(3)Hebrews 2 v1 to 4: DRIFTING AWAY.

(A) The uniqueness of the Christian Message(Gospel)

The passage suggests that the Gospel is unique in three ways. In its:

    (a) Origin. v3 This salvation which was first announced by the Lord.
    The essence of the Gospel is to be found in Jesus' declaration recorded in John 7 v40: "For my father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day." This is a very simple statement. Anyone whatsoever who believes in Jesus is promised eternal life. There are no conditions, except one, but that one is crucial - we must look to Jesus and none other. All are not saved but all can be saved. Only believe.

    (b) Transmission v3 confirmed to us by those who heard him.
    Christ's message is passed on to others by those who know him. Jesus delegates the responsibility of making himself known to his followers. I became a Christian because my parents loved the Lord and made him known to me from the earliest possible age. Jesus was real to my mother and father and they, with the Holy Spirit's help, made him real to me.

    (c) Effectiveness. v4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
    People change our lives. My life was given a certain direction by my Geography teacher. It was not so much by his inspirational teaching as by his lobbying powers. He persuaded my autocratic head teacher to insist that I studied Geography at 'A' level.

    Sometimes a person can improve the quality of our lives. Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, changed lives including that of my neighbour, Mr Griffiths. Griff was a chronic invalid as a young man with tuberculosis of the bladder. It had the capacity of an egg cup. He had to wear a bag, which made party going an ordeal. After the Second World War his life was transformed overnight by treatment with penicillin. It was a wonder drug in those early years before resistant strains of bacteria developed.

    Jesus is able to transform lives and improve them dramatically. I was moved by the testimony of a former football hooligan on BBC TV's Songs of Praise. The man decided that he could no longer continue as he was as he watched his friends kick a prostrate Swedish football supporter after an England match against Sweden. He knew very, very little about Jesus. This did not stop him crying out, "Please Jesus change me". That was all, but it was enough. The Holy Spirit threw him to ground where he wanted to remain as his life was suffused with warmth and joy. That born again sinner is now a Christian minister and points other young hooligans in a different direction.

    Here in lies the difference between Jesus and others. Penicillin was only introduced to the world after the efforts of a large team of collaborators. Alexander Fleming cannot take all the credit. Mary Hunt played her part by bringing a supermarket cantaloupe infected with a pretty golden mould to the laboratory where penicillin was being developed for commercial production. This mould greatly increased the yield of the antibiotic and made commercial production viable. Jesus needs no collaborators. He it is who changes lives. Transformed lives are evidence of the wonder working power of the Gospel.

(B) Squandering the Christian Message.

In spite of receiving and responding to the good news of salvation Jewish Christians were in danger of drifting away from the position they had taken and ignoring or squandering the immense benefits their belief in Jesus gave them. The writer is addressing believers. He writes, v3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation. He includes himself by that word 'we'. The book of Hebrews was written to check the return of genuine Jewish Christians to Judaism. This is a crucial point because it contradicts the view held by Calvinists - once a Christian always a Christian. Why write with the passion evident in Hebrews if either those defecting were not real Christians or Christians could not lose their faith? The author writes as he does because Christians are drifting away and will be lost. How can we avoid condemnation if we waste our assets in Christ - the salvation he has earned for us? Let us examine how this can happen:

    (a) Neglect
    The expression, ignore so great salvation, suggests loss by neglect. It seems unlikely that such a wonderful gift as salvation could be lost by neglect. Yet Jesus told a chilling story about a group of foolish girls who were shut out of the wedding feast because they neglected to bring sufficient oil for their lamps. Neglect may not seem much but if persisted in it can have disastrous consequences. I used to play hockey with a man who was employed to do surveys of houses on behalf of would be purchasers. He had nearly completed a survey on a house which looked in tip top condition. He asked the owner to lift up the carpet. Underneath was a red dust; the tell tale spores of the dreaded dry rot fungus. A minute leak in a water pipe under the floor had been subjecting the floorboards to a fine spray all through a hot summer. It triggered off and sustained the fungus. The whole of the flooring was a mass of dry rot. The carpet concealed it but nevertheless the floor was rotten. The sale was lost! The leak had been undetected and so neglected. Marriages can be like that. Two people begin to neglect each other. They stop talking and taking an interest in what the other is doing. They drift apart and the marriage is lost. So it is with Christians. All they do is neglect the means of Grace. Private devotions are skipped. Church attendance becomes irregular and finally stops. They are drifting apart from Jesus and finally the love they had for him is lost. It is no good pretending this cannot happen. I have seen it happen over and over again.

    (b) Carelessness
    Carelessness is a common cause of boats drifting from their moorings. The owner forgets to secure his craft properly. A knot is poorly tied or not tied at all. I have lost many things to carelessness - especially when out walking. I put down my walking stick to use my binoculars. I get engrossed in the bird I am viewing and forget all about my stick. So when I continue on my way it is without my trusty companion. On another occasion I put my binoculars on top of my car and drove off. They didn't remain there for long. Many things are broken through lack of concentration and carelessness. Christians can get careless about Jesus' teaching. They can become heedless and feckless. Church attendees listen carelessly. Little attention is paid to what the Bible says. Gradually what was known is lost. There is scant obedience and eventually no devotion to Christ. The writer says in v1 we must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard so that we do not drift away

    (c) Presumptuousness.
    It seems to me that if you take the view, 'once saved, always saved,' you could be guilty of presumptuousness. It is dangerous to take things for granted. My brother Philip was scoring lots of runs at cricket and was in such excellent form he presumed that all he had to do was to go in and hit out. After a couple of failures his confidence dissipated! It is said that Mr Edward Heath was once in love with a young girl whom he fully intended to marry. Sadly, he rather took her devotion for granted. He presumed too much and lost her. The rich and successful farmer presumed that all was well; he could eat, drink and be merry. The very night he made plans for a pleasant retirement Jesus said his soul was required of him. He died without storing up riches in heaven. He lost his soul. Another man who was presumpuous was the servant who was given one talent to use in his master's service. He was given some opportunity to benefit his master. He did not take it. He didn't seem to consider that work was important. That worthless servant was thrown out of his master's presence into the darkness. The great apostle Paul who wrote so much about God's grace did not take his salvation for granted. In 1Cor9v26and 27 he writes, Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. Jesus calls us to follow him. To do this our wills have to be engaged all the time. Those who start to follow can stop following. It is that which is the motivation for the whole epistle.

(C) The consequences of squandering our assets.

There are very dreadful consequences. The writer points out that the message spoken by angels was binding by which presumably he means the law. Every violation and disobedience received its just punishment. He concludes, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation. There is not much hope for believers who lose interest in Jesus and no longer value their salvation. Doubtless a few who backslide are restored to fellowship. Wiersbe in his helpful book on Hebrews tells the touching story of Robert Robinson who wrote the hymn, 'Come, thou fount of every blessing', and who was greatly used in his early years as a pastor. He drifted away from Jesus and neglected spiritual things. In later life whilst sitting in a stagecoach a young woman asked his opinion of the hymn that she had just read. It was Robert Robinson's own hymn. The words in the third verse are strangely prophetic:

Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;

God was speaking to Robinson and he broke down as he confessed to the young Christian that he was the author and that he had lost his first love. She was able to quote to him that the streams of mercy were never ceasing. Robinson was one lost sheep that was brought safely back into the fold. He could sing again and with renewed zeal, O to grace how great a debtor. This story is particularly precious to an expositor like Wiersbe because he is one of those who believe, 'once saved, always saved'. I am sure that for every Robert Robinson who returns to the fold there hundreds who never do. They drift so far from their safe anchorage in Christ that there is no return. They are lost at sea.

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