“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:1-4, NASB).
The last two posts have been consumed with a discussion of the “many convincing proofs” Jesus gave post-resurrection to demonstrate that He had risen from the dead. Three of the proofs involved showing the nail scars in His hands, the piercing in His side (where blood and water came down), as well as His eating fish and loaves in a meal with His disciples. The text states that these were “convincing proofs”; and if I had been alive and seen Jesus’ nail scars, pierced side, and observed Him eating fish and loaves, I would have been completely convinced it was Him, too!
In this post, however, I intend to leave our discussion of the signs of the resurrection and turn our attention to the evidence of the truth of our salvation. One would think it enough that Christ confirmed the reality of His resurrection; however, it’s a special privilege to know that there are signs which confirm not only our Savior, but also our salvation. As I have mentioned in the last few posts, studying these signs of both our great Savior and our great salvation provide a potent, scriptural critique of Reformed Epistemology, a critique which many believers could easily forget and abandon in favor of a system that consumes itself with confirming the believer’s rationality. We are rational for believing, not only because Christianity is true...but also because evidence confirms it.
Let’s direct our attention to the scripture passage provided above, Hebrews 2:2-4. In verse 2, the writer(s) of the epistle compares the new covenant (our great salvation) to the old covenant (where angels spoke words that could not be changed, where sins and disobedience resulted in all sorts of penalties such as death). The writer says that if the old covenant had harsh penalties where one could die for sin and disobedience, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3, NASB)?
Notice two things here. First, our salvation is “great.” Second, notice that we will suffer penalty if we “neglect” salvation. What does it mean to “neglect” salvation? The word means “to be careless of” or “to pay no attention to” (http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/ameleo.html).
One who neglects salvation is one who gives no thought to living as though he or she is not saved. And the writer says that to do this would result in a greater penalty than sins suffered under the old covenant. In short, one should fear the penalty of the New Covenant more than the Old.
But the writer doesn’t stop there. Yes, our salvation is great. Yes, our salvation in the New Covenant is greater than the supposed “salvation” the Jews believe the Old Covenant provided. But there’s more: not only is the New Covenant better and greater in penalty, it is also true and confirmed as such:
“After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles...” (Heb. 2:3b-4a)
How do we know the salvation of the New Covenant is better and greater and more true than the “salvation” of the Old Covenant? 1) the salvation of the New Covenant was spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself on earth (Mark 1:14); 2) it was confirmed by His followers, the disciples, particularly the apostle Simon Peter (Acts 2:22-36). John “the Beloved Disciple” records this as well, writing to the churches that he had seen with his eyes and heard the words of Christ, the one who was in the beginning with God (1 John 1:1). 3) not only did the apostles, those who heard Christ teach and preach, confirm it by their word of mouth, God also confirmed it along with their testimony, providing signs, wonders, and miracles (see Mark 16:20). If you read Mark 16:20, you’ll see that the text says, “the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.” The Lord had just told the disciples in Mark 16:17 that “these signs will accompany those who have believed.” In other words, the signs would demonstrate the rationality and truth of Christianity.
Last but not least, God also confirmed the truth of Christianity by providing various spiritual gifts to the church, the body of Christ. We can see these in Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12. The believer in Christ can be certain of his salvation because of the spiritual gifts he or she has been given by God. Those gifts manifest themselves in each believer’s life, and the church itself can also confirm with the believer the genuineness of their salvation and their calling from God.
Here in Hebrews 2, we have been given evidences that attest to the truth of Christianity. As I said in an earlier post, the evidence/arguments do not declare Christianity to be true (it is true whether or not I know the evidences or arguments). Nevertheless, the truth will have confirmation. This is where I disagree most with Reformed Epistemology: it claims that the truth is independent of evidence and argument, thereby suggesting that “if there aren’t any” evidences or arguments (Plantinga’s claim), one would still be rational in believing Christianity is true. However, as we have seen in the last post and this one, Christ confirmed that He had risen from the dead with “many convincing proofs”...and the truth of salvation was confirmed with many signs, wonders, miracles, and spiritual gifts. Again, it seems to me that the truth is always confirmed by evidence, evidence that attests to the truth of the claim.
I make the same appeal again I made earlier in the series: Christianity is true whether or not evidence or argument is known by the individual in the same way that a person is either innocent or guilty when walking into a courtroom where he or she is being tried for murder. That person’s innocence or guilt can only come out in the courtroom. In the same way, Christianity’s truth exists before I know any evidence or arguments for it. Nevertheless, there will be evidence to confirm its authenticity. Why? Because the believer and unbeliever live in God’s world, where all truth is God’s truth, and where all truth (like Christ and Christianity) has confirmatory evidence. If there is no evidence, then it is very likely (even highly so) that the claim is not true. God bless.