How Shall We Escape If We Neglect So Great Salvation?
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” Listen to the words carefully. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” Open your Bible to the book of Hebrews, and I would like for you to follow with me as I read from chapter 1, verse 13 on through chapter 2, verse 4, that we might have the scriptural content of the question that we ask today—“How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” We read from Hebrews chapter 1, verse 13:

Hebrews 1:

13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
3 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;
4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Let us pause for a moment and consider the content of the text at which we looked by reminding our hearts that the Holy Spirit of God in chapter 1 is talking about how much more important the Lord Jesus Christ was than angels. To emphasize the importance of the Lord Jesus Christ over angels, He mentioned the various things which angels were obligated to do. He said that one of them was that angels are the servants of the heirs of salvation. Angels are your servants and angels are my servants if we have received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. They are servants of the heirs of salvation.

Salvation Above and Beyond Anything

The Spirit of God says, “If this salvation can make such a revolutionary change in the lives of humans that humans could be the authority over angels, that angels could be the servants of humans, then I repeat, if this salvation could accomplish that, how great a responsibility we have as believers to properly relate to this salvation.” All of that is summed up in the question, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”

I would like for you to notice with me those words so great . The word great here is not the translation of the usual Greek word megas , which speaks of something big. Rather these words so great are the translation of three Greek words combined into one Greek word telikoutos , which may be translated “such as this.” “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” How shall we escape if we neglect a salvation such as this? Those words such as this indicate the vastness of the salvation, the fact that the salvation is over and above and beyond anything that man could possibly imagine. There is no salvation in any religion in the world that could faintly compare with this. There is no system of ethics in any moral thought that could possibly compare with this. We speak today of a salvation that is different, a salvation that is above and beyond anything else. How shall we escape if we neglect a salvation such as this?

Let us review in our minds the fact that salvation here is the translation of the Greek word soteria , which may be translated by the word deliverance , by the word preservation , as well as the word salvatio n . I think it would be wise for us to remember that today because quite often when we speak of salvation, we speak or think at least only of being saved from going to Hell, only of being saved from the judgment of God. Yet this word soteria includes not only that idea of salvation, but it includes the idea of deliverance as well, for when the Lord Jesus Christ went to the Cross, He said, concerning Satan who has power over men, “Now is the prince of this world judged”—that is, “Now is the prince of this world defeated.” That is the reason the Spirit of God has said, “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” That is the reason the Spirit of God has said that on the Cross the Lord Jesus Christ destroyed the works of the Devil.

Salvation Provides Preservation

This salvation which we are thinking about is a salvation that provides not only salvation from sin in the sense of judgment, but provides as well deliverance from the power of sin. I make mention of that because I want to emphasize today that you do not need a second work of grace to give you victory over sin. You do not need some unusual second experience to cause you to live above the power of sin. All that you need to do is to claim what the Lord Jesus Christ has done upon the Cross and which became your personal right when you received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. This salvation provides deliverance, but something else is tremendously important. This salvation provides preservation , for this word soteria includes not only the idea of salvation and deliverance, but it includes the idea of preservation as well.

Sometimes you wonder if you are going to make it. Sometimes you wonder if you are going to be able to live it. Sometimes Satan comes along and puts doubt in your mind as to whether or not you will be received with open arms in Heaven when you arrive there; but I tell you now, this assurance will not come because of a good feeling. This assurance will not come because of something that you have done that has given you a great deal of satisfaction and you feel has pleased the Lord in some fashion. This assurance that you will arrive in Heaven someday is related to what the Lord Jesus Christ did two thousand years ago on Calvary's Cross; and it is emphasized by the fact that you personally have received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. You can go along your life's journey toward Heaven with perfect assurance that the destiny is secure. This is involved in a salvation such as this.

We ask you to look with us in the context of this passage of Scripture that we might see in three phrases which were used the uniqueness of this salvation which sets it apart from all other salvations that men might know about or think about.

Salvation Proclaimed by the Lord

This salvation was spoken by the Lord. Notice what He said:

Hebrews 2:

3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord…

This is not a salvation that is built upon the writings or the life of a man after he died. This is a salvation that was enunciated, proclaimed and emphasized by the provider of that salvation. I say, “spoken by the Lord.” I wonder what comes to your mind when you see that phrase. I dare say any number of passages of Scripture would come to your mind because there were numerous times when the Lord Jesus Christ spoke concerning this salvation. Keep a marker here in the book of Hebrews and go to the Gospel of John and notice one of the most familiar passages of Scripture in which the Lord Jesus Christ, while He was yet upon the earth before He paid the final penalty for sin, spoke of this salvation. I refer to John, chapter 3, beginning with verse 14.

John 3:

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 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.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Familiar words, aren't they? Many of us can quote them, but I have selected them to emphasize what the Lord Jesus Christ has said about salvation because of their very simplicity in the light of the uniqueness of the salvation itself. Notice first a reference to an Old Testament story:

John 3:

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

Look and Live

The Son of man must be lifted up—not in sermons and in song, though certainly every message from the Word of God and every song that is sung should glorify Him; but the reference is to the fact that He must be lifted up on the Cross between earth and Heaven as the sacrifice for sin. To illustrate exactly how that was done, the Spirit of God reminds us of the incident in the life of Moses, when the children of Israel, bitten by serpents, condemned to death, cried out for deliverance; and God instructed Moses to make a serpent out of brass, symbolic of judgment, and put it up on a pole symbolic of the fact that it was available to all who cared to look toward it. Then He gave the command, the invitation, that every individual who looked toward that brazen serpent would be healed of the snakebite, would be delivered from judgment, and would be delivered from death.

Notice not every person who crawled through great effort to the pole and managed to touch the base of it, not every person who somehow managed to climb up the pole and lay his hand on the brazen serpent, but anybody who looked to that serpent could be healed. Can anything be simpler than that? Look and live. No wonder the Spirit of God described this salvation such as this. No salvation provided by man in any of the religions of the world or in any system of moral ethics is as devoid of human effort as is the salvation of which we speak today. All of that because, as you read in your text, God loved the world enough to send His Son to make it possible. As people in the Old Testament could look at the brazen serpent and find deliverance, you can look back to what occurred on Calvary nearly two thousand years ago and say with me, “I accept by faith that Jesus Christ died for me,” and you are delivered from judgment.

Let us look at another phrase in the paragraph that will emphasize to us the uniqueness of this salvation, for as you go back to the Hebrew letter, you will call to mind that Peter said:

Hebrews 2:

3 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;

How interesting. We do not need solely to look back to the Gospels and hear what the Lord Jesus Christ said. As important as the things were that He said, we can say to our hearts, “I wonder how real this is. I wonder how effective it is. Did this marvelous message of salvation die with it's founder or did it go on and affect the lives of multitudes of people? Someone may say, “Oh, I think so. It affected my life,” and I can say “amen” to that. Personally, I need no other proof that Christ is real than the change that He has made in my own life, but I must be realistic today. Men are not that interested in the change that is in my life. They are interested in authority. They are interested in confirmation of the message, and though we could look, as you well know, at any number of passages of Scripture where the message spoken by the Lord was confirmed by them that heard Him, I have been pleased to call to our attention what is recorded in I Peter, chapter 1, beginning with verse 18:

I Peter 1:

18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

Our Hope is in God

Yes, quite a few years after the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of the brazen serpent as a type of His death upon the Cross, the Apostle Peter presents the truth in another way saying, “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter could have gone on and mentioned how he personally knew about what occurred that day and how he personally was affected by it, and how with absolute assurance he could declare that we are redeemed, not through any effort of our own, not with any purchase price we may have been pleased to pay, but through the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. He goes on, as you heard me read, to discuss the thoroughness of this salvation, taking us all the way through to the end, as he closes his comments, “…that our hope might be in God.” I would emphasize that there is no other sure place for our hope to be than in God.

I dare say that all of us can tell how one day we felt so wonderful because we were in some kind of meeting where there was a good spirit and we sensed the presence of the Lord in a very real way, and when we left that meeting and got into the everyday hurly-burly of life and the joy was gone and the sense of the presence of the Lord was gone and we had nothing upon which we could depend until our minds were refreshed and we reviewed what we already know—that our hope is in God. It is not in feelings; it is not in meetings; it is not in revival. It is in God, and only when we recognize that will we fully understand the uniqueness of the salvation of which we speak.

Confirmation in the Word

Back to the book of Hebrews, chapter 1. There is a third phrase which is presented as one which describes the uniqueness of this salvation, for you read in verse 4:

Hebrews 2:

4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Learn to read your Bibles carefully, please. Did you notice what was said? The words concerning salvation were confirmed unto us by them that heard Him. Who is included in them ? The Apostles. Those who were immediately in the presence of the Lord when He taught along the shores of Galilee. Now, hear this. “God also bearing them”—yes, the word is in italics. The language in the Greek permits it. “God also bearing them witness with signs and wonders with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will.”

Why do I make this emphasis? Because I believe the Spirit of God confirmed the message of the Gospel through signs and wonders and gifts of the Holy Spirit of God to the Apostles that there might be absolutely no doubt in anybody's mind that the message was true. Without being accused of saying that God does not work miracles today and does not perform wonders in this hour, I want to emphasize to you that the confirmation of this day for our hearts does not lie in signs and wonders and gifts of the Holy Spirit. It lies today in the record of the Word of God which was written by these men to whom the message was confirmed. If God, in His grace, wishes to perform a miracle, thank God. We know that He is able, but we do not need to expect God to do it just to satisfy us. The satisfaction of the revelation is in the Word of the living God, but He confirmed the message to those who heard with signs and wonders and gifts of the Holy Ghost.

Again, we could look at any number of illustrations of this statement, but I suggest that we turn to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 3, and refresh our minds again concerning a very interesting incident in the life of the Apostles Peter and John. Notice the paragraph which begins with verse 12:

Acts 3:

12 And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?

When Peter saw what? When he saw the reaction of the people in the temple that day when he, by the power of God and the gift of healing granted by the Holy Spirit, was able to say to a man who had been lame since birth, “Rise and walk,” and the man raised up and walked and leaped and praised God, and the people were overcome by it. Peter said, “Why are you marveling at this?” So typical, isn't it? We marvel at the unusual. We marvel at the power certain people have for healing, even the power that certain people have in prayer. We marvel. It is human nature. We tend to marvel at the abilities of men in relation to the work of God, but listen to this:

Acts 3:

12 …Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
16 [Notice this verse.] And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
17 And now, brethren, I wot [understand] that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.
18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
19 [Notice carefully now.] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

This passage of Scripture goes farther than we intended to go in our message today because it carries us all the way through this age of grace into a period of time when the nation of Israel will look to the Lord and will confess that they have crucified the Lord of glory and ask Him to return, and He will return for their deliverance.

These Israelites through ignorance had turned their backs on the salvation so graciously provided by God, and the Apostle said, “It is time for you to repent.” He was not talking about long periods of crying and pleading and beating of breasts to indicate how sorrowful the individual was; he was talking about the fact that they needed to confess that they were wrong, that they had crucified the Lord of glory and they had sinned. When they were willing to repent in that fashion, their sins would be blotted out and the time of refreshing would come in their lives. The message, though the background may be different, is the same, even in this age of grace; for men who have gone on their way for years with their own ideas about Jesus Christ must recognize there is need for a time of change, and they must change their minds and turn back to God and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and as Lord.

Attitudes Necessary in Answering Question

As we bring our message to a close, I would like to suggest to you that attitudes are represented in our text because attitudes are very, very necessary to the answering of the question, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” The idea of escape necessitates an understanding of the attitude suggested. Go back, please, to the Hebrew letter with me and notice what the Spirit of God says concerning the attitudes that we must recognize as being part of the lesson that we are studying at the moment. Notice verse 1:

Hebrews 2:

1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed…

That phrase, “give the more earnest heed,” someone has summed up in the phrase, take heed , and that is the literal rendering of the word heed . It is a translation of the Greek verb prosecho , which means “to pay attention,” which means “to be cautious about,” which means “to give regard to.” Are you listening? Are you taking heed? Are you paying attention? Are you cautious about your response to what is being said from this pulpit? Let me say to you that when I am dwelling upon the Word of God, what I say is exceedingly important and must not be brushed aside. When I am speaking in the flesh, my opinion is as good as yours, but hear me today. I am asking you what is your idea, what is your thought, what is your response to this salvation about which we have been speaking? The Spirit of God says it is important for us to pay attention, to be very cautious, as we examine the truth that is related to it and to give very high regard to what is said.

Give the More Earnest Heed

When you have time, read what is recorded in Acts, chapter 8. There you will find the story of a sorcerer who had tremendous influence and tremendous power. He never failed in anything he did, and when the Apostle Peter came there the record is that all the people listened to what this sorcerer said about Peter because they had regard for him, for they knew what his power was. Now that phrase, have regard , is the translation of this word prosecho , which has the idea of giving very cautious, careful attention to what is said. But look again at verse 1:

Hebrews 2:

1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed…

Not only should we pay attention, as I have been suggesting to you, but we should give the more earnest heed. May I remind you that the phrase, “give more earnest,” is the translation of one Greek word, perissoteros , which speaks of something that is exceeding, abundantly above. It speaks of pre-eminence. When the Spirit of God said, “I want you to give the more earnest heed,” He was not saying, as I might say to you, “I want you to pay close attention to what I say.” He is saying, “I want you to do more than that. I want you to give super, abundant attention. I want you to give an attention that is exceeding, abundantly above any attention you have given to any other subject. I want you to give the more earnest heed. I want this subject of salvation to be the pre-eminent thing in your mind and in your thoughts. It is that important.”

Don't Let Truth Drift Away

Another attitude that is suggested in our text is brought to our attention by the word slip . Notice what He said:

Hebrews 2:

1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

This word slip is the translation of the Greek word pararheo , which means “to drift.” The idea of a drifting boat and a more accurate translation of the text would be, “…lest at any time they drift away from you.” I rather like that, and this is what gives me concern, as I have the responsibility of speaking on this text because I am speaking to a group of people who are well taught in the Word of God and spiritual things become very familiar and we find ourselves not paying the attention to them that we did when the truth first got hold of us. We find ourselves drifting away from the truth and we find the truth drifting away from us. It is possible for individuals to sit in a place of worship, the imperfection of the preacher not withstanding, and hear the truth of the Word of God and let the truth of the Word drift to where if someone said to them immediately upon leaving this building, “What did the preacher say today?”, we would find it difficult to give very much of a discussion because truth has a habit of slipping away. Truth has a habit of drifting away. I encourage you to heed the warning of the Spirit of God that we give attention to this subject of salvation, particularly that the truth of salvation does not drift away from us.

No Escape; No Hope

There is one other suggestion concerning attitudes which are possible in relation to this great salvation, because we read in verse 3:

Hebrews 2:

3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation…

The word neglect is the translation of the Greek word ameleo . Melo means “to care,” and the prefix a means “not.” Literally, what it means is “to be careless or not to care.” It is possible for us just not to care. A more practical illustration of what it means is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22. You recall that fourteen verses tell the story of a wedding feast which was made ready, and individual servants went out to remind those who were invited to the wedding feast. They all made light of the invitation. That phrase, “made light of,” is the translation of this same Greek word ameleo , which means “not to care.”

Let us pause and let the Holy Spirit of God minister that thought to our hearts at the moment. How often have we made light of spiritual truths? How often have people made light of eternal salvation? Because of the manner in which I have treated the subject at hand, you may have forgotten that we were considering a question which demands an answer because I haven't placed much emphasis upon how the question should be answered. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” Is there an answer to the question? Yes. Instead of giving a number of things that might happen if you neglect this salvation, the Word of God very plainly emphasizes that there is no escape. If you neglect this salvation of which I speak today, there is no escape. If you neglect this salvation of which I speak today, there is no hope. Two passages of Scripture declare that in a way that cannot be denied. The answer is found in the same book which contains the question. Turn to Hebrews, chapter 6, and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 4:

Hebrews 6:

4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come [notice carefully],
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

This passage of Scripture does not lend any credence to the idea that you can lose your salvation. If you want a detailed discussion of that, get the printed material on The Security of the Believer , in which I deal with this and every other passage that has ever been used by people to cause them to think that they could lose their salvation. This is not referring to that and that is all I have time to say about that today. What it is referring to is that if you were like the Hebrews of the generation of the Apostles who heard the truth of Jesus Christ, who came right up and even participated in some of the meetings in which the truth was emphasized, if you did all of that and turned your back and said, “I don't think that there is anything to it,” it is impossible to do anything for you because you have turned your back on the only provision for salvation that God has made.

Let's bring that up to date. If you examine very carefully this salvation, if you give it very close heed and say, “I don't believe it. I don't believe it,” there is no hope for you. There is no escape. If you examine this salvation very carefully, look into it very thoroughly, turn your back on it and say, “There is nothing in it for me,” there is no escape. There is no escape because it is impossible for those who have faced the truth and understand it and say that they don't believe it, to escape the judgment of God.

Let me say, because I don't want to confuse anyone that there may have been any number of times in your life when you have said, “I don't believe it.” There may have been any number of times in your life when you have said, “Nothing to it.” Then the Spirit of God opened your eyes and you saw the truth for what it was. There is hope for you. I am talking about the individual who simply says, “That is not the way to be saved, and I am not going to accept it,” then the Spirit of God says, “If that is not the way to be saved, there is no way to be saved.”

Then finally, He emphasizes that truth in detail in Hebrews, chapter 10, the paragraph which begins with verse 26:

Hebrews 10:

26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

Look at the phrase, “if we sin wilfully…” That does not mean that if you as a Christian wilfully sin you have lost your salvation. That means that you have broken your fellowship, and you have put yourself in line for discipline at God's hand. “If we sin wilfully,” is a phrase that refers to a wilful rejection of the truth of the Gospel that is indicated in the very paragraph that we looked at in verse 29—“trodding under foot the Son of God.” That is wilful sin—despising Him, saying the Son of God is no different than anybody else, counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing; that is, saying that there is no difference in the blood of Christ than the blood that flows in any human vein and doing despite unto the Spirit of grace by saying, “What is the Holy Spirit?” This is wilful sin, a wilful, deliberate rejection of God's plan of salvation.

Conclusion

How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? Friend, there is no escape. There is only one way to be saved and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ.


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