Our need for instant gratification is incessant. As a culture, we want more and we want it faster. We grow impatient if a Google search takes 0.002 seconds to produce results instead of the much more acceptable 0.00000002 seconds. I think this is one reason why we are attracted to salvation moments rather than salvation journeys. I think this is why we easily understand and rejoice in justification, but are perplexed by sanctification. It could be why biblical warnings against falling away make our theological bones shiver.
Salvation is more like a line than a point. As Christians, we were saved, are being saved, and one day will be saved. In one sense, we are as saved as we ever will be (justification). However, we also are being saved day by day as we grow in Christlikeness (sanctification). Still, yet, we have yet to be saved. We are all awaiting final salvation when the presence of sin is no more and we dwell with our God in a new earth.
If we aren’t careful, we may become content in merely knowing the gospel without concern for growing in the gospel. We are prone to abuse biblical truth like justification by faith alone. Many of us view repentance and faith as absolutely necessary. Steady growth in godliness, however, feels more optional. Maybe we’re just so leery of works-based righteousness that we only speak of salvation in terms of justification. While we are indeed justified by faith alone, that faith is never alone. Everyone who is justified before God is being sanctified (Rom. 8:30). I think our narrow focus on justification is one reason we become uncomfortable with warning passages like Hebrews 2:1.
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” We who believe in eternal security or the perseverance of the saints naturally balk at such a warning. Surely it’s not possible for a true Christian to drift away from the gospel. Or, if we do drift away, surely it’s not in any eternally significant way. After all, the one who is in Jesus, yet far from him, is still in Jesus. So why the warning against drifting away?
The author of Hebrews exhorts us to pay attention to the revelation of the gospel so we won’t drift away. We who have received the gospel are even more accountable for our disobedience and rebellion than those who came before us (Heb. 2:2-4). We have received much, so much will be required (Luke 12:48). Previously, God revealed himself specifically to certain individuals, like the Patriarchs. He also revealed himself to Moses and Israel through the Law and later through the prophets. But now, God has finally and fully revealed himself in the person and work of his Son (Heb. 1:1-3). The greater the degree of revelation, the greater the degree of expectation. We have no excuse because all we need to know about God has been revealed.
God has clearly revealed himself through his Son. This Jesus was made lower than the angels as he took on flesh. He who owns galaxies became subject to the world he created. But through his subjection to the worst our broken world has to offer, all was subjected to him. He was crowned with glory and honor precisely because he took on a crown of suffering and shame. The good news of God’s grace clearly revealed to the saints is that Jesus tasted death so we may taste life. Through the suffering and shame of the One for whom and by whom all things exist, many sons are brought to immeasurable glory.
This is the gospel. This gospel is our food. It is nourishment for our souls. We forget it to our detriment, maybe even to our damnation. Make no mistake, growth in the gospel is necessary for salvation because all who are justified will be sanctified. The Israelites who rejected the revelation of God in the Law were exiled, banished from God’s presence. So too will it be for any who claim to have life in Christ yet reject the nourishment of the gospel. A life that fails to depend on God’s grace in the gospel is one that refuses to freely drink from the living water Christ offers.
In short, if you neglect the grace of God revealed in Christ, you will drift away from it. And if you drift away from the only source of life, you will die. So, remind yourself of the gospel. Your life depends on it. Be warned and be encouraged because all who chase the gospel and find it’s taste insatiable show they are secure in the Savior’s loving and powerful grasp. He will never let you go.