God has revealed the glory of his Son to us. He then warns us to hold fast to his Son. The warning is not because he would scare us to death but because he loves us so much and knows the weakness of our hearts. We have many weighty responsibilities, cares, and enemies. If we are to serve the Lord in our generation, we must keep our thoughts fixed upon Jesus Christ and open our ears to his word. He is the Beloved Son of the Father, and the Father thunders to us from heaven: HEAR HIM (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7)! “He whom God hath sent speaks the words of God” (John 3:34). If we let Christ and his gospel slip away from us, if we neglect this treasure, then we shall be severely punished, even more than those in the old covenant who heard God’s word with the accompanying ministry of angels. We often think that the older covenant was the more rigorous, and in some ways it was. In one way, however, it was not. Now that God has sent his Son into the world, those who turn away from him will be judged with greater severity. Although many around us are indifferent to the Lord Jesus Christ and some within the church are careless with the gospel treasure, we must lay hold upon Jesus Christ as the only boat of deliverance from sin, Satan, and death. He is the only One who can reconcile us to God and bring us safely to our eternal rest. Therefore, we must wake up, pay attention, and hold fast! God has offered his word to us, and we must not let it slip away by our neglect.
Give Earnest Attention to God’s Son and Word (v. 1)
Practice Extreme Carefulness
Paul’s movement from the glory of Christ to “give the most earnest heed” teaches us that we must be careful with glory. God has come down to earth in his Son, revealed his love and grace and “shined in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). This is wonderful beyond our ability to comprehend. The passage of years has neither dulled nor diminished the magnificence of God’s grace to sinners, which is the reason that so many continue to flock to Christ. And yet, we must remember that we are drawing hear to the “brightness of God’s glory” and to the One who “by himself purged our sins and is set down at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens.” He is not to be trifled with. Yes, I know men think they can, and many try, including many of his professing friends, and perhaps you have tried. Have you tried to hold onto him and to your sins? In our age in which everything evil is lauded and piety is mocked, have you fallen in line with those who bring out their religion to make them feel better after sinning, but who never take seriously Christ’s claims to be Lord of all? Are you half-asleep in worship? Or, are you wide awake, reading his word with prayerful intensity and listening carefully when his word is preached? Are you awake to the saving grace and glory that has appeared to us in Jesus Christ? All the pressure of the world and the flesh is all the other way – do not take him so seriously. You can always turn to him later. Sin is not that serious. There is no such thing as provoking God to jealousy or pushing him away by loose, casual, and presumptuous sinning.
Guard against Times of Carelessness
This is the way many think, and of course a more convenient religion strikes a chord in our yet imperfect hearts. Especially if all is going pretty well, the last thing we want to do is to stir things up by becoming serious about our faith and about the Lord’s glory in our lives. Yes, his word is a blessing and so we come to church, but we do not want to think that this is actually the risen Christ preaching to us and glory drawing near, for this would require some deeper digging into my state before God. Am I judging myself (1 Cor. 11:31)? Working out my salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12)? At all times, then, we must guard against carelessness with God’s glorious Son and neglect of his Word. One would think that a time of persecution would encourage believers to be more earnest about their faith, but this letter was written because the opposite was taking place. As the pressure mounted, these believers were actually thinking of abandoning the only One who could help and secure them. Do not think, then, that when things get rough, you will necessarily turn to Jesus and walk more obediently. If left to yourself, you will do the opposite. Evil times are not times anyone is willing to deny himself. When temptation is common and sinful desires easily indulged with few consequences, men do not then become more serious about responding to glory. Fallen human nature is to fall in line with the sinning masses. Hey, if I am in the herd, I will not be noticed or singled out for judgment.
Do Not Let God’s Word Slip Away
Remember this, professing child of God, for to you these lines are written. Do not let God’s word slip away from you. Do not fall in with the careless sinning herd of humanity. You have professed love for the Savior. Remember his glory. Remember the love of God revealed to you in him, that despite your sins, the Father extracted from his Son the blood price of your redemption. Remember the weight of glory that is now given to you in Jesus and that you are brought near to God in fellowship and peace. Remember that should you turn away from Christ in a moment of temptation, or in a season of persecution, or even because things are going well and there does not seem to be any great need for earnestness, remember that no other word from God is coming. There is no other fountain of mercy open to you than Jesus Christ, no other word of wisdom to recover and direct your life than “Christ the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). There is no other Mediator of the covenant, no other who can make peace between you and God, no other who can pay the “chastisement of your peace” or heal you by his stripes. We must not let Christ slip away, therefore, by our carelessness. We are set adrift in this sinful world, and God has sent us a secure ship, an anchor for our soul, and an atonement for our sins in his Son. If we let him slip away, if we turn away from him, if we neglect his word, we shall not be likely recovered. We have then rejected the only Savior and Deliverer.
The peril facing us is allowing the Savior of the world and his life-giving word to drift away and to be lost by our carelessness. It is a very real peril, and we have seen it stalking souls in our midst. Many have sat where you are and heard the same words you have heard, the same Christ presented to them, but they did not seize and hold him fast. They slept when they should have been on highest alert. The danger of allowing Christ and his precious gospel benefits to drift away from us calls for decisive action. If you know that a murderer is creeping up the stairs, you do not continue reading your book quietly in bed. Careless neglect of Christ’s grace will murder your soul. It is already stalking you (Gal. 5:17), and the only way to overcome it is to appreciate and highly value the grace God offers to you in his word. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). Peter wrote that we must desire the word as new born babies desire their mother’s milk (1 Pet. 2:2). And how would that be? Howling, crying after it, making mouth noises and movements as if they were already latched on and eating. Is that your desire for Christ and his word? Do you desire him to “kiss you with the kisses of his mouth” (Song of Songs 1:2)? Among professing Christians, the loss of desire for Christ and his word is to be feared and fought against more than any other sin.
We fight by believing God’s word. It will not profit us unless we believe that he is true and trust what he says to us (Rom. 10:10-11; Heb. 11:5). In Lydia’s case, “attended to,” the same verb prosecho (prose,cw), is virtually synonymous with faith (Acts 16:14). Without faith, the word preached will not profit (Heb. 4:2). Without faith, all the greatest preachers in history might line up before us today, preach at the height of their skills, and perhaps move us outwardly by the spectacle, but we would be none the better for it. We must believe that it is the holy and righteousness God, the loving and merciful Father, who is speaking to us, giving his Son to us as heavenly bread, before we shall profit from the word preached. Are you continually praying for such a heart? For the Spirit to illumine our dark minds, subdue our stubborn wills, and create and sustain saving faith in us? Where such faith is present, there will be readiness to obey God’s word (John 14:21). Obedience to the word, to our Lord Jesus Christ, is the best evidence of faith’s presence. A man whose heart is humbled by God speaking to him will be quick to obey what God has said. And he will be watchful against losing the privilege! Since we have God’s word preached to us, we must stand amazed at his goodness, never think ourselves worthy of the privilege or that it is normal for men to be so highly regarded as for God to give them himself in his word. We must thank him day and night, guard his word and Son as a treasure worth more than the entire universe, and devote ourselves continually to obeying him with joyful hearts. Then, his word will not slip away from us; Jesus Christ will not glide by, justly leaving us because we treated him with contempt or indifference. He will instead make his dwelling with us and show himself to us (Rev. 3:20).
God Holds His Word in Highest Consideration (vv. 2-4)
Old Covenant, Word-Neglect Punished
The sweetness of this offer should melt all the stubbornness of our hearts, drive away our fear, and bind us to him forever. But fear grips us when persecution arises for his sake. Satan’s fiery missiles fly fast and thick, and instead of using God’s armor, our love grows cold because iniquity increases. The most earnest believer needs serious motivation to lay hold upon Christ and abide in him. This is the reason we are given this argument from the lesser to the greater. Consider the older covenant word of God. Angelic messengers attended God upon Sinai and can be said to have established and mediated aspects of his revelation to Moses (Acts 7:38; Gal. 3:19). This is said without detracting from Yahweh as the chief speaker or from the eternal Word, the Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ as the Mediator of the covenant. Nevertheless, God was pleased to give and ordain his word through the angels. Speaking for God, their word was steadfast, reliable. Any transgression of the old covenant revelation was justly punished. To neglect God’s word then brought terrible judgment, and the Old Testament Scriptures are replete with instances of the earth swallowing up the disobedient, men and women being struck with leprosy, scores of thousands of God’s professing people bitten by snakes or killed by God’s avenging angels. The point is that God expected his word to be obeyed. When it was not obeyed, judgment ensued.
New Covenant, Word-Neglect Punished More Rigorously
Now, my dear Christian, we must part ways from the easy grace crowd of preachers, or we shall never understand Hebrews. To hear some tell it, now that Jesus has come, all that talk of judgment and punishment and fearing God is gone. All is now sweetness and light, indulgence and duty-less living. Such men have no concept of the glory that has risen upon us in Jesus Christ. One of the main arguments of this letter is that the greater glory of God’s Son as our Redeemer and of the completed Word of the gospel he has brought to us brings greater seriousness and responsibility. Imagine how carefully Israel should have walked with the pillar of fire so nearby; now, imagine how incredibly amazed and careful we should walk since the pillar of fire has taken up residence in our very lives, in the church Jesus Christ is building. In the old covenant, God promised a great salvation coming in his Son; in the new covenant, he has given that great salvation. The types and shadows of Moses and the prophets were glorious but fading; the realities of Jesus Christ and the consuming fire to which we have been brought near and that indwells us by the Spirit of holiness is glory unfading and transforming. Then, angels announced the presence and word of God; now God has sent his Beloved Son to preach the everlasting gospel to us.
How Shall We Escape? (v. 3)
The Peril of Not Listening Carefully
It is perilous not to listen to him. They did not escape in the wilderness, or once they arrived in Canaan, as their scattered ruins now testify. The prophets warned them, but they did not listen to God’s word and were horribly judged. If we do not listen to God’s greater Word and hold fast to his great salvation, we shall not escape. The Son of God has come! Grace is poured into his lips. He spoke the word of God; God came down from heaven, clothed himself in our flesh, walked and talked with us, healed and cried with us, and suffered and died for us in his Son. He sent his apostles to proclaim this everlasting gospel so that it would never lack a witness in the earth. We must hear these witnesses, the apostles to whom God bore witness with many mighty works and signs, which were all the working of the Holy Spirit of promise. We live in this “today” of our Savior, the long promised day of his reign and kingdom and gospel. Every preacher who preaches this old, apostolic gospel of Jesus Christ, and him crucified, is sent from the Lord of glory to confirm us in faith and to arm us against the devil’s assaults.
The Peril of Letting Christ Slip Away
For all these reasons, we must not let Christ slip away from us. To neglect him is to spit upon God’s gift, God’s Son, and God’s gospel grace. Jesus Christ is God’s wisdom and righteousness to us. To let him slip away walks away from Calvary and lights hellfire. With God’s grace comes responsibility to walk worthy of our calling and to “perfect holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 6:1; 7:1). Remember that this warning is given to professing Christians, not to the children of this world. Other warnings apply to them, but this one our Lord gives to us. Do not begin with me then leave. Do not think you can take my yoke upon you, but then cast it away when being a disciple is costly. Many, many do this. Let’s change the gospel, or worship, or deny everlasting hell, or affirm universalism, or find ways to avoid the cross and gain the world’s respect. Against all this dangerous fear and foolishness, the God of glory says to us, “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON: HEAR HIM!” Do not turn away from him. Remember what happened in the old covenant when my professing people despised the grace I offered to them and disobeyed my word. Worse judgment awaits those who turn away from my Son. Did he not warn you of the cross? Does he not promise to be with you? Look at him in his glory, cling to him, and watch your fears flee away. Hold fast to him. Never let go. It is perilous to neglect him. It is your life and salvation to walk closely with him, especially when the cost of faithfulness is high. He holds out the crown of life to you. Love him. Commit your life to him. He offers himself to you this morning. His word will bring you to heaven.