deserved punishment, and received a “just penalty.”
Now he moves from the Old Revelation to the new in verse 2. If the law mediated by angels was to be obeyed, then how can we look at God’s revelation through his Son, a son greater than the angels, and pay less attention. He makes the point clearly, “How can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.” If we truly believe that God has saved us through his son, then how can we escape if we neglect that, if we let that message die among us?
But it is important for us to recognize that this salvation is not just words that he has spoken. This was how it began, “It was declared at first through the Lord.” (v.3) Jesus came into the world, an actual human being, born of a woman, taking our form, who actually spoke to crowds on hillsides, spoke to disciples by the sea, who spoke in the precincts of the temple, and he announced the salvation. “REPENT and believe for the kingdom of God is drawing near, is almost upon us.” And it is that message that is passed on to the audience of this letter. He writes, “It was attested to us by those who heard him.” (v.3) It was confirmed by those who heard Jesus. There was a historical connection between the first believers and the audience. And they understood this connection. For our postmodern world the truth of a message is determined not by its claims but by its effects. Our world’s hazy spirituality works on the hearts of people, and so the truth claims never come into question. If it works, stay. If it doesn’t, move on. But our faith is not based on hazy spirituality. It is not based on claims only have validity only when they work, practically speaking. Our claims are based on fact. The message was spread out by those who actually saw and heard Jesus teaching. The disciples did not stay in their shell, in one place, saying this is good enough. The message demanded that it be passed on.
And when they spoke the same words, they had a dramatic confirmation. It was not the confirmation of the miracles in Jesus Lifetime. It was not the confirmation of the authority with which Jesus spoke among them. It was the confirmation of the empty tomb, the Risen lord, witnessed by many who saw him (1 Cor 15). Confirmed by God’s mighty power acting in the resurrection of his Son. And so the disciples went out with great courage, into Jerusalem first, then to Samaria, and to all the corners of the Roman world and even beyond. And they went speaking the same message that Christ had given them.