The Letter to the Hebrews, Part 2: Five Warnings
In parallel to the five factors referred to in Part 1 of this series are five warnings about specific dangers.
The first warning comes in chapter 2:1–4. The Hebrews had been under great duress and had held fast. Now they are encouraged because they are in danger of drifting away like a boat that has slipped its moorings, and are in danger of disregarding what Christ had said: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. . . . how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (2:1, 3).
The opening word is “therefore” — based on what is in Chapter 1. Because Christ has been revealed as full of grace and truth, believers should take the first warning seriously: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, . . . how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (2:1–4).
The second warning (3:7–4:13) is about the danger of disobedience and the failure to believe Christ: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God [not a remote, impersonal God]; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (3:12–14).Final victory comes to those who hold on to their original confidence, faith and belief.
The third warning (5:11–6:20) concerns the need to listen carefully and not give in to society’s pressure to conform, but rather grow to become spiritually mature: “You have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God. . . . But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (5:11–12, 14).
The fourth warning (10:19–39) is about the danger of deliberate sin and disloyalty to Christ: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment. . . . Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (10:26–29).
The fifth warning (12:14–29) is about the danger of indifference, dismissing God’s Word: “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven. . . . Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (12:25, 28).
If these people were in danger of going back into their former ways and were losing sight of the revelation that had been made with the coming of Christ, then they needed to be reminded of the essentials of that calling — centered on what God the Father had done through the willingness of Christ and the superiority of the revelation of Christ.
1. William L. Lane, Hebrews 1–8. Vol. 47A. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, (1998).
2. William L. Lane, Hebrews 9–13. Vol. 47B. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, (1998).
3. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “The Five Warnings of the Book of Hebrews” in The Messianic Bible Study Collection (1983).
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