Many non-believers view the Bible as a musty, old book that has long outlived any relevance it once might have held. Sadly, many professing Christians, though they might express it a bit more delicately, feel the same way. One of the primary reasons for such a view is that modern man has become libertarian in his thinking, which is a polite way of saying that not only is he a rebel, but he has labelled his rebellion as an absolute good. Nothing, in his opinion, trumps his right to do as he pleases. So long as no one else is injured (according to his judgment), no one and nothing has the right to hamper his pursuit of what he wants. Thus the view that the Bible is outdated because it is a book filled with imperatives—many of them. Over the next several weeks, we will briefly examine a few of the imperatives that are expressed using a particularly insistent from of the imperative, namely, the word must. We will begin with a command to the lost.
It should come as no surprise to the believer that God’s commands are addressed as a Father to His children. As we understand, it is the role of any loving father to delineate what his children must and must not do. Children outside his household typically are governed by their own parents. And since the Word of God is, for the most part, addressed to the family of God, we will search in vain for many commands addressed to unbelievers. And as we might expect, the major exception has to do with the need of the unbeliever to listen to the message of the gospel so as to believe and be saved.
The author of Hebrews writes: “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (2:1). This is the first and absolute imperative for each one. God has nothing else to say to an unbeliever apart from sin and judgment until he is saved. The lost cannot understand what God says, but even if he could somehow understand, he could never do what God commanded. The writer explains (i. e., “For this reason”) that the authority behind this command is the Person of Christ, who is not only the Son of God (1:5) and worshipped by angels (1:6), but also who hates lawlessness and rules over a righteous kingdom (1:8, 9). Moreover, He will judge His enemies (all unbelievers) (1:13).
Elsewhere (Matt. 13:19) the Bible warns that Satan steals the Word of God from unwary hearts. But here the believer is warned to give the utmost attention to the preaching of the gospel because there is a good chance that he will “drift away from it.” Only saving faith anchors a soul in the Word and the Word in the soul. Neither casual church attendance nor earnest attempts to live righteously will save. “Earnest heed” (AV) must be given to the Word of God if someone is to be saved.
The author next asks a rhetorical question in order to drive into hearts the truth of the inescapable necessity of heeding the gospel: “For if the word spoken through angels [i.e., the Law] proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (2:2, 3a). If the Law is true (and it is), and if God judges every infraction, even the smallest (and He does), and if that just penalty is eternal damnation (and it is), what hope has the sinner if he “drift[s] away from” and rejects the only means of salvation? None.
The Word of God offers no deliverance from sin, no escape from the judgement of hell, no hope of eternal life, and no home in heaven aside from what is offered through the gospel. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). God never clutters an unbeliever’s life with a lot of do’s and don’t’s because he cannot obey them, nor could he be saved even if he could “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes [only] the knowledge of sin [and not salvation]” (Rom. 3:20). “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard” is the most gracious imperative of all. Far from being an irksome duty, it points a sinner to the only means of salvation.
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