Summary: Sermon 4 in a study in Hebrews
“For 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 transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the 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
“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” NIV
Occasionally, usually in a Bible study setting, someone will ask the rhetorical question, ‘How many times must God say something in order for it to be true?’ Well, the answer, of course, is only once.
The fact is though, that if God only said things once our Bibles would be much thinner. For in truth, motivated by His grace and mercy and patience and goodness and compassion, He is willing to say things many more times than once in order to get the attention of His silly, wandering, fallen creatures.
That takes us back to the opening words of this epistle. In times past God spoke in many portions and many ways through many prophets, but the message has remained the same. Repent. Turn. Listen. Obey in faith. Live.
THE ANGELS’ PART
The message started in the Old Testament. This is where we also must begin. In the minds of the first Christians, the historical facts of Messiah’s ministry, His works, His words, His death and resurrection and exaltation, were all backed by Scripture; what we call the Old Testament.
The author of this letter certainly proves that point. If you have a Bible that capitalizes Old Testament references or prints them in an indented column, you can just scan the pages and see that he takes his readers again and again back to the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms.
Here in verse 2 of chapter 2 we find not the quote of a passage, but a statement that requires our attention to some Old Testament truth.
He says that the word was spoken through angels, and what they brought carried all the weight of divine authority.
There are other New Testament passages that speak very matter-of-factly, as though in the mind of the Hebrews there would be no questioning of the assertion that God used angels to convey His word to men.
“Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.” Gal 3:19
The mediator mentioned there would be Moses, as is substantiated in Acts 7:37-38 in Stephen’s great sermon to the High Priest.
“This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN.’ 38 “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.”
Then in verse 53 of that same chapter, Stephen still talking, we see:
”…you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
We have noted in the past that angels were held in very high esteem in the minds of ancient Jews. These powerful creatures went to and from the Throne of God, carrying out His will, delivering His messages, serving His people in His name. They were the perfect ambassadors of YHWH, and were highly honored as such.
Therefore the fact that they were instrumental in bringing the law to the mediator, Moses, on Sinai helped the people to receive it as coming straight from God. Hence, the writer says that this word spoken through angels was unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense.
What he was referring to was the punishment for breaking the Law, which was death. God wanted to maintain the moral and spiritual purity of His people, and the Law provided that blasphemers and false teachers were dealt with quickly and finally.