Such a Great Salvation (1)
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…? Hebrews 2.2, 3
These days, apart from diagnoses by doctors or auto mechanics, we tend to assess things subjectively. That is, we reserve the right to decide what is to be loved, and how much; what is worthwhile, and how worthy; and what is great and what is merely “Meh.”
For example, some friends recently raved about a new film they’d just seen, using the word “great” again and again. The next day, I read a review of the film which panned it utterly.
Great, not so great.
Or consider foods: Some think that eggplant Parmesan is just great, while others, with perhaps more sensitive palates, politely decline. Some insist that a certain breakfast cereal is “Grreaaaaat!” Others consider that it’s merely “OK” or perhaps even not good for you.
And so it goes. TV programs, video games, novels, jobs, hair styles, fashion, sports teams, diversions of all kinds, seasons of the year: some think certain things are great, while others reserve that descriptor for things their friends regard as trivial, just OK, or simply not-for-them.
Most Christians would say that the salvation they have in Jesus Christ is great.They’re glad to have it. It gives them hope, assurance, peace, and an overall sense of wellbeing. They wouldn’t trade it for the religion of the most fanatically jubilant pagan.
But, in our age of every-man-for-himself-opinions-and-values, what seems greatto Christians is not great at all to many of their co-workers, neighbors, or fellow students. And, as we have learned that we are not likely to tempt the stubborn to try eggplant Parmesan, we’ve concluded that it’s no use attempting to convince the unbelievers in our life that our salvation is really great. They don’t think so, and well, they’re entitled to their opinion.
In other words, salvation is great for us, because we have it and delight in it. It makes us feel safe and happy and hopeful, especially when we’re having a bowl of it with our Christian friends – Grreaaaaat!
But when the writer of Hebrews mentions our “great salvation,” this is not what he intends, at least, not in the first instance.
So very great indeed!
The Greek word which the NKJV translates “so great” (τηλικου̂τος) does not indicate a subjective and relative condition. It refers to the size or degree or magnitude of something outside the experience of the perceiver. An earthquake is great, whether we experience it or not (Rev. 16.18). A ship is great in size compared to the small rudder that directs its course (Jms. 3.4). “So great” means something more like “so very great, indeed, and that on its own terms,” quite apart from our opinion or experience.
The Grand Canyon is truly grand whether or not you’ve ever experienced it.
The great wall of China is very great, indeed, and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t feel all that great to you.
The great tsunami of a few years back was one of the greatest ever recorded, even though it probably didn’t affect you at all.
And our salvation is great – so great that, as the Psalmist explained, “My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day, for I do not know their limits(Ps. 71.15). So deep, so vast, so profound, so all-encompassing, so all-transforming and all-renewing, so powerful, so glorious and joyous and fruitful and inspiring and world-uprighting is our great salvation, that we can never get to the bottom of its grandeur, comprehend the scope of its greatness, or exhaust the vastness of its power.
Our salvation is greater than we know. Or ever will know. It is certainly greater than those episodic fits of bliss we experience in worship, or that sense of “I’m OK” we derive from a few minutes in prayer. It is greater than the feel-good experience of Jesus proffered in so many churches, hyped in so much contemporary praise music, and testified to by countless breathless Christians, who Monday through Saturday don’t give much thought to the call to holiness and are quite content to allow their neighbors to have their own opinion, however erroneous, of the faith of Jesus Christ.
A condition and a consequence
Ours is a great salvation, and as great as it has been for you or to you, as great as has been your experience of being in Jesus Christ, I think it’s not saying too much to insist that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Or at least, not all that much.
Most Christians today have merely tasted of the Lord and His goodness, and have concluded that He’s pretty great. Or that He’s great enough for them. For now. And perhaps for the duration.
The Word of God sets forth a diagnosis for this condition of being too-easily satisfied with the state of our salvation; this practice of feeling good about Jesus on Sundays but stifling our exuberance the rest of the time; this “good-enough-for-me-for-now” approach to Christian faith.
The diagnosis is neglect.
And the consequence of neglecting our great salvation provokes an ominous question: “How shall we escape?”
1. How would you explain to an unbelieving friend what it means to be “saved”?
2. Do you consider your salvation to be “great”? Why or why not?
3. What does it look like when someone is neglecting their great salvation? Should this be a cause for concern?
Next steps – Preparation: Reflect on your answers to the questions above. Use your answers to lead you into a time of silent meditation and prayer, waiting on the Lord to convict, affirm, and direct you as He will. Share with a Christian friend that you are beginning a study of our great salvation, and invite your friend to join you.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.