How Shall We Escape
The scholars say that this sermon to the Hebrews was so sent because they were tempted to return to Judaism in response to the persecution they were either experiencing or with which they were being threatened. For this reason, the sermon begins by reminding the people of the Son whom they worship and of his greatness over all other beings. The Son is he who has revealed the Father to us and the one through the Father created the world.
Now the Preacher turns to that most famous event in Israel’s history in which God descended on Mount Sinai and gave the law to Moses, angels in attendance (Deuteronomy 33:2; Acts 7:53). The people trembled with fear before the sight of lightning and thunder (Exodus 19:1-25; 20:18-21) and said to Moses before the Lord, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8; 24:3, 7). But they didn’t do. Within just forty days, they were worshiping and dancing around a golden calf and three-thousand men died as a result. Thousands more were judged of the Lord and died in several other episodes of rebellion in the wilderness proving what the Preacher says here that “every transgression of disobedience received a just reward.” But then he hastens to his purpose in relating all of this to the Hebrews asking, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” And the answer is, “We won’t.”
Throughout the sermon, the Preacher reaches into the Old Testament to show how the New Covenant in Jesus Christ is superior to the Old. In this place, he reaches into the Old Testament for the account of what happened at Mount Sinai to warn the Hebrews that drifting away, forsaking the Lord, and breaking their word of, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do,” will result in even greater judgment. Therefore, they must pay close attention to the word they had heard which was spoken by their Lord’s own lips and confirmed by signs and wonders through gifts of the Holy Spirit.
We are far too easy on ourselves. We think God no longer judges sin, or at least the sins of believers. We take a passage like this and short-circuit (if not nullify) its warning to us with paeans to “eternal security.” In doing so, we do ourselves a disservice, a disservice which could prove our undoing. How shall we escape if we “neglect to meet together” or “go on sinning deliberately” or hide some secret sin in our lives? Do we live as if grace were an excuse for sin? If so, how shall we stand in the day of temptation and persecution? How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?