How shall we escape - How shall we escape the just recompense due to transgressors? What way is there of being saved from punishment, if we suffer the great salvation to be neglected, and do not embrace its offers? The sense is, that there is no other way of salvation, and the neglect of this will be followed by certain destruction. why it will, the apostle proceeds to show, by stating that this plan of salvation was proclaimed first by the Lord himself, and had been confirmed by the most decided and amazing miracles.
If we neglect - It is not merely if we commit great sins. Not, if we are murderers, adulterers, thieves, infidels, atheists, scoffers. It is, if we merely “neglect” this salvation - if we do not embrace it - if we suffer it to pass unimproved. “Neglect” is enough to ruin a man. A man who is in business need not commit forgery or robbery to ruin himself; he has only to “neglect” his business, and his ruin is certain. A man who is lying on a bed of sickness, need not cut his throat to destroy himself; he has only to “neglect” the means of restoration, and he will be ruined. A man floating in a skiff above Niagara, need not move an oar or make an effort to destroy himself; he has only to “neglect” using the oar at the proper time, and he will certainly be carried over the cataract. Most of the calamities of life are caused by simple “neglect.” By neglect of education children grow up in ignorance; by neglect a farm grows up to weeds and briars; by neglect a house goes to decay; by neglect of sowing, a man will have no harvest; by neglect of reaping, the harvest would rot in the fields. No worldly interest can prosper where there is neglect; and why may it not be so in religion? There is nothing in earthly affairs that is valuable that will not be ruined if it is not attended to - and why may it not be so with the concerns of the soul? Let no one infer, therefore, that because he is not a drunkard, or an adulterer, or a murderer, that, therefore, he will be saved. Such an inference would be as irrational as it would be for a man to infer that because he is not a murderer his farm will produce a harvest, or that because he is not an adulterer therefore his merchandise will take care of itself. Salvation would be worth nothing if it cost no effort - and there will be no salvation where no effort is put forth.
So great salvation - . Salvation from sin and from hell. It is called “great” because:
(1) Its author is great. This is perhaps the main idea in this passage. It “began to be spoken by the Lord;” it had for its author the Son of God, who is so much superior to the angels; whom the angels were required to worship Hebrews 1:6; who is expressly called God Hebrews 1:8; who made all things, and who is eternal; Hebrews 1:10-12. A system of salvation promulgated by him “must” be of infinite importance, and have a claim to the attention of man.
(2) it is “great” because it saves from great sins. It is adapted to deliver from all sins, no matter how aggravated. No one is saved who feels that his sins are small, or that they are of no consequence. Each one sees his sins to be black and aggravated, and each one who enters heaven, will go there feeling and confessing that it is a great salvation which has brought such a sinner there. Besides, this salvation delivers from all sin - no matter how gross and aggravated. The adulterer, the murderer, the blasphemer, may come and be saved, and the salvation which redeems such sinners from eternal ruin is “great.”
(3) it is great because it saves from great dangers. The danger of an eternal hell besets the path of each one. All do not see it; and all will not believe it when told of it. But this danger hovers over the path of every mortal. The danger of an eternal hell! Salvation from everlasting burnings! Deliverance from unending ruin! Surely that salvation must be great which shall save from such a doom! If that salvation is neglected, that danger still hangs over each and every man. The gospel did not create that danger - it came to deliver from it. Whether the gospel be true or false, each man is by nature exposed to eternal death - just as each one is exposed to temporal death whether the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and of the resurrection be true or false. The gospel comes to provide a remedy for dangers and woes - it does not create them; it comes to deliver people from great dangers - not to plunge them into them. “Back of the gospel,” and before it was preached at all, people were in danger of everlasting punishment, and that system which came to proclaim deliverance from such a danger, is great.
(4) the salvation itself is great in heaven. It exalts people to infinite honors, and places on their heads an eternal crown. Heaven with all its glories is offered to us; and such a deliverance, and such an elevation to eternal honors, deserves to be called great. If that is neglected, there is no other salvation; and man must be inevitably destroyed.
(5) it is “great” because it was effected by infinite displays of power, and wisdom, and love. It was procured by the incarnation and humiliation of the Son of God. It was accomplished amidst great sufferings and self-denials. It was attended with great miracles. The tempest was stilled, and the deaf were made to hear, and the blind to see, and the dead were raised, and the sun was darkened, and the rocks were rent. The whole series of wonders connected with the incarnation and death of the Lord Jesus, was such as the world had not seen elsewhere, and such as was suited to hold the race in mute admiration and astonishment. If this be so, then religion is no trifle. It is not a matter of little importance whether we embrace it or not. It is the most momentous of all the concerns that pertain to man; and has a claim on his attention which nothing else can have. Yet the mass of people live in the “neglect” of it. It is not that they are professedly atheists, or deists, or that they are immoral or profane; it is not that they oppose it, and ridicule it, and despise it; it is that they simply “neglect” it. They pass it by. They attend to other things. They are busy with their pleasures, or in their counting-houses, in their workshops, or on their farms; they are engaged in politics, or in bookmaking, and they “neglect” religion now as a thing of small importance - proposing to attend to it hereafter, as if they acted on the principle that everything else was to be attended to before religion.
Which at the first - Greek “Which received the beginning of being spoken.” The meaning is correctly expressed in our translation. Christ “began” to preach the gospel; the apostles followed him. John prepared the way; but the Saviour was properly the first preacher of the gospel.
By the Lord - By the Lord Jesus; see notes on Acts 1:24.
And was confirmed unto us - They who heard him preach, that is, the apostles, were witnesses of what he said, and certified us of its truth. When the apostle here says “us,” he means the church at large. Christians were assured of the truth of what the Lord Jesus spake by the testimony of the apostles; or the apostles communicated it to those who had not heard him in such a manner as to leave no room for doubt.
How shall we escape - If they who had fewer privileges than we have, to whom God spoke in divers manners by angels and prophets, fell under the displeasure of their Maker, and were often punished with a sore destruction; how shall we escape wrath to the uttermost if we neglect the salvation provided for us, and proclaimed to us by the Son of God? Their offense was high; ours, indescribably higher. The salvation mentioned here is the whole system of Christianity, with all the privileges it confers; properly called a salvation, because, by bringing such an abundance of heavenly light into the world, it saves or delivers men from the kingdom of darkness, ignorance, error, superstition, and idolatry; and provides all the requisite means to free them from the power, guilt, and contamination of sin. This salvation is great when compared with that granted to the Jews:
Those who neglect it, αμελησαντες, are not only they who oppose or persecute it, but they who pay no regard to it; who do not meddle with it, do not concern themselves about it, do not lay it to heart, and consequently do not get their hearts changed by it. Now these cannot escape the coming judgments of God; not merely because they oppose his will and commandment, but because they sin against the very cause and means of their deliverance. As there is but one remedy by which their diseased souls can be saved, so by refusing to apply that one remedy they must necessarily perish.
Which at the first began to be spoken - Though John the Baptist went before our Lord to prepare his way, yet he could not be properly said to preach the Gospel; and even Christ's preaching was only a beginning of the great proclamation: it was his own Spirit in the apostles and evangelists, the men who heard him preach, that opened the whole mystery of the kingdom of heaven. And all this testimony had been so confirmed in the land of Judea as to render it indubitable; and consequently there was no excuse for their unbelief, and no prospect of their escape if they should continue to neglect it.
Says the apostle Paul, “Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Galatians 3:1). The truth was to the apostle so great, so clear, so important, because eternal interests were involved, that he could only ascribe to the bewitching power of Satan the continued impiety and neglect of this great salvation. Now are there not many who are so bewitched with Satan's wiles that they do not obey the truth? that they do not see the advantages of obedience? Who is thus unwise? It is those who have not sought the Lord for help that they may cease to longer transgress His law. UL 209.4Read in context »
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. 2 Peter 1:10. TMK 204.1
The world's Redeemer has said, “Search the scriptures” (John 5:39). In them is laid open the bounteous provisions for human necessities, and the strongest motives are set forth to influence to repentance and obedience. Here the seeker for truth may read, contemplate, and be stirred to the very depths of his being by that which a good and gracious God has done and is continually doing for him. He will be amazed that he should ever have treated with indifference the marvelous love and pardon proffered, for in redeeming man, God gave the greatest gift that He could offer. And if the objects of so great a love neglect salvation, there is nothing that Heaven can do more in their behalf.... TMK 204.2Read in context »
We cannot afford to make any mistake where eternal interests are involved. To be indifferent to the claims of God upon us is most ungrateful. We cannot neglect this great salvation and be guiltless. An eternity of bliss has been purchased for every son and daughter of Adam, and all may have a clear title to the immortal inheritance, the eternal substance, if they will in probationary time prove their obedience to the commandments of God. All will be tested in this life. If they ... by faith lay hold on the merits of Christ and serve God with all their hearts they will have a title to those mansions that Jesus has prepared for all that love Him.... TMK 203.3Read in context »