“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3, ESV)
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are some very threatening passages in the Bible. Scripture is marked throughout with God’s clear and often stern warnings.
- God warned Adam and Eve about the cost of eating the fruit from the forbidden tree;
- He warned his children about a new set of temptations they would experience as they entered into the Promised Land;
- The theme of the Prophets is warning, whether it’s directed to the idolatry of his people or the injustices of wicked leaders;
- God sends Jonah to preach a message of warning to evil Nineveh;
- Christ sternly warns the self-righteous Pharisees;
- Jesus warns the disciples as he leaves his mission to them.
Some of the strongest, starkest, scariest warnings to believers are found in a stream of passages in Hebrews:
- “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” (3:12)
- “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” (5:11)
- “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (10:26-27)
- “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.” (12:25-26)
Why are there so many warnings in Scripture? Because God loves us. I love this: a warning isn’t judgment. If all God intended to do was to judge and condemn us, he wouldn’t first warn us; he would only judge and condemn!
One of the ways we experience the loving fatherhood of God is in his unrelenting commitment to warn us of the various dangers of life in this fallen world.
Likewise, God’s boundaries—that is, his laws—are an expression of his love for us. They protect us from danger and draw us toward a deeper dependency and communion with him. In his word, he sets boundaries of protection for us. He does not do that to rob us of our freedom and joy, but so that we would be freed from the bondage and sadness that always result when sinners choose their own way.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the law and bore the penalty for our inability to keep it. Still, he restated and reinstituted the moral law for us because he knew we would need this protection until we are on the other side and free from our sinful susceptibility to go our own way.
In each warning and with each law, we experience the love from our Father in heaven. Each warning exhibits his patience, faithfulness, wisdom, and grace. Each law reminds us of his care. Each warning teaches us that he is ready and willing to forgive and restore again. Each law is a call to trust him and follow him by faith again.
When the Bible threatens, it protects. When the Bible sets boundaries, it protects. Our Father is infinitely wiser than us. He really does know better, and we should listen and obey.
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
P.S. - if you’ve been enjoying these New Year Wednesday’s Word devotionals about the gift of God’s Word, they have been taken from my newest book, Do You Believe? 12 Historic Doctrines to Change Your Everyday Life. I pray the chapters on the Doctrine of Scripture (and 11 others) will help you become a better everyday theologian!
Discover The 12 Doctrines
Paul David Tripp
1. Where in your relationship with Jesus do you find yourself “drifting” most frequently? Have you allowed your ears to become dull to the warnings of the Bible, which put you at risk of falling away from the living God in any way?
2. How has the gospel message “proved to be reliable” in your life? Be specific. How has the Lord revealed himself to be good and faithful again and again?
3. What does it practically look like for you to “pay much closer attention” to the gospel message, its warnings, and its laws? Think of ways that you can do this in your everyday life.
4. Are there any laws or boundaries set by the Lord that you feel are robbing you of freedom and joy? Look at the warnings of Scripture and in life. What bondage and sadness would eventually result if you were to indulge in these sins?
5. Are you in a position of authority or influence over someone else? How can you lovingly and mercifully warn them or set boundaries in the same way the Lord has done for you? Are you being too harsh in your position of authority, lacking the grace that Christ lavishes upon you?