Christians have received the greatest salvation, better than the law of the Old Testament. We should take Christ’s teachings seriously or else we will wander from them, and suffer consequences.
For this reason, Paul declares, we must pay much closer attention to Christ’s word. “This reason” refers to the deity, authority, preeminence, and inheritance of Jesus Christ, the King who sits at the right hand of God, as described in chapter 1, and the salvation (or deliverance) we have yet to inherit (Hebrews 1:14). This is the deliverance from the futility of not fulfilling the purpose for which God designed humanity, to rule the earth in harmony with God and others. Christ has inherited the earth to rule over as King; God has given Him this inheritance as a reward for His faithful obedience to do His Father’s will by suffering death on the cross. For this reason, Paul warns his readers to pay closer attention to what the Son of God taught. In verse 1, the things we have heard are the words of the Son, Jesus, who taught that those that put their faith in Him and suffered for Him would be raised up in His kingdom (Matthew 19:29-30). However, it is possible for someone to believe in Christ, be born into God’s family, but then to ultimately ignore His message in the way they live. Paul is warning that through carelessness and neglect, Christians can gradually wander from Christ’s teachings in our lives. We lose it slowly by ignoring it, as a boat might drift away (verse 1) before a sailor realizes he is far from shore. Paul is setting a serious tone for the message of this letter. This is a warning to people who have already put their faith in Christ; it is possible for believers to drift from Jesus. If a believer drifts, there is a negative consequence . What is that negative consequence? We lose our deliverance or salvation from the futility of not reigning alongside The King. We lose the greatest of rewards, the full restoration of our original design.
It is not uncommon for people to say that all they want to do is get in to heaven, they don’t care what their status will be afterward. The book of Hebrews begs to differ with that perspective. Paul invites his believing friends to realize the enormous loss associated with missing out on this incredible opportunity to gain such an immense reward. Have you ever wished you could be royalty? The adoption as “son” alongside Jesus is an adoption into the royal court. Regardless of what fantasy we might imagine for ourselves in this life, the picture Paul paints in Hebrews is that we can obtain something far greater than any of those dreams by heeding and obeying the words of Jesus.
Paul refers to the Old Testament as a word that was given through angels, which was how humanity received the Bible according to Jewish tradition. Since angels are messengers of the Lord, their words are infallible and unchangeable. The Law of Moses in the Old Testament was a covenant between God and His people, and it carefully laid out the penalties for disobedience of the Lord’s commands. That covenant stands. However, Jesus’ better sacrifice introduced a better covenant, which brings us freedom from death, slavery, and condemnation. If the word through angels proved unchanging and effective, how much more a word directly from their boss?
If we neglect the incredible gift that we have been given (a salvation, or deliverance even greater than the promise previously given to the Israelites), then we will lose deliverance from the consequences of death, slavery, and condemnation; this will not take place in our eternal standing with God the Father but in our fellowship with Him in our daily walk. We can experience negative consequences by how we live here on earth outside of His will, through disobedience. We can also miss out on inheriting the future reward, the deliverance or “salvation” from being separated from our design, by neglecting Jesus’s teachings.
Through the new birth (which comes from initial faith in Jesus), Jesus makes us justified before God regardless of what we do, and yet, our actions still have great consequences. God gives us the resurrection power of Jesus to overcome sin and its consequences in our daily lives, but that power is of no effect if it is not used.
Paul emphasizes the foolish loss in ignoring Jesus Christ. In these verses, he frames the argument thus: Jesus Himself, the Son of God, spoke of His purpose for coming to the earth; those with Him, His disciples, were able to confirm what He taught; God the Father verified the truth of Christ’s claims by providing signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit. Only God can allow these miraculous occurrences; in doing so, He is stating His approval of the messengers, who were Jesus and His disciples.
There is no doubt that Jesus’ words are true, and that the path of obedience is rooted in listening to Him and following His example. Paul implores the believers to do exactly that since obedience leads to the greatest reward imaginable – going from being simply a child to being called a son.
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.
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