Pay much closer attention!
Gospel drift is dangerous The author's exhortation comes in verse 1, namely the charge to 'pay much ...
Published July 30th, 2012
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2011-10-27 17:39:22
2012-07-30 11:49:00
Gospel drift is dangerous The author's exhortation comes in verse 1, namely the charge to 'pay much closer attention to what we have heard' . The reason he encourages us to do this is because he's afraid that we might drift away from it - the Hebrew church was in danger of drifting away from the gospel of Jesus, and the remedy that the writer recommends is to 'pay much closer attention' to the truth of the gospel. Sailing boats, particularly large ones on the sea, are prone to something called 'leeway'. Because you don't normally sail a ship with the wind directly behind you, but with it coming from one side, your ship won't always sail precisely in the direction you want it to. You'll be steering it in one direction, but the wind will be subtly pushing the boat off-course. It can be a very slight movement, and in the middle of the sea with no landmarks for guidance it could be almost impossible to spot. Sailors had to keep checking the position of the sun and moon to ensure that they were actually keeping to their proper course, rather than making leeway and ending up far away from where they wanted to be. The same principle is discussed in the passage: if we don't keep checking our position, if we don't keep looking to Jesus to remind us of where we're going and how we're to get there, then we'll be in danger of being subtly blown off-course, until in the end we're facing in the opposite direction with our backs turned towards Jesus. Pay attention - don't drift. That's the writer's exhortation in these verses. But why is drifting such a big deal? The 'Therefore' in verse 1 indicates that this thought has followed on from everything discussed in the first chapter: 'Because Jesus is much greater than the angels, pay closer attention, etc.' This still doesn't fully explain things, though - why does Jesus' being greater than the angels mean we should pay closer attention to him? The writer expands on this idea in verses 2-4, and presents two reasons for avoiding drift: first, because The judgements of the gospel are greater , and second, because The provenance of the gospel is greater . 1. The judgements of the gospel are greater Have a look at verse 2, and the first half of verse 3. 'For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?' The author's point is that, if the gospel of Jesus is greater that the law of Moses in every way, then since the law was accompanied by judgement for transgression the gospel of Jesus must also be accompanied by greater judgement. A theme picked up on later on in the letter is the concept that the law of Moses and the temple regulations were simply 'copies of the heavenly things' (9:23) - they represented spiritual realities in a way that the Israelites could see and understand. The law stipulated that the priests were to sacrifice bulls and goats on behalf of the people to atone for their sins - foreshadowing the forgiveness on the cross - and that judgements in the form of lashings or stonings were to be meted out against any who deliberately broke the law - which represented God's wrath against sin. The physical temple, physical sacrifices and physical judgements were representations of the truths we find in the gospel. We read in Hebrews 9 that the temple/tent of meeting was a representation of heaven, where God dwelt, and that the temple sacrifices were pointing towards Christ's sacrifice on the cross. What were the stonings and lashings pointing towards then? Surely the judgements of the law of Moses, carried out by men, were signals warning of God's judgement on sin. If Jesus brings us into God's throne room, and not just the copy of it, and if Jesus' cross purchases us true and lasting forgiveness unlike that which the temple sacrifices obtained, then surely the judgement from which Jesus saves us is infinitely more terrible than the judgement which the law handed out? To reject the law was to expose oneself to punishment by the rulers, in the forms we have mentioned. By contrast, to reject the gospel is to expose onself to the very judgement of God himself, which is greater by far. Keep your eyes on Jesus and don't drift, because if you drift too far you'll expose yourself to God's wrath. 2. The provenance of the gospel is greater The author's two reasons for not drifting form a kind of negative/positive comparison. The verses we just examined formed the negative part of the exhortation: 'Don't drift, or else...' The remaining verse and a half, by contrast, presents a very positive reason for us to keep our eyes on Jesus and not drift. Read again from the second half of verse 3 to the end of verse 4: 'It [the gospel] was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.' Moses received the law from God, but he didn't see him face to face; atop Mount Sinai God appeared in cloud and fire, and when Moses asked to see God's glory for himself he had to hide between some rocks and wait for God to go past him, and only then could he look out and see God's back. The law was 'declared by angels' and 'put into effect through angels' (Gal 3:19) - in a sense, the law was given through mediators and not directly by God. How different it is with the gospel! It was declared 'by the Lord' - the Lord Jesus, God the Son, eternal God in human form - and it was 'attested to us by those who heard' - people heard the gospel from the lips of Jesus himself, and passed it on to us! The gospel was directly communicated by God himself to his people, and the record we have of it is not an impersonal list of regulations, but a collection of eyewitness accounts of the things the Lord said and did. Not only this, but today God proves the validity of the gospel by sending 'signs and wonders and various miracles and [...] gifts of the Holy Spirit' . As we receive answers to prayer and see God strengthening us in moments of great weakness, we see living proof of the greatness of the gospel. How can we drift away from it, when God has so clearly spoken to us?
10000000093347 93347 Notes 2011-10-27 17:39:22 2012-07-30 11:49:00 Gospel drift is dangerous The author's exhortation comes in verse 1, namely the charge to 'pay much closer attention to what we have heard' . The reason he encourages us to do this is because he's afraid that we might drift away from it - the Hebrew church was in danger of drifting away from the gospel of Jesus, and the remedy that the writer recommends is to 'pay much closer attention' to the truth of the gospel. Sailing boats, particularly large ones on the sea, are prone to something called 'leeway'. Because you don't normally sail a ship with the wind directly behind you, but with it coming from one side, your ship won't always sail precisely in the direction you want it to. You'll be steering it in one direction, but the wind will be subtly pushing the boat off-course. It can be a very slight movement, and in the middle of the sea with no landmarks for guidance it could be almost impossible to spot. Sailors had to keep checking the position of the sun and moon to ensure that they were actually keeping to their proper course, rather than making leeway and ending up far away from where they wanted to be. The same principle is discussed in the passage: if we don't keep checking our position, if we don't keep looking to Jesus to remind us of where we're going and how we're to get there, then we'll be in danger of being subtly blown off-course, until in the end we're facing in the opposite direction with our backs turned towards Jesus. Pay attention - don't drift. That's the writer's exhortation in these verses. But why is drifting such a big deal? The 'Therefore' in verse 1 indicates that this thought has followed on from everything discussed in the first chapter: 'Because Jesus is much greater than the angels, pay closer attention, etc.' This still doesn't fully explain things, though - why does Jesus' being greater than the angels mean we should pay closer attention to him? The writer expands on this idea in verses 2-4, and presents two reasons for avoiding drift: first, because The judgements of the gospel are greater , and second, because The provenance of the gospel is greater . 1. The judgements of the gospel are greater Have a look at verse 2, and the first half of verse 3. 'For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?' The author's point is that, if the gospel of Jesus is greater that the law of Moses in every way, then since the law was accompanied by judgement for transgression the gospel of Jesus must also be accompanied by greater judgement. A theme picked up on later on in the letter is the concept that the law of Moses and the temple regulations were simply 'copies of the heavenly things' (9:23) - they represented spiritual realities in a way that the Israelites could see and understand. The law stipulated that the priests were to sacrifice bulls and goats on behalf of the people to atone for their sins - foreshadowing the forgiveness on the cross - and that judgements in the form of lashings or stonings were to be meted out against any who deliberately broke the law - which represented God's wrath against sin. The physical temple, physical sacrifices and physical judgements were representations of the truths we find in the gospel. We read in Hebrews 9 that the temple/tent of meeting was a representation of heaven, where God dwelt, and that the temple sacrifices were pointing towards Christ's sacrifice on the cross. What were the stonings and lashings pointing towards then? Surely the judgements of the law of Moses, carried out by men, were signals warning of God's judgement on sin. If Jesus brings us into God's throne room, and not just the copy of it, and if Jesus' cross purchases us true and lasting forgiveness unlike that which the temple sacrifices obtained, then surely the judgement from which Jesus saves us is infinitely more terrible than the judgement which the law handed out? To reject the law was to expose oneself to punishment by the rulers, in the forms we have mentioned. By contrast, to reject the gospel is to expose onself to the very judgement of God himself, which is greater by far. Keep your eyes on Jesus and don't drift, because if you drift too far you'll expose yourself to God's wrath. 2. The provenance of the gospel is greater The author's two reasons for not drifting form a kind of negative/positive comparison. The verses we just examined formed the negative part of the exhortation: 'Don't drift, or else...' The remaining verse and a half, by contrast, presents a very positive reason for us to keep our eyes on Jesus and not drift. Read again from the second half of verse 3 to the end of verse 4: 'It [the gospel] was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.' Moses received the law from God, but he didn't see him face to face; atop Mount Sinai God appeared in cloud and fire, and when Moses asked to see God's glory for himself he had to hide between some rocks and wait for God to go past him, and only then could he look out and see God's back. The law was 'declared by angels' and 'put into effect through angels' (Gal 3:19) - in a sense, the law was given through mediators and not directly by God. How different it is with the gospel! It was declared 'by the Lord' - the Lord Jesus, God the Son, eternal God in human form - and it was 'attested to us by those who heard' - people heard the gospel from the lips of Jesus himself, and passed it on to us! The gospel was directly communicated by God himself to his people, and the record we have of it is not an impersonal list of regulations, but a collection of eyewitness accounts of the things the Lord said and did. Not only this, but today God proves the validity of the gospel by sending 'signs and wonders and various miracles and [...] gifts of the Holy Spirit' . As we receive answers to prayer and see God strengthening us in moments of great weakness, we see living proof of the greatness of the gospel. How can we drift away from it, when God has so clearly spoken to us? notes
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