"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; 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." (Hebrews 2:1-3)
It is a recognized fact that one of the best hods of teaching is by the use of carefully prepared questions. This serves the double purpose of discovering the pupil's ignorance or knowledge of the subject, and of imparting to him the information necessary to his education. This was the method employed by Socrates: the great Grecian philosopher who lived over two thousand years ago.
God's word, the Bible, contains a great number of questions and answers and much can be learned from them, for many of them are of importance to humanity.
For instance, when Job inquired: 'How then can man be justified (or declared righteous) with God?" the answer comes both clear and definite: "Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."(Job 25:4; Rom. 3:24) When Nicodemus asked: "How can a man be born again?" our Lord left him in no doubt as to the answer: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:1-16) In response to the query: "If a man die, shall he live again?" our Lord answered: "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me though he were dead, yet shall he live." (Job 14:14; John 11:25) When Solomon asked: "Will God indeed dwell on the earth?" the affirmative answer was given when the angel proclaimed to the shepherds: "Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord." (1 Kings 8:27; Luke 2:7-11)
Some years ago a friend of mine saw a piece of paper lying on the street. On it, printed in large letters were the words: "Twenty five thousand dollars reward!" Attracted by the munificent offer, he picked up the paper and read these words: "Twenty five thousand dollars will be given to the person who can correctly answer the following question: 'How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?' " Needless to say, the reward is still unclaimed, for this is one of the unanswerable questions of the Bible. As such it deserves our closest attention and we shall do well to give it our most earnest consideration.
Let us think of three things regarding this unanswerable question. First, we shall consider the great salvation. Second, we shall think of the tragic possibility. Third, we shall concern ourselves with a the dreadful result of neglecting this great salvation.
I. The Great Salvation
We can be certain that when God calls a thing great, it really deserves the description. Man's idea of what constitutes greatness, and God's, are as far apart as heaven from earth. Man hails the discovery of the poles as a great achievement, but God rejoices in seeking, finding and saving a lost and guilty sinner. Man congratulates himself on the successful completion of a gigantic enterprise such as the construction of a great canal that links two oceans; or a huge dam that conserves an enormous water supply and furnishes a state with electric power; or in a railroad that connects distance places. But God speaks and rejoices in the accomplished work of His beloved Son, by which a full, free and eternal salvation has been provided from sin's doom, dominion and domain for every sinner who will receive Christ as his Savior and Lord.
Man thinks in terms of time, but God in terms of eternity. Man estimates the value of a thing from a natural and materialistic standpoint. God views things in the light of their spiritual and eternal value. In fact, God Himself tells us: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord." (Isa. 55:8)
Let us now consider several reasons why God's salvation can be truly described as being great.
First, it is a great salvation because of its Personnel. This consists of the Divine Triunity of the eternal Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each of Whom united in the provision of this great salvation. God, the Father, is its Originator and He made it possible by the gift of His beloved Son. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God is its Provider, and He made it available by His incarnation, substitutionary sacrifice death and resurrection and glorification. The Holy Spirit is its Empowerer and He makes it actual in the experience of the believer by His convicting and regenerating power. Thus the triune Godhead is intensely concerned and actively engaged in this great work of salvation, the greatest thing in the universe!
Second, it is a great salvation because of the Person who published it. Note the words: "Which at first began to be spoken by the Lord." Our Lord did not come into the world primarily to preach the gospel, but to make it possible for a gospel to be preached! This necessitated His incarnation, death, resurrection and glorification. His first recorded utterance was: "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" He declared: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work." Again we hear Him saying: "I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work." From the cross, where He allowed Himself to be crucified in order to bear our sins, He cried with a loud, triumphant voice: "It is finished!" Before He ascended back to heaven He commissioned His disciples with these words: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature!" Thus the greatness of this salvation is demonstrated by the character of the Person who came to make it possible, died to make it actual and now lives to make it experimental in the lives of all who trust Him.
Thirdly, it is a great salvation because of the price paid to secure it. This price was nothing less than His precious blood, or outpoured life. God had declared: "The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: "for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." (Lev. 17:11)
Because of the absolute holiness, righteousness and justice of God, sin must be punished; either in the person of the sinner, or in the person of a divinely provided, offered and accepted substitutionary sacrifice which takes the place of the sinner, bears his sins and dies in his stead. This is what the Lord Jesus did for us when He willingly went to the cross and allowed God to put all our sins upon Him. As He bore our sins in His own body, all God's judgment against sin fell, in all its concentrated fierceness, upon Him. We read: "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." (Isa. 53:6) The heart of the gospel is found in these inspired words: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." (I Cor. 15:3) Thus this salvation is the most costly thing in the universe, for it cost the incarnate Son of God the suffering and death of the cross. While salvation is free, it is not cheap, for it was secured at infinite cost.
Fourthly, it is a great salvation because of the purpose it reveals. God's salvation reveals at least three things. First, it reveals the lost, guilty, helpless, hopeless and hell-deserving condition of man by nature. The infinite value of the precious blood of Christ, shed for our salvation, reveals, as nothing else, the awful character of man's sin.
"Oh how vile my lost estate,
It is only as we realize, in some measure, what it meant for Christ to be forsaken of His God in that "lone, dark and mysterious hour," as He hung upon that cross, that we can measure the lost and guilty state of man that necessitated such infinite suffering on the part of the Son of God.
Secondly, it reveals God's wonderful love. Calvary tells out, in all its fullness, the infinite love of God. Nature, "red in tooth and claw", does not reveal God's love, but rather His "eternal power and Godhead." (Rom. 1:20) History does not tell out God's love, for its pages are red with the blood of countless thousands slain in its many wars. Nor does providence declare the love of God, for the ungodly still seemingly prosper, and the righteous suffer adversity. The only place where God's love is demonstrated, beyond all possibility of contradiction, is at the place called Calvary. Mark what God has to say about this: "In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him." (I John 4:9) No one can doubt the love of God as he looks at Calvary.
Thirdly, it reveals the only remedy for sin. God's salvation takes care of the believer~s past, and provides for the forgiveness of all his sins. It secures the Christian's present, for it assures him of his perfect acceptance in the sight of God, in His Son, and thus grants him peace of heart and mind. It also guarantees the future of every child of God, and assures him of "a home eternal in the heavens," with the redeemed of all the ages. What could possibly be more attractive than this? Thus the believer's past, present and future is all included in the divine purpose of this great salvation.
Fifth, it is a great salvation because of the power it unlooses. We are told that the gospel "is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." (Rom. 1:16) The Greek word for "power" is "dunamis", from which the word "dynamite" is derived. This great salvation, when accepted by the sinner, is accompanied by the mighty power of God which delivers him from the bondage of sin into the glorious liberty of the children of God. It translates him from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. It communicates a divine life and spiritual power which enables the believer to live a life to the glory of God, and to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." No one can start the Christian life until he has the life of a Christian, and this life is in Christ. Thus we read "He that hath the Son bath life." (1 John 5:12) How wonderful it is to know that "the exceeding greatness of God's power," which was demonstrated in the resurrection of Christ, is now placed at the disposal of every believer on Christ. Thus there is no possibility of a lack of power to live the Christian life. (Eph. 1:15-23)
Sixthly, it is a great salvation because of the provision it supplies. It provides the believer with deliverance from the penalty of his sins, which is eternal separation from the presence of God in hell. It delivers him from the power of sin, in the measure in which he avails himself of the means which God has provided for this purpose. One day, at the coming of the Lord Jesus, it will deliver him front the very presence and possibility of sin. Salvation is therefore an inclusive term, and all the things necessary for the believer are included in God's rich provision in Christ.
Seventhly, it is a great salvation because of the fearful perdition from which it delivers. God's word clearly indicates that there is an eternal destiny for all humanity: heaven or hell. No one spoke more about hell than our Lord Jesus Christ. He solemnly warned His hearers of the dreadful danger of dying in their sins, and being cast into hell, "where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." See Mark 9:42-48. Remember that the Christ that spoke so much about hell, suffered infinitely to save humanity from going there, and died to secure their salvation from eternal punishment. Take heed therefore lest, after reading this warning, you die unsaved, and hear from His lips the dread sentence: "Depart from Me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels." (Matt. 25:41)
Now let us consider:
II. The Tragic Possibility
This is found in the words: "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" The fact that Christ's death has made possible salvation for all does not mean that all will be saved. The fact that there is a medicine, which is a sure cure for a certain disease, does not guarantee that every person suffering from that disease will be cured. This medicine must be taken if it is to be effective. In like manner, the salvation secured by the finished work of Christ on the cross, and proclaimed by God in the gospel, will be of no benefit whatever to a person unless Christ is received by faith as one's own personal Savior and confessed as the Lord of the believer's life. Let us note carefully what the Bible has to say as to this: "To as many as received Him, (Christ) to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." (John 1:12) Thus this great salvation, though sufficient for the salvation of all, is seen to be efficient only to that person who avails himself of it by receiving Christ as Savior and Lord. The question is: will you be that person?
There are three tragic possibilities in regard to this great salvation.
First, it may be slighted and treated with utter indifference. There are many who adopt this attitude. They do not deny the fact of God, or the fact that they are sinners, nor even the necessity for the death of Christ to secure their salvation. They treat the whole matter with utter indifference, and live their lives with no reference to God or salvation. Should these people die in this condition they will be as assuredly and eternally lost as though they had deliberately denied the revelation of God concerning this salvation.
Second, this salvation can be coldly, dispassionately and deliberately rejected. There are many such who deny the truth of the word of God, and actively oppose those who seek to preach the gospel. They rebel against the authority of God and spurn the offer of His salvation. By so doing they seal their own eternal doom.
Thirdly, this salvation may be neglected. A person may be convinced of his need as a lost and guilty sinner in the sight of God. He may be certain he is the object of the love of God and the finished work of Christ on his behalf. He may know the way of salvation, and be able to quote scriptures to prove it. He may be almost persuaded to trust the Lord Jesus as his Savior-and yet be lost by neglecting to personally receive the Son of God and own Him as the Lord of his life.
Neglect turns a well tilled field into a wilderness. It runs a once profitable business into bankruptcy. Neglect sinks ships, wrecks trains, automobiles and airplanes. It results in tremendous losses every year in the way of property and life. What is neglect? It simply consists of letting things alone that should be attended to. Is this to be your fate, my friend? An old proverb has it: "The road of By and By leads to the town of Never." To be "almost persuaded" is to be almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be eternally lost!
Now let us consider:
III. The Dreadful Result
"How shall we escape if we neglect this great salvation?" This is the unanswerable question, for God's word holds out no hope whatever for that person who dies slighting, rejecting or neglecting this great salvation. Mark the solemn words of the Bible: "When they shall say peace and safety,' then sudden destruction cometh upon them . . and they shall not escape. (1 Thess. 5:3) Our Lord declared:
"When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door saying 'Lord, Lord, open to us;' and He shall answer and say unto you: 'I know not whence ye are.'" (Luke 13:25)
It has been well said that: "The way to hell is paved with good intentions." Let this not be true of the reader. Right here and now, own yourself to be what God declares you are, a lost and guilty sinner. Believe that Christ bore your sins and, by His death, satisfied all God's claims against you. Accept the Lord Jesus now as your own personal Savior and henceforth confess Him as the supreme Lord of your life. God's word will then assure you that this great salvation is yours for time and all eternity. Say with one of old: "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation!" (Isa. 12:2) May God grant it for His name's sake!
Alfred P. Gibbs