Hebrews 2:1-4

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

WHAT CHRIST HAS SAID CARRIES MORE AUTHORITY THAN WHAT ANGELS HAVE SAID

INTRODUCTION:

 

The occasion of Hebrews was the need to exhort Jews who had professed belief in Jesus as the Messiah to hold fast their profession in difficult times and to go on to maturity in the faith.

 

As a result of severe persecution the readers of this epistle had encountered after they had become Christians, some were apparently contemplating abandoning Christianity and returning to Judaism, believing that Christianity was not all that they had expected it to be. Hebrews was written to demonstrate that Christianity is better than and has taken the place of Judaism, i.e. that God’s revelation in Christ is superior to the revelation that came through the Old Testament and has superseded it.

 

The key word in Hebrews is better. Hebrews contains a series of contrasts between the good things of Judaism and the better things of Christ. Christ is better than the prophets, better than the angels, better than Moses, than Joshua, and than Aaron; and the New Covenant is better than the Mosaic Covenant.

 

In Hebrews 1:4-2:18 , we see that Christ is superior to the angels.

 

We have already seen that –

      1.   CHRIST HAS A MORE EXCELLENT NAME THAN ANGELS HAVE – 1:4-5

 

We have also seen that –

      2.   CHRIST IS WORSHIPED BY THE ANGELS AS THE FIRSTBORN - 1:6

 

We have furthermore seen that –

      3.   CHRIST IS GOD - 1:8-13

 

Finally, in contrast to Christ, we have seen that –

      4.   ANGELS ARE MINISTERING SPIRITS - 1:7, 14

 

We move on to see that what Christ has said carries more authority than what angels have said.

 

Hebrews 2 continues the thought begun in chapter 1 that Christ is superior to angels. What Christ has said carries more authority than what angels have said. The coming inhabited world has been subjected to Christ, but it has not been subjected to angels. All things have been put in subjection under man’s feet, and Christ was only temporarily made lower than the angels. However, this temporary situation did not in any way diminish or lessen Christ’s pre-eminence over the angels. He continued to be God at the same time He was made lower than the angels.

We note that –

    I.     BECAUSE CHRIST IS SUPERIOR TO ANGELS, GREATER ATTENTION SHOULD BE PAID TO WHAT HE HAS SAID THAN TO WHAT THEY HAVE SAID – 2:1

 

Hebrews 2:1 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.

 

Therefore is literally because of this and refers to what the writer has said in chapter 1, that the revelation in Christ is superior to the revelation given in the Old Testament era and that Christ is superior to the angels because He has a more excellent name than they have, because He is worshiped by them as the firstborn, and because He is God. By contrast, angels are merely ministering spirits.

 

It is for this reason that 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 ought suggests something we who profess salvation must do.

 

We refers to the writer and the readers and means all people professing salvation.

 

To give the more earnest heed to is to pay attention to even more. Believers should always be paying far greater attention to what Christ has said than to what angels have said.

 

The things which we have heard is literally the things which have been heard. The context implies that it is we, the ones professing salvation, who have done the hearing.

 

The things which we have heard suggests things pertaining to the gospel message and to salvation.

 

Lest introduces a negative purpose clause and means in order that we not or for the purpose that we not.

 

At any time, when used with a negative, suggests not ever or never.

 

We should let them slip is literally we should let (them) flow by or we should let (them) slip away; and when used figuratively as it is in this verse, it is used in the sense of we should let (them) be washed away or we should let (them) drift away.

 

The things which have been heard in the gospel message regarding Christ are even more important than the things which angels have said.

 

Therefore, we, the readers of this letter, should not allow them to drift away.

 

The text is not implying that believers should fail to pay attention to what angels may have said; rather, it is implying that regardless of how important the things angels have said are, the things Christ has said are even more important.

 

There can be no doubt that the writer, who is addressing professing believers, is warning the readers of the grave consequences of abandoning their profession of faith. Although those who have been genuinely saved will never abandon their trust in Christ, those who have merely professed faith in Christ without being genuinely saved can be expected to abandon Christ; and they are being warned not to do so.

We also note that –

  II.     THE WORD SPOKEN BY ANGELS WAS CERTAIN – 2:2A

 

Hebrews 2:2 a – For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast. . . .

 

All of verse 2 is a condition which, for sake of discussion, is assumed to be true and is given as the reason why verse 1 was written.

 

The condition has two parts, both of which are true. The first part is if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and the second part is (if) every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward.

 

Since this condition is assumed for the sake of discussion to be true and since it is actually true, if may be understood in the sense of because, since, or inasmuch as. The word spoken by angels really was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience really did receive a just recompense of reward.

 

The word spoken by angels refers to each and every message which angels delivered.

 

According to Psalms 68:17 , Acts 7:38 , Acts 7:53 , and Galatians 3:19 , angels were in some way involved in the giving of the law even though their involvement is not specifically delineated. It would certainly fit the context of Hebrews if the word spoken by angels has reference to the giving of the law. Although it may not be limited to the giving to the law, it would certainly include it.

 

Psalms 68:17 The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.

 

Acts 7:38 This is he [i.e. a reference to Moses], that was in the church [i.e. who was in the assembly] in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the Mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles [i.e. a reference to the ten commandments] to give unto us.

 

Acts 7:51-53 – (51) Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. (52) Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One [i.e. of Jesus]; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: (53) Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

 

Galatians 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

 

Moses is the mediator between God and the people and angels were in some way involved in the giving of the law.

 

Back to Hebrews 2:2

By angels is through angels. It reminds the readers that these messages which the angels spoke did not originate with the angels; instead, the messages came from God and were delivered through His angels to men.

 

If the word spoken through angels was stedfast, when used literally, means if the word spoken through angels was firm or if the word spoken through angels was permanent, and when used figuratively as it is in this verse, means if the word spoken through angels was reliable, was dependable, or was certain.

 

Every word spoken by angels was certain and could be counted on.

Next, we note that –

 III.     EVERY VIOLATION OF THE LAW AND UNWILLINGNESS TO HEAR THE LAW WAS JUSTLY REWARDED – 2:2B

 

Hebrews 2:2 b – . . . If . . . every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward.

 

Every is each and suggests every single one without exception. It describes both transgression and disobedience. No one ever gets away with sin in God’s sight even though it may seem for a while like he does or even though he may think he does.

 

Transgression is a term for sin which means overstepping or violation and refers to the overstepping of the law.

 

Disobedience means unwillingness to hear. When angels spoke, men should have paid attention; but they did not always do so.

 

Received is used in the sense of obtained.

 

Just literally means based on what is right and is variously translated just or deserved.

 

Recompence of reward is literally payment of wages or, simply, reward.

 

Every transgression and disobedience was appropriately rewarded.

In addition, we note that –

 IV.     PROFESSING BELIEVERS WILL NOT ESCAPE IF THEY NEGLECT SUCH GREAT SALVATION – 2:3A

 

Hebrews 2:3 a – How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation . . .?

 

Verse 3 provides the conclusion of the condition expressed in verse 2. It is the question, How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?

 

Verses 3-4 describe this great salvation. It is clear that professing believers will not escape if they neglect such great salvation; and the fact is that those who have genuinely placed their trust in Christ as their Savior have not neglected this great salvation; and they will not neglect it.

 

How? is in what way? It is used to call an assumption into question or to reject it altogether. As such, it is used in the sense of by no means or it is impossible that. By no means will we escape if we neglect so great salvation, or it is impossible that we will escape if we neglect so great salvation.

 

Shall we escape suggests that those who neglect salvation will never get away from an eternal hell which they justly deserve.

 

We is emphatic and includes all genuinely saved people as well as some who may profess salvation but who have never been genuinely born again.

 

If we neglect is literally having neglected. In the King James Bible it is translated if we neglect as a conditional thought.

 

If we neglect may instead be understood as showing time in the sense of after we have neglected.

 

Neglect suggests are unconcerned about or disregard.

 

To neglect so great salvation means that it is regarded as being of little worth and of no real consequence. Such neglect will eventually lead one to reject it completely.

 

So great describes salvation and is used in the sense of so mighty or so important.

 

Salvation refers to what Jesus has provided for believers by His death on the cross: it is deliverance or preservation from sin and its consequences. It will also eventually include deliverance from the very presence of sin at death or at the rapture, whichever comes first.

 

Although it is true that no believer should ever neglect his spiritual life by failing to study and obey the Scriptures, by failing to pray and confess his sins, and by failing to be living faithfully for the Lord, it must be recognized that the writer of Hebrews is not addressing the subject of a genuinely saved person neglecting his spiritual life in this passage; and this meaning should not be forced upon it. He is speaking of someone who does not receive Jesus Christ as his Savior.

We furthermore note that –

      V.  SALVATION WAS SPOKEN BY THE LORD – 2:3B

 

Hebrews 2:3 b – . . . Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord. . . .

 

Which refers to so great salvation and functions as the subject of was confirmed.

 

At the first began to be spoken by the Lord indicates that the Lord is not the One Who originated the statement; instead, it came through Him as by the Lord, i.e. through the Lord, indicates.

 

This salvation originated with God the Father.

 

The Lord refers to Christ.

 

God spoke this salvation through Christ.

Moreover, we note that –

 VI.     SALVATION WAS CONFIRMED BY EYEWITNESSES – 2:3C

 

Hebrews 2:3 c – . . . Which . . . was confirmed unto us by them that heard him. . . .

 

And was confirmed unto us by them that heard him suggests that the writer was not among those who were with the Lord and heard this message directly from Him when He taught them prior to His crucifixion. It suggests that the writer is including himself in the group of persons to whom the gospel was later confirmed by those who heard the Lord directly. This eliminates all the eyewitnesses of Christ’s earthly ministry from being the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews.

 

Does the fact that the writer does not claim direct revelation for his message (as Paul does in Galatians 1:11 ) but claims to have had the gospel confirmed unto him by those who heard Christ suggest that Paul did not write Hebrews? I believe it does. However, this is not necessarily conclusive; but there is more to consider.

 

Whereas Paul received his gospel directly from the Lord, he later heard the very same gospel confirmed by others who had been eyewitnesses of Christ’s earthly ministry and who had heard the message directly from Christ Himself. This demonstrated that the gospel Paul had received by revelation was the same gospel others had received from the Lord.

 

The gospel would undoubtedly have been discussed in the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 .

 

Similarly, in Galatians 2:6-10 , although in conference they added nothing to the gospel Paul had received, it would seem that in conference would suggest that Paul had discussed his gospel openly with James, the half brother of Jesus and pastor of the church in Jerusalem, and with the Apostles Cephas (Peter) and John and concluded that there was no difference between the gospel message he presented and the gospel message they presented.

 

Would this not have constituted a way in which the gospel was confirmed unto us by them that heard him? Possibly, but there is more to be considered.

 

Was confirmed is literally was established.

 

Unto us refers to the writer of Hebrews as well as to his readers, but us could be a literary plural and refer only to the writer.

 

It might also include some of the readers but not necessarily all of them. It would not include those who heard the message from others who had not heard it directly from the Lord.

 

By them that heard is by the hearers and indicates direct agency. These hearers heard the Lord speak the message of salvation with their own ears. They in turn repeated this message to others.

 

Him refers to Christ.

We also note that –

VII.     GOD THE FATHER BORE WITNESS TO THE GOSPEL MESSAGE WITH SIGNS, WONDERS, AND VARIOUS MIRACLES – 2:4A

 

Hebrews 2:4 a – God also bearing them witness . . . with signs and wonders, and divers miracles. . . .

 

God is God the Father.

 

God also bearing them witness may be understood to mean while God bore (them) witness or to mean and God bore (them) witness.

 

Them refers to those who heard Christ, i.e. to the apostles.

 

Bearing them witness means testifying at the same time with them.

 

With signs suggests with wonders or with miracles.

 

And wonders is also a reference to miracles performed by those that heard the Lord directly.

 

There is no indication in the Bible that anyone who learned the gospel directly from the Lord performed any miracles to confirm their message to Paul; yet, this verse seems to indicate that the gospel message was confirmed to the writer of Hebrews with miracles performed by those who heard the Lord directly.

 

And with divers miracles suggests and with various kinds of miracles (i.e. with various deeds of power or with various wonders).

 

Thus, the writer of Hebrews uses three terms, which mean approximately the same thing, to emphasize the fact that the testimony of the apostles, i.e. of those who heard Christ directly, was confirmed to him by miraculous works. It was God the Father Who bore them witness.

Finally, we note that –

VIII.   GOD BORE WITNESS TO THE GOSPEL MESSAGE WITH SPIRITUAL GIFTS – 2:4B

 

Hebrews 2:4 b – God also bearing them witness . . . with . . . gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

 

And (with) gifts is and (with) distributions or and (with) apportionments, and of the Holy Ghost suggests that they were sign gifts given by the Holy Spirit which were used to confirm the message the apostles were proclaiming.

 

I Corinthians 12:7-107 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal [i.e. for the profit of all]. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.

 

There is no record of any spiritual gifts being used to confirm the gospel message to Paul. For this reason, it does not seem to me that he wrote Hebrews.

 

According to his own will suggests according to the will of God the Father and indicates that it was God the Father’s will to use signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to substantiate the testimony of those who had heard Christ and who were bearing witness of the gospel message to others.

 

Thus, these signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost were not distributed indiscriminately but were used by God the Father to confirm that what these witnesses were saying about Christ was true.

 

Furthermore, our previous studies in I Corinthians 12 and 13 have shown that these sign gifts are no longer being given. They are no longer necessary because the Bible has now been completed and has been confirmed repeatedly in the lives of countless believers. Furthermore, those who heard the Lord directly are no longer living.

CONCLUSION:

 

Is Christ superior to angels? He certainly is. Although what they said is important, what Christ has said is even more important than what angels have said.