Lest We Drift Away

I have recently begun writing a commentary on Hebrews. I intend to post excerpts here from it from time to time. The following is an excerpt from the commentary on Chapter Two.

2:1— “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”

The writer begins to apply the logical implications of Christ’s superiority to angels. The words “On account of this,” or “Therefore,” look back to and are grounded in the theological argument he had presented in chapter one. This begins one of the several hortatory passages in this epistle in which the writer applies his theological teaching in a practical way to the exigent circumstances of his hearers. Thus, he teaches us an important lesson about the relationship between theology and practice. All theology must be practical theology.

Living as we do in a day in which the study and exposition of theological truth has fallen on hard times and in which many clamor for “practical teaching,” it is important for us to remind ourselves that there can be no true practical Christian living that is not grounded in theological truth. In fact, to the degree that our theological understanding is deformed or marred by error, to that degree our practice will invariably be deformed. We cannot live rightly if we do not think rightly. This treatise, though intensely theological is, nonetheless, intensely practical.

The Christian walk demands close attention. The moment we allow our guard to drop and our focus to drift is the moment we begin to fall into a state of spiritual declension. The sage wrote, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Prov. 6:10-11). If this is true in the physical and material realm, how much more should we fear it in the spiritual realm?

There are many misinformed Christians who believe once they have made “a decision” they are set for time and eternity–After all, “once saved always saved.” Yet, we must remind ourselves that one must be once saved to be always saved. We need to remember that every blossom does not bear fruit, and all that glitters is not gold. One of the clear teachings of this treatise is that it is the perseverance of the saints that is certain, not the preservation of those who have made a profession of faith. Additionally, we need to note that one of the means God uses to ensure the saints’ perseverance is the sort of exhortation we find in this passage. We do not persevere automatically apart from the use of the means God has prescribed to effect his divine purpose. If we are to persevere in faith to the end, we must pay close attention to the things we have heard.

The writer, however, goes beyond saying we must pay close attention to what we have heard. He says “we must pay much closer attention [A.V. “give the more earnest heed”] to the things we have heard.” What is the point of contrast here? We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard than to what? As will become clear as we proceed, the contrast is between the Old Covenant or the Law, and the New Covenant, the gospel. Far from suggesting that the Decalogue or the ten words from Mt. Sinai are the highest expression of God’s moral law ever to be given or that it is the pinnacle of God’s self-revelation, our author makes it clear that the revelation we have received in the gospel requires even greater attention than God’s revelation of his will on Mt. Sinai. Although the Law covenant God gave at Mt. Sinai was God’s Law, the New Covenant he ratified on Mt. Calvary is a superior covenant and carries with it a better law. For that reason, we must pay much closer attention to the gospel than to the Mosaic Law.

The words “drift away” are used in the Greek sources of a ship drifting away from its moorings, of a thought drifting away from a person’s mind, of a ring slipping from a person’s finger, of a river flowing into an eddy, and of food going down the trachea.

Spiritual declension in the life of the Christian is an insidious matter. We do not grow cold overnight. Often our drifting away is so gradual as to be almost imperceptible. We would do well to remember the words of Jeremy Taylor concerning the progress of sin in the apostate. He wrote, “First it startles him, then it becomes pleasing, then easy, then delightful, then frequent, then habitual, then confirmed; then the man is impenitent, then obstinate, then resolved never to repent, then damned.”


14 Responses to “Lest We Drift Away”

  1. February 4, 2013 at 2:20 am

    Primo! Octavius Winslow’s book, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, is a sobering look at the tendency we have to grow cold and drift away. Hence the dire need we have for a biblical fellowship where the Word is rightly taught and preached and discipline is properly exercised.

  2. February 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    You are right! Winslow is great. I read him for the first time 35 or 40 years ago and have profited from reading him often since then. Last year I read another by him entitled “The Sympathy of Christ With Man?” I have a great quote from it I will share with you later.

    • February 4, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      Octavius Winslow wrote,

      “From every tongue in glory, and through the high arches of heaven, the anthem shall peal, “Worthy is the Lamb!” Believer in Christ! pants not your soul to join that song? and exults not your spirit in the truth that salvation, from first to last, is of God? Oh, how precious is the truth in the consciousness of our many failures and defects! Our salvation is all in Christ–our righteousness is all in Christ–our merit is all in Christ–our completeness is all in Christ–in Christ our Covenant Head, our Surety and Mediator; and no flaw in our obedience, no defect in our love, no failure in our service, should so cast us down as to shut our eye to our acceptance in the Beloved. Imperfections we would not overlook, sin we would not allow, disobedience we would not indulge, temptation we would not encourage; nevertheless, we would ever remember, for our encouragement, that, in default of perfection in the most perfect of our doings, we are fully and eternally, complete in Jesus” (Winslow, 83-84, 1863).

  3. February 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Amen and amen! When I was blessed to preach a sermon from Dan 10, I made these points to our people:

    1) We are bound in time and tend to be bound to temporal things in this present kingdom.
    2) We are fixed in Christ and seated in the heavenlies with Him; and need to be looking to Him and the unshakable kingdom He has promised and is building. Do you feel the tension between these 2 points?
    3) Life in this present age will have its share of trials, shattered dreams, and broken promises.
    4) As in the days of Noah, the only security for anyone is to be found in the Ark, which is Christ the Lord. And as in the days of Noah, only those called to the safety of the Ark will be saved from the certainty of God’s wrath. God often provide #3 so we will remember #4.

    “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!” Psalm 18:2 “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Cor 1:21-22). Oh brothers and sisters – the beauty of this truth! It is God who has fixed us in Christ, anointed us, sealed us, and given us His Spirit – who and what should we fear? He has gone to our Father to prepare a place for us, and He will return for us – to take us to our eternal home.

    • February 4, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Looks like a great message. Wish I could have heard it. BTW, do you know a Pastor named Larry Newcomer? Not sure of that spelling.

      • February 4, 2013 at 2:16 pm

        Larry Newcomer is a pastor nearby, at Mills Road Baptist. I have some friends there.

        If you care to listen, here’s my sermon from Daniel 10: https://www.box.com/s/6j4j87nq4usiw2ipqhkn

      • February 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm

        Great message. Thanks for sharing it with us. I especially liked your point about focusing on Christ. Recently, in writing on Hebrews 3, I have been impressed by our exigent need to fix our minds on him who is our confessed Apostle and High Priest. The sovereign remedy for all our spiritual woes is a fresh focus on him who loved us and gave himself for us. What a pity there are those who continue to insist our focus should be law and duty. Law and duty will take care of themselves if we focus on Christ

        I also liked you point about refusing to seek more knowledge than is revealed to us in Scripture.

        I am greatly encouraged to hear those who are continuing to hold forth the word of life in the midst of this dark age in which we live.

  4. February 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Thank you for your kind words, Randy. Each time I begin to prepare a sermon, I pray for God to be the One who is glorified and that His Word would be the message for His people. It’s so easy to lay the Law on people – especially our children; for the flesh loves to perform. But we must trust in and rest in Christ, Who wills and does His work in us, yet working mightily with the power of His Spirit in us – lest we drift away. I am very thankful to God for bringing us – even at this late date in our lives – to a church where the elders seek to stand on and under the Word and do all for the glory of our God and the good of His people. Praise the Lord!

    • February 7, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      If you don’t mind my asking, how late in life are you? A good church with faithful elders is a rare jewel in these dark days.

      As I am sure you know, revival of the church has always been preceded by a revival of God’s truth. Perhaps it is because there are those who are beginning boldly to proclaim the truth that others are so rabid in seeking to destroy it.

      • February 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm

        Randy, My dear wife of 34 years has taught me to not be bashful about how many years the Lord has allowed me live 🙂 I dare say – looking at your picture – you and I are not far apart in years. I will turn 57 in a few weeks, should the Lord continue to grace me. I was a false convert from the age of 8 and was saved by the grace of God at 38. Spent too many years in semi-Arminian dispensational churches before a fella introduced me to the doctrines of Grace and I met this guy named Voddie Baucham who is one of three elders in a church that actually embraces Sola Scriptura! I’ve been pondering this notion that Christ is SUFFICIENT!!! for several years and the more I study the Bible the more I cherish this Truth.

        I am refreshed in the Lord simply by chatting with you – now off to the Word of God to prepare the message for this Lord’s Day, from Rev 9. With much joy and some fear and trembling.

      • February 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm

        Actually, I am your senior by 8 years. We will pray for you as you prepare to feed God’s flock. My wife and I would enjoy hearing your message if you have opportunity to send it along.

  5. February 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Randy – and you have about 38 year’s advance in the ministry of God’s people 🙂

    Many thanks for your encouragement and prayers. Here is last Sunday’s message, from the first half of Rev 9, which I titled “Hope in the midst of Judgment” https://www.box.com/s/68vpsr25j6v1fpg36di7 I will build on that one this Sunday as we consider “The Certainty of God’s Judgment”.

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