Hebrews 2:1-4, …Listen Up!

[1]Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest we drift away.  [2]For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, [3]how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, [4]God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (NKJV)

In chapter 1, the writer began by asserting that God has spoken, first by prophets and then by His own Son.  This post begins by linking 1:1 with 2:1, “God has spoken,…listen up!”

In this country, we live in a time of unprecedented rebellion against Christianity.  The unbeliever says that Christianity is foolish, not worthy of serious pursuit, and is a waste of time or worse.  It is for losers, for the ignorant and uninformed.  Indeed, it is even being labeled as “hate,”  and as such is to be rejected.  Even our President, in connection with the recent sociological flurry, has said that people need to “adjust their religious views” to take into account, and to agree with, the tremendous changes that have taken place recently, thanks to the Supreme Court.

Though perhaps to a lesser degree, even Christians are guilty of some of this.  Leaving aside those who more or less might agree with the above paragraph,  a great many believe that Christianity is simply to belong to a certain denomination, or maybe to disregard any “denomination” at all.  It is to be baptized, either as an adult or an infant, or to take communion.  It is to speak with tongues or to have some other type of “spiritual experience.”  It is, as one lady said, “a warm feeling in my heart.”  It is a particular dogma or set of beliefs.  It is to walk an aisle and/or pray a prayer.  It is to do our best – live by the Ten Commandments, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the Golden Rule.

In answer to all these, some of which do have their place, we say that Christianity is what God says it is, not man.  It is not, and never has been, about what society thinks. Indeed, it is more likely to contradict what society says.  God say that Christianity is life, found in a Person, the Lord Jesus, and revealed in particular in the New Testament.

As we come to our text, we see two thoughts.  In this post, we’ll look at the first one.

1.  A Three-fold Warning Concerning the Word, 2:1.
2.  A Three-fold Witness to the Word, 2:2-4.

1.  A Three-fold Warning Concerning the Word, 2:1.

a.  We are to heed the Word, to give more earnest heed to it.

This means to pay attention.  Perhaps James can help us here when he says that we are to be doers of the Word, James 1:22.  The Word isn’t given to us simply as information or so that we can argue about its interpretation.  While it does tell us things we need to know, it also tells us things we need to do.  And, in Hebrews, this “attention” is to be “abundant.”  One of the words translated “more earnest” means “superabundant.”  Not casual.  Not fleeting.  Not if we have the time.  Abundant.  Lots of it.  I believe there is coming a time in this country, and soon, when the Bible will be illegal.  It already is as far as government and education are concerned, but I believe this will be a complete prohibition and Bibles will be confiscated and destroyed – and likely, those who hold to it with them.  So we need to pay attention to it while we can.

Our Lord had something to say about this.  In Matthew 13, He spoke of a man going out to sow seed in his field, and of the growth which came from it.  He then likened that to those who hear the Word.  There were four results of the sowing – and there are four results of the hearing of the Word.  We’ll not go into it a lot, but only one of the four brought forth abundant fruit.  In one case, the devil came right away and took the word away.  I think most of the time he just draws our attention to something else.  I wonder if a preacher standing in the door as the people leave and tell him what a wonderful sermon it was – I wonder if he were to ask them what it was about, how many of them could tell him.  In another case, there was an initial reception, but some form of persecution took it away.  You know, persecution doesn’t have to mean death, it can simply mean derision.  This world has never thought a lot of the Word, even less so now, but there have always been those who have been opposed to those who believe and live the Bible. Or it could simply be that the old life is too strong.  The desires of our human nature are very strong and, if we’re not careful, can become our masters.  The third case failed because the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches entangle the Word like weeds and choke its influence out.  Oh, there’s so much we could say about that one!

b.  We are to hear the Word, the things which we have heard. 

But make no mistake.  We are to hear the Word.  While the previous paragraph was against just hearing it, we do need to hear it.  We are to be students of it.  My wife worked with a gentleman who had been a church member all his life, and he was amazed that she had read the Bible through several times.  But he is not alone.

c.  We are to hold on to the Word, lest we drift away. 

There are two meanings to the word translated, “drift’:

1.  to drift.  “To go with the flow,” as it were.  One day, the pastor of the church in Florida where I was on staff, took us and his family to the beach.  I got onto an air mattress in the water and just floated there, enjoying the beautiful day.  After a few minutes, I looked up and, wow, I had drifted a long way away from where I started.  It’s a good thing the tide wasn’t going out, or I might still be out there!

The point is, if we don’t pay attention, if we just “float,” we are likely to wind up a long ways away from where we started.  We don’t mean to do it, we just do it.  The church has done that.  Things the world scorned in my youth are now accepted and promoted in the church.

2.  to leak.  This refers to a leaky vessel.  Aren’t we often like that?  How little of the Word we retain!

God has spoken…listen up!

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The “Work of Faith,” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

There’s a lot of discussion among Christians about the nature and place of faith and works.  Some folks, in saying that we’re saved by “faith alone,” take that to mean that there is no place for works at all in our salvation.  Any attempt to include works is viewed as “legalism.”  As long as one “believes in Jesus,” that’s all that’s necessary.

On the other hand, there are those who say that we must have “works” in addition to faith.  These folks tend to have a long list of do’s and don’ts which must be followed.  Or they will add baptism or communion or keeping the Sabbath or tongues or a lot of other things mentioned in Scripture as necessary to our being saved.

Adding to the difficulty of understanding all this is the fact that there are different “kinds” of faith.  There is, for example, a “doctrinal” faith, which is just an intellectual agreement with a particular statement of faith or Catechism.  There is an “historical” faith, which believes in the “facts” of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  There is a “religious” faith, which simply agrees with the practices of a particular religion – which may or may not have anything to do with Scripture.  There is a “natural” faith, which expects the car to start when you turn the key in the ignition or push the “start” button, or for a chair to hold you when you sit down.  I heard a lot about this kind of faith in my days in Fundamentalism.  There is even, if you will, a “devilish” faith, James 2:19, in that even demons believe in one God.  I may do a post one day on “the orthodoxy of demons.”  It’s an interesting study in the New Testament.  (Though I don’t recommend spending a lot of time thinking about demons.  I think that’s where people can get into trouble, thinking about Satan instead of our Lord.  Such people tend to see demons everywhere and in everything, but Scripture says that Satan is a defeated foe and can only do those things which God gives him permission to do, especially with God’s children, cf. Job 1.  But that’s another whole different subject.)

The difficulty is that none of these “kinds” of faith is “saving” faith, which comes only from God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Paul clearly taught us what “saving faith” is when he wrote to the Galatians that in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avail anything, but faith working through love, Galatians 5:6.  He wrote something very similar just a few verses later when he wrote, in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything but a new creation, Galatians 6:15.  The latter – “a new creation” – can only be known through “faith working through love.”  You see, “natural faith” works through or because of religion or necessity or habit or ritual or even fear.  The faith which comes from God works through and for the love of God.  The faith which comes from God is an active, living faith, not just a one-time “agreement” with some religious proposition – or even a life-long such agreement.

This is the whole argument of James, who was not disagreeing with Paul.  After all, James wrote first.  He argues that faith can only be seen by what it does.  If there is no such evidence, then there is no saving faith, James 2:26.  Dead faith cannot come from the living God.  It only comes from spiritually dead people.

It’s not a matter of “faith and….”  It’s all about a “faith which….”