Summary: A warning against rejecting the only means of escape
THIS SO GREAT SALVATION
Perhaps the Hebrew Christians to whom this letter was first sent were a little inclined to go back to ‘the old religion’. After all, had not they and their fathers ‘received the law by the disposition of angels’ (Acts 7:53); was it not ‘ordained by angels’ (Galatians 3:19)? But now God has spoken to us by His Son (Hebrews 1:2), who ‘when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they’ (Hebrews 1:3-4; cf. Hebrews 1:13-14).
Our passage begins with an exhortation to pay more earnest heed to the things which we have heard from and about Jesus, lest we let them slip from our grasp (Hebrews 2:1). The picture is of a ship missing her moorings and drifting aimlessly out to sea. Or of a ring slipping from a finger.
Even as Christians, we sometimes need to get back to basics: ‘This is my beloved Son: hear Him!’ (Luke 9:35). “For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord (Jesus), 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?” (Hebrews 2:2-4).
What is it about Christian salvation that causes the writer to the Hebrews to call it “great”? What is the true measure of its magnitude? And why such a solemn warning against neglecting it?
First, it is great in its inception. It is not like man-made religions: man striving to reach God. It is incarnational: God reaching down to man (Hebrews 1:1-3).
It had its origins in the mind of God. Who else could have come up with such a daring subversive plan: the infinite God becoming man so that He can personally pay the price of man’s sin against His holiness? Only thus can the holy God be both ‘just and the justifier of any who believe in Jesus’ (Romans 3:26).
Even the God-given law was never intended as a means of salvation. As such it would only inevitably fail, as history has proved. Man cannot change his fallen nature: it is impossible. ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do’ (Exodus 19:8) turned out to be the greatest of conceits: Moses came down the mountain to find the people had already created their own religion and were dancing around a golden calf (Exodus 32:8)!
No, the law, like the whole Old Testament, was only ever intended to point us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The law itself only ever proved our inability to keep the law: what wretched creatures we are apart from Jesus (Romans 7:23-25)! And the types and sacrifices of the rest of the Old Testament were only ever pointing to the ultimate ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
Second, this salvation is great in its application. God ‘so loved’ (fallen man) that ‘He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). Jesus came willingly: ‘Lo, I come to do your will O God’ (Hebrews 10:7). He stripped Himself of the regalia of His divinity and was obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross (Philippians 2:7-8).
The Holy Spirit applies this salvation to the believer, giving us spiritual life (2 Corinthians 3:6). It is His sovereign work which causes us to be born anew (John 3:8). It is through the work of Jesus, applied by the Holy Spirit, that we have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18). It is the Holy Spirit who helps our infirmities, mingling His intercessions with our feeble prayers (Romans 8:26).
The third way in which this salvation is seen to be “great” is in that it is a great “escape” (Hebrews 2:3). Under the law, “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward” (Hebrews 2:2). ‘The soul that sins, it shall die’ (Ezekiel 18:20), and so on.
But Jesus saves my soul! The price of my sin has been paid in full at the Cross of Calvary! Through His sacrifice on behalf of those who will believe, all our transgressions and acts of disobedience HAVE received a just recompense of reward (Hebrews 2:2).
So the question remains, “How shall we escape” if we “neglect” so great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3). Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life: no man comes to the Father but by Me’ (John 14:6). Since there is ‘no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12), how shall we escape if we neglect, shrink back from, or reject, the only means of escape?