Online Text Sermon - How Shall We Escape, Hebrews ch.2 v.3
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||How Shall We Escape|
|Text||Hebrews ch.2 v.3 |
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"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" (Hebrews 2, 3).
One of the commonest ways in which we hold a conversation with other people is by asking questions. Indeed, as we are introduced to someone we normally say, "How do you do?" As we sometimes find conversation becoming a bit difficult we ask how the family is and what the weather has been like and so on. These questions are, of course, conventional, trivial and of no importance except as a means of communicating one with another. However, some questions are a matter of life and death. I am thinking just now of what happened in the great city of New York on 11th September 2001. I am supposing hundreds and indeed thousands of men and women - many of them in the prime of life - who had taken the underground, the bus or their car to work, greeted their colleagues in the morning by asking them if they had had a good weekend and what they were doing. They may check the New York Times to see how the Stock Exchange is doing. More questions and comments would follow. There would be intentions to take the family to a restaurant for a meal in the evening after work or plans to go to Florida during the winter to get away from the cold. All these questions, I am sure, were being used among the workers as they sat at their desks preparing to use telephones, computers and every kind of wizardry which we associate with the most sophisticated business centre in the world. Then, as you know, something happened - something entirely unforeseen. Aeroplanes loaded with fuel struck the building.
Why do I remind you of what is so well known? For this reason, that in that moment all these other questions were forgotten. The Stock Exchange mattered nothing and Florida's holiday resorts mattered nothing. What did matter was simply one thing - How can we escape? How can we get from the ninety-first floor down to the ground? If you and I had been there amongst these our beloved colleagues and friends, our question would have been exactly the same - How can we escape? So you see, some questions are a matter of life and death. That is what we have right here in my text: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation" (text). "How shall we escape?" We are not now thinking of aeroplanes and high-rise buildings and the twin-towers with all the sad associations which our minds are so familiar with. We are thinking of something still more, a possibility still more awful. The writer is here reminding us here that we all need to 'escape'; that is the first point to notice. We all need to escape. That might come as a shock to many people. I hope not a shock to you but a shock indeed to many people. They would say that there was no fire in this building, no need to search for an escape route; they know where the exit is. If anything were to happen they would just go quietly down the corridor. No, no! We are not talking about earthly fires; we are talking about something still more serious even than that tragedy, and indeed crime too, which occurred in New York. We are talking about the need to escape from the possibility of everlasting death and destruction - and everlasting damnation! That is the problem of the human race, a problem which every one has to face. If we read the Bible and know the message of Jesus Christ and His prophets of old and His apostles in the New Testament period, you will know that you and I need to 'escape'. That is what this writer is talking about: how are we going to escape?
Let's look at this text with three divisions. First of all I want to say something about the greatness of the salvation. What is it? Why is it so great?
Second, I want to look at the question, what does it mean to neglect this great salvation? Is it possible that you could do this?
Third, I want to show you that there is no possibility of escaping if we do not receive this great salvation. There is no way whatsoever whereby men whoever they are can possibly escape if they were to neglect this salvation.
1. A GREAT SALVATION
2. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO NEGLECT THIS GREAT SALVATION
3. NO POSSIBILITY OF ESCAPE IF WE DO NOT RECEIVE THIS SALVATION
1. A GREAT SALVATION
We are told here about a great salvation. That is what the Christian life and the Christian faith is. The Christian faith is not given, as so many people seem to think it is given, in order to provide a philosophy of life. I'm sure if you were to tap people on the shoulder in Inverness and ask them what they thought the Christian faith was all about, they would tell us it was a way of life. You are supposed to love your neighbour and forgive your enemies and do good to those who hate you etc. "It is a way of life" - a philosophy of life," - that is what they would probably say. That enters in to it too. It is not nonsense; it is part of it but it is not the main part. The main thing about the Christian faith is that it is a way of escape from the wrath and curse of God under which we are all born by virtue of the fact we are human beings and sons of Adam who sinned in the beginning of history and brought guilt upon himself and upon the whole human race: the guilt of Adam's sin being reckoned to you and me even in our mother's womb. We are liable then to everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power by virtue of this fact, that we are sinners by birth and by practice. The Christian faith then is not a philosophy of life, it is a salvation, a way of deliverance, a means appointed by God by which men and women may come to know salvation in their own lives: peace of conscience, joy of the Holy Ghost, assurance of their son-ship, adoption into His family, the hope of entering after death into heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord. That is the way it is put. You will notice that this is not simply 'a salvation' but 'a great salvation'. I want to remind you my dear friends why it is said to be so great. Part of this is given to us in the context: "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?" It is a fact that the Christian Gospel has been authenticated to us all by miracles, by signs, by wonders and by gifts from God. That is why I read to you from the Gospel of Matthew 27. When our Lord Jesus Christ was on the cross there were signs - darkness covered the earth. When our Lord died the veil of the Temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom by the very hand of God; something which was known to the priests as they officiated in the Temple. After our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, saints who had long since been in their grave from Old Testament times, rose bodily from the dead and appeared in the holy city of Jerusalem to many and were seen and witnessed by them.
The Bible tells us these things are matter of fact. There were signs given by God of the greatness of the salvation that is offered to us in the Gospel. They do not cease at that point. When the day of Pentecost had come, lo and behold, the Holy Spirit was poured out from on high on the early church in Jerusalem. Waiting as they were upon Him for His promised blessing of the Spirit. Gifts, according to the will of God, were distributed to these apostles and to others. They spoke in others languages which they had never spoken in before. They were given direct ability to speak in languages they had never used before. They did other things. They could prophesy in the name of the Lord and they could heal the sick at God's command - we have cases of that in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 3 one who had been lame from his youth suddenly was healed at the instigation of Peter and John as they commanded him to rise up in the Name of the Lord. Similar cases are in the Acts of the Apostles. These signs were done by the express will and command of God for this purpose - to show us the reality and truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is 'a great salvation'. These things were not done in a corner.
A second reason why this salvation was so great is because of the greatness of the One who brought it to us. When people want to draw attention to the greatness of some building, they have it opened by some important man - the Lord Mayor perhaps. Or, it may be more than that - maybe even royalty. They come along on the occasion and the crowds are there. They pull a string and a plaque is exposed to view giving the date and telling about the building; the bigger the building, the more important the dignitary who is called upon to open it. But, ,y friends, the One who established the Christian Church, the one building which is sure to last to all eternity when no other will, is no other than the very eternal Son of God Himself: God come into the flesh, God come down into human nature - both God and man, Jesus Christ. That is therefore why He describes this salvation as 'great' salvation.
Let me give you a third reason why this salvation is great. It is because of the vast numbers of people who are to be saved by it. If the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been powerful to only the Jews, it would be wonderful - but it does far more than saving Jews. It saves all in all nations who believe in this Saviour, whether they be in Africa, America, Australia, or Asia. Whosoever believes in Christ is saved by this great name of Jesus Christ. In the end of the day there will be not simply three or four pious souls in heaven, like a little cell of a monastery or a convent. No, heaven we are told will be populated by ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands upon thousands - a vaster population than any country in the world knows today. Not even China knows the multitude of those numerically who will be in heaven at last. So I say, the greatness of the salvation is demonstrated by the multitudes of those who are saved by it - millions upon billions of souls are going to heaven because of this salvation.
Let me give you another reason why it is a great salvation. It is great, my dear friends, because God only keeps the world in being because of this salvation. When the last of His people is saved for whom Christ died, when the very last saint is brought to grace and then to glory, when the last one whom God has appointed to salvation has put his faith in Christ, then history will come to its end. The curtain will fall on the stage, history will be no more, the trumpet will be blown then the sun will be darkened and the moon turned to blood and the stars will fail and fall; the seas will evaporate and the whole earth will be burned with fire and all its works destroyed because the salvation then will be complete. My point is that God is only keeping this world in existence from day-to-day for one reason and that is until His salvation is accomplished and all those for whom the Saviour gave His blood are brought home to Christ.
A final reason why this is a great salvation: because of the greatness of the price paid for our salvation. My friends, a thing is reckoned to be precious according to what you pay for it. If you pay ?5.00 you wouldn't call it precious. If you pay ?5 million pounds you would say it is precious. The price paid for our salvation is nothing less than the blood and death and agony of the everlasting Son of God. You saw the treatment of Him on the world as I was reading it to you. Can you imagine - stripping His clothes off Him, putting this scarlet robe in mockery upon Him, bowing the knee in blasphemy, smiting Him on the face: "Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?" (Luke 22, 64), spitting at Him, ripping His beard off. Our Lord took it with consummate patience, kindness and self-restraint, although one word from Him and they would all have dissolved into dust at His feet.
If anything was 'great' it is the salvation of Jesus Christ our holy Lord and Saviour.
2. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO NEGLECT THIS GREAT SALVATION
Let me come to the second thing. What does it mean according to my text to neglect this great salvation - v.3: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation" (text). Notice the word 'neglect'. To neglect something means that you don't pat attention to it. Sometimes we put on the radio to hear the news or some debate or discussion, but then the telephone rings and we, having to rush away and answer somebody's query, have to neglect the news. When we come back to it we have missed five minutes of what was being said. Children are like that at school; they are writing in their exercise books and supposed to be listening to the teacher or watching the blackboard when attention wanders. That is called 'neglecting to pay attention'. This is the momentous question which the Bible puts to you and me - if we neglect salvation how can we be saved?
Notice it doesn't say if we persecute the Gospel. There have been people who have done that. You may know that in the Roman Empire there were ten terrible persecutions - wave upon wave upon wave. It began with Nero - that dreadful Emperor who was so wicked and immoral - persecuting the Lord's people, burning them to death in barrels of tar and enjoying it too. That happened until the days of Constantine the Great. After Constantine that was restricted and restrained. However, this persecution is not what he is talking about. He is not saying to us here that if we hate the Gospel we cannot be saved. It is not such a strong word as that; it is simply the word 'neglect'. It is not even the word 'reject'. There are some people who reject the Gospel. You speak to them about Christ and you can see them almost ready to spit at you - they hate it. Their lips curl in a sneer - "You don't mean to tell us that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead. That must be a joke! You don't expect me to believe that stuff do you?" They reject it. He is not talking about that, he is not talking about rejecting anything. He uses the word 'neglect'. Boys and girls I hope you are with me. To neglect something means you are not paying proper attention to it; when you should be concentrating you are doing something else. I could illustrate it like this. A man was in the water of a river and he was in danger of drowning, the current was sweeping him along. People on the river bank hurried along and got a rope and threw it out to him. The rope crossed his hand as he was trying to reach for it but he missed it and it slid from him. That was his last chance; he never got another chance. Or a dear man who I knew up in the western isles, he used to be able to rescue people from drowning in the harbour. He told me on one occasion he laid hold on this man and was about to pull him up by his jersey. As he held him the jersey came away and, very tragically, the man sank and drowned. When we let things slip, they are gone. You only have one life in which to get right with God. If you don't do it in this life, if you let it slip, it's gone never to be recovered.
Let me give you one or two reasons why people neglect the Gospel. The first one is because they don't realise the seriousness of what the Bible is saying. They just don't believe that God would ever punish anyone. I'm sure you have all met this sort of person. They say God is a God of love - which is true but only half the truth; He is also a God of perfect holiness and justice. But they are not prepared to listen to you telling them that. They say, "God is a God of love, He would never punish anyone!" How often do we hear people talk in that sort of way? There are many ministers of the Gospel, so called, who are ready to fortify their ignorance by repeating it to them but it is not the teaching of the Bible. Even John 3, 16 makes it clear that there is another side to God. Listen! - "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." There it is - that means 'be eternally lost'. You could lose your soul for failure to pay attention. There are many people who just do not realise the seriousness of it, even people who are born into Christian homes. They have heard it from father and mother; they have had family worship and heard the Bible read and been to churches all their lives and yet they are half asleep. They would say they were going to become Christians "soon". They never realise that 'soon' never comes. 'Soon' is like the electric hare that the dogs chase in races. When the dogs are let out of their cages to run in the race - round and round a track - there is an automatically controlled hare. The dogs try to catch it, which is the whole purpose. No matter how fast the dogs run, the man with the control lever makes sure they never catch the hare. The dogs always hope to catch it but they never do, it is always ahead of them. So is this word 'soon'; "soon I will become a Christian", "soon I will believe in Jesus". My friends, 'soon' never comes; it leaves us always chasing, never attaining.
3. NO POSSIBILITY OF ESCAPE IF WE DO NOT RECEIVE THIS SALVATION
Let me say something about the certainty that if we neglect this salvation we cannot possibly be saved. There is one thing I need to make clear: what exactly is it that we are running away from because the text talks about 'escaping'? The people, dear friends that they were - in the Trade Centre in New York, they knew what their problem was: fire, smoke and the possibility - which became a terrible actuality - that the heat might become so intense that the very girders on which the buildings stood would be melted and the buildings would collapse to dust as so unspeakably, dreadfully, they did. They saw all that in a matter of minutes. Some of them went to their telephones and told their wives that they loved them. Their children heard the same message and knew this was for real. This also, tonight, is for real. How shall we escape the wrath of God? You see, it is God's justice! Of course, God is a God of love but He has told us in His love of the way of escape from His anger. Though He be a God of love, yet, He is also a God of perfect justice. God will not set aside His justice to please sinners like ourselves and to accommodate His justice to the lusts of men. God in His love has told us there is a way of salvation and He has told us what it is: believe in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament we have a perfect illustration of all of this. You may remember in the Old Testament there was such a thing as accidental homicide, indeed there is still such a thing today. There was a special procedure given by God for those who were involved in accidental homicide. What I mean young people is that if you have an axe and you are chopping wood and the axe head flies off and hits your neighbour, killing him, what would you do? It wasn't murder - you didn't intend to kill your neighbour; it was an accidental act which led to his death, quite unintentionally. You had no ill motive towards your neighbour, you are very sorry. What must you do? God laid down a special arrangement for people in that position. He said that we must if guilty of accidental homicide, run and escape for our lives. Because as soon as the next of kin - the relatives - hear what has happened, they may take an axe or a sword and they run after you and kill you to avenge his death. God said that was right, they had the right to avenge that death because death at the hands of another man is a very, very serious thing in the sight of God. Would God our governments would realise that in this country and other countries today. So what God said was "Run! Escape for your life!" There were certain cities in Israel or Judah which were called 'cities of refuge'. A man who had accidentally killed his neighbour would run for his life hoping to get to the city of refuge before the avenger would follow. If he did he was safe and he lived there until the death of the high priest. If he didn't, he was killed by the avenger of blood - the next of kin or relation of the dead man.
That is precisely our position. We are being chased by the avenger of blood all the days we live. You ask what I mean. I mean the vengeance of God against the sin of which we are guilty. God is pursuing sinners from their birth to their death. If he catches a sinner before he comes to the city of refuge, which by illustration is Jesus Christ our Lord; if God's justice overtakes a sinner and finds him unconverted, unsaved, without redemption, without the salvation of the Gospel, the vengeance of God will destroy Him with eternal perdition. If you think I am overstating the matter, my friend at your leisure, study this Book! There is only one place to flee to and that is the city of refuge which God has appointed and by that I mean Jesus Christ our Lord. That is why Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14, 6), "I am the good shepherd" (John 10, 11), "I am the door: by me if any one enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10, 9). What we need to do therefore is to come to Christ.
I remember some years ago being on holiday in the Isle of Lewis in a little cottage. I was watching something that made me quite horrified. I saw a fly buzzing around the window. Then I saw spider slowly chasing after it. The fly wanted to get through the glass and that is not very easy for a fly to do. Very slowly but deliberately the spider was following it all round the window. I had to leave this spectacle for a few minutes and when I got back the fly was pinned to the window and being tied up with web strands all round its legs and body. Its legs were cut off and then its wings. It was then anaesthetised or frozen to be fresh food for the spider in the morning. I thought how like that is for poor sinners. The devil going to deceive them and they think they can escape. They play about with sin and busy themselves with pleasure and all the things of this life. They don't know that all the time the devil is waiting to catch them. When he does, he will pin them down with sin, lust and addiction until they are hopelessly caught. Then the justice of God will destroy them with eternal perdition. It is a lamentation my friends. O would it not be tragedy if, sitting here tonight, even one of you, did not realise that if you neglect this great salvation there is no escape.
No experience is more terrible than being in a situation from which there is no way of escape. People go down into the earth through what they call potholes. Sometimes as they are down there hundreds of feet below the ground, rocks move. You can imagine hundreds of tons of rock blocking their only way of getting out. It happens sometimes in coal mining. These men in the old days used to have pick axes cutting coal in the seams. All of a sudden something happens - wooden supports break and the way is stopped. It happens every year in some part of the world. Be thankful tonight my dear fellow sinner that there is a way out for you. What must you do and that with all urgency? I will tell you. Turn your back upon your life of sin and worldly mindedness. Turn your face towards God and towards Christ. Give your life to God; plead with Him to have mercy upon you. If you think I'm in jest and if you refuse to listen to my presentation of these things, I say again, my dear, dear friends, go to your Bible and receive its message even though you were not prepared to receive mine. You will find that this is exactly the way the Bible puts it. Flee from the wrath to come - that's the message in a nutshell. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" (text). You only have to be a little bit careless and it's too late.
I close with this illustration which is something I heard as a boy. A man I was hearing about had the responsibility of setting up scaffolding where there was buildings work going on. The man who put the scaffolding up wasn't very experienced. What he failed to do was very serious because when the workmen came on and became to climb up the ladders, it all collapsed. Some of the men were injured and one or two of them even died. What had happened? The man who set the scaffolding up I'm sure he didn't intend it - he just neglected to tighten the screws. He neglected his duty. That is all he did, nothing more or less but it led to death. You only have to neglect your own soul and it will lead to death. God grant that those of you who are not saved tonight will take the Word of God home with you and plead with God for His mercy. Amen.
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