Jesus Brought Our Great Salvation (Hebrews 1:5-2:4)
Disneyland trademarked it first, but Gianni's Pizza is the real "happiest place on earth." I was raised on the stuff. I drive up and can smell the pies baking a few blocks away. I once had a friend who lived around the corner. I'd gain 200 pounds living so close. When I walk in and place my order, the hunger pains shoot through my whole body. And I hate the wait. Oh man, sometimes it feels like an eternity from the first smell to the first taste.
But when the pizza finally arrives, we dig in. I'm not there to look at pizza. I'm there to eat it.
Many Christians, however, do only look at it. They receive great salvation from Christ and study it, drift from it, and neglect it. The author of Hebrews was concerned about this kind of Christianity. He said, "We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." He also asked, "How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?" We've got to use the salvation we've received. It is great. We must pay attention to it. We must not drift from it. And we must use it.
So the book of Hebrews stands there like a giant appeal to use the salvation God has granted us. What we have in Christ is incredible. We must use it. For this reason, at the outset of the book, the author answers three questions. Each question is designed to help us rejoice at the salvation Christ brought us so that we might enjoy his salvation to the fullest.
Question 1: Who is Jesus? (1:5-14)
The first question is simple: Who is Jesus? The answer is given with seven quotations from the Old Testament (in order: Psalm 2, 2 Samuel 7, Psalm 97, 104, 45, 102, and 110).
The Son of God
First, Jesus is the Son of God. The author derived this from Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7. Of Jesus, God said, "You are my Son." Additionally, He said, "I will be to him a father." He also spoke of Jesus as his "firstborn."
Second, Jesus is God enthroned. Of Jesus, God said, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever." Additionally, Jesus "loved righteousness and hated wickedness," descriptions of his throne.
Third, Jesus is the Creator God. Of Jesus, God said, "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands." Even though the world will "perish," God said of Jesus, "you remain. You are the same, and your years will have no end."
God Who Is Served
Fourth, Jesus is God who is served. Of Jesus, God said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Additionally, God said the angels were "ministering spirits sent out to serve." Who do they serve? Christ!
So Jesus' identity, as found in these Old Testament quotations in Hebrews 1, is straightforward. He is the Son of God (meaning he is God the Son). He is God enthroned. He is the Creator God. He is God who angels serve.
Question 2: Who Are the Angels? (1:5-14)
From the same verses, our second question is answered. Who are the angels? This might not be a pressing question for you, but first-century Judaism esteemed angels highly, so Jewish Christians needed to see Christ's superiority to the angelic realm. For the Jews of that era, angels were the most impressive beings one could imagine. If angels had Instagram accounts, they would've had the most followers. But no one is better than Jesus, so if the author can demonstrate that angels bow down to Christ, then everyone else bows down also.
Worshipers of the Son
First, angels are worshippers of the Son. God said, "Let all God's angels worship him." He is God, so he is worshipped by the angelic realm. Angels, we know, will not receive worship (Revelation 19:10), for they aren't divine. Jesus, however, is divine and will receive worship.
Ministers Around God's Throne
Second, angels are ministers around the throne of God. God described his angels as "winds" and "a flame of fire." These majestic and glorious beings center themselves upon the throne of God, the very throne Jesus sits on "forever and ever."
Part of Creation
Third, angels are part of creation. Jesus is the Creator God, and the angelic realm is part of God's creation. God spoke of angels like this: "He makes his angels." He created them.
Servants of Christ
Fourth, angels are servants of Christ. God said angels are "ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation." The angels work for Christ. After Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, the angels comforted him. In the garden of Gethsemane, they could have rescued him. And in the book of Acts, they served his church. Angels work for Jesus.
If beings as high as angels serve and worship and esteem Jesus as the highest being, so ought we.
Question 3: Who Are We? (2:1-4)
We now come to our third question. Who are we? Dissimilar to Jesus, we are like the angels in a few respects. First, we are worshippers of the Son. Second, we are part of creation. Third, we are servants of Christ. But there is a significant difference between us and the angelic realm: we are recipients of a great salvation.
Therefore we must pay 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. (Hebrews 2:1-4)
In the paragraph above, the author tells us we have received "a great salvation." Christ's blood was for us, not the angels. We have heard of this great salvation. We have listened to the eyewitnesses of this great salvation. God bore witness to this great salvation. Jesus brought this great salvation.
First, we heard of this great salvation, which is why he says "we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard." It is a "message" we listened to, one "declared to us."
Second, eyewitnesses testified of this great salvation. It has been "attested to us by those who heard." The apostles, and the generation of Christians they were in, suffered, came under persecution and died for preaching what they'd seen and heard.
Third, God bore witness to this great salvation. He did this through "signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts fo the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." Miracles bolstered the message. Because people would gather when a miracle was performed, they served as an excellent platform for the gospel. But miracles also gave hope of the brand of salvation Jesus brought, for healings and deliverances all pointed to the final healing and deliverance he will perform at his return.
Fourth, Jesus brought this great salvation, and it was "declared at first by the Lord." When Moses, so many years earlier, received the law, it was the angels who brought it to him. The law "was put in place through angels by an intermediary" (Galatians 3:19). But when our great salvation arrived, it was the Son of God, enthroned, the creator of all things, whom angels live to serve, who came down and brought us the gospel! Angels brought the law, but Jesus brought the gospel!
One praiseworthy element of the great salvation Christ brought is that we are now brought into his great position. We belong to him. We are now "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). We are children of God. The position of Christ is now ours.
People Who Must Heed and Cultivate Their Great Salvation
Think about it. Christ came down and brought us our great salvation. Hebrews says, "We must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." Then it asks, "How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?"
They were to guard against drift. They needed an anchor. A superabundant, frequent, earnest effort was to be given toward obedience to, submission to, application in, caution around, and full devotion to the things they had heard. We are talking about a vigilant clinging to the truth of the gospel, lest they slip away.
Rather than neglect our great salvation, we must cultivate it. The salvation Christ won for us must be put to use. As Paul said, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). The salvation you've got, use it, live it out.
But how can we cultivate our great salvation? If we've received it, how do we use it?
Cultivate your personal devotion to Christ. Cling to him in your private times of prayer and worship. Confess sins to him (and others).
Cultivate your corporate worship. If you've let your engagement in the gathering of your church family slip or fall entirely by the wayside, get back into it. Be the fourth soil Christ spoke of, receptive and ready to receive from him.
Cultivate your service to the overall body. Get back to the why of your service to your church. Greeting, ushering, serving children, running sound -- all of it connects to God's glory and purpose and great salvation. Connect to it again.
Cultivate your commitment to the community. If there is any indication of what the Hebrew Christians struggled with it's found in Hebrews 10:25. Some neglected to meet with other Christians, but they needed to gather to encourage one another.
Cultivate your desire to grow as a believer. See your work and family life as instruments for the grace of God and the gospel of life to spread.