April 5th, 1959 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-5-59 7:30 p.m.
In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the second chapter of the Book of Hebrews. And if you will turn in your Bible to the second chapter of Hebrews, we shall read the text together: Hebrews 2:1-4 – the first four verses of the second chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
Do we all have it? And share your Bible with your neighbor and all of us read this passage together: the second chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the first four verses. Now, let’s read it together:
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward,
How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him,
God also bearing them witness both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?"
All through the Book of Hebrews, you will find these little sections of earnest appeal, and this is the first one that we have met in our preaching through the Book. He speaks of "so great salvation" [Hebrews 2:3], and in his appeal, he applies two words – you have it translated here, "Lest at any time we should let them slip" – pararreo which means to drift away like in a current, caught moving out to sea by the tide, or drifting downstream. "Lest at any time we should drift away from them" [Hebrews 2:1] – not consciously, not overtly, not volitionally, but just gradually drifting away.
And his other word here: "If we neglect" [Hebrews 2:3] – ameleō, not to care for; ameleō, not to be concerned about. If we just forget, if we just neglect, if we just don’t care, if we neglect "so great salvation."
That word "salvation" is indeed a great word. It is one of the key words of this epistle. In Hebrews 1:14 he says that the angels of God are sent forth to minister to them who are heirs of salvation.
In 2:10, in 2:10 he says: "For it became Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering" [Hebrews 2:10].In 5:9 he uses the word again:
Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.
And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.
In 6:9, he uses the word again: "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you and things that accompany salvation" [Hebrews 6:9].
In 9:28, he uses the word again:
It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment,
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. And unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation.
It is a great word: "so great salvation" [Hebrews 2:3]. The word is used in three tenses. Sometimes the word is used in the past tense. "For by grace have we been saved through faith, that not of yourself; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast" [Ephesians 2:8-9]. We have been saved. It refers to that great act of committal by which a man in Christ is pardoned for all of his sins – yesterday’s sins, today’s sins, tomorrow’s sins – and he faces the future judgment of God without fear of damnation [2 Thessalonians 1:6-10]. That is a reference to one’s conversion. We have been saved. We have committed our lives in trust to Christ.
Sometimes the word is used in the present tense. In First Corinthians 1:18: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us who are being saved it is the power of God." When used in the present tense, it refers to our pilgrimage – God’s keeping us in this world. Being saved and staying saved, we are being saved.
Sometimes the word is used in the future tense referring to that great and holy day when God shall give us bodies – resurrection, immortalized bodies – likened to that of our living Lord [1 John 3:2]. "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand" [Romans 13:11-12]. There it is future looking to that glorious consummation of all the ages and of all life when we shall be fully complete in the image of Christ our Lord.
So when he uses the words "so great salvation" [Hebrews 2:3], he refers to an experience that delivered us unto Christ, that keeps us in the faith, and that someday shall present us faultless and without blemish or blame before God in a final and ultimate judgment [Ephesians 5:27].
"So great salvation" – in its scope, it includes the whole world: "And He’s the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" [1 John 2:2].
"So great salvation" in the ease by which we are able to receive it and to grasp it and to hold it. Someone remarks, "It seems so easy to be a Christian."
"Look unto Me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth!" [Isaiah 45:22]
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whosoever believeth in Him . . . " [John 3:14-15]
"There is life for a look at the crucified One." ["There Is Life for a Look at the Crucified One," by Amelia M. Hull, 1832].
It is easy to become a Christian, but it is easy because it was hard for Him [1 Peter 2:24]. Through His death, His blood, His tears, His agony we are saved [Isaiah 53:5].
Now, having spoken of that "so great salvation" [Hebrews 2:3], he makes his earnest appeal: "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should drift away from them" [Hebrews 2:1].These Hebrew Christians were going through a hard time, a difficult trial, a terrible, terrible persecution. They were subject to reproach and to blame. They had to, with joy, receive the spoiling of their goods knowing that in heaven they had an enduring, an eternal, reward and substance [Hebrews 12:1-4]. But they were finally giving away underneath that terrible drive and those awful, awful days of persecution. They were forsaking the assembling of themselves together [Hebrews 10:25] some of them to whom the glory of Christ had been so bright. That vision was now becoming dimand they were less resolute in opposing the things that were anti-Christian; and the tide, the current, was gradually sweeping them back into the old customs and into the old ways and into the old faith [Hebrews 5:11-6:6].
Drifting away: they were not renouncing Christ; they were not doing despite to the Spirit of grace [Hebrews 10:29]; they were not trampling underfoot the blood of the covenant. They were just drifting away from that great first commitment by which they served the Lord. And that is a constant danger to all of God’s disciples through all days and all generations, and it is our eternal and everlasting temptation to drift away [Revelation 2:1-4]. The drift of life: following the propensities and affinities of the world. The drifting life: losing our mooring, our first vision, our first love, our first devotion, and drifting away from Christ.
There’s a ship floats by with a swaying lurch,
No mast, no sail, no spar;
And she drifts from the paths of her sister ships
To wherever the dead ships are.
The song of her youth is hushed for aye,
Her name no man can say;
She drifts with the tide and whatever wind blows –
And nobody knows
Where the derelict goes.
There’s a man slinksby with a swaying lurch,
No hope, no joy, no star;
And he drifts from the paths of his brother men
To wherever the other wrecks are.
The song of his youth is hushed for aye,
His name but he can say;
He drifts with the tide and whatever wind blows –
And nobody knows
Where the derelict goes.
["The Derelicts," by Robert Healey, 1915]
Just drifting away from Christ.
I could not tell you the number of people whom I have known and seen, some of whom are devout and have been in this church, and I do not see them anymore. I wonder where they have gone. I wonder what they have done. I wonder how it is with their souls. Once in a while I meet them. I greet them. I ask them. They’re not against our Lord or against our church or against the faith. They have just gradually, gradually, gradually turned aside to a secular life and to secular interests.
There is many a young man who would never think of standing up and saying, "I renounce the faith and the God of my father," but he’s down there in an executive office and the men around him are full of worldliness and they care nothing for religion. And the young fellow finds himself in a company and in a group that are unspiritual, that don’t love God and do not honor Christ. And they gradually, gradually, gradually drift away and away and away, and they’re never seen in God’s house or in God’s work anymore.
When I am asked, "Pastor, you don’t see anything wrong with a social drink. God has nothing to say about sobriety and temperance. Why should you say anything about a social drink? It’s drunkenness that is an affront to man and God, and if I just socially drink – I have a cocktail, or we serve it in our home – there is nothing wrong with that."
My brother and my friend, listen to me. I’m not afraid of the example of the man who drinks in the gutter. He’s not going to influence any man to follow him in his vomit, in his filth, in his slime, in his dirt, in his debauchery. There’s not a boy in this world, there’s not a girl, there’s not a child, there’s not a young man who would ever be tempted to follow that! He is tempted to follow the young executive to whom he appears as a hero. He follows that young fellow and that older executive who says, "Sit down, boy, sit down. Let’s have a little drink together."
And the boy replies, "But, sir, I was brought up not to drink liquor – that it was wrong before God and the example of it was not right before men."
"Oh," says the big man, "a little drink doesn’t matter; just a little sip, just a little cup, just a little cocktail – just a little. That’s social life, and that’s the order of the day."
How do you think that man ever got down there in the gutter? Do you think he chose to follow a way and a life that led down? No! He first took a social drink. Then he took another and another, and there are one out of ten who drink who find it impossible to refuse it and their lives are ruined. They drift into that. That’s why the social drink is the most desperately dangerous of all of the drinking in the world. It’s the cocktail party. It’s the drink at the business office. It’s putting over the deal. Those are the ways by which we are led down and down and down and down.
We drift into those things. There’s hardly any man who finds himself secular, who finds himself worldly, who finds himself enmeshed in the darkness of the kingdoms of Satan who ever planned it that way. A little at a time – it’sa little at a time he drifts, and he drifts, and he drifts.
It is easy to follow the propensities of the worldly heart and be lost to God. It is easy to find yourself engrossed in the affairs of this world. And you read the Bible less and less and less and finally never open it at all. We come to church less – finally on Sunday morning, finally on just an Easter, and then maybe not at all. And we drift, and we drift, and we drift.
This is the appeal, earnest appeal, of the author: "Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we drift away from them" [Hebrews 2:1].
God give us a golden ear and God give us a responsive heart. "We ought to give the more earnest heed to these things which we have heard" – we, we. Oh,what a mistake it is for a man to be persuaded that "I have given my heart to Christ. I have been saved. I have committed my life to Him. Now the victory is over and the battle is done!"No, no, no! When those children of Israel were taken out of Egypt in the awful night of the Passover [Hebrews 11:1-10, 12:29-41] and they were saved by the blood [Hebrews 12:1-13], they went out of Egypt to enter into a pilgrimage through the deserts, through the trials of the wilderness [Exodus 13:17-22]. And that is a picture of every Christian life. Our commitment to Christ, our taking Jesus as Savior, is just an enrolling in the battle of the war. The great conflict is ahead always, always.
In that great passage I read, Ephesians 2:8-9, listen to it: "For by grace have you been saved. For by grace have you been saved . . . and that not of yourself; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." Listen to the next verse: "For we are His workmanship, created unto Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" [Ephesians 2:10]. That first great commitment to Christ was just the beginning, and the rest of our lives is a dedication to that commitment.
Or again as Paul wrote in the second chapter of Philippians: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" [Philippians 2:12] – that is, it’s to be worked into my mind. My mind is to be Christian. My thought is to be worked into my heart. My affections are to be Christian. It’s to be worked into the work of my hands. My deeds are to be Christian. It is to go out and out and out into all of the areas of life. We ought to give the more earnest heed to these things lest we drift away from them.
A man must consciously strive to be a Christian. He must consciously work at the task of serving Jesus. I want to lie in bed; I must get up. I want to go for a ride; it’s time to for church. I want to go some other place; I must get to God’s house. But my television program is – that doesn’t matter! I must consciously set myself to serving God lest the current take me away. No tide ever sweeps a man up to glory. He must consciously strive and roll and toil to stay close to the Lord Jesus.
Some of these churches are so dead and lifeless and cold. The reason is there’s not anything sacrificed – the blood, the tears, the pouring of life into its services. You can tell it. When the church means something to people, it means something to the lost and the world. When the church means nothing to God’s people, it means nothing to the lost and nothing to the world!We must consciously set ourselves against the current, the spring, the tide of this life "giving the more earnest heed to those things which God hath spoken to us, lest we drift away from them" [Hebrews 2:1].
Then he closes his appeal: "How shall we escape if we neglect that great salvation?" [Hebrews 2:3] We have an unusual turn in this day. This is the day of grace. This is the day of God’s love. This is the day of the "whosoever will" [Matthew 16:25; Revelation 22:17]. This is the day of the mercy of God, and, therefore, we are sometimes inclined to think that, "Well, God is good and the Lord is gracious, and we can forget this salvation. We can neglect it. We can let it pass. We can say ‘nay’ and ‘no’ without offending a holy and good and righteous God."
But this author of the Hebrews says just the opposite. He says because this is the day of grace, it is the day of mercy, it is the day of God’s love – therefore, he says, it is doubly, doubly full of condemnation, and doubly dangerous, and our souls are doubly jeopardized when we offend the God of love and the God of grace. "He that despised Moses’ law," this author says, "died without mercy under two or three witnesses" [Hebrews 10:28]:
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, who hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace, and who hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing?
For we know Him that hath said, "Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will repay," saith the Lord. And again, "the Lord shall judge His people."
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of theliving God.
One of the strangest phrases in all this Book is in the sixth chapter of the Revelation when they cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them [Revelation 6:16]. To hide them from what? "From Him that sitteth upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb" [Revelation 6:16]. What a phrase: "The wrath of the Lamb." Lamb. "For the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" [Revelation 6:17] To neglect so great salvation; the wrath of the Lamb.
God hath done His utmost. He’s done His best. He sent the Lord who died for us. And when we pass it by, and when we neglect it, and when we spurn it, and when we say "nay" to it, there’s no other remission of sin [Acts 4:12]. There’s nothing but a fearful looking for of the judgment of God and the great day of the wrath of the Lamb [Hebrews 10:26-27].
"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" [Hebrews 2:3]. How would you answer that? It is an unanswerable question. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" [Hebrews 2:3]
Did Adam and Eve escape when they believed the first liewhen Satan said to them [Genesis 3:4], "Yea, hath God said thou shalt surely die? Thou shalt not surely die. Thou shalt not surely die. There’s not any judgment. There’s not any condemnation. There’s not any damnation. There’s not any hell. Thou shalt not surely die"? [Genesis 3:4] Did they escape? Did they? [Genesis 3:19, 22-24] "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" [Genesis 2:17]. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" [Hebrews 2:3]
Did the Antediluvians escape who laughed and mocked and ridiculed in the days when righteous Noah for 120 years pled with the people to turn to God? [Genesis 6:1-7:24] Did the Sodomites escape when the words of Lot were as foolishness to them, when Lot said, "God shall destroy this city"? [Genesis 19:1-29]. Would an Israelite have escaped who refused to place over the lintel and doorpost of his house the sprinkled blood? [Exodus 12:12-13, 21-23] Would he? Did he? [Exodus 12:28-32]
"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Did Ahab escape when Elijah stood in his presence and say, "Where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, the dogs shall lick thy blood" [1 Kings 21:19]. Did he escape? [1 Kings 22:34-37]
Did Judah escape when Jeremiah cried, "Turn, turn"? [Jeremiah 4:3-4] In 605, Nebuchadnezzar came [2 Kings 24:1-5], and Jeremiah lifted up his voice and said, "Turn ye, turn ye" [Jeremiah 22:1-12]. And in 598, Nebuchadnezzar came a second time [2 Kings 24:6-20], and Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried, "Turn ye" [Jeremiah 25:1-11]. Nebuchadnezzar came the third time in 587, and there wasn’t any need for him to come anymore [2 Kings 25:1-26]. They plowed under Jerusalem like heaps. They took the people away into captivity, and those who resisted were slain by the edge of the sword.
"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" [Hebrews 2:3]. If I say "no" to Jesus, what hope do I have? Is there any other way? Is there any other escape? "Then to the Rock let me fly, to the Rock that is higher than I" ["The Rock that is Higher," by E. Johnson, 1875].
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy precious side which flowed,
Be of sin a double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
["Rock of Ages," by Augustus Toplady, 1776]
"Here I am, and here I come. Tonight, this hour, this moment, God being my helper, this hour, this moment, I give my life in faith and in trust to Jesus and here I am. I’ve said ‘no’ in days past. I’ll never say ‘no’ again. From now until I die, it will be ‘yes, yea, and amen’ in Christ Jesus. Here I am, and here I come."
Would you make it now? Would you make it tonight? In this balcony round, down one of these stairwells, "Here I come, and here I am. Tonight, I give my heart and my life in faith and in trust to Jesus. Here I come." A family you, to put your life into the fellowship of the church, would you come tonight? One somebody you, while we make this appeal, while we sing this song, into the aisle and down here to the front, give the pastor your hand. "Pastor, tonight, I give my heart to Jesus," or, "Tonight, pastor, I’m putting my life in the fellowship of the church, and I give you my hand in token of that commitment of heart and soul."
Would you do it now? Would you do it tonight? While our people prayerfully sing and all of us join in the appeal together, "Here I come, and here I am. I’ll make it now. I’ll make it tonight. God helping me, here I come." While we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Pararreo – "to drift away, to be carried past"
B. Ameleo – "not to care for, to neglect"
II. This "so great" salvation
A. Salvation a key word of this epistle(Hebrews 1:14, 2:10, 5:8-9, 6:9, 9:27-28)
B. Used in three tenses
1. Past tense – refers to salvation from penalty of sin(Ephesians 2:8-9)
2. Present tense – refers to our pilgrimage(1 Corinthians 1:18)
3. Future tense – our resurrection(Romans 13:4, 11-12)
C. Justly called "so great"
1. In its scope(1 John 2:2)
2. In its cost (Isaiah 45:22, John 3:14)
III. The danger to the Hebrew Christian
A. Faith of the Jewish Christian severely tested and tried
B. They were getting weary of the struggle
1. Not renouncing Christ, just drifting away
C. A danger and temptation to all of God’s disciples through all generations
1. Drift of life – following propensities and affinities of the world
2. Poem, "The Derelicts"
IV. The great appeal
A. The more earnest heed(Hebrews 2:1)
1. Our commitment to Christ is the beginning; there is more ahead(Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 2:12)
B. The unanswerable question(Hebrews 2:3)
1. Tendency of our age to minimize God’s righteous judgment
2. Because it is the age of grace, our souls are doubly jeopardized when we offend the God of love(Hebrews 10:28, Revelation 6:16)
3. Who can escape?(Genesis 2:17, 3:4, 1 Kings 21:19)
a. Hymn, "Rock of Ages"