23 June 2022

Do Not Drift Away


A dire warning of the consequences for failing to hear and obey the superior word found in the Son – Hebrews 1:4-2:7. 

Ship Aground - Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash
The next paragraph centers on the supremacy of his priestly reign from the “right hand of the majesty on high.” First, the eternal sovereignty of God is described (“Your throne, O God, is to times everlasting”), then, the qualific
ations of the Son to sit on and reign from His throne are stated - [Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash].

This leads to the letter’s first exhortation and warning. Considering the excellency of his name and exalted status, any failure to heed the “word” that God has spoken in the Son will result in horrific consequences for the offender.

God and the Son are addressed separately. The purpose is not to engage in metaphysical speculation about the nature of the Son or his relationship to his Father, but to stress his greatness and the supremacy of his position.

HIS ENTHRONEMENT


  • (Hebrews 1:8-14) - “But as to the Son: Your throne, O God, is to times everlasting, and a scepter of equity is the scepter of his kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. For this cause, has God, your God, anointed you with the oil of exultation beyond your partners. And you, by way of beginning, Lord, the earth founded, and the works of your hands are the heavens. They shall perish, but you abide still, and all as a mantle shall be worn out. And as if a robe wilt you fold them up as a mantle, and they shall be changed. But you are the same, and your years shall not fail. But to which of the angels has he ever said: Sit at my right hand until I make your foes your footstool? Are they not all spirits doing public service, for ministry sent forth for the sake of them who are about to inherit salvation?”

Because of his qualifications, God has exalted the Son to reign from His throne (“For this cause, God anointed you with the oil of exultation beyond your partners”).

The Greek term rendered “partners” occurs five times in the letter in reference to believers, the very ones for whom Jesus achieved the “purification of sins” - (Hebrews 3:1, 3:14, 6:4, 12:8).

The One who “anointed” the Son is the God who “founded the earth” and the “heavens.” Though the creation itself might “perish,” He “remains forever.” And because the Son inherited His throne, his authority and status are supreme and everlasting.

As for the angels, at no point did God ever say to any angel, no matter how high or powerful he is, “Sit at my right hand.” Angels do not rule, they are servants “sent forth for the sake of them who are about to inherit salvation,” namely, the church.

FIRST WARNING


The comparison of the Son with the angels now concludes with the first warning of the dire consequences for failing to heed the “word” spoken by God in His Son:

  • For this cause, it behooves us with unwonted firmness to be holding fast to the things that have been heard, lest at any time we drift away. For if the word through angels spoken became firm and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if so great a salvation as this we have neglected, which, indeed, having received a beginning of being spoken through the Lord, by them who heard to us was confirmed, God jointly witnessing also both with signs and wonders and manifold mighty works, and with distributions of Holy Spirit, according to his own will?” - (Hebrews 2:1-4).

The concluding paragraph presents two themes repeated in later chapters. First, the need to “hear” the "word" that God has spoken in His Son. Second, warnings about the grave danger posed by refusing to obey and honor him - (Hebrews 4:1-11, 6:4-8, 10:26-31, 12:25-26).

Because of the surpassing excellence of Christ’s “word,” it is vital to hold fast to it. If disregarding the word of the angels will result in dire consequences, how much more so will the refusal to heed his vastly superior word?

The clause “spoken through angels” reflects the Jewish tradition that the Law was given by angels. The statement does not disparage angels, Moses, or the Torah. Angels may have mediated the Law, but its source was God. It was His “word” regardless of the intermediaries used to deliver it, and every transgression of it receives a just recompense - (Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19).


Angels Photo by Gavin Allanwood on Unsplash
[Angels Photo by Gavin Allanwood on Unsplash]


With that being so, how shall we escape far greater punishment if we now abandon the supreme word spoken in the Son of God? As dangerous as it is to disobey the Word mediated through angels, how much more serious is that danger when we ignore the superior “word” of Jesus?

NEW VS THE OLD


The letter argues from the lesser to the greater. Angels are God’s ministers and glorious beings. Moses is God’s anointed servant. The point is the grave danger posed to believers who abandon this superior revelation. Anyone who turns back to the old order risks everlasting destruction.

Some believers addressed by the letter are contemplating a return to the Jewish synagogue to escape persecution. The goal is to encourage them to hold fast to the supreme revelation they have received from the apostolic tradition.

The rhetorical strategy is to compare this superior revelation with the past ones made “in the prophets”, including Moses, and thus demonstrate the surpassing greatness of the now complete revelation made in Jesus.

Whether anyone “drifts away” from Jesus to non-Christian Judaism, another religion, or to an irreligious life, he or she can expect to receive a “much sorer punishment” than any transgressors ever received under the Mosaic Law. To whom much is given, much is required.



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