Friday, 17 August 2018
…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, Hebrews 2:3
The previous verse noted the steadfast nature of the word which was “spoken through angels.” If there was a transgression of it, or disobedience toward it, there was to be a just reward for the violation. That now leads to an obvious question. If that is so with the word spoken through angels (meaning messengers), then “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord?” It is a rhetorical question which expresses denial. Q: “How shall we escape?” A: “Indeed, we shall not escape.”
In other words, the author has been carefully showing the supremacy of the Son over the angels. This consumed much of the body of Chapter 1. It was made perfectly evident that the Son is the Lord God. And so if the angels transmitted a word which was to be carefully adhered to, and if that word was violated, one could expect to receive a just penalty, how much more just would the penalty be for neglecting the salvation offered by the Lord? The difference between “word” of verse 2:2 and “salvation” of this verse shows the strong contrast. The angels spoke a word; the Son offers salvation. The word expects obedience or punishment will result; the Son offers salvation or condemnation will result.
It is one thing to sin against God by violating His law. It is an action which leads to separation from God. If no remedy for that sin is provided, then there would naturally be a continued separation from Him. However, the law provided atonement for sin, and so a recovery of the relationship was possible. However, in the coming of Christ, a rejection of Him leaves no possible recovery. He is the full and final remedy which the law only pointed to. That will be explained as the book of Hebrews continues. To neglect the only remedy to the disease which infects us means to be wholly consumed by it.
From there, the salvation is noted by the author with the words, “which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord.” It seems like a peculiar way of speaking at first, but it is the “beginning” of it by the Lord which is being emphasized. The Greek literally reads, “seeing that it, having at the first been spoken.” The Lord began to speak the message (John was only a herald of Christ who would present the gospel), and that message was then carried on by the apostles. That is noted with the words, “and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.”
The apostles confirmed the word which was at first spoken by the Lord. They became His witnesses to that which they heard and saw. From there, they carried the message out to others, explaining what had occurred, and showing how it was the fulfillment of everything that had been anticipated in the Scriptures.
It is this verse which some use to dispel the idea that Paul is the author of Hebrews. He states in Galatians 1:12 that he received his instruction directly from Jesus Christ by revelation. He also notes elsewhere that he had personally seen the risen Christ. As this is so, and as the author includes himself in this verse with the word “us,” then how could the author be Paul? However, Paul heard the message in Acts 7 at the stoning of Stephen. He certainly heard it by other Jews as he had them arrested. The gospel was, in fact, confirmed to him by those who “at the first began” to speak it. This verse doesn’t deny his other claims of having been instructed by the Lord. Instead, it simply says that the Lord began to speak the message, and then that message was confirmed by the apostles who continued to speak it out. His later reception of doctrine directly from the Lord in no way negates the fact that he first heard the gospel from other apostles and disciples, such as Stephen.
In fact, as an apostle, his words are now being used in the letter to confirm that same word to others who must then make their own decision concerning Jesus Christ. The argument that it cannot be Paul who is writing the epistle breaks down when the words he pens are properly considered. Whether he wrote it or not is unknown, but this verse cannot be used as a confirmation that he didn’t write it.
It should be noted that it is a rare thing in Hebrews for Jesus to be termed “the Lord.” Normally, he is spoken of as “the Son,” or He is spoken of by the position which He is said to fill (such as High Priest). However, in order to make it absolutely certain that “the Son” is “the Lord,” the particular designation is made here. It thus provides a special dignity to the salvation spoken of. As He is the Lord, in rejecting Him, where else could one go? The answer is obvious. There is nowhere else one can go. Salvation is limited to that which is offered through Jesus Christ alone.
Life application: The message of Jesus Christ is an exclusive message. In the modern world, that is deemed as a politically incorrect thought. People don’t want limitations of any kind set on them. However, man is responsible to God, not the other way around. If God has determined that salvation is through Christ alone, then that is the way it is. Be fixed and firm in your presentation of the Gospel. When difficult questions arise which you don’t have the answer to, you still must be firm about those things you do have the answer to. Never waffle in your stand that Jesus Christ alone is the way to being reconciled to God.
Heavenly Father, we are not all theologians with answers to the deeper questions of the faith, but we are all accountable for the basic truths which come with the faith, such as Jesus Christ being the only way to salvation. Even if we can’t answer all of the questions that are presented to us, we can be fixed and firm in what we do know. May we never water down the gospel which says that salvation is only found by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Give us the fortitude to stand on this basic message, because it is the only hope for mankind. Help us in this, O God. Amen.