Hebrews 2:1-4 Sermon Transcript with changes to ending
Our text this morning is found in Hebrews 2:1-4. It states,
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
At Community Church we have partnered with one of our Field Staff, Plethos Global, to offer the BIG3 Discipleship Program. The BIG3 are three Keystone Habits that every disciple should do faithfully. Every disciple needs to…
Learn It (the bible),
Live It (apply the gospel to your life),
Pass It On To Others (tell someone what your learning and disciple others).
The last time that I led this group I started out by sharing something that I thought demonstrated our need to do these three things. I would like to share it with you this morning.
In the 1927 there was a resource book that was published that is still in print today. It is called the Halley’s Bible Handbook. I would not be surprised if quite a few of you have this resource on a bookshelf in your home.
In this book there is a section near the end that Dr. Halley entitled ‘The Most Important Thing In This Book’. In that section Dr. Halley laments, “With all our facilities for propagating Christian truth, our well organized churches and Bible schools, our seminaries, our highly trained ministers and church leaders, with the last word in up-to-date religious education methods, an endless amount of Christian literature, and an ever-increasing number of meetings and organizations where we talk and teach and preach in the name of the Bible, even quoting chapter and verse – Yet the Great Body of the Church Members Treat the Bible as if it were a Mere Side-Issue in their lives.”1
Dr. Halley goes on to lament the fact the majority of professing Christians in his day...
did not engage in personal study of the scriptures
were not able to speak knowledgeably of biblical doctrine.
He confessed that less than ¼, of a congregations professed membership, attended its Sunday services with any degree of regularity.
Dr. Halley goes on to describe something even more troubling when he writes, “I marvel that Church People are so Indifferent to, and Neglectful of, the Book that tells them about their Savior. But I marvel more that Church LEADERS are doing so little about it. Unquestionably, the most fatal weakness of the present day Church is the Lack of Leadership in the Pulpit on this One Point of Guiding and Leading its people into the ONE HABIT that is the Source and Basis of Everything that the Church exists to accomplish in its people.”2
It is no surprise then that two decade after Halley’s Bible Handbook was first published there was another preacher, William R. Newell, who confessed to seeing seven indicators in his day that Christians, who claimed to know Jesus Christ, were drifting away from God and His Word.3 The seven things that concerned him in 1947 were,
They were not serious about understanding God’s Word or attending churches where the Word of God was carefully taught.
They were absorbed with selfish, earthly interests, and did not consider heavenly things.
There was an increase in deadness of hearts toward Jesus Christ and His great sacrifice.
There was a preoccupation of the affairs in this world rather than the world that was to come and the return of Jesus Christ.
There was a loss of God-consciousness.
There was a dismissal of the truth that there is a judgment to come.
He observed that the lifestyles of those who claimed to be Christians was similar to the lifestyles of those who were unbelievers.
Curiously, if you go home and look in newer publications of ‘Halley’s Bible Handbook’, the section that I mentioned will not be in it. In fact, there are several sections in the earlier publications that have been removed from the most recent publishing's. For example, the section entitled ‘The Habit of Going To Church Every Sunday As An Act Of Worship To God’ is no longer there.
Are we to assume then that churches are encouraging biblical study in our churches?
Are we to assume then that the personal discipleship of the average Christian in our day is doing far better than those in previous generations?
Do you think that Hebrews 2:1-4 applies to us today or not?
Are we in danger of drifting away from what we have heard?
Are we neglecting such a great salvation?
Do we need to hear this text and respond in some way, individually and as a church, so that our generation will be healthier and stronger and pass on something better for the next generation?
Recently, there was a new study that came out by Arizona Christian University, in partnership with George Barna, that confirms that today’s church has drifted very far from what we have heard in the Scriptures. According to this study only...
40 percent of senior pastors have a biblical worldview
28 percent of associate pastors have a biblical worldview
13 percent teaching pastors have a biblical worldview
12 percent of children pastors and youth pastors have a biblical worldview
4 percent of executive pastors have a biblical worldview
The study continues to reveal other shocking statistics which affirms that we have drifted from the Scriptures. For example,
Only two percent of parents of preteens who confess to be Christians have a biblical worldview.
Only two percent of males who confess to be Christians have a Christian worldview.
Only four percent of women who confess to be Christians have a Christian worldview.
For more details about this study go to: https://www.arizonachristian.edu/research/
These statistics are alarming and they reveal that we need to take this first of six warnings in Hebrews very seriously. We see this warning in verses 2-3, “For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”
The Westminster Confession says something that has really helped me as I have considered the warning passages in the Scriptures. Under ‘Saving Faith’ we read, “By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come.” (Westminster 14.2)
In the book of Hebrews we will come to commands, threats and promises and saving faith will take these things as the Word of God and respond appropriately by obeying, trembling and embracing them. A counterfeit faith, however, will ignore, disobey, shrink back, harden its heart, close its ears, stiffen its neck, become more prideful and arrogant.
In our passage this morning we are meant to tremble as we are reminded that if the people under the Old Covenant were justly judged for drifting from the Word of God then we will not escape if we neglect the great salvation that we have now heard.
Those who reject this great salvation will face the wrath of God.
Those believers who neglect this great salvation will face God’s discipline.
There is a passage in the Old Testament that I would like to consider this morning that will guide us in our consideration of Hebrews 2:1-4. In the book of Jeremiah we will see just how far the people of God can drift and neglect the Word of the LORD. At this time, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah but when the Word of God came the people did not realize that they had drifted. They did not tremble and respond in saving faith to the warning that God was giving them.
In Jeremiah 6: 10we see that the people would not listen and respond rightly to the Word of the LORD. We read, “To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear. Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.” Because of this God gives them a warning, “Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD; I am weary of holding it in.”
Consider Jeremiah 6:15where we see that the people had no understanding of their sin before God. We read, “Were they ashamed that they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.” Then God gives the warning, “Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown.”
Because the people were neglecting the Word of the LORD the people had no idea just how far they had drifted and they had no idea of the calamity that was about to come upon them. Let’s look at Jeremiah 16where the LORD tells Jeremiah that when he speaks to the people they will ask several questions. In Jeremiah 16:10 we read that the people will ask,
Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? (like children who have to be asked by their parent, “Do you know why your being disciplined?’)
What is our iniquity? (Later in the book of Jeremiah we find that they were worshiping false gods and sacrificing their children to them!)
What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?’ (Their response is so different than David’s in Psalm 51, “Against you and you alone have I sinned!’)
This people had drifted so far that they could not understand why they were facing God’s judgment. They seemed to have had no idea about the sins that they were committing that offended God’s holiness. They were unaware of how they had transgressed against the LORD. Their neglect caused them to have a shocking spiritual blindness.
The LORD tells Jeremiah to respond to these questions with a rather surprising response. It is a response that reminds us that drift can be measured in one lifetime or by the drift that occurs over many generations. The LORD says to tell them in Jeremiah 16:11-12, “Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and not kept my law’ then he adds these words, “and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me.”
What a sobering verdict this is against this people.
The LORD tells them that their fathers were bad, but you are far worse!
Your fathers went after other gods and served and worshiped them; but everyone in this generation follows their own stubborn and evil will.
Your fathers forsook the LORD and did not keep His law; but this generation won’t even listen to the LORD at all.
What a wicked and faithless generation this was that the prophet Jeremiah was speaking too.
Because of these sins the LORD speaks to them about what will soon take place. We read in Jeremiah 16:16-18, “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the Lord, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes. But first I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations.”
One thing that we may find interesting is that even as the LORD gives His people a warning that ought to make them tremble, we also see that the LORD gives them a promise that that they should immediately embrace by faith. We read of these things in Jeremiah 16:14-15, “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.”
God had chosen Israel from among all the nations and brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. But the people drifted and served the gods of the peoples around them. As they continued to drift farther from the LORD the people sinned more and more because ‘every one of them followed their own stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to the LORD.” Because of these sins many would be killed and many would be scattered among the nations. Yet, the Lord promised to bring them back to the land that had been given to their fathers.
Most of the people in Jeremiah’s day did not respond to the Word of the LORD with saving faith. They did not tremble at the warnings and they did not embrace the promises. But we do know how Jeremiah responded because we see that in Jeremiah 16:19-20 when he says, “O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: Our fathers have inherited noting but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit. Can man make for himself gods? Such are not gods!”
Because he was a believer Jeremiah trembled at the warning and he embraced the promise. By faith Jeremiah knew that God would not only save a remnant of Israel but that He will draw the nations from the ends of the earth. When this happens the peoples will know that they inherited nothing from their fathers but lies and worthless things that cannot profit. And having come to know the One True and Living God they will say, “Can man make for Himself gods? Such things are not gods!”
In response to Jeremiah’s words God says in Jeremiah 16:21, “Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the LORD.”
For the last two weeks we have seen that the author of Hebrews has declared that God has fulfilled that promise to make all nations know His power, His might and that He is the LORD. When Jesus Christ came the Father revealed for all time that He has now spoken through His Son. By His Son He was reconciling Jew and Gentile. By His Son He was making the way of salvation fully known. Salvation is by His power, by His might, by His wisdom.
When God spoke to the people through Jeremiah He said that they had sinned worse than their fathers. The reason for this was because “every one of them followed his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me.”
We are also capable of sinning in this way. In fact, we often do! We are capable of following our own stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to the LORD. This is why the author of Hebrews points us away from this sort of sin. He does this by reminding us about what we are to listen too. He points us to the Gospel preached by Jesus and those who had heard Him. He points us to the Good News that that was preached by them. It was this message that God affirmed with great power and might so that we would know that Jesus is LORD. This is what we read in Hebrews 2:3-4, “...how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
Jesus spoke of these things to His disciples in places like John 15:26-27, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
I began this morning by speaking about the study put out by Arizona Christian University. In that study they discovered that very few held to a biblical worldview. They also discovered that they did not hold rigidly to any other dominant worldview. In other words, many of those who claim to be Christians have created their own worldview. They create their worldview by picking all the things they like and none of the things they don’t like. They follow their own stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to the Word of God. Therefore they have drifted far away through this neglect.
I can’t help but to conclude that if God were to speak to us today He would say, “...your fathers have forsaken me and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and not kept my law,but you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me.”
A faithful response to this diagnosis would be to tremble at the warning and embrace the promise of such a great salvation that we have in Christ. Jeremiah looked forward to Christ and found hope in his day; therefore, how much more should we consider Christ and not drift away and neglect such Good News concerning the promise of God revealed in Jesus.
A faithful response to this warning is to go often to the Word of God and to prayer so that we will be transformed and not conformed to this world any longer.
A faithful response would be to memorize, meditate upon and apply the Word of God to our lives.
A faithful response might be to put a higher priority on the gathering together with the people of God on the LORD’s Day. Did you notice how often the pronoun ‘We’ is used in our text this morning? This is a text that is calling upon this entire church to not drift and to not neglect such a great salvation! Will we come together and commit to not do this by the grace of God? Each of us is responsible to do this but we also cannot do this alone.
Hebrews 1:14 reminded us that angels are sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. If this great salvation is truly our inheritance we should not want to drift from it and neglect it. We should want to pass on to the next generation the truths concerning Jesus and not, “lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.”
We have drifted
We have neglected the things that pertain to our inheritance
We need to tremble at the warning and repent
Respond with saving faith and embrace the promises of God in Christ
I have found Psalm 26 to be a challenging and exciting Psalm to consider when I desire to not drift away from or neglect such a great salvation. In it you see the combination of personal responsibility and the need to join with other believers. I will leave you with it this morning. It says,
Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. 2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. 3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.
4 I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. 5 I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.
6 I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, 7 proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.
8 O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. 9 Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, 10 in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.
11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. 12 My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.
1Halley’s Bible Handbook, p. 814-815
2Dito, p. 815
3Dr. David Thompson, Exposition of Hebrews, Hebrews 2:1-4