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.…
This passage is evidently a parenthesis, no link in the argument. Like the acknowledged Epistles of Paul, this is characterized by frequent sudden and brief departures from the general outline of thought. Like a river, the outline is clear from beginning to end, but here and there are small side channels into which the stream is swiftly, involuntarily drawn, to rejoin the main current a little lower down. One of these we have before us. The interjection of this passage is very natural. The last chapter ended with "the heirs of salvation;" the writer has brought his hearers to this point - the grandeur of the salvation they inherit. But, remember, he has one object before him, the confirmation of the Hebrews wavering under the pressure of persecution. He doesn't write merely as a logician, but as an anxious friend; he cannot, therefore, wait to enforce the application of his argument when he reaches the end, but drops the thread of his idea for a moment to break out in an earnest appeal that this great salvation should be cleaved to.
1. Observe that he is not writing to the ungodly, but to a Christian Church. However suitable these words as an address to the ungodly, they are here spoken to professing Christians who had taken a bold stand for Christ and the gospel (Hebrews 10:32-34).
2. Observe that the literal rendering of the end of the first verse is "lest at any time we drift away. The words, from them," italicized in the Revised Version, are misleading. The drifting away that is deprecated is, not "from the things that were heard," but from Christ. Subject - An exhortation against drifting away from the glorious Son of God.
I. TO DRIFT AWAY FROM CHRIST IS FEARFULLY POSSIBLE. It is SO:
1. Because the soul is not always moored to Christ when it is brought to Christ. We regard it a doctrine of the New Testament that the true believer cannot be lost, that the salvation which on faith in Christ he receives is for ever, the might of Christ to supply all that is necessary to salvation being the warrant of it. Why, then, are these professing Christians warned against drifting away from Christ? It is possible to be brought to Christ without being anchored to him. A number of influences may lead one close to the Redeemer, between whom and Christ there is, nevertheless, no vital union, and as long as the tide runs that way his safety may not be suspected even by himself, but let the tide turn and his lack of union becomes apparent and he may drift away and. be lost.
2. Because powerful adverse currents tepid to carry the soul from the Savior. Sometimes the current leads toward Christ. It had been so with these professing Hebrews. But it is not always that way; difficulties occur, winds of temptation blow, the tide of worldly custom runs high, the unseen force of depraved inclination gathers power; and then, however strong the cable, however firmly it may bind shore and ship together, it will creak and strain, and every fiber of it be needed to hold the ship in safety. But what if there be no cable, no vital faith, in that day? Then the soul will inevitably part company with Christ, leaving the harbor where it has lain so long, and be seen (when such a storm shall blow as has never blown on it yet) drifting away.
3. Because the departure of the soul from Christ may be for some time imperceptible. Drifting away is a departure silent, gradual, unnoticeable. At sunset the ship is close to shore and all is safe; without a warning it drops into the tide, and swings round, and with no sound but the ripple of the water is carried down the stream to the open sea, and the crew may sleep through it all. So, departure from Christ may be as involuntary and quiet as that; a silent, ceaseless, unconscious creeping back to old habits. There is its danger. Drifting away means leaving Christ without knowing it, till we find ourselves far out at sea, and a tide we cannot resist bearing us still further away. You have seen men who were once close to Christ, but whilst they slept they have unconsciously glided away, and by the current of worldliness been carried into the rapids and whirled along faster and. faster, only waking to stare wildly at their helplessness, and close hands and eyes in despair for the final plunge into the eternal gulf.
II. TO DRIFT AWAY FROM CHRIST MUST END IN HOPELESS RUIN. If we drift away "how shall we escape?"
1. To drift away from Christ is to leave the only Refuge from our sin's consequences. "For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" The point is, we are condemned already; apart from the great salvation we are in the position of those whose transgressions and disobediences were followed by righteous judgment. But under these circumstances a "great salvation" has been provided. "Great," indeed! A full and everlasting remission of all sin, the enjoyment of God's fatherly favor, the transformation of our moral nature, a tranquil conscience, a bright and glorious hope for eternity; and all this free to whosoever will accept it. Now, if man is under condemnation apart from this, what must he be if, this having been secured and offered to him, he ignores and neglects it? To suffer ourselves to drift away from Christ is to add to the madness of leaving the only haven of security, the guilt of refusing that grace which would have saved us had we let it.
2. To drift away frown Christ is to disregard the supreme dignity of him who offers the salvation to us. "So great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord." The point is the dignity of him who brings the salvation to us. Angels were employed in the ministrations of the old dispensation; "The Law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator." But he who has brought the word in these last days is God the Son. He has spoken it by being it; and then by uttering it - uttering it to our hearts by his Spirit. The overtures of salvation are not made by man to God, but by God to man; it is not the condemned rebel that appeals to the offended Sovereign for salvation, but the offended Sovereign appealing to the rebel. What a spectacle - God, as it were, on his knees before men, beseeching them to be saved! "As though God did beseech you," etc. See how that adds to man's guilt, and the certainty of his ruin if he drifts away from Christ.
3. To drift away from Christ is to close our eyes willfully to the urgency of his claims. "Which, having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto," etc. (vers. 3, 4). The abundant proof they had received as to the divinity of this Word of salvation is the point here. Man has received the utmost evidence of the truth of the gospel. What he has seen of its results in the lives and characters of others is, of itself, overwhelming assurance that it is of God; and when he hears it preached he knows it is from above, he knows its worth, he knows its claim. Think of what it is to leave Christ after that; to depart from him, though you know the right he has to you, and. the blessings he wants to impart; to be lost, not in the dark, but in the light! The apostle gathers up these arguments against leaving Christ, in this earnest appeal to reason and conscience: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" There is no answer to that. "Friend, how earnest thou in hither without a wedding garment? And he was speechless."
III. TO DRIFT AWAY FROM CHRIST IS PREVENTED BY EARNEST HEED TO HIS WORD. "We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away." Faith is the cable which alone can moor us to Christ; but the Word of God has a vital bearing on faith; therefore, where the Scriptures are neglected, there is the utmost peril of drifting away.
1. Only by earnest heed to Divine truth can you discover whether, in your soul, faith exists. You think it does, but you may be deceived; then search here for the fruits and evidences of faith; then see if they exist in your heart and life. If you would know whether you have faith, you must bring yourself to the test this Book affords.
2. Only by earnest heed to Divine truth can you create faith where it does not exist. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." To make light of this Book is to remain faithless.
3. Only by earnest heed to Divine truth can faith be maintained where it does exist. How does Christ; maintain faith in the soul, but by the means he has appointed? He gives grace through the means of grace. To neglect the means, therefore, is to lose the grace. Scripture declares the Divine Word to be the means employed for our sanctification. Faith is the cable that holds the soul to the Redeemer. The Word creates and maintains the faith. "Therefore we ought to give," etc. "Drift away!" Away from Christ, the only Haven; drift away into the wild, wintry, shoreless sea of doom - drifted away by the currents of worldliness and care. We drift away silently and imperceptibly; are you sure you are securely moored to the Rock of ages? - C.N.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.