We are living in a world where theological accuracy is considered impractical. The notion that we can really be right in our theology is foreign to many. The mantra that you will hear from others is “Don’t get hung up on matters of doctrine or truth. Feeling good is what really matters.” That may sound considerate to others, tolerant and even attractive, but the biblical writers’ sentiment is far from it. To the apostles, as to the prophets before them, and as to the Lord Jesus Christ, truth is of the highest importance. What we believe about Jesus matters most because it determines both our eternal destiny and our usefulness to God in this world. This is what we will see in Hebrews 2:1-4.
The author of the letter to Hebrews begins verse 1 with the phrase “on account of this”. It can be translated as “for this reason”. The pronoun “this” is referring to what was said before in Hebrews 1. Namely, the supremacy of the Son over the whole creation, including the angels. Or to put it another way, because Jesus is superior to prophets and angels and because the new revelation is superior to the old. So we can also translate the phrase “on account of this” as “therefore”. That is God spoke to us by the Son, who is the radiance of God’s glory, and exceedingly superior than the angels and the prophets “therefore” pay much closer attention to what we have heard.
Now the “what we have heard” in the immediate context may refer to the doctrine of salvation in verse 3 or in much wider context, the doctrine of Christ in Hebrews 1:1-4. I think it is not an either or, it is both and. If you got either the doctrine of Christ or the doctrine of salvation wrong, then you are in grave danger. That’s why we are told to pay attention.
Historically, if not all, most cults have either a wrong understanding of Christ, or salvation or both. The damning error of the Judaizers has to do with salvation(Justification by faith plus works), while the error of the proto-gnostics was the nature of Christ(Docetism, the belief that Christ did not come in the flesh). Sabellius(Modalism) , Arius(Arianism), Nestorius(Nestorianism), and Eutyches of Constantinople(Monophysitism), were wrong about God and the nature of Christ. And while the error of Pelagius(Pelagianism) was his rejection of the necessity of grace in salvation, Jacobus Arminius'(Arminianism) error has to do with his rejection of the sufficiency of grace. Most cults, apostate and even heterodox churches today will fall under these two errors or a mixture of both.
Sadly, doctrine is deemed unnecessary by many professing Christians today. When confronted with controversies, they will just say that it is for the theologians to debate about. But the author of Hebrews disagrees with this kind of mindset. Instead of being lax, we are called to pay much closer attention to the teachings of Scripture. The adverb “much” do no justice to the greek word here. It literally means “super-abundantly”. In other words it is of utmost importance and necessity that we pay closer attention to what we have heard, and the purpose is so that we may not drift away from it.
Now the verb “to drift” in the purpose clause is an unusual word that means more literally, “to flow by,” as of a river (or perhaps a drifting boat) effortlessly slipping past — not primarily doing something they should not, so much as failing to take positive action and merely allowing things to slide(Expositor’s Commentary). So the opposite of drifting is not just being still. It is struggle, or going against the current. Many have chosen to be just where they are, neutral. But our spiritual walk is not neutral, it’s never just steady or still. You either drift away towards destruction, or you struggle, and persevere towards glory. So drifting away from the truth begins with not paying closer attention to Bible teachings, that is we chose to be neutral and just be still.
Now in verses 2-4 the author raised the stakes higher as to why we need to fixed our eyes and hold onto the truth. For if the old message declared by the angels was so firm that transgressions and disobedience received a just punishment, then even more so with the message of salvation declared by our Lord Jesus Christ. “The first covenant, for all its impressive sanctions, pales into insignificance beside God’s latest and final word (see again 1:2). It is a word not so much of law as of “salvation,” and when God offers such salvation it would be even more disastrous to “ignore” (lit., “not care about”) it than it was for Israel to neglect the demands of the Law”(Expositor’s Commentary).
Then verse 3 starts with a rhetorical question(how shall we escape?) that expects a negative answer “no one can”. Those who disobey will receive an even more severe punishment. We can say then that neglecting and not paying attention to biblical doctrines(more specifically the great salvation doctrine) is a sure way to disobey the commands of God in the Scripture. So verses 2-4 calls for the urgency of verse 1. The twofold reason why no one can escape God’s punishment is that the Lord who declared the new message of salvation is far greater than the angels and prophets who mediated the old message of the old covenant law, second it was attested by God and confirmed supernaturally in the lives of the ones who first heard it.
Falling away does not happen overnight, it begins with not abiding in God’s word. So don’t be surprised if there’s no victory over sin, and if there’s callousness of heart. We must ask ourselves, “God has spoken through his Son, do I listen to him? How does my listening to him compare to my listening to other things like music, or my listening to my teachers or parents or friends? Am I listening with my full attention to Him?” “Do I listen more on YouTube sermons and bible commentaries than on what God has to say in his word?” Don’t get me wrong, listening to faithful expositors is good, but we must never make them a substitute for the word of God. We should only fix our eyes to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. This is the whole point of the book of Hebrews: You want to persevere? Then cling to God’s word because that’s how we can cling to the Word, Jesus Christ.