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I. Reading of Scripture
A. Introduction to Theme
We’ve heard this text read.
What is the nature of this text?
Is it a warning?
Is it an invitation?
Hebrews tells us what it is.
It is an “exhortation.”
The book of Hebrews is a “word of exhortation.”
What is an exhortation?
Exhortation — (OT and NT) A message urging action that is characterized by warnings, advice, instructions, and urgent appeals.
So this text is a warning.
It is an invitation.
It is an instruction.
It is an urgent appeal!
B. Proposition
The Father and Spirit testify with the Son about a great salvation we ought to pay close attention to.
C. Introduction to Text
Hebrews 2:1-4 has two sections.
The first part, verse 1, is the exhortation.
The second part, verses 2-4, explains why we are to do what verse 1 tell us as hearers to do.
I. Hebrews 2:1
The word “therefore” in the original language is the phrase “because of this” (Gk).
Because God has spoken in these last days through His Son (Heb 1:2)
Because of who this Son is, being the heir of all things, through whom the world was created (Heb 1:2), being the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature (Heb 1:3)
Because of what this Son does and has done, upholding the universe by the word of his power (Heb 1:3), having made purification for sins and having sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high (Heb 1:4)
Because this Son is better than angels, with a more excellent name than theirs (Heb 1:4-14)
Because of all of these things, Hebrews 2:1 says:
“We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard” (Hebrews 2:1a).
Question: Who is “We”?
Who is this exhortation for?
Is it for us, as people of faith, as Christians?
Is it for those who are seeking, or interested in the things of God?
Is it for outsiders to the faith?
This is a debated question, and I think the answer may surprise us!
Christians tend to think that once we are “saved,” we don’t need to concern ourselves with matters of salvation any longer.
So a text like this, that exhorts hearers to pay attention to salvation, is set aside as if that is not our concern any more, and that this is only for those who are not of the faith.
But notice in verse 2, that this exhortation is not addressed to “YOU,” as if it is someone outside the faith.
It is addressed to “WE.”
To “us.”
The author is included in the group being addressed.
So who is this “we/us”?
We can answer this question in two ways:
1.) Who was Hebrews originally written to?
Who was the original audience?
2.) Who is Hebrews speaking to today?
1.) Who was Hebrews originally written to?
If we look first at Hebrews itself, an addressee is not mentioned in an introduction as in most epistle, but Hebrews does give us a clue in the first two verses of chapter 1.
First, the original audience of Hebrews is a people whose fathers heard God speak by the prophets.
Who were those people?
So the original audience of Hebrews is likely a Jewish audience.
But more importantly for the exhortation of chapter 2, the original audience of Hebrews is those people who have heard God’s word by his Son.
As verse 2 says, “he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb 1:2).
So the original audience of Hebrews is likely a Jewish audience, who have heard the message of Jesus.
2.) Who is Hebrews speaking to today?
Hebrews is speaking likewise to any who have heard the message of Jesus today!
If we have heard God’s word through His Son, the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, we must pay much closer attention to that word!
This exhortation is for us!
It is not written to those who have never heard about Jesus, but this exhortation is written for all who have heard about Jesus.
That word “must” is the verb.
It is a present action, meaning: “It is necessary.”
This exhortation is not optional.
It is a requirement that we act on this exhortation now.
And the text says that we must not only “pay attention,” but must “pay much closer attention.”
Literally, the original language reads: “because of this, it is all the more necessary that we pay attention.”
In other words - “pay attention to a greater degree.”
ILLUSTRATION: Think about this knife (butter knife).
This is a butter knife.
It is rounded and dull.
Good for spreading butter, but not good for cutting.
This (sharp MAC knife) is a knife meant for cutting — it is large and very sharp!
We pay attention when we use the butter knife because it is still a knife.
But we pay much closer attention when we use this MAC knife, because if we don’t, we can be seriously harmed by our carelessness.
As a matter of principle, we pay closer attention to the things that impact us the most.
We are careful not to create a spark around gasoline.
God wants us to pay close attention to what we have heard through the Son.
(This does not mean throw the Old Testament away, for Jesus Himself showed multiple times how the Old Testament all points to Him and is fulfilled in Him).
But all the more, we are to pay attention to the teaching of Jesus.
It is because we are exhorted to pay close attention, that we realize it is very possible and even likely for us to neglect God’s word (see Lane, WBC, 38).
This was Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden — a careless, indifference towards the commands of God (see Wuest, 50).
And this sin is passed on to each of us — it is part of our sinful nature.
Jesus told this parable:
Listen to that last verse again:
We must hold fast to God’s word and bear fruit!
These are not passive actions, but these are things God’s people actively do with what is heard!
The word “pay attention” in Hebrews 2:1 has a similar sense of “hold firmly” (LN).
The exhortation is to follow the message that has been given to us from such a great messenger as the Lord.
The warning is this — if we fail to pay attention and follow what we have heard, we will drift away from that message.
And in drifting away from the message, we are drifting away from the Lord who spoke that message — because the word of God is not separated from the God of the word!
To “drift away” uses imagery of flowing water (BDAG).
ILLUSTRATION: Think about a boat that hasn’t dropped its anchor.
It drifts.
Not everyone has a boat — but think about laying on a raft in a pool.
If you lean back, close your eyes, relax — at some point later you will open your eyes and you won’t be where you were when you started.
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