Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard him...Exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end. (Hebrews 2:1-3; 3:13-14).
When I was a kid, I used to love to watch old Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel episodes with my great-grandfather. Even though the man only had "bunny ears" for reception, he had the uncanny ability to pick up an old western anytime he wanted. After twenty years, I can still recall that the characters on those shows who were held with the greatest suspicion were the "drifters" that blew in and out of towns.
The problem with these dudes was that they weren't stable. They didn't have families, respectable jobs, or permenant abodes. Naturally, this indicated that they were men with no regard for responsibility, and as often as not, they caused trouble in the towns they wandered into.
The warning of Hebrews 2 begins with a warning against becoming a church drifter. The language used here harkens to a ship that isn't properly anchored, and so it slowly begins to be carried away by the current. That's a marvelous picture of what happens to a church drifter. They come in, they never really connect, and then they slowly drift away. Are you a drifter? Can you identify?
But is this text really speaking of drifting away from the church? Chapter One, admittedly, does not refer to the church. It speaks of the glory of Jesus Christ. So it is legitimate, perhaps, to say, "Bro. Brad, this text is talking about drifting away from Jesus, not the Church!" Very well, I grant you this point. However, let's look at how we came to Jesus Christ and how we stay in Jesus Christ.
Observe the end of 2:3. It says, "At the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him." So where did our knowledge about the Lord come from? The Lord told us about Himself, and when He ascended into heaven, His witnesses told us about Him. For me, that means that approx. 2000 years after the ascension, a man named Sgt. Wilson told me about he resurrected Savior on a bivouac. So does this mean after hearing one time and believing, we are therefore steadfastly anchored? Am I justified in my tying this passage to faithfulness to the local church?
Repeatedly hearing the gospel will not make the beleiver more justified, but it will make him more sanctified as he hears it and loves it more deeply. In the local church, I hear the gospel and the "salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord." And so I grow in faith.
So am I now arguing that local church attendance only helps for spiritual growth and has no effect on justification whatsoever? Well, not completely. Let's turn to chapter 3 to get the full picture. "Exhort one another daily...lest any of you be hardened throught the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end" (3:13-14). We are commanded to encourage one another daily. This is a command for intimate fellowship with those in the body of the local church. To what end? So that sin may not overcome us and harden us so that we cease to persevere. Here's the real point of all this and why the local church is crucial to our salvation: if someone has ceased to be encouraged, then their hearts may be hardened and they will not grow in faith. If they cease to grow in faith, then their justification is questionable. Because genuine faith has perseverance as one of its marks. Therefore, if someone is neglecting fellowship, it is likely that they are not in the faith. At best, they will grow weak, at worst, it reveals an unregenerate heart.
Look again at the implications of the text:
1) We are warned not to "drift away" from the things we have heard.
--->Application: We drift away from the things we have heard by not positioning ourselves to hear them.
2) These things which we heard have been passed to us from the Lord to his witnesses.
--->Application: Specifically, I believe these witnesses to be apostolic witnesses for the most part. Where do we go to hear their witness explained? The gathering of the Church!
3) We are to exhort one another continually.
--->Application: Where can we go to fulfill this command? The local church. And arriving on Sunday is not enough. The command is "daily." Therefore, we must develop relationships in the assembly of the Church and nurture them outside the assembly constantly. If you only do this once a week, then you are a once a week drifter.
4) If we are not encouraged, then sin will harden us.
--->Application: We need the nourishment of the body to aid us in our war against sin.
5) We are partakers in Christ if we continue to the end.
--->Application: We may have confidence that our faith is genuine as long as we are in a healthy relationship with one another in the Church. If we have, through neglect, removed ourselves from the body, then our faith has become weak at best and is non-existent at the least.
Conclusion: Thank God for the fellowship of the saints. Appreciate your local fellowship more, and realize that this group of imperfect people you hang with is instrumental in keeping you honest and faithful. Don't neglect the church, and if you are, repent and return immediately.
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