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Hebrews 2:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

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:

  1. The Jewish dispensation was provided for the Jews alone; the Christian dispensation for all mankind.
  • The Jewish dispensation was full of significant types and ceremonies; the Christian dispensation is the substance of all those types.
  • The Jewish dispensation referred chiefly to the body and outward state of man - washings and external cleansings of the flesh; the Christian, to the inward state - purifying the heart and soul, and purging the conscience from dead works.
  • The Jewish dispensation promised temporal happiness; the Christian, spiritual.
  • The Jewish dispensation belonged chiefly to time; the Christian, to eternity.
  • The Jewish dispensation had its glory; but that was nothing when compared to the exceeding glory of the Gospel.
  • Moses administered the former; Jesus Christ, the Creator, Governor, and Savior of the world, the latter.
  • This is a great salvation, infinitely beyond the Jewish; but how great no tongue or pen can describe.
  • 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.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    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.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Christ being proved to be superior to the angels, this doctrine is applied. Our minds and memories are like a leaky vessel, they do not, without much care, retain what is poured into them. This proceeds from the corruption of our nature, temptations, worldly cares, and pleasures. Sinning against the gospel is neglect of this great salvation; it is a contempt of the saving grace of God in Christ, making light of it, not caring for it, not regarding either the worth of gospel grace, or the want of it, and our undone state without it. The Lord's judgments under the gospel dispensation are chiefly spiritual, but are on that account the more to be dreaded. Here is an appeal to the consciences of sinners. Even partial neglects will not escape rebukes; they often bring darkness on the souls they do not finally ruin. The setting forth the gospel was continued and confirmed by those who heard Christ, by the evangelists and apostles, who were witnesses of what Jesus Christ began both to do and to teach; and by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, qualified for the work to which they were called. And all this according to God's own will. It was the will of God that we should have sure ground for our faith, and a strong foundation for our hope in receiving the gospel. Let us mind this one thing needful, and attend to the Holy Scriptures, written by those who heard the words of our gracious Lord, and were inspired by his Spirit; then we shall be blessed with the good part that cannot be taken away.
    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 213

    Considering at what an immense cost our salvation has been purchased, what will be the fate of those who neglect so great salvation? What will be the punishment of those who profess to be followers of Christ, yet fail to bow in humble obedience to the claims of their Redeemer, and who do not take the cross as humble disciples of Christ and follow Him from the manger to Calvary? “He that gathereth not with Me,” says Christ, “scattereth abroad.” 2T 213.1

    Some have limited views of the atonement. They think that Christ suffered only a small portion of the penalty of the law of God; they suppose that, while the wrath of God was felt by His dear Son, he had, through all His painful sufferings, the evidence of His Father's love and acceptance; that the portals of the tomb before Him were illuminated with bright hope, and that He had the abiding evidence of His future glory. Here is a great mistake. Christ's keenest anguish was a sense of His Father's displeasure. His mental agony because of this was of such intensity that man can have but faint conception of it. 2T 213.2

    With many the story of the condescension, humiliation, and sacrifice of our divine Lord awakens no deeper interest, and stirs the soul and affects the life no more, than does the history of the death of the martyrs of Jesus. Many have suffered death by slow tortures; others have suffered death by crucifixion. In what does the death of God's dear Son differ from these? It is true He died upon the cross a most cruel death; yet others, for His dear sake, have suffered equally, so far as bodily torture is concerned. Why, then, was the suffering of Christ more dreadful than that of other persons who have yielded their lives for His sake? If the sufferings of Christ consisted in physical pain alone, then His death was no more painful than that of some of the martyrs. 2T 214.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 505

    It is carrying that which is lawful to excess that makes it a grievous sin. Those who profess the truth trample on the will of God in marrying unbelievers; they lose His favor and make bitter work for repentance. The unbelieving may possess an excellent moral character; but the fact that he or she has not answered to the claims of God, and has neglected so great salvation, is sufficient reason why such a union should not be consummated. The character of the unbelieving may be similar to that of the young man to whom Jesus addressed the words, “One thing thou lackest;” that was the one thing needful. 4T 505.1

    The plea is sometimes made that the unbeliever is favorable to religion and is all that could be desired in a companion except in one thing—he is not a Christian. Although the better judgment of the believer may suggest the impropriety of a union for life with an unbeliever, yet, in nine cases out of ten, inclination triumphs. Spiritual declension commences the moment the vow is made at the altar; religious fervor is dampened, and one stronghold after another is broken down, until both stand side by side under the black banner of Satan. Even in the festivities of the wedding, the spirit of the world triumphs against conscience, faith, and truth. In the new home the hour of prayer is not respected. The bride and bridegroom have chosen each other and dismissed Jesus. 4T 505.2

    At first the unbelieving one may make no show of opposition in the new relation; but when the subject of Bible truth is presented for attention and consideration, the feeling at once arises: “You married me, knowing that I was what I am; I do not wish to be disturbed. From henceforth let it be understood that conversation upon your peculiar views is to be interdicted.” If the believer should manifest any special earnestness in regard to his faith, it might seem like unkindness toward the one who has no interest in the Christian experience. 4T 505.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 352

    Your life has been a failure. You have been a stumbling block to sinners. They have said of you: “If the religion which this man professes is indeed genuine, why is he so eager after this world? Why does he not in his own conduct show the spirit of Christ?” Hasten, my brother, before it is forever too late, to remove this stumbling block from the way of sinners. Can you look with pleasure upon your life or upon the influence you have exerted? Will you now consider your ways? Will you now make efforts to come into right relations with God? I do not believe your heart is unimpressible, and I know that the loving-kindness and tender mercy of God are marvelous. You have a little time of probation; will you improve it now while Jesus is pleading His blood before the Father? He has graciously spared your life; but it has been like the barren fig tree upon which year after year there appeared no fruit, nothing but leaves. How long will you continue to disappoint the Master? Will you compel Him to say: “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever;” or, “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground”? Oh, wait not for the Lord to put His hand against you and scatter the property which you have accumulated. Remember that all your wealth will not give you one moment of sweet assurance and peace upon your dying bed. 5T 352.1

    I earnestly urge upon you the necessity of returning to the Lord at once. I entreat you to disappoint the enemy. Break from off you his cruel power. Seek, during the remainder of your life, to make an entirely different record in heaven, one of which you will not be ashamed when the books shall be opened and the Judge shall pronounce sentence upon those who have neglected this great salvation. 5T 352.2

    Paul exhorts his Ephesian brethren to redeem the time because the days are evil. This exhortation is very applicable to you. In one sense it is impossible to redeem the time; for once gone, it is gone forever. But you are called upon to reform, to be zealous of good works in the same degree that you have been negligent of duty. Turn square about. Double your diligence to make your calling and election sure. Keep God's commandments, and live, and His law as the apple of your eye. Tax every moment to the utmost in laboring for your own eternal interest and for the salvation of souls around you. By so doing you may save both yourself and those who are more or less controlled by your example. These are motives which should be duly considered. 5T 353.1

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    Ellen G. White
    That I May Know Him, 66.3

    In His humanity Christ was tried with as much greater temptation, with as much more persevering energy than man is tried by the evil one, as His nature was greater than man's. This is a deep mysterious truth, that Christ is bound to humanity by the most sensitive sympathies. The evil works, the evil thoughts, the evil words of every son and daughter of Adam press upon His divine soul. The sins of men called for retribution upon Himself, for He had become man's substitute, and took upon Him the sins of the world. He bore the sins of every sinner, for all transgressions were imputed unto Him.... “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).1 TMK 66.3

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