Brother Beebe: If convenient, please give your views on Hebrews 2:1-3: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.”
Many of us, I fear, are neglecting this great salvation, and timely admonition is needed, and, if properly given, would, I hope, be blessed of God.
Your brother in Christ,
Laconia, Ind. January 21, 1864.
Reply: The declaration and admonition presented in our text are a deduction from the facts recorded in the preceding chapter, as implied in the introductory word, Therefore. A careful perusal of the foregoing chapter will convince the intelligent reader that the conclusion is just and unavoidable. God at sundry times and in divers manners spake to the fathers by the prophets; among the prophets by whom God spake to the patriarchs, Moses occupies a very conspicuous place; as that prophet, messenger or angel, by whom his laws were communicated to the tribes of Israel. The term angels are sometimes applied to the commissioned messengers by whom divine communications were made to the people of God. But, whether we consider the term as applicable to the prophets, or those heavenly messengers spoken of in the first chapter, as an order of beings distinct from men, and who were sometimes sent with messages from the throne of God, in either case Christ is far superior to them. As the Son of God, all the angels of God are commanded to worship him. He “Being so much better than the angels as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” A name belongs to him at which every knee shall bow, of things in earth and things in heaven. In view of the superior excellency of Christ over all beings in heaven and earth, seated in matchless power and majesty upon a throne which is forever and ever, on which he presides, God over all, and blessed forever; his instructions are worthy of more profound reverence and unquestionable obedience than the words of holy men or even holy angels. In the third chapter we are told that Jesus, as the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, as he who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after: but Christ as a Son over his own house; whose house are we, etc. In view then of the disparity between Moses and Christ, we are to consider the declaration in Chapter 10, Verses 28,29. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who shall disregard or trample upon the authority of the Son of God? Although it be fully demonstrated in the gospel that Christ has redeemed his people from under the law of Moses, from the law of sin and death, and they can no more come into that condemnation who have passed from death unto life; yet they are under law to Christ, and ought therefore to give (not less, but) the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard; lest at any time we should let them slip. This additional obligation is insisted on throughout this epistle. See Chapter 12, Verses 25-29. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.
The obligation is upon all who have heard, that is, all who have passed from death unto life, and are gathered into the spiritual kingdom, as the spiritual Israel of God. For, “They that hear shall live.” Those who have heard and so live ought therefore to give the more earnest heed to the things spoken; namely the things which began to be spoken by the Lord. Things which our Lord Jesus Christ has enjoined upon his redeemed family, things embraced in his precepts and examples, and embraced in his law which he has written in their heart; and are faithfully recorded in the New Testament. The doctrine, discipline, ordinances, admonitions, exhortations and instructions which can be clearly traced back to him, but no farther. They were not found in the Sinai Covenant, the law of Moses, or the Levitical priesthood; but they began to be spoken by the Lord. The law which had a shadow of these things was given by Moses; but grace and truth were brought by Jesus Christ. He first enacted his laws for the government of his church and kingdom, and then commissioned his apostles who heard him to teach all baptized believers to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them. The whole revelation of salvation by grace, and all the counsel and purpose of God in that great salvation are revealed in and through him. All began with him, and has been duly confirmed to the saints in all subsequent ages by inspired apostles who have been commissioned by him to preach his gospel in all the world, for a witness to all nations. What began to be spoken by the Lord has been abundantly confirmed to us by his apostles, whose testimony has been attended with signs and wonders, as declared in their commission. God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost according to his own will.
We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. We are yet in the flesh, subject to infirmities, and amid the vanities of the world, the temptations of Satan, and the popular errors and delusions of anti-christ, of which the saints are commanded to beware. We are liable, especially at times, to let some of the things which we have heard slip. The primitive disciples betrayed this weakness. They had repeatedly heard the Lord say that he was to suffer and die, and rise again on the third day, but in the trying hour they had let these declarations slip, until they were again reminded of them, and then remembered they that he had told them when he was yet with them that these things should be accomplished. And the very apostles would have been utterly incompetent to confirm all these things to us if it had not been for the gift of the Holy Ghost whose work it was to bring all these things to their remembrance. It is important that the saints should hold these things fast at all times, and at no time let them slip for a moment: in times of refreshing; and in times of dearth and declension; in times of enlargement, and in times of persecution. The sacred charge is upon them to hold them fast; and to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free, and not be again entangled with the yoke of bondage.
For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? This if does not imply a doubt; for it positively affirmed, as before quoted: “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.” The justness of their recompense was meeted to them according to the provisions and penalties of the law they were under. It provided for all who were or are under it that, if they were obedient they should live and be prospered with health, peace and plenty of temporal mercies; but if disobedient, they should be visited with sword, pestilence and famine, and be cut off and die. True the saints are not now under a conditional law or covenant that can show no mercy, but they are under law to Christ. “For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).” The law which God has written in the inward parts of his children in the new and better covenant does provide mercy; whereas Moses’ law knew no mercy, and its transgressors died without mercy because the law could show none. But in the new covenant it is plentifully provided. “I will,” saith God, “be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more.” Still the law of Christ provides a just recompense of reward for every transgression of his law. If my children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgment; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes; nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me.” It is not in a legal or judicial sense, but in parental faithfulness. As many as he loves he rebukes, and scourgeth every son that he receiveth. None escape chastisements at his Fatherly hand but bastards. “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” God will not suffer his faithfulness to fail, and it is not possible that any of his children shall escape his rod who neglect his great salvation; or who let slip what he has spoken.
The things which we have heard, including the laws of the kingdom of Christ with all his institutions, ordinances, precepts and examples are imperatively enjoined upon all his disciples, none of them can be violated with impunity. A just recompense of reward, according to the provisions of his law, is certain to follow every transgression, and there is no escape to those who heedlessly let these admonitions slip. A vigilant attention to what we have heard, and a dutiful obedience to the laws of the kingdom of Christ is the only salvation from the rod.
If we heedlessly let what we have heard slip in regard to the doctrine of salvation by sovereign grace, we are liable to drift into the gulf of Arminianism, or if we neglect his precepts, we as a chastisement shall be filled with our own ways, as was Ephraim. But if we would escape these chastisements we must observe the rule given. “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound; they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather brethren give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall not fall (I Peter 1:5-10).”
July 15, 1864.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials – Volume 6
Pages 67 - 72