Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
After declaring Christ’s superiority over the Old Testament prophets and over angels, the writer of Hebrews now tells his readers that they should pay closer attention to the message of the Lord. We must recognize that when we read the New Testament, we are reading a message from Jesus (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2).
The gospel accounts of his life recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John give us the teachings he gave during his ministry here on earth. This is what the Hebrew writer referred to when he wrote, “It was declared at first by the Lord…” (2:3). The writings of Paul and the other apostles and prophets which make up the rest of the New Testament (Acts-Revelation) were written by men who were inspired by the Helper sent by Jesus, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15; cf. 2 Peter 1:19-21; Ephesians 3:3-5; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16). By giving them miraculous spiritual gifts to confirm the Word of God which they preached and wrote (Mark 16:20; 1 Corinthians 12-14), God confirmed their message as divinely approved. This is why the Hebrew writer also wrote, “…and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gift of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (vs. 3-4).
Thus we read the teachings of Jesus when we read the New Testament. In the New Testament we read everything we need to acquire eternal life and become godly (2 Peter 1:3). All Scripture – both Old and New Testaments – is God-breathed, and all of it can help us be exactly how he wants us to be and do exactly what he wants us to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Hebrew writer will later in this book show how the Old Testament’s laws and practices were taken out of the way at Jesus’ death and replaced with his new covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13; 9:15-17), but even so there is much the Old Testament can teach us about God and how he wants us to be (cf. Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11). There is nothing more we need than the Bible. Indeed, by heeding the teachings of men over the Holy Scriptures we bring nothing but eternal condemnation upon ourselves (Galatians 1:6-10; Revelation 22:18-19).
This is why the Hebrew writer talks of the reliability of “the message declared by angels” and brings out how “every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution” (v. 2). Both Stephen and Paul mentioned how the old covenant, the Law of Moses, was delivered to Moses by angels (Acts 7:38, 53; Galatians 3:19; cf. Deuteronomy 33:2). Throughout the Bible we read of God always keeping his promises to mankind, including his promises of punishment when they disobeyed him. We see this with Adam and Eve (Genesis 2-3) and especially in the recorded biblical history of the Israelite ancestors of the Hebrew readers who first read the book of Hebrews (Deuteronomy 4; cf. Judges; 1-2 Kings; 1-2 Chronicles).
So after reminding his readers of these sobering facts, the Hebrew writer asks a very important question: “…how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (v. 3) The question is rhetorical. No one can escape the wrath of God that comes upon the unrepentantly disobedient (Romans 1:18-32). Therefore, we must not neglect the great salvation he offers us through his gospel which is found in the New Testament (Romans 1:16; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:36-41). We “must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (v. 1).
How much do you read your Bibles? How often do you pore over its pages with deep study and meditation? Is your heart “honest and good” when you read Scripture (Luke 8:15), or do you read with a seared conscience swayed by demonic teachings (1 Timothy 4:1-2)?
Are you paying much closer attention?