Such a Great Salvation (2)
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
No spiritual vacuum
A consistent teaching of Scripture is that the creation is pervaded by spiritual presences – including human beings – and that these spiritual presences are divided into two opposing camps. One camp seeks to exalt, exemplify, and extol the God of heaven and earth, unto righteousness, peace, and joy in all things; while the other camp labors tirelessly to wrest His dominion from Him and advance a kingdom of darkness, confusion, fear, corruption, and death.
We see this conflict of spiritual powers as early as Genesis 3. It pervades the Old Testament in the form of Israel’s struggle to remain loyal to the God Who delivered them from bondage, and to resist the allure and powers of false deities and the people who serve them. In the New Testament, the struggle for spiritual supremacy shows up early and often, beginning with the slaughter of the innocents in Matthew 2, the temptation of our Lord Jesus in the wilderness, His many exorcisms of and warnings against dark spiritual powers, and His ultimate triumph over them on the cross and out of the tomb.
The apostles continue to remind us of this ongoing conflict of spiritual powers, and they urge us to arm ourselves for the conflict, to recognize that it flares up in what we might regard as unlikely places and ways, and to be always ready to recognize, resist, and rout dark spiritual powers wherever they seek to intrude. The apostles warn us that this conflict threatens to rob us of the gift of time which God bestows upon us every moment, turning His precious gift to evil purposes in our own hands (Eph. 5.15-17).
This conflict of spiritual powers is continuous and all-pervasive. No places or persons exist which are not of interest to each side in the conflict. Jesus Christ is Lord of all and is working to advance His rule of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit into every nook and niche of creation. He declares of every place, person, and thing, “Mine!” in those riveting words of Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper. The would-be usurper of His place, the enemy of our souls, is equally devoted to holding on to and reclaiming as much of everything as he can for his dark, wicked, corrupting, and deadly rule.
Those, therefore, who have come to possess the salvation of the Lord must not fail to work continuously for its full realization (Phil. 2.12). Failure to do so, at every moment and for every aspect of our lives, is to neglect our salvation; and where such neglect is present, there being no spiritual vacuum in the cosmos, neglectful believers will not escape the power of evil to invade and usurp and undermine their time and purpose, and turn their confession of faith into a sham.
Things that accompany salvation?
This had become the situation with those readers to whom the author of the book of Hebrews addressed his epistle. Under pressure from their unbelieving neighbors, they had left off the whole-hearted pursuit of their salvation, and were clinging only to its most foundational teachings. They showed no interest in increasing in knowledge and understanding of their salvation, were leaving off the good works which had characterized them in the beginning, and were seeking accommodation with the unbelieving convictions and false religion of the people among whom they lived, moved, and had their being.
They were neglecting their salvation. They had professed faith in Jesus and been baptized. They had united with a body of believers like themselves, where they found friendship, comfort, and assurance against the mounting threats of unbelievers. They had left off growing in the Lord, so much so, that none of them was effective in teaching or making disciples of others, and together they returned to the same basic Christian teachings again and again, pinning their hopes on milk and declining to pursue the meat of doctrine and Christian life.
In their everyday lives, meanwhile, like spiritual Brer Rabbits, they “lay low.” They did not talk about their faith with their neighbors or co-workers. They were not actively pursuing the holiness, without which, no one will see the Lord. They were neglecting the study of God’s Word and the disciplines of prayer and sanctification and witness that issue from such study. And they were lapsing back into unbelieving ways, taking up practices of their former false faith, for the sake of getting along with the people around them.
The “things that accompany salvation” (Heb. 6.9) were quickly evaporating, though the writer of Hebrews earnestly sought to shore them up and renew his readers in them, thus calling into doubt their claim of being saved at all.
The many faces of neglect
The first readers of the book of Hebrews were neglecting their salvation. They had little interest in growing in the Word of God. They had become silent about their witness for the Lord, because they did not wish to upset their acquaintances any more than they already were. The good works they had shown early on in their walk with the Lord had become scarce. Their worship was being compromised with forms and practices unbefitting the Lord Jesus Christ and inconsistent with His salvation. And they had become content with the meagerest profession of faith and doctrinal belief, so that none of them was able to teach anyone else the ways of the Lord.
Into this black hole of neglect, spiritual forces of wickedness had poured, set up shop, and were about the business of robbing the faithful of their true experience of Jesus. If the neglect of salvation they were showing continued, their profession of faith would not save them. They would fall from a faith they never truly embraced, and renewing them in the true faith of Jesus Christ would be virtually impossible.
If we neglect our great salvation, we will not escape the powers of darkness and their ability to deceive, divert, distract, and destroy us. Unless we are continually attending to and growing in our great salvation, we will fall into the black hole of neglect, where spiritual forces of wickedness in high places delight to lead us in the ways of compromise, complacency, corruption, convenience, comfort, confusion, and death.
Make no mistake: It is a serious, serious miscalculation ever to consider your salvation to be just “good enough” and to neglect working out the entire greatness of your salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord.
1. What would be the opposite of neglectingour great salvation?
2. How can we know when we’re beginning to give over our time, attention, activities, and strength to spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph. 5.15-17)?
3. All our days and time are spent under the watchful of Jesus, Who declares of it all, “Mine!” How confident are you that this is true of every area and moment of your life?
Next steps – Preparation: Download our tool, The Time of Your Life (click here)and take a serious look at how the time of your days is spent. Work through this exercise, then spend a season of prayer, sharing with the Lord what you have learned.
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.