I must pay attention. It is easy to lose focus. I drift away some days. Yikes. It is sad. I am not happy about it.
It is a great question posed here: How will I escape if I neglect such a great salvation?
Okay, how will I?
The answer is, I won’t escape!
1 For this reason, we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken through messengers (aka angels) was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? This salvation had its beginning when it was spoken of by the Master, and it was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to his will. | Hebrews 2:1-4 (CSB
This is the first of the five admonitions found in Hebrews. Their purpose is to encourage all readers to pay attention to God’s Word and obey it. These admonitions become stronger as we progress through the book, from drifting from God’s Word to defying God’s Word. We also noted that God does not sit idly by and permit His children to rebel against Him. He will continue to speak and, when necessary, He chastens His own.
The admonition is written to believers, for the writer includes himself when he writes “we.” The danger here is that of neglecting our salvation. Please note that the author did not write “rejecting” but “neglecting.” He is not encouraging sinners to become disciples; rather, he is encouraging disciples to pay attention to the great salvation they have received from the Master Jesus.
“Lest … we should let them slip” might better be translated “lest we drift away from them.” Later, the writer uses the illustration of an anchor to show how confident we can be in the promises of God. More spiritual problems are caused by neglect than perhaps by any other failure on our part. We neglect God’s Word, prayer, worship with God’s people, and other opportunities for spiritual growth, and as a result, we start to drift. The anchor does not move; we do.
During the Old Testament days, people who did not heed the Word were sometimes punished. That Word was given through messengers of God (aka angels), so how much greater responsibility do we have today who have received the Word from the Son of God! “Transgression” refers to sins of commission, while “disobedience” suggests sins of omission.
There is the story of the pastor who preached a series of sermons on “the sins of the saints.” He was reprimanded by a member of the church. “After all,” said the member, “sin in the life of a Christian is different from sin in the lives of other people.”
“Yes,” replied the pastor, “it’s worse!”
We have the idea that believers today “under grace” can escape the chastening hand of God that was so evident “under Law.” But to whom much is given, much shall be required. Not only have we received the Word from the Son of God, but that Word has been confirmed by miracles. The phrase “signs and wonders” is found eleven times in the New Testament. Here it refers to the miracles that witnessed to the Word and gave confirmation that it was true.
Too many disciples today take the Word of God for granted and neglect it. Neglect of the Word of God and prayer, publicly and privately, is the cause of most “spiritual drifting.” Every believer knows that this is true. He has either experienced this “drifting” or has seen it in the lives of others.
It is easy to drift with the current, but it is difficult to return against the stream. Our salvation is a “great salvation,” purchased at a great price. It brings with it great promises and blessings, and it leads to a great inheritance in glory. How can we neglect it?
There’s no way of escaping if we’re careless, and we’re careless if we lack utter seriousness. Not escaping looks ahead to punishment in hellfire. Not pleasant to hear but true.
Therefore “necessary” means necessary for salvation from such a fate. By including himself with his audience in “for us” the author establishes rapport with them; and they’ll think correctly that if utter seriousness is necessary for his salvation, it must be for theirs too.
“The things that were heard” consist in what God spoke “in a son” and was then proclaimed to the audience. To drift away would be not to take those things with utter seriousness and thus to apostatize and lose out on salvation.
The author supports his warning with an allusion to the history of the Mosaic law, and calls that law “the word spoken through angels.”
To stress his point the author uses two terms, “transgression” and “disobedience,” modifies them with “every,” and describes the punishment as well-deserved (“just deserts”). The word spoken through angels “became firm,” then, in its rightly inflexible and consistent enforcement. Much more will a carelessness that leads to drifting away from the gospel incur a punishment that consists in failure to gain salvation; for the gospel promises a salvation greater than anything promised Israel, such as rest from the labors of Egyptian slavery in the land of Canaan.
The good news promises rest in a heavenly country free from the wars of persecution. The greatness of this salvation—that is, deliverance—gets emphasis from “such a great salvation” and from “which as such [= as great].”
It would insult God and his Son to be careless about a salvation of this magnitude. “Having gotten its start by being spoken” describes the salvation in terms of an initial message
“By being spoken through the Master” alludes to God’s having spoken “in a son”. So “the Master” is the Son. God his Father spoke salvation through him when he’d brought him into the inhabited earth. Earwitnesses (the original disciples) confirmed to the author and his audience what God had said through the Master. And God joined his own testimony to that of the earwitnesses by enabling them to perform “both signs and wonders and various miracles” and by individually distributing to them the Holy Spirit for such enablement.
Here is the literal translation:
2:1–4: Because of this [the Son’s superiority to angels [aka messengers] as well as to the ancient prophets] it’s necessary for us to be taking with utter seriousness the things that were heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels became firm and every transgression and disobedience got [its] just deserts [as it did], 3 how will we escape if we’ve become careless of such a great salvation, which as such, having gotten its start by being spoken through the Master, was confirmed to us by those who heard [him] 4 while God joined in testifying by means of both signs and wonders and various miracles and distributions of the Holy Spirit according to his [God’s] will?
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Heb 2:1–18). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 282–283). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (pp. 874–875). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.