NOTES on Hebrews
2:1-9 (click here for study)
The author interrupts his discussion about Jesus being made superior to the angels by inserting one of his five warnings which punctuates the book of Hebrews.
"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away," he says.
This warning is a call not to fall away from the gospel. The people receiving this letter probably had a history of Judaism, and the old beliefs and habits were compelling and familiar. In addition, many apparently Christian Jews were saying that in order to be one of God's people they had to continue to observe the Jewish laws and rituals. This letter reminds them that their past has been fulfilled. God's people no longer have to mark themselves with ritual circumcision and observe the levitical laws of diet and worship.
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us," John states. (John 1:14). "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
Jesus now bears the marks of the covenant in his hands, his feet, and his sides. As his people, we no longer have to bear the marks of belonging. Jesus redeemed every part of us. He took our sin and our death on himself; he even took the physical evidence of relationship on himself by becoming human and eternally bearing the marks of his suffering and death. Instead of imposing on us the physical evidence of belonging to Him, Jesus chose to take on himself the evidence of belonging to us. The evidence we bear of our relationship to him is his Spirit living in us. Instead of being externally "branded" as God's people the way Israel was, we are internally new, made alive by the indwelling God With Us.
Such a Great Salvation
The warning not to drift away from the gospel is clear. Paul also issued such warnings. "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off." (Romans 11:22)
Hebrews makes clear that "the message spoken by angels", or the Mosaic covenant, was binding, and anyone who violated it was punished. But God coming in the flesh, dying, and rising to life is far more powerful and compelling. "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" the author asks.
Texts such as this sometimes raise questions about the security of one's salvation. Ephesians 1:13 tells us that when we believe, we are "marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession" God guarantees that our salvation is secure by indwelling us.
True believers have lives that yield fruit. In the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9, some of the seeds fell on rocky ground. They sprouted quickly and grew plants, but when the heat of the day came, they withered and died. They did not have roots that went deeply into the nourishing soil. They died before they ever yielded fruit.
Christians who fall away without bearing fruit are Christians who did not take root firmly in Christ.
Ignoring the finished work of our Savior is to ignore life. The Old Covenant, the message given by angels, condemned everyone as sinners. The law was impossible to keep. But the Old Covenant could not change or save people. It only pointed forward to the coming Savior who could. Ignoring the Old Covenant was the same as ignoring one's own death sentence. But ignoring Jesus, the New Covenant, is to turn one's back on the accomplished reality of life and love. Ignoring Jesus, spurning eternal life and the love of our God, is a worse transgression than ignoring the law.
Signs and Miracles
Jesus himself announced our salvation, and those who knew him confirmed it to the next generation of believers. But human confirmation was not the most significant testimony to the truth and power of the gospel. God himself confirmed salvation by giving believers his power to perform "signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." (v. 4) If God hadn't given his believers his Spirit, we would have no real evidence of the truth of Jesus' life and death and victory. We would have stories, but without the living power of God in believer's lives, the stories could be doubted.
Without the Holy Spirit in us, our mortal lives would be doomed to struggling with sin. With the Holy Spirit, we live with God's power informing us, strengthening us, and empowering us moment by moment. With the Holy Spirit we live with the gifts of the Spirit in us. The glory of God in us confirms the truth of salvation. Only God can change a person's heart, attitude, and life. The peace and joy that come from being reborn are our confirmation that the claims of the gospel are true.
God gives the gifts of the Spirit "according to his will." The Holy Spirit is not something we manipulate. In his sovereignty God grants them to people according to his will for them. The paradox is that God's sovereignty does not put us in bondage. On the one hand, we have been "set free from sin" but "have become slaves to God." (Romans 6:22) On the other hand, "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free." (Gal. 5:1)
Only when we become "slaves to God" are we really free. This reality defies natural logic. It would seem that we are free and self-determined UNTIL we become slaves to God, but the opposite is true. Sin binds us in slavery. It keeps us in anxiety and self-absorption. When we become "slaves to God", we become alive for the first time. Our souls enter eternity, and we are finally free from the self-destructive habits and compulsions that drove us before. With the Living God making us alive and giving us His power, we experience victory over fear and sin and restlessness and shame, and we become able to live with the freedom to love. We are no longer defined by our weaknesses. We are defined by the victory of Jesus.
The author of Hebrews develops the point that Jesus became human to redeem humanity, not angels, and to fulfill humanity's role of sovereignty over the earth.
When God created Adam and Eve he commanded them to "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." (Gen. 1:28) God put humanity in charge of the earth.
"You made him a little lower than the angels," this author quotes David as saying; (v. 7; Psalm 8:4-6) "you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet." In fact, the Hebrew text of Psalm 8:4-6 can be translated, "You made him a little lower than God."
We do not, however, see "everything" subject to humanity today. We do not seem to be in a position "a little lower than God."
God's sovereign command put Adam and Eve in charge of the earth. Their sin, however, changed their role with the earth. As part of the consequence of their sin, God cursed the earth. It was no longer hospitable and naturally fruitful.
When they were created, Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden. God put them there "to work it and take care of it." The implication was that the garden existed as a complete, productive place of provision and loveliness. It's human care-takers were to manage and care for a perfect, flourishing, nurturing place which God had made for them. God placed them there to enjoy it and to be in charge of His creation which he made for their benefit.
When Adam and Eve sinned, however, their relationship with the earth changed. "Cursed is the ground because of you;" God said in Gen. 3:15-16; "through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground"
No longer were they in a place of rest and enjoyment. Now they had to work hard and painfully to stay alive. No longer did the earth automatically yield their food and shelter. They no longer lived in the perfection of God's finished work for them. Now they were sentenced to death-and to difficult physical work.
Adam's life after sin illustrates humanity's inheritance of sin and death. Ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, humanity has been born sinful. The natural condition of people is to live a life of works. The hallmark of sin in our lives is the compulsion to control our own lives. Until we are born from above, we feel compelled to prove our worth by our hard work and self-discipline. The curse on the earth and Adam's sentence in the Garden represent our sinful, natural human condition.
When we are born again, though, our inheritance of endless work changes. We enter God's rest-his finished work of salvation-and we can stop controlling our lives and manipulating our surroundings. God has provided all we need "for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (2 Peter 1:3) When we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, we spiritually enter the rest Adam had in the Garden before he sinned.
Although the physical world still bears the curse of sin, spiritually we now come alive. We no longer have to live under the spiritual curse of sin, bringing offerings and continually striving to make atonement and to perfect our behavior. Now we are saved, and we can rest in the nurturing, perfect atoning love of Jesus. We can flourish in his grace and forgiveness because he has broken the curse on our lives. We no longer live in the fear of death. We can revel in being alive in him and in experiencing his life living in us.
Made Like Us
When Jesus gave up his glory to take on humanity, he did more than heal the chasm of sin in the universe. He redeemed our lives. Jesus is "the firstborn over all creation." (Col. 1:15) He is God's firstborn. (Hebrews 1:6) Jesus is the first human who was born spiritually alive. Adam was created from the hand of God, alive and perfect. But Jesus was born; he was The Firstborn. From his birth to his resurrection, Jesus, the only human born with a living soul-the only human who was sinless, has redeemed our physical lives and has claimed for humanity the promises of God.
Jesus was born spiritually alive. Jesus kept the law perfectly. Jesus lived in love. Jesus lived a servant's life-serving others rather than himself. Jesus had the authority of God in him. He had power over sickness, evil and sin. Jesus defeated Satan at the cross and confirmed the deceiver's doom when He rose from the dead.
As God, Jesus defeated evil and ransomed us from sin. As a man, Jesus lived the life we cannot live and redeemed not only our souls and our futures, but also our daily physical lives. In Jesus humanity is reclaiming its sovereignty over creation. In Jesus we see the assurance of our inheritance.
When we become spiritually alive, we receive the Sprit of God in us. We can claim the sovereignty of Jesus over the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and over the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12) We can claim his sovereignty over evil and harassment. And because we know our spiritual heritage is already a reality, we can also claim his sovereignty over death. In Jesus our spirits have already passed from death to life, and our inheritance of resurrection bodies is already assured.
Praise the Father for loving us from the foundation of the earth. Praise Jesus for taking our humanity and restoring it to perfection. Praise the Holy Spirit for living in us and restoring our spirits to life.
Praise God for creating us for himself and through himself. Praise God for victory and for life and for eternity. Praise God for Love.
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and
is to come." (Rev. 4:8, NIV)
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised October 7, 2000.