The same danger that faced the early Christians lurks in our paths today.
By Limoni Manu
Have you ever wondered why some former members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, after years of loyalty to God, have given up the faith and walked out the back door? Is it only certain individuals who are susceptible to that danger?
I would suggest that it doesn’t really matter who we are or how long we have been faithful members in the church. The danger is real for every follower of Jesus.
In Hebrews 2:1 the author refers to the threat of “drifting away,” concerned that his fellow Jews who had become Christians would drift back into Judaism. And through a series of exhortations, he cautions them to remain steadfast.
Hebrews 2:1-4 introduces us to the first of these exhortations, using the figure of a drifting boat to make the point. By a subtle, almost imperceptible current, the boat drifts along in the wrong direction until its occupants are lost at sea.
What are some of the “currents” that today can cause us to “drift away” from the church and from God? And how can we avoid this danger?
We’re All ExposedAdventists do not believe in “once saved always saved.” We believe it’s possible for us to drift away from the salvation once received. No one is immune to this threat. Just as the gentle breeze and currents may carry a ship apparently safe at anchor into deep waters, just so Christians can drift from the safe harbor of salvation.1 The words of the apostle are emphatic: As Christians, we can “neglect” our salvation (Heb. 2:3). The concern here is not the outright rejection of Christianity, but rather that of taking it for granted, leading to an attitude of carelessness and disregard. This message is just as relevant for us today as it was for the first readers of the book of Hebrews.
In the context of the nautical metaphor of drifting, what are some of the “currents” that might cause such drift? People (like myself) from small islands surrounded by the ocean know about currents and their danger. On the surface the water can look quite still, but the undercurrents could be rapid and dangerous. Some currents can be huge, pulling water in every direction.
The same is true in our spiritual life with God. Even for the most experienced of “swimmers,” the currents of life can be fatal if we ignore the necessary safety precautions.
Currents to Watch1. The current of unbelief. Someone has said that “unbelief is the danger of a slow, gradual, and insidious decline of our spiritual connection with God beyond mere neglect.” Every Christian is in danger of taking the Holy Spirit for granted as He speaks to us from day to day (see Heb. 3:7, 8,15; 4:7). It is the Spirit who gives life, who teaches, who convicts of sin, and who guides us into all truth (see John 6:63; 14:26; 16:8). “Our danger is ‘a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God,’ self-produced by persistently ignoring the promptings of the Spirit’s voice.” The heart inevitably “hardens by the relentless inroads of the . . . (deceitfulness, or pleasures) of sin.”2 This process may be slow, but the Christian is reminded of the subtle power of sin that may pervert the heart until it overtly defies God.3 For “if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left” (Heb. 10:26, NIV).
2.The current of familiarity. This is a common, self-imposed risk of many sea lovers. They become so familiar with the ocean that they come to underestimate its treacherous traits and dangers.
A similar danger faces Christians. As we become familiar with the truth of salvation, it may get to be commonplace to us, and we begin to lose the sense of its quality and importance. Thus, instead of growing into maturity, we remain spiritual infants, satisfied with our elementary understanding of God’s Word (Heb. 5:11-14). God forbid that as Christians we might become so familiar with our knowledge of truth that we grow lazy and sluggish without persevering to “inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:11, 12).
On the other hand, there’s the familiarity with sin. This, too, leads to spiritual death. Could the grim reality of apostasy happen to us who have experienced the joy of salvation? Yes, says the writer of Hebrews—if we fail to keep constant guard of the great salvation we enjoy (Heb. 3:12).
3.The current of independence. Hebrews lays stress on the community of believers as a powerful force for corporate responsibility (Heb. 10:25). In the Old Testament the word “mishpahah” or “family” refers to a whole social unit or group concept, implying togetherness, in contrast to fragmentation or isolation.4 It implies that “the strength and encouragement provided by themishpahah and larger community is an important concept for the Church to consider today.”5 The same point was stressed by the apostle: “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Heb. 10:24).
As we draw closer to the end of time, we must be wary of the increasing voices crying for independence. Those among us who advance such thoughts are working contrary to the divine plan of God.6 Anyone who thinks “their individual judgment” is a sufficient means for self-reliance “is liable to be deceived by the enemy and overthrown.”7
Weathering the Currents
The apostle gives a twofold secret plan for weathering the currents of life.
First, he reminds us about the necessity to “pay more careful attention” (Heb. 2:1, NIV). If we’re on a slow-moving current, failure to pay constant attention can lead to drifting and disaster. Before you realize it, it could be too late.
Our earnest attention should be more focused than those to whom God spoke through angels and other means (Heb. 2:1, 2). Why? Because “in these last days” God’s climactic speech has been revealed to us in the person of His Son Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:2). All heaven came down in Jesus; and that makes this final revelation of salvation much greater than anything in the past. In the words of the apostle: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).
Second, we must pay closer attention “to the things we have heard” (Heb. 2:1). The living and written Word of God must become a priority in our lives. There’s no substitute for the study of God’s Word. The Scriptures are our sure anchor against the dangerous currents of life.
As members of the remnant church, we have been blessed to be recipients of “such a great salvation,” salvation through heaven’s greatest gift of God’s own Son—salvation confirmed by those who first heard it, by God Himself, by Jesus and His ministry in heaven, and by the continual presence of the Holy Spirit. What excuse will we have if we simply “drift” away out of sheer neglect? What alternative can God offer us if we neglect heaven’s only means of saving us?
1William G. Johnsson, In Absolute Confidence: The Book of Hebrews Speaks to Our Day(Nashville, Tennessee: Southern Publishing Association, 1977), p. 17.
2Johnsson, p. 18.
4Marvin R. Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 1989), pp. 210.
6Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 258.
7Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 161, 164.
Limoni Manu wrote this piece while he was a student in historical theology at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in Silang, Cavite, Philippines.