2:1-4

Hebrews 2:1-4

 

1.   British Admiral William Edward Parry became famous for his explorations of the Arctic Circle...during his lifetime led three expeditions searching for the North Pole.  The closest he ever came to reaching the North Pole was about 400 miles.  On one of his trips a very interesting thing happened.  They went as far as they could by ship, and then decided to attempt to move by foot over the frozen ocean.  They calculated their position by the stars and began a very difficult and treacherous march toward the north.  After walking for many hours, near exhaustion they stopped to rest.  While they were stopped, they again calculated their position by the stars, and to their dismay they discovered they were farther south than they were when they began walking.  They finally figured out that the layer of ice on which they were walking was drifting to the south at a faster rate than their progress to the north. They thought they were going in one direction when in reality they were going in just the opposite direction.

2.   That is how many of us are in our spiritual lives.  We desire to be closer to God.  We desire to better understand and follow His will for our lives, but the reality is that many of us are gradually and subtly drifting further and further away from him.  In our study of Hebrews, going look at passage which tells us how to avoid that spiritual drift in our lives.

3.   Hebrews 2:1-4 is the first of five strong warning passages in this letter.  Without doubt, they are the most difficult passages in Hebrews to interpret.  In my opinion, this first warning is the easiest with which to deal.  It is obviously directed toward those who are Christians and it is a reminder of the danger of drifting away from God.

 

Warren Wiersbe says of these five warning passages:

To begin with, these five passages are not really “warnings.” Three basic words are translated “warn” in the New Testament, and the only one used in Hebrews is translated “admonished” in Hebrews 8:5 (kjv, where it refers to Moses) and “spake” in Hebrews 12:25. Only in Hebrews 11:7 is it translated “warned,” where it refers to Noah “being warned of God.” I think that the best description of the five so-called warning passages is the one given in Hebrews 13:22—“exhortation” (kjv), or “encouragement” (berk). This does not minimize the seriousness of these five sections of the book, but it does help us grasp their purpose: to encourage us to trust God and heed His Word.

The Epistle to the Hebrews opens with an important declaration: “God … has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1–2, nasb). Near the close of the book, the writer states: “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking” (Heb. 12:25, nasb). In other words, the theme of Hebrews seems to be: “God has spoken; we have His Word. What are we doing about it?”

With this truth in mind, we can now better understand the significance of those five “problem passages” in Hebrews. Each of these passages encourages us to heed God’s Word (“God … has spoken”) by pointing out the sad spiritual consequences that result if we do not. Let me list these passages for you and explain their sequence in the Book of Hebrews. I think you will see how they all hang together and present one message: heed God’s word.

Drifting from the Word—2:1–4 (neglect)

Doubting the Word—3:7–4:13 (hard heart)

Dullness toward the Word—5:11–6:20 (sluggishness)

Despising the Word—10:26–39 (willfulness)

Defying the Word—12:14–29 (refusing to hear)

If we do not listen to God’s Word and really hear it, we will start to drift. Neglect always leads to drifting, in things material and physical as well as spiritual. As we drift from the Word, we start to doubt the Word; because faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). We start to get hard hearts, and this leads to spiritual sluggishness which produces dullness toward the Word. We become “dull of hearing”—lazy listeners! This leads to a despiteful attitude toward the Word to the extent that we willfully disobey God; and this gradually develops into a defiant attitude—we almost “dare” God to do anything!

Now what does God do while this spiritual regression is going on? He keeps speaking to us, encouraging us to get back to the Word. If we fail to listen and obey, then He begins to chasten us. This chastening process is the theme of Hebrews 12, the climactic chapter in the epistle. “The Lord shall judge His people” (Heb. 10:30, italics mine). God does not allow His children to become “spoiled brats” by permitting them to willfully defy His Word. He always chastens in love.[1]

 

The key phrase in this first waning passage around which everything else is built is the phrase "lest we drift away" near end of v.1.  The picture behind that phrase is a ship drifting past the safety of the harbor and into destruction because the captain is asleep at the helm.  The point is spiritual drifting is dangerous.  And because the danger of drifting away from God is so real, the writer of Hebrews tells us in the passage how to avoid that danger.

 

I.    To avoid drifting from God we must anchor ourselves to Jesus

1.   Look again at first phrase of v.1..."For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard..."...

--  "For this reason" means essentially the same thing as "therefore"...points back to all that was said in the previous chapter...that chapter focuses on the superiority of Jesus to the OT prophets and even to the angels...we are told in Hebrews 1 precisely who Jesus is and what Jesus has done...

--  To avoid spiritual drifting the writer of Hebrews says "we must pay much closer attention" to what we have heard about Jesus...and that phrase doesn't mean merely to listen more attentively like teacher telling student to "pay attention to me"...it means to anchor your life in Jesus... actually, the word translated "pay attention" is a nautical term...it was used to describe the tying of a ship in the safety of a harbor...

2.   The writer is saying to avoid drifting, tie yourself to Jesus who is stable, secure, solid, unchanging...

 

1.      I have a friend who lives in Waco who looks at world through different eyes...you know kind of person talking about...just has rather unique way of viewing life...early 1950's terrible tornado swept through Waco causing much destruction and death...people who are native to the area, as this person is, have inbred fear of tornadoes...but this person, who sees things differently, says she has fool proof plan for being safe in a tornado...plan is go into bathroom and cling to toilet...says in all pictures she has seen, even when house is totally destroyed, toilet always left standing...figures that's safest place to be...

 

1.      Don't know about her tornado survival plan, but do know way avoid spiritual drifting is to cling to person of Jesus...later in this letter we are told to "run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith..."...if we keep our focus on who He is and what He as done for us, much less likely to drift away from God...

 

II.  To avoid drifting from God we must recognize the consequences of drifting

1.   There is price to be paid for neglecting our spiritual lives...V.2 is reminder that in OT days, when people drifted away and neglected God, they were punished...the verse says that "every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense"... the word "transgression" refers to sins of commission, doing things that are wrong...the word "disobedience" refers to sins of omission, failing to do what is right...

2.   The question in v. 3 "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"...is graphic way of asking, "If God punished those who disobeyed the law in OT days, how can we expect to escape punishment for drifting away from Him after all He has done for us in Jesus?"

 

1.   One person compares drifting into disobedience to buying something on credit...it is easy at first but in long run you pay a high price for it...on the other hand, obedience is like investing...may seem difficult at first but in long run reap a positive dividend...

2.   What appears to be a small act of disobedience may seem insignificant at first, but in long run it can be very costly...William Barclay put it this way: "For most of us the threat of life is not so much that we should plunge into disaster, but that we should drift into [it].  There are few people who deliberately and in a moment turn their backs on God;  there are many who day by day drift farther and farther away from Him. There are not many who in one moment of time commit some disastrous sin; there are many who, bit by bit and almost imperceptibly, involve themselves in some situation, and suddenly awake to find that they have ruined life for themselves and broken someone else's heart.  We would do well to be continually on the alert against the peril of the drifting life."

3.   Recognizing the consequences of drifting away from God can help us avoid doing so...

 

III. To avoid drifting from God we must remember the truth of what we believe

1.   The thrust of the last part of v.3 and all of v.4 is that the biblical message about salvation through Jesus is true...these verses tell us three evidences for the truth of the good news/gospel of Jesus...we know it is true because--

--it was proclaimed by Jesus...

--it was faithfully passed on by those who heard/saw...

--it was attested by special signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts...

2.   How does remembering the truth of what we believe keep us from drifting from God? Let me illustrate it this way. Suppose you're on trip and drive into city with which not familiar. You are looking for particular hotel and have no idea how get there.  So, you stop and ask someone and person says, "Well, not really sure but think know where it is."  That person gives you some directions which are rather vague and you do your best to follow them.  But the further you drive the less confidence you have in what that person told you.  It would not be long before you abandon or drift away from those directions for something else.

3.   But suppose you're in same situation and ask person for directions and person says, "I know exactly where that hotel is because that is where I work."  That person gives you precise instructions on how to get there.  No doubt you would follow those instructions until you arrive at the destination.

4.   Having confidence in something helps us to stick with it.  And remembering that what Bible teaches about Jesus and salvation is truth will help us keep from drifting from it.  If we really believe what we profess to believe about Jesus--

--that He is God come to earth...

--that He died on cross for our sins...

--that those who believe in Him find forgiveness of sin, abundant life, and eternal life...

then we have every motivation to stay with Him and not drift away...

CONCLUSION

1.   The person I'm about to describe is a real person and the events are real events...not going use his real name in case some of you may know him...will call him John...if ever person seemed to have it all it was John...sweet wife, two young sons, high profile exciting career...was one of pillars in his church...sang in choir...led Bible studies... served on committees...even participated in outreach activities... was very successful in his career, and as became more successful began drift away from church...at first was nothing radical or of major significance, but just wasn't quite as faithful in any area as once was...then, began to give up his leadership roles...not all at once, but sort of gradually one by one...

2.   As drift continued, John became involved in some things which were obviously wrong for a Christian...he became unfaithful to his wife and eventually left her...his sons, hurt by their father's behavior, became very trouble children...his closest friends became alienated from him...and to my knowledge, John is still estranged from the Lord and his family and friends...

3.   And tragically, that is the story of many Christians…they start out well, but somewhere along the way began to drift and lost their way...how can we avoid that tragedy in our lives?...this passage says it well--

--anchor your life in Jesus...

--remember the consequences of drifting away...

--focus on the truth of the gos


[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Heb 1:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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