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 Bible: GPS or Road Map?

I admit it, I’m old (my “inner child” is 47 🙂  ).  I remember as a teenager getting a transistor radio, and thinking I really had something.  I paid 8 dollars for it.  Now there are all kinds of electronic gadgets and two and three-year-old kids know how they work.  And the gadgets don’t cost $8!

For about 18 years, I drove for a living, even had my own delivery service for a while.  I’m not a typical male who doesn’t ask for directions.  When time is money, well….   The map book I used had about 50 pages, and it was well worn.  But I’ve also used GPS to get from here to there.   And looked directions up on computer sites.

What’s my point?

The thing with GPS or computer directions is that they may get you there, but not always with the best route.  For example, my wife and I went to one of these pick-it-yourself farms.  Looked up how to get there on the computer.  Well, we got there, twisting and turning and going through what my grandmother would have called, “Robin Hood’s barn.”  If we had come back the same way, it would have required a right turn from the farm.  I asked one of the folks there if there were a better way.  Sure enough.  Turn left!  About a mile up the road was a highway that brought us back home in about half the time!  If I’d looked at an actual map, I might have seen that for myself.

Plus, GPS isn’t always accurate, especially in rural areas.

On the other hand, maps aren’t always right, either.  My wife and I were on a trip – I was navigating.  (My navigational skills are legendary! 😛 ).  The map clearly showed that if we took this little side road, we could cut across a corner and save some time.  *sigh*

Anyway.  The thing with a map is that it gives you a larger picture.  In looking for an unfamiliar place, you can see how it hooks up to places that are familiar.  GPS doesn’t do that.

So, what does all this have to do with the Bible?

A lot of folks have their Bibles on their phone.  And there are apps which will give you a whole library of reference works, different translations, etc.  You can punch in a verse and voila! there it is.  No thumbing through pages.

But, again, there’s no “larger picture.”  Especially in the study of Scripture, context is vital.  That’s where the cults and most false teaching comes from:  a verse or two here and there.  I don’t know how many times in church or my own reading that I’ve seen something new in another verse on the same page.

I don’t expect to stem the tide of electronic gizmos.  And I may be all wet in my thinking. I just want to encourage folks to go “old-school” and read and study a Bible that’s a physical book, not an app.

 

“This Is A Faithful Saying”

Perhaps the best known “faithful saying” in Scripture is the one about Christ coming to save sinners, 1 Timothy 1:15, however, there are six such “sayings” in the New Testament.  We’ll start with 1 Timothy and look at all six, which span all our spiritual life, from sin to glory.

  • 1 Timothy 1:15, the saying of Salvation:

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 

The Lord Jesus didn’t come just to be a good example or to give us a set of moral sayings.  He wasn’t just another prophet.  He didn’t just come to help us to save ourselves or to make it “possible” for us to be saved.  He came to save sinners; that’s the only kind of people He’s interested in.  Religious people, moral people, “good” people – these have no need of Him, or so they think.

There was a time when Paul was like that.  He thought he was doing God service.  He thought he was blameless as far as the Law was concerned.  I believe it was during the witnessing of Stephen in Acts 7 that the light began to dawn and Paul began to understand how far short he fell of the mark, cf. Romans 3:23.  That his “best” was bogus.  And on his way to Damascus, the Lord stopped him short and turned him around.

  • 1 Timothy 4:9, the saying of Realization:

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 

We might ask, “a saying of what?”  I think it refers to all of vs. 1-11.

In this section, Paul prophesies a time in which “the faith” will be replaced by teachings from deceiving spirits, teachings which are the doctrines of demons, v. 1.  According to Paul, we need to realize that there is an active warfare – in a realm we can’t see, but which greatly impacts the one we can see.  The truth will suffer reproach, but God’s people are called on to both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God.

Verses 1-11 speak of a Christian’s perseverance in times of apostasy.

We certainly live in such a time, when a supposedly Christian college will invite a Muslim scholar to lecture about “the historical Jesus” – as opposed to the Christ of faith. This happened here locally just a few weeks ago.  The religious organization which sponsors this college prides itself that they’re the true one and that their teachings are the true faith, yet they host a man who denies everything they say they believe.  A man who says that the Gospels aren’t to be trusted as accurate history, but were written much later than the events they portray.

  • 2 Timothy 2:11-13, the saying of identification:

This is a faithful saying:  For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.  

Some look at these verses as teaching that a true believer can lose his or her salvation.  If that were the case, then they would contradict all the verses which teach that salvation once entered can never be lost.

I think there’s another thought in these verses.  Many people have just identified with a church or a denomination.  They were sprinkled into it, maybe “confirmed” a few years later, but the Bible may as well still be in the original languages.  They never read it, and have no idea what it says.

This goes for those who don’t accept infant baptism, as well.  My earlier years were spent in fundamentalism, where I was privileged to know and work among many wonderful Christian people.  At the same time, because of the tremendous emphasis on “soul-winning,” there were many who were manipulated into making a “profession of faith” who never seemed ever to be any different.  They never went to church or were baptized.  They seemed no different after than they did before.  I think Paul would say that there’s something wrong with that.

I believe in evangelism; it’s just not about working a particular “method.”

When persecution comes, and we believe it will, we’ll find out who’ve merely identified with some church and who’ve truly identified with Christ.

  • Titus 3:8, the saying of exhortation:

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable to men.

There’s a big discussion going on about the relationship of faith and works.  Some vociferously maintain that we’re saved by faith alone.  No works at all.  “Just believe.”  There’s a certain amount of truth to that.  We are saved by faith alone.  The difficulty comes in when one asserts that “faith” is alone.

Paul put it like this in Galatians 5:6, For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything but faith working through love(emphasis added.)  Make no mistake.  Paul isn’t talking about faith AND works, but faith WHICH works.  There’s an eternal difference.

  • Revelation 21:5, the saying of expectation:

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”  And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

While the saying is a little different, the thought is the same.  V. 4 speaks of tears, death, sorrow, crying, pain.  These are all common to this life, even for Christians.  I know Christians who suffer terribly physically, or mentally, or emotionally.  Some of the blogs I follow speak eloquently of this, as well.

John assures us these things will soon be over; there is coming a time when they all have passed away.

  • Revelation 22:6, the saying of confirmation:

Then he [one of the seven angels, 21:9] said to me, “These words are faithful and true.”  And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.”

There’s a lot of discussion about Revelation:  how to understand and interpret it.  That’s not the point of this post.  The Book of Revelation isn’t just the hallucinations of a tired, overworked old man, as some blasphemously assert, but is the very word of God.  This applies not only to Revelation itself, but to every part of God’s Word; it has all been given to us by divine inspiration.  It is, therefore, to be handled with reverence and respect.  It is the Word of God.