In this episode we get into the text of The Book of Hebrews. Focusing on Chapter 2, we start to see that obedience and disobedience both receive a consequence…but they are different outcomes. We examine the word salvation, which is more complex than we often give it credit for, and investigate an important framework for understanding what that word means and how to apply it to our lives. There is a certain kind of salvation we can neglect and a certain kind that we cannot.
Last time we talked about Hebrews as being a book that has Paul as the author. If it’s not Paul, it’s somebody in his immediate vicinity. He’s got Timothy. We saw that Timothy is named by a person at the end of the book. And Timothy is coauthor with Paul in six different books and also the recipient of two of the letters. So there’s a real close correlation.
We saw that this is written to someone who Paul is very familiar with. We saw all the highly familiar phrases throughout the letter.
We saw that they’re brethren. They’re Jewish brethren, Jewish brethren who had believed in Jesus as Messiah.
We also saw that Paul never stopped adhering to his Jewish practices, his Jewish customs. We saw in Acts that he came to Jerusalem, and in Jerusalem they said, hey, everybody in Jerusalem has heard that you’re out teaching the Jews who live out among the Gentiles not to teach their children the customs of Moses or to be circumcised. And these people are zealous for the law because we have myriads of Jews who have believed, and they’re zealous for the law because when they believed in Jesus as Messiah, then being zealous for the law made sense for them. Or they see those two things go together. And now they hear you’ve come to Jerusalem they most certainly will want to know what’s going on with you telling these people that. And we know that this isn’t true. We know you’re a law-abiding guy. So go and pay for these guys to have a vow and shave your head with them. Then everybody will know that that’s not true. And Paul does it.
We also saw the passage in Acts where Paul comes to the Jewish leaders in Rome and he says, hey brethren, I have never violated the customs of our fathers.
We also took a look at Acts 15 where you have this big divide where the Jewish leaders, including Peter, the head apostle, and James, the head elder, speaking to Paul and Barnabas and the church at Antioch; and they say, from this point forward, we’re all one big family under grace. But from a customs standpoint, the Jews are going to be Jews, and the Gentiles are going to be Gentiles. We just ask the Gentiles to keep the Noahic covenant: Don’t eat meat strangled in its blood and practice sexual immorality because there’s a lot of Jews out there, and we don’t want to create a schism. But in terms of culture, we’ve got two separate cultures; in terms of unity in the Spirit, we’re all one. Acts 15. We saw that.
So when we come to the Hebrews, we understand that if you have a Jewish leader speaking to a Jewish audience, he’s not going to be trying to get them to stop being Jewish. That’s been settled. Especially if it’s Paul who is a Hebrew of Hebrews and never stops practicing the Jewish tenets.
But what did Paul say about those things? They’re rubbish to me compared to my relationship with Christ.
And so what we are going to see is putting your confidence in those things that are just cultural is an immense and tragic waste. And we’re certainly going to see that.
And even though we’re not Jewish, we’re going to easily be able to make application to that because we, in fact, can do the same thing. We can put our confidence in cultural things.
So I want to start in Hebrews 2. I want to start in chapter two because chapter two is so much easier to engage with than chapter one. And next week the message is going to be on Hebrews 1.
Sneak Peek Hebrews 1
Now Dr. Anderson is an expert on Hebrews 1. He wrote a book about it. What it’s about is Psalm 110, and it’s about the crowning of the Son of Man.
And just to give you a little preview, what chapter one sets up is the whole rest of Hebrews because it sets up Jesus having two offices: The Son and the High Priest.
Now the word son in the Bible is actually managed two different ways. Son can mean male offspring. So, Jacob had a son and named him so and so. And son can mean the one who bears the inheritance title.
And I think Dr. Dave will go into this next week, but if you have a sovereign, and he decides to bring another kind of sub-king into his sphere of influence and convey power to this other king—because you understand that in these big empires, there are multiple kings under a high king.
So what he would do is have a ceremony. And do you know what this ceremony is called? The adoption.
And as you read about adoption in the New Testament, it’s usually talking about this kind of adoption. Not the kind where you have a child that comes into your family. So it’s talking about adopting a co-regent into your reigning realm.
So you have adoption, and you say, “I’ll be the father and you be the son. Today I have begotten you.”
Now which of those two uses of son fits Jesus Christ?
It has to be the reigning one, right? Why does it have to be that?
He was never born as a child. When did Jesus Christ begin his existence? In eternity. He’s God. So there is no child of the father in the sense of having been begotten as his starting place in life. He is from everlasting. He was born as a child in this world, but that was just an inhabitance of a body. That was not his beginning. “Before Abraham was, I am.” That was one of the phrases he said that really infuriated the Jews because they understood that that meant he already existed. He’s from everlasting.
So when he calls himself Son of Man, what’s he saying? The reigning king of all humanity, that’s what he’s calling himself. The one who has been given the reign from the great king.
Now since the Jews consider God to be one, which God is; but they don’t take it in the “husband and wife shall be as one” kind of one. They take it as mono. There’s just one person. And since they see God as the High King, the Great King, if you ask a Jewish person to describe God to me, they won’t see omnipotent, omnipresent. They’ll say things like shepherd, king, priest. So since he’s the High King, when Jesus says, “I am the Son of God,” they say “blasphemy.” Why do they say that?
Well they don’t say that because they think he’s saying, “I too am an offspring of God and God’s child just like every other human being.” They understand that he’s saying, “I’m reigning with the High King.” And he’s equating himself with God. That’s why they call it blasphemy.
So you’re going to see chapter one is about “Jesus is the Son,” and that makes him above angels which has a key importance.
You’re also going to see that this Psalms 110 is a chiastic structure, just like it seems the whole Bible is, and in the middle of this chiastic structure is Jesus as high priest. And what we’re going to see in Hebrews is that the recurring theme is Jesus is the Son and Jesus is the High Priest.
Now let’s just start in 2:1. “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard from the Son lest we drift away. For if the words spoken through angels—” that would be the Old Testament “—proves steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience receives a just reward—”
What’s a just reward for transgression and disobedience, parents?
What do you do with your children if they transgress or disobey? You spank them, right? You put them in time out. Take away a privilege. That’s what God did to his people, didn’t he?
“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and which was confirmed to us by those who heard him—” that being the Lord. “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his own will.”
So we have here that we can neglect salvation.
Now let’s just talk about the word salvation. The Greek word here is soterio, and this is Hebrews 2. Soterio is most often translated salvation.
But let’s look at Acts 27:33-34. “As the day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food saying today is the fourteenth day you’ve waited and continued without food and eaten nothing.” This is after this tempest that they were in. “Therefore I urge you to take nourishment for this is for your survival since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.”
Anybody see the word salvation in there? Survival. Soterio.
So you could translate that as “This is for your salvation.”
Now how could meat be for your salvation? It saves you from death, right? Physical death. He’s saying you need to be saved from physical death by eating meat.
So what does that tell us about this word salvation?
You need to know what the context is. You need to know two things to know how to use this word: Who’s being saved from what, and when?
In this particular case, when are they going to be saved?
Right now when they eat the meat. And these guys have not eaten for 14 days because of worry.
So when we see salvation, we’ve got to ask who’s being saved from what, and when?
So this is a salvation we can neglect, but before we can understand what it is the neglect is and who’s being saved from what, when, we’ve got to figure out from the context who’s being saved from what, and when.
Justification vs. Glorification
Let’s look at Romans 13:11.
The lead in to this is about treating others as you want to be treated. Don’t murder. Don’t speak untruth. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.
Verse 11: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
So here we go over here. We first believe. I’m going to do a timeline, physically. What do we call that when you first believe? Justification. What else do we call it? Conversion. Being saved. Born again.
Let’s just use born again as our main metaphor here. When someone is born, what does that mean has just happened? New life. Their life has begun. So they start living now. The clock starts ticking, and they start moving forward in time.
Are they getting closer to their birth or further away from it? Further away.
So this person was born again. They were saved. And now the further they go in life, are they getting closer or further away from when they were saved? Further away.
What does Romans 13:11 say is happening as we march along away from our new birth? We’re getting nearer our salvation!
So what does that tell you about this salvation? It’s not talking about that one. It’s not talking about being saved from the penalty of sin through justification. It can’t be because we’re not getting closer to that.
So it has to be talking about getting saved from something else. What salvation are we all who have been born again looking forward to? Glorification.
What happens in glorification? We become as He is. Death is defeated. We get a new body!
There’s enough people in here old enough to start identifying with that. I would like to have a new body! Ours are starting to break down a bit, some of us.
That’s the salvation we’re looking forward to in Romans 13. So we’ve got to understand what this salvation is that we can neglect.
Can we neglect having been born? That’s really kind of impossible, isn’t it? Oh, I forgot to put on my body this morning! I got up, and I was just a spirit floating around. I put on my clothing, and I forgot my body still in bed. I forgot it! I need to go get back in my body. Is that realistic?
We can’t really neglect that one, so it must be something else that we’re going to neglect.
Let’s put that on the side for a minute, and we’ll come back to it. Because he’s going to tell us in this next section of this fantastic chapter what it is that we’re going to neglect.
So, we go on and he says, “For he has not put the world to come of which we speak in subjection to angels but one testified in a certain place saying—”
Since we now start talking about the world to come, we got a little hint about what this is, what salvation we’re talking about: the world to come.
But let’s don’t jump ahead. Let’s just dig in to this.
“What is man that you are mindful of him or the son of man that you take care of him? You made him a little lower than the angels, you’ve crowned him with glory and honor and set him over the works of your hands, and have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
This is Psalm 8. When Paul quotes a verse he expects that you understand the whole context of the verse in the entire passage. Why would he expect that? You’ve already memorized it. Why? You grew up in a Jewish culture and that’s what you did.
Psalm 8. “Lord our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth. Who have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you’ve ordained strength because of your enemies. That you may silence the enemy and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you’ve ordained, what is man that you’re mindful of him and the son of man that you visit him? For you have made him a little lower than the angels and you’ve crowned him with glory and honor. You’ve made him to have dominion over the works of your hands. You’ve put all things under his feet. All sheep and oxen, even the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord how excellent is your name in all the earth.”
Tell me what this Psalm is talking about. The glory of God. The glory of God is above the heavens. It’s amazing. It’s incredible. Look at all he’s made.
Is that the only glory this talks about? The mystery of man. Why is it a mystery? What’s mysterious? Because he has glory. You’ve got the God of the universe that has all this glory. He created all things. And then he makes this little man, lower than the angels. So if you have angels [above] man, and man is under angels, who are you going to put in charge? Angels! Makes perfect sense, right? And he puts man in charge. Who is man that you put him in charge?
You’ve got at your house husband, wife, dog. Who are you going to put in charge? I know some of you have a house that’s ruled by a dog. But—
Yeah, you’re going to be in charge, right? You’re not going to let— “Hey, I’m going out of town, Coach is in charge. Just do what Coach tells you.” That doesn’t make any sense. That’s not going to fly.
So that’s what the writer is saying here. He’s saying, “You’ve got these low creatures, and they’re in charge. It’s kind of crazy! Why did you give him complete charge of all—”
What’s he in charge of according to this? All that was made! What all does he say has been put under your feet? Sheep and oxen. What kind of relationship do we typically have with sheep and oxen? We eat them. The oxen will work for us. So this is work, provision.
Before the Fall, the sheep wouldn’t have been eaten. What would have our function for the sheep been? Maybe clothing. Although we didn’t really need clothing either. I don’t really know what sheep were for. Probably used them as pillows or something.
But you’ve got sheep and oxen. What’s next? Birds of the air. I can understand sheep. They go in the pen. And oxen. They go in the pen. What does it look like to reign over the birds of the air? Chicken coops, maybe.
The picture here is before the Fall when we’re reigning over these, and there’s no death at this point in time. You talk to the birds, right? So we have a church service and the bird choir shows up. Have you ever been to a bird show where they train the birds to do things?
What does it look like to reign over the fish of the sea? Have you ever been to a show where somebody calls and the fish come running? Where someone rides on a fish? Sea World! You know the reason why people love Sea World? It’s supposed to be that way. Free Willy is supposed to be the way life really is. You’re supposed to actually be able to have a Flipper yourself!
It’s part of our being that’s saying, “I’m supposed to be able to communicate with these animals and interact with them.”
You can pay money, and someone will put you in a boat and take you out in the ocean, and you can swim with dolphins. Why would someone do that? Because we’re supposed to! That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Because we were put in charge of everything.
But now Verse 2 is kind of problematic. What does “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you’ve ordained strength because of your enemies that you may silence the enemy and the avenger” have to do with man being a little lower than the angels and being placed over all creation? What’s that have to do with that? Who’s the baby? Who’s the nursing infant here? Man. Why is man a nursing infant? If you have a nursing infant, what do you know about that child? Helpless. Ignorant. Dependant. Hungry. What do you know about their age? They haven’t been around very long, right?
How long have the angels been around? Long time. We don’t know when, but a long time. And suddenly these newcomers show up that are lower than them. Crying. Struggling. Their umbilical cord snapped off. And Jesus says I’m going to have those guys rule everything.
And why did he do that? Why did he put the newcomers in charge? What’s it say? “To silence the enemy.”
Who’s the enemy? Satan. What class does he come from? The angels. So you start to get it?
Was he in charge, Lucifer? He was! He was in charge of the whole universe, as best we understand. And what did he say? That’s not good enough. I don’t want to be a sub-regent under the Father. I want to be the Great King myself.
And because of that, he was set aside. And yet, he’s the ruler of world still today. We know that from the New Testament. “The ruler of this world has come.”
So here you’ve got it. This is the grand drama of all humanity. This is the Shakespearian tragedy that we’re all a part of.
Lucifer was the head guy. He was the sub-regent under the Great King. Tried to knock off the Great King. Did not succeed. So, in order to demonstrate and silence the accusations and the claim of this regent, God has appointed some babies to overthrow him.
And how do we do that? Something about “out of our mouths.” When the Old Testament talks about your mouth, it presumes action is part of it.
So our lives are to demonstrate this.