How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord…
I. NOTE THE APPEAL TO HISTORY. In the history of the Hebrew people God had shown the validity and seriousness of his messages. Those to whom the message had come had been disposed to slight it, either because of the improbability of the matter, or the mean appearance of the messenger. And behind both of these considerations it might also be that the message was very unpalatable. But however the message might appear to men, it was God's message, therefore necessary to be sent. The steadfast word through the angels we must take with a very wide significance, as including the prophets, though angels are specially mentioned because being so reverently regarded by the Hebrews There was an a fortiori argument as applied to the message that came through the Son.
II. NOTE THE GREAT TRANSGRESSION AND DISOBEDIENCE WE MAY COMMIT. We may be negligent of the great salvation. Our own personality, with its great powers and with the claims which God has upon it, we may allow to go to wreck and ruin, instead of submitting to the process whereby God would save us, and make us capable of glorifying him in a perfect way. The man who in any physical peril should steadily neglect whatever means of escape were put in his way, if he perished, would be held to have in him the spirit of the suicide. He who takes active steps against his own life is held to be committing a crime against society; but he who neglects his physical welfare is also sinning against society, though society cannot define his offence so as to punish him. But God, we know, can specify offences, as we cannot; and here is one, that when a man has spiritual and eternal salvation laid before him he yet neglects it. And the more we study this state of negligence, the more we shall see how great a sin it involves.
III. THE INEVITABLE PUNISHMENT WHICH WILL COME FOR SUCH NEGLECT. How shall we escape it? It is a question parallel to that of Paul in Romans 2:3, "How shalt thou escape the judgment of God?" The question is not of escaping from the danger by some other means than what God has provided. It is as to how we shall get away from God's doom upon us for deliberately and. persistently neglecting his loving provisions. How often New Testament exhortations make us face the thought of the great judgment-seat! We see what a serious thing in the sight of God simple negligence is. It is in heavenly affairs as in earthly, probably more harm is done by negligence of the good than by actual commission of the evil. Let there be strongest emphasis and deepest penitence in the confession, "We have not done the things we ought to have done."
IV. THE EXHORTATION TO ATTENTION. We must give more earnest heed to the things that have been heard. How close this exhortation comes! Things not only spoken but heard. The excuse is not permitted that we have not heard of these things. It is what we have heard, but have failed to treat rightly, to cherish and hold fast which constitutes our peculiar responsibility. Over against actual negligence there is the demand for close, continual attention. The meaning of salvation and the means of salvation are not to be discovered by listless hearts. We are attending too much to the wrong things - things that, in comparison with the so great salvation, are but as the fables and endless genealogies, attention to which Paul contemptuously condemned. And those who have to proclaim this salvation would do well to attend to that other counsel of Paul to Timothy, "Give heed to reading, exhortation, teaching," and so all of us need to be readers, learners, and especially submissive to the παράκλησις of the Holy Ghost. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;