The Priority of the Gospel

Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Warren Vanhetloo’s newsletter “Cogitation.”
CrossThe human author of God’s epistle to the Hebrews first summarized the superiority of the Son to the prophets of the nation (1:1-3) and then stressed how strongly God had announced ahead of time the superiority of His Messiah to the angels (1:4-14). In the second chapter, he proclaimed the importance of the word revelation God had given (2:1-4) and the importance of God’s exalted plan for humanity (2:5-9). Since this Messiah is superior to human prophets and to angelic messengers, His message deserves supreme consideration by all who hear it.

Therefore, it is crucial that we give careful attention to this gospel so we do not gradually lose sight of the importance of it and drift away from it (2:1). Earlier revelation from God was honored in the nation such that transgressions were punished (2:2). Old Testament revelations were mediated by angels. The authority of their message was recognized by courts of the land. Humans decided the severity and justness of penalties. Submission to the gospel message clearly is of far greater importance.

“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; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will?” (Heb. 2:3-4). In several ways this gospel message is superior to Old Testament revelations. It pertains not to proper conduct in society but to each man’s relation to spiritual salvation. Its enforcement is not by human agents but by the Judge of the universe.

The greatest evident superiority of this recent revelation has to do with the much more authoritative and persuasive manner of conveyance. The gospel message was first clearly proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Himself, and His teaching was faithfully conveyed to us (Hebrews who had not heard Jesus or were not yet alive) by those who heard Him. These gospel proclamations by Jesus and His apostles were accompanied by various divine, confirming miracles, leaving no doubt of divine authenticity. Most important to us today was the giving of gifts by the Holy Spirit, for that confirmation still continues to accompany gospel proclamation.

The author next enlarges on the importance of humanity in the program of God. Angels are ministering spirits (1:14) in this world. The world to come—that is, the salvation realm (2:3)—will not be put in subjection to angels (2:5). Scripture (Ps. 8:4-6) has declared that God has special concern for mankind (Heb. 2:6). God has made mankind for a little while to be lower than angels (because of sin) (cf. 2:9), but even sinful men are “crowned with glory and honor” and set over this God-formed universe (2:7).

Although God has put all things in subjection under the feet of sinful humans and in so doing left nothing that is not put under them, humans have not accomplished what God assigned them to do (2:8). But one Man, Jesus, has done far more than assert control over the physical universe. His divinely appointed task was not of a physical conquest but deliverance from the power and penalty of sin. To accomplish that, God the Father appointed that He should live a human life, being in that way lower than the angels and enduring the suffering of death, in order that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man (not just for Hebrews, 2:9).

This Jesus, who was obedient even unto death, is now crowned with glory and honor. He has fulfilled God’s great purpose in providing “so great salvation” and so is greatly exalted in heaven on high. The message of the accomplishment of this redeeming Lord deserves our earnest dedication. We should not neglect a pearl of such great price. Our hearts should well up with adoration and thanksgiving. Our lips should faithfully proclaim the good news to all who will hear that whosoever will may come.

Warren VanhetlooWarren Vanhetloo has A.B., B.D., Th.M., Th.D., and D.D. degrees. He served three pastorates in Michigan, taught 20 years at Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN), taught 23 years at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (Lansdale, PA), and is listed as adjunct faculty at Calvary. Retired, he lives in Holland, Michigan. At the urging of fellow faculty and former students, he sends an email newsletter called “Cogitations” to those who request it. You may send e-mail to him at cbsvan@sbcglobal.net.
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