The Captain of Our Salvation

  • Text: Hebrews 2:1-10
  • Series: Christ in the New Covenant, Pt. 3
  • Date: Sunday, May 13, 2018 – AM
  • Venue: Trinity Baptist Church – Seminole, Oklahoma
  • Speaker: Jared Byrns
  • Audio: mp3

Throughout the first chapter of Hebrews, we have seen how the author argued that Jesus holds a unique place in the new covenant: the ultimate revelation of God, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, the Image and Glory of the Father, our Creator and Judge, the answer to the problem of sin, the Son and Heir of the Father, and the King Who is mightier than the angels. The writer did not hold back in his account of Jesus and packed an enormous number of critical theological points into just fourteen verses.

As he looked at a first-century audience that had grown a little uneasy about Jesus, he must have realized that their faith was wavering because they didn’t truly comprehend Who Jesus is. So he set out to make it crystal clear. He knew that it was vitally important for people to embrace these doctrinal points about Jesus Christ because they have profound implications for the way that we understand our eternal salvation.

We are nearly 2,000 years removed from the Hebrew Christians who were the primary audience for this book, but the truth in it remains the same. If Jesus had just been a man, or some other created being, we would need to look elsewhere for our salvation. We would be crazy not to consider going back to the old covenant of works to try to make peace with God by following the Law—just like they were doing. But if Jesus is the only begotten Son of God—if He is everything that chapter 1 claims—there is absolutely no one better for us to trust to forgive us, save us, and give us peace with God.

Chapter 2 explains this. Building on chapter 1 and everything it teaches about His nature, chapter 2 explains Jesus’ role in salvation. If you haven’t already, please turn with me in your Bibles to Hebrews chapter 2. This morning, we’re going to take a closer look at verses 1-10. It says:

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 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 Ghost, according to his own will?

“For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

This passage is all about the role of Jesus in salvation. It culminates with the writer in verse 10 calling Jesus the Captain of our salvation. Understanding what this means will help us to understand better the whole passage.

The word that we see as Captain is a fascinating word. The word is ἀρχηγός, and it comes from two other Greek words—ἀρχή and ἄγω. Ἀρχή means something that is the first or greatest; we might use the word chief. This little word has also crept into English and made itself a familiar part of our language: an arch-angel is higher than an angel; an arch-duke is more powerful than a duke; an arch-enemy is worse than an enemy. And both mon-archs and olig-archs have power over others. Then there is the word ἄγω; it’s a verb that means to lead or to bring. In either case, one person is causing a second person to move from one place to another with him.

The problem here is that there is no perfect way to translate ἀρχηγός into English. The most literal way might be ‘chief-leader’ or ‘chief-bringer,’ but that still doesn’t quite capture everything that the word means. Captain, in the King James Version, is a decent translation. Some of the others are good as well. The New American Standard Bible calls Jesus the Author of our salvation. The English Standard Version calls Him the Founder of our salvation. The Christian Standard Bible calls Him the Source of our salvation. The New International Version isn’t my favorite version, but I like the word it uses here: it calls Jesus the Pioneer of our salvation. I don’t think any of these translations are inaccurate—but they don’t tell the whole story. And I’m not sure there’s a single English word that does. The bottom line here: He is the Captain, Author, Founder, Source, and even Pioneer of our Salvation.

Mankind was lost in our sins, alienated from God, and without hope of ever finding our way back to Him. Then Jesus showed up. He singlehandedly blazed a straight and narrow trail of His own righteousness between us and the Father, and because we cannot even muster enough righteousness in our sin-sick condition to follow Him, He picks us up and carries us there. Let me say this very clearly: salvation is from first to last the work of Jesus Christ. He is the Author of salvation because this was His plan with His Father before the foundation of the world. He is the Founder of salvation because there would be no way if He hadn’t made one. He is the Source of salvation because He shed His blood and died to pay for our sins in full. He is the Pioneer of salvation because He showed us the way to the Father. And He is the Captain of salvation because He will lead us there. He is the Chief-Bringer. If you need to move from darkness to light, from sin to salvation, from slavery with Satan to fellowship with God, from Hell-bound to Heaven-bound, then Jesus alone is the Chief-Bringer—the Captain of salvation—Who can move you from one place to the other.

Verse 1 tells us to “give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard.” What this verse is referring to when it says the things we have heard is the truth about Jesus. The writer was telling his audience: ‘Go back to chapter 1,’ not that they had chapters in those days. He had just explained to them in great detail Who Jesus is. They knew this. So he advised them to give the more earnest heed to what they already knew about Jesus. In other words: pay close attention; focus on this; keep it in the forefront of your minds.

It is necessary for us to keep ourselves reminded of Who Jesus is and all that He has done for us. Why? The author of Hebrews said, “lest at any time we should let them slip.” If we don’t intentionally stay focused on Jesus, our focus will drift unintentionally. The text is a little more descriptive than that. There’s another significant Greek word here, παραρρέω, which is translated as ‘slip.’ This word would be used to describe something flowing through something else—like liquid through a leaky vessel. Picture a colander under the faucet; it doesn’t matter how long you run water into it, it will never fill up because the water flows right back out. Isn’t that a pretty accurate description of our minds sometimes? I’m sure I’m not the only one here who goes to Walmart and comes back with a ton of stuff—only to realize that I’ve forgotten the one thing I went for in the first place. There’s a reason I tell you to write things down for me, like prayer requests and announcements. I have παραρρέωof the brain, and you can’t get upset with me for it—Hebrews says this is how we are. Keep the truth about Jesus at the forefront of your minds—on purpose—or it will slip.

Now, let’s look at verse 2. The writer referred again to the angels. It says, “For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward.” When he mentioned the word spoken by the angels, the writer wasn’t talking about anything the angels had said on their own behalf; he wasn’t referring to the angels’ opinions. He was talking about the Law of God. In Deuteronomy chapter 33, Moses described how God came with His angels to bring the Law. The King James Version, in Deuteronomy 33:2, calls them “saints,” but the Hebrew word qôdeshmeans “holy ones.” Saint is one correct translation, but the context indicates that Moses is referring to the angels. The martyr Stephen confirmed this in Acts 7:38, and then again in verse 53, where he said the Israelites had “received the law by the disposition of angels.” Then he wrote, “and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward.” They understood the certainty of judgment. God sees all things, and as a righteous Judge will mete out the appropriate consequence for every single act of disobedience.

So here in verse 2, we see that it’s describing the Law of God and setting up a cause and effect statement: something that says, because this is true, then that is true. So, the writer of Hebrews set up this statement of cause and effect, beginning in verse 2. The first part of the cause says, “if the word spoken by angels was stedfast.” The second part of the cause says, “and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward.” We have these two statements where the word ‘if’ essentially means ‘because.’ Because the standard of righteousness codified in the Law of God is unchanging, and because we can be confident that not even the slightest sin escapes the notice and judgment of God—then there is a conclusion that we must reasonably draw. What is it?

Look at verse 3. It says, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” This question is a rhetorical one, meant to make the readers understand that we can’t escape the judgment of God. And the writer said we wouldn’t escape if we neglect God’s salvation.

How does someone neglect salvation? Think back to what we’ve already read. Everything the writer said to them in chapter 1 was about the unique role of Jesus, especially in salvation, when they were having second thoughts about their old covenant. This whole book was written because people were considering looking elsewhere for their salvation. Chapter 10 talks about people who claimed to be believers but who ended up walking away. Hebrews 10:38-39 says, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” We are justified by faith in Christ; if we don’t have faith in Him, there is no justification. Furthermore, if you draw back from faith in Him, it’s evidence that you were never justified in the first place. Only by faith in Christ can we be justified before the Father.

So, he was writing to a group of people who were having second thoughts about Jesus. He reminded them precisely Who Jesus is and what He did to be the one and only Savior of mankind, and he told them to keep these things purposely in mind. Just after that, he warned them about neglecting salvation. So, again, how does someone neglect salvation? By refusing to believe in Jesus as our Savior and deciding that we’d just as soon look for salvation elsewhere. And it doesn’t matter where: maybe it’s in our works, maybe it’s in a different religion or philosophy, maybe it’s in merely hoping that we don’t meet the judgment of God. Regardless, when we look for our salvation elsewhere, we are neglecting the salvation that He provided.

That is the point of the cause and effect statement here in verses 2 and 3: the cause is the holiness and justice of God, and the effect is the certainty of judgment. Distilling this down even further, because God is holy and just, we will not escape judgment without receiving the mercy He offers in Jesus Christ.

This salvation is called “so great.” You and I were wholly and utterly lost in sin, unable to do anything to improve our situation, let alone save ourselves. But no matter how great our condemnation is for all the sin and disobedience in our lives, God’s salvation is greater.

While you deserved death and separation from God in a literal Hell, Jesus died to pay your penalty in full and bear the weight of the punishment for your sin. God’s salvation, offered through Jesus Christ, is great because it offers us a way to escape eternal separation and be reconciled to the Father. But it’s also great because of what it tells us about the God we worship. Through the plan of salvation, we see His holiness and His disdain for sin. We also see His love and His mercy in the lengths to which He went to carry out His redemptive plans. Before He ever created us, God knew how much trouble we would be—but He loved us and created us anyway. Jesus knew ahead of time that He would have to die to save us, and He went ahead with His plans out of love for us.

Verse 3 says that this salvation was “at the first began to be spoken by the Lord.” Jesus planned to purchase our salvation on the cross long before He was ever nailed to it. And He was preparing people for the message of salvation all along. He began preaching the Gospel from the earliest days of His earthly ministry. Matthew 4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But it didn’t begin there. Throughout the old covenant, when the prophets brought messages about salvation, which would lead invariably to the Messiah and the new covenant, they spoke on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The end of verse 3 says that the message of salvation “was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” How would they know that Jesus actually did these things and taught these things? They had the apostles, eyewitnesses to every single day of Jesus’ ministry to confirm it.

Now, as if all this wasn’t enough to make them sure about the Captain of their salvation, look at verse 4. It says, “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit confirmed the message of salvation through miracles and signs. The Father sent miracles and signs to point people to Jesus, the Son performed miracles and signs to prove that He is the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit performed signs and miracles through the apostles to validate their preaching to their audiences.

All of this was meant to point people to Jesus as the Captain of their salvation. Next Sunday, we’ll look at the following six verses together and see how the writer of Hebrews continued to make this point. But for today, I want to stop at verse 4 and stress what these verses have already shown us.

Jesus is the Captain of your salvation. That was the plan of God before the world began, and every significant event or teaching in the Old Testament moved the world one step closer to the day when Jesus Christ would fulfill this plan. Then, Romans 5:6 tells us, “in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” At just the right time, when all was prepared according to the Father’s plans, Jesus died for us. He died for us in spite of our rebellious nature and died to show God’s great love and mercy toward undeserving sinners. Romans 5:8 says, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ, this Captain of your salvation, stepped forward to take your place—and the cross shows us not only how much God hates sin, but more than that, how much He loves you.

So, this morning, I have to reiterate that Jesus is the Captain of your salvation. He is the Author, the Founder, the Source, and the Pioneer. He is the only One Who can bring you out of the darkness, depravity, and isolation of sin and into a right relationship with the Father. He can do this for you today, because the eternal consequences of your sin have already been handed down and He paid them in full. He died for you, to pay for your sins. And now He offers salvation as a gift to you. When you receive salvation, your sins are forgiven, you are at peace with God, and you have the promise of eternal life in Heaven. He offers you all of this as a gift—you can’t earn it or deserve it. He paid for it. All that you must do is recognize that you are a sinner, that your sin has separated you from God, and that you need a Savior. You must believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins in full and rose from the dead. And once you are convinced that only Jesus can save you, you can ask God’s forgiveness because of what Jesus Christ did. He will save you—forgive you, give you peace with God, and prepare a place for you in Heaven. You may think, ‘That can’t be all there is to it. Surely I have to do something.’ My friend, if you could do something to save yourself, then what Jesus did on the cross was an unnecessary and tragic mistake. He died for us because there was no other way to atone for the sins we have committed.

And let me caution you against trying to find your own way to Heaven or peace with God. That was the whole point of verses 2 and 3, which we’ve looked at today. God’s Law teaches us that His standard is absolute sinless perfection, and not one sin will go unnoticed or unpunished. If both of those things are true, then there is unquestionably no way to escape the righteous judgment of God unless we flee from it by the escape route He has provided in Jesus Christ. Verse 3 says, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” We will not escape if we reject the way out that God has offered and try to find our own way instead.

If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, today would be a great day to do so. It is as simple as I’ve outlined for you: recognize your sin and need for a Savior, believe that Jesus died to pay for your sins and save you, and ask God’s forgiveness for the sin in your heart that has led you to rebel against Him. In just a moment, we’re going to stand and sing a hymn at the end of the service. I invite you to respond to God’s offer of salvation. If you have questions, if you’d like someone to talk with you or pray with you, if you’re struggling with this issue in any way, you’re welcome to come forward and visit with me or someone else. You can pull someone aside on your row or seated near you, if that’s more agreeable. We have a number of people in this room who would love to talk to you about Jesus Christ. But also, know this, you can trust Christ and receive Him as your Savior right where you are. This morning, maybe the Bible has convinced you of your need for Jesus and the Holy Spirit has made it all very clear to you; perhaps you know exactly what you need to do. I’d invite you to pray, ask God’s forgiveness, and receive Christ as your Savior right where you are. There’s nothing magical about the front of the auditorium here. Wherever and whenever the Holy Spirit of God convicts your heart and draws you to Jesus, you can ask God to forgive you, and you can be saved.

Now, to those of you who are believers—those who’ve already trusted in Christ for their salvation—let’s back up even further to verse 1. This verse is essential for us today. It says, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” We can’t afford to coast in our Christian life and just run on autopilot. Every day, we need to place and re-place our focus on Jesus Christ purposely. We need to get up every morning with our minds attuned to Him: remembering Who He is and what it means that we have been bought with the precious blood of the Son of God. Keeping Him in the forefront of our attention should cause us to seek to please Him, obey Him, and honor Him; it should make us grateful for all that He’s done for us. But we have to be intentional. The Bible calls us to give this earnest heed to what we’ve heard—focus, remember Who He is. Because if we’re not intentional about it, we’ll let it slip. It’s human nature.

Those of you who are believers, let me ask you this question: Is the Captain of your salvation at the forefront of your mind every day, or is he just an addition to your life that you focus on and ignore as you feel the need? I’m telling you—no, the Bible is telling you that if you’re not focused on Him on purpose, your focus will drift by accident. Verse 1 is a heartfelt appeal from the writer of Hebrews. He was genuinely concerned about the people in His day and the possibility that they would allow their faith to be undermined because their focus wasn’t fixed squarely on Jesus. The same thing can happen to us.

Today, if you realize that you’ve been looking at Jesus—the Captain of your salvation—as something incidental to your life, Someone Who’s there when you need Him but doesn’t make all that much difference, let me tell you, you’re on dangerous ground. Just like Peter, who walked across the water to Jesus but began to sink when he stopped to look at the threatening waves, your faith will only be as strong as your focus on Jesus. We can confess to God the difficulties we have in keeping our focus on Jesus, and we can ask Him to help us “give the more earnest heed” to Jesus. When we pray for God to help us be obedient, I believe that’s a request that God is glad to grant.

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The above text is a rush transcript of the message and may contain errors.

© 2018, Jared Byrns. All rights reserved.