Online Bible Commentary
Do Not Ignore This
Hebrews 2:1 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (NIV)
The Book of Hebrews addresses two main subjects: the superiority of Christ and exhortations of obedient living. Mixed in with these two subjects are five warnings to the Hebrews to whom this letter was written. Each warning addresses a specific issue with the Hebrews, of which the writer is personally aware. The writer is thought to be Paul. This passage is the first of the five warnings given to the Hebrew Christians to whom this letter is addressed. These warnings are just as relevant to Christians today as they were to the Hebrew Christians in the sixties, A.D.
There are two likely times that this letter was written, assuming the writer is Paul. It could have been written at the same time as Titus and 1Timothy, 63-65 A.D, or it could have been written late 67 A.D. to early 68 A.D, as Paul’s last writing. The former likely would have been addressed to the new Hebrew Christians on the Island of Crete to whom Titus was ministering.
The latter likely would have been addressed to Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem, to whom Paul may have turned after being rejected by the Gentile Christians in Asia Minor. The latter date may have some issues, since there is no mention of the Jewish wars that began in 66 A.D. However, this omission would not rule out the latter date.
In my opinion the letter was Paul’s final writing, and was written to the Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem. The letter’s detail and completeness seems to be directed to a larger, more significant audience, which would rule out Crete. Also Paul had evangelized Crete and, therefore, would have no reason to make the letter anonymous. Paul was unpopular with Jews in Jerusalem, and anonymity might have served to have the teachings of the letter more widely accepted. There is also mention of Jerusalem, although the “heavenly Jerusalem”, in the letter (12:22).
The literal Greek translation of verse one is: “Because of this ought more earnest us to give heed to the things having been heard, lest we should slip away.” “Because of this” refers to the previous passage, in this case to salvation. This sentence gives two references to ships, to which Paul commonly referred. The word translated “to give heed” is from the Greek word “prosecho”, which was commonly used of bringing a ship to land. The word translated “we should slip away” is from the Greek word “pararreo”, which was commonly used to indicate a ship drifting away. Therefore, the meaning of this verse is that because of our salvation we should give careful attention to the gospel and not slip away from its teachings, or from our salvation. This subject of “slipping” or falling away is discussed in more detail in the third warning (5:11-6:20).
Paul then moves his argument from the lesser to the greater. The lesser (v.2) is the Law of Moses, the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. It is the system of rules and regulations. It is the call to obedience, by turning from sin. It was “the message spoken by angels” (v. 2a), a reference to the burning bush where Moses was called to ministry. It was the “binding” (v. 2b) agreement. The word translated “binding” is the Greek word “bebaios”, a word used in the papyri in a technical sense for a legal guarantee. It means a contract, in this case a contract with God. When we break that contract it is called sin, and we receive “punishment” (v. 2c).
The greater is “salvation” (v. 3). Salvation comes from the gospel, the good news of Christ, and is greater than the Law because it redeems us from the Law. It is our means of “escape” (v. 3a) from the punishment of the Law. Since salvation, through the gospel, is our means of escape, we should not “ignore” it (v. 3b). We should be constantly studying and learning the gospel, the Bible. This is the message of this passage.
Salvation “was first announced by the Lord”, when He began His three year, three and one half month ministry early in the winter of 26 A.D, just before His thirty-first birthday. Christ’s “announcement” was “confirmed” to Paul, and others, by the first generation of Christians who heard Christ’s message directly from Him (v. 3c). Verse three identifies the writer as being a second generation Christian, such as Paul. Christ’s “announcement” was authenticated by physical events, such as “signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (v. 4).
Giving more attention to the Bible is essential. Once we walk out the door of the church we typically forget ninety percent of the message. We should take heed of this and be reading and studying our Bibles frequently throughout the week. Sunday morning service, by itself, is not enough. The Lord warns us in this passage. Do not ignore the Bible.