“The Sword of the Lord” – Hebrews 4:12-13

September 9th,  2018

Hebrews 4:12-13

“The Sword of the Lord”

Aux. Text: 2 Tim 3:15-17

Call to Worship: Psalm 19:7-14

 

Service Orientation: Our natural hearts are deceitfully wicked.  Our unredeemed minds can justify any wicked thought or action.  If we are willing to submit to the Word of God it will judge our thoughts and the attitudes of our hearts.  Do we have the courage to face the truth?

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. — Hebrews 4:12

 

Background Information:

  • In the last section of the author’s discussion about the rest of God that is reserved for the believers, the focus is on the power of God’s Word (v. 12) and on man’s inability to hide from that Word (v. 13). (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 115)
  • What should be pointed out from the beginning is that this description of God’s word echoes the author’s treatment of Psalm 95, with its emphasis on the “voice” of God that we should “hear” (95:7). Psalm 95, therefore, forms the basis for the author’s comments on “the word” in Heb 4:12-13.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 155)
  • (v. 12) A strong connection undoubtedly exists between this verse and the last. The warning was based in fact on the nature of the divine revelation.  It was of such a character that its claims could not be dismissed as of no consequence.  Indeed the powerful qualities of the word are described by means of an impressive metaphor, which emphasizes not only the activity, but also the effectiveness of the word of God.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 116-7)
  • (v. 12) The expression double-edged sword ought not be taken literally and thus interpreted to mean that one edge is directed toward believers and the other toward unbelievers. The writer uses symbolism to imply that the Word of God does indeed “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 119)
  • (v. 13) The word translated “uncovered” (gymnos), which normally communicates nakedness or having a lack of adequate clothing, was also used figuratively of being helpless or unprotected. In the context of God’s penetrating word, the concept calls to mind a complete inability to hide anything from God’s gaze.  Those who have not responded to God’s word in obedience are spiritually naked, vulnerable before his awesome gaze.  A similar imagery is evoked by the participle translated “laid bare,” which means “exposed.”  This theme of complete exposure and vulnerability of all creation before God was common in Jewish theology of the era.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 156)
  • (v. 13) (laid bare – NIV) . . .was a wrestler’s word and was used for seizing an opponent by the throat in such a way that he could not move.  We may escape God for long enough but in the end he grips us in such a way that we cannot help meeting him face to face.  God is one issue that no man can finally evade.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 40)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . Why does the writer of Hebrews make these statements about the Word of God here?  What does he hope to accomplish?

 

Answer:  I believe he is trying to get his audience to see that in order to accurately “see Jesus” and keep their eyes fixed on Jesus, they must first identify and come to terms with the perspective in which they are approaching the Word of God in both flesh and print.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Word

 

He has told us that His Word is…

 

• A Mirror: Therefore, I need to read to see myself as I really am in the light of what the text is saying.

• A Seed: I permit the Word to be implanted deep in my heart and then envision what the fruit will be if I water and nurture it with care.

• A Sword: The two-edged kind that pierces through all the externals and reveals the deepest secrets and motives.  In this metaphor it is essential to let the Word cut where it will and to honestly admit and submit to its surgery.

• A Lamp: It gives guidance and direction in the darkness of life.

• Bread For My Soul: I need to let the Word of God nourish my soul through reading it to feed me, not just to inform me.  When my soul is touched by a truth, encouragement, comfort, reproof, or insight from God’s Word, it’s a moment of feeding.   (Joseph M. Stowell, Experiencing Intimacy With God, 30)

 

The reason for this Bible centeredness is obvious:  faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17).  It is by the word that we are born again (1 Pt 1:23-25).  We grow by the “pure milk of the word” (2:2).  We are sanctified by the truth of God’s word (Jn 17:17).  God’s word is profitable and equips us for every good work (2 Tm 3:16-17).  God’s word is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).  It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).  It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16; cf. 1 Cor 2:4; 1 Thess 1:5).  It performs its work in us (2:13).  It is “like fire…and like a hammer which shatters a rock” (Jer 23:29).  It does not return void, God says, “without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isa 55:11).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 275)

 

How does the Word of God help us to see Jesus?:

I-  The Word of God is Truth revealed in both print and flesh. (Heb 1:1-4; Ps 19:7-14; 119; Jn 1:1-14; 14:6; Rom 10:17; Jam 1:23-24; Rv 19:13)

 

It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God.   The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him. (C. S. Lewis; Letters of C. S. Lewis, 247)

 

The word of God, when no further qualification is added, is his speaking, his communicating.  When God speaks, he expresses his mind, his character and his purposes.  Thus God is always present with his word.  (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 159)

 

The Word became flesh—and then through theologians it became words again. —  Karl Barth

 

To the Jews, it was a serious thing for God to speak.  To them, His Word was not just a matter of sounds with words attached to them–it was a power.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 95-6)

 

The Word is not a written document of past centuries.  It is alive and current; it is powerful and effective; and it is undivided and unchanged.  Written in times and cultures from which we are far removed, the Word of God nevertheless touches man today.  God addresses man in the totality of his existence, and man is unable to escape the impact of God’s Word.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 118)

 

If a revelation is to have meaning for us it must be real in the sense that life itself is.  A hundred and fifty years ago Lessing declared that a permanent faith cannot be based on contingent facts of history; and this principle appealed to many as self-evident, and seemed to spell the doom of historical Christianity.  Yet the modern mind has found itself driven almost to reverse it.  Apart from the facts of history there can be no sure basis for faith.  Ideas in themselves have no true existence, and remain outside of our life.  Before we can lay hold of God he must enter into this world of reality of which we form a part.  The Word must become flesh.  (Ernest Findlay Scott, D.D., The Validity of the Gospel Record, 193)

 

A leader coins a phrase and it becomes a trumpet-call which kindles men to crusades or to crimes.  Some great man sends forth a manifesto and it produces action which can make or destroy nations.  Over and over again in history the spoken word of some leader or thinker has gone out and done things.  If that be so of the words of men, how much more is it so of the word of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 39)

 

The former adjective stands at the head of the verse, perhaps for emphasis, and asserts that the word, rather than being outdated, a “dead” speech-act of a bygone era, still exists as a dynamic force with which one must reckon.  “Active” proclaims the word as effective in carrying out God’s intentions.  The same word that at creation set the elements of the cosmos to their appointed tasks and still governs the universe toward God’s desired intentions (1:2-3), has the ability to effect change in people.  It is not static and passive but dynamic, interactive, and transforming as it interfaces with the people of God.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 156)

 

The intent then of a rabbi having a yoke wasn’t just to interpret the words correctly; it was to live them out.  In the Jewish context, action was always the goal.  It still is.  Rabbis would spend hours discussing with their students what it meant to live out a certain text.  If a student made a suggestion about what a certain text meant and the rabbi thought the student had totally missed the point, the rabbi would say, “You have abolished the Torah,” which meant that in the rabbi’s opinion, the student wasn’t anywhere near what God wanted.  But if the student got it right, if the rabbi thought the student had grasped God’s intention in the text, the rabbi would say, “You have fulfilled Torah.”  Notice what Jesus says in one of his first messages: “I have not come to abolish [the Torah] but to fulfill [it].”  He was essentially saying, “I didn’t come to do away with the words of God; I came to show people what it looks like when the Torah is lived out perfectly, right down to the smallest punctuation marks.”  (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis Repainting the Christian Faith, 47-8)

 

The demands of the word of God require decisions.  We not only listen to it, we let it shape our lives.  Because the word of God is living, it applied to these first-century Jewish Christians, and it applies as well as to Christians today.  The word of God lives, and it gives life to those who believe–energizing this present life and promising eternal life.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 56)

 

II-  The Word of God is living and active.  It cuts through self-deception and accurately judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  (Heb 4:12; see also: Ps 90:8; 139; Isa 49:2; 55:11; Jer 23:29; Mt 15:6; Mk 7:13; Lk 8:1-15; Eph 6:17; Rv 1:16; 2:12; 19:15)

 

(Heb 4:11-12) The Greek word for open means “uncovered,” and the term translated laid bare comes from the Greek word from which we get our English word trachea.  Some background information will help us understand the meaning of laid bare.  When an animal was sacrificed during the first century, its head was raised so that its throat would be exposed.  Then the priest would plunge his knife deep into the animal’s throat and draw out its blood for the sacrifice.  In other terms, when God’s Word lays our lives bare, it goes for the jugular.  And since we always need the great Physician’s touch, we always find His Word–the printed scalpel–cutting into our lives so that we can experience His healing power.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 48-9)

 

God’s Word can distinguish between the raw drives of the human organism (sex, hunger, survival), and the effects those have on his thoughts.  It even is aware of the effect of his sub-conscious forces on his decisions.  So when a man makes a decision about the things of God, whether to obey or not to obey, the Word knows what is behind the decision.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 97)

 

With “joints” and “marrow” the author advances a slightly different thought.  God’s word with its cutting edge lays bare the joints where the bones meet and even the bones themselves where the marrow lies.  So deeply the word penetrates into man’s innermost being, exposing his most secret parts.  The people who heard Peter’s sermon on Pentecost knew about the penetrating action of this double-edged sword.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 40)

 

Of all forms of deception self-deception is the most deadly, and of all deceived persons the self-deceived are the least likely to discover the fraud.

The reason for this is simple.  When a man is deceived by another he is deceived against his will.  He is contending against an adversary and is temporarily the victim of the other’s guile.  Since he expects his foe to take advantage of him he is watchful and quick to suspect trickery.  Under such circumstances it is possible to be deceived sometimes and for a short while, but because the victim is resisting he may break out of the trap and escape before too long.

With the self-deceived it is quite different.  He is his own enemy and is working a fraud upon himself.  He wants to believe the lie and is psychologically conditioned to do so.  He does not resist the deceit but collaborates with it against himself.  There is no struggle, because the victim surrenders before the fight begins.  He enjoys being deceived.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 88)

 

God uses his word to penetrate man’s stubborn and rebellious heart, for he knows how much we need it; he sees what is really there.  He looks right below the extremely thin veneer of merely outward piety to the true thoughts of man.  He can test man’s sincerity.  Nothing whatever is hidden from his searching gaze.  Everything is exposed to his sight.  In view of this, how ridiculous is our pretense and how nauseating our hypocrisy.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 92)

 

We may appear to be utterly sincere before other humans but God knows if there is an ulterior motive.  God’s word is like a two-edged sword, sharp as a scalpel, discerning every twist and turn of the human mind.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 104)

 

Self-deception is “corrupted consciousness,” says Lewis Smedes.  Whether fear, passion, weariness, or even faith prompts it, self-deception, like a skillful computer fraud, doubles back to cover its own trail.  “First we deceive ourselves, and then we convince ourselves that we are not deceiving ourselves.”   (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 107)

 

Although it has been suggested that the division is of soul (psychē) from spirit (pneuma), it seems better to suppose that the penetration is into soul as well as spirit, i.e. its action brings out the true nature of both.  In this case the Word would be seen as penetrating the whole person, both soul and spirit.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 118)

 

It is quite difficult to break the power of religious self-deception, for the very nature of faith is to give no room for doubt.  Once a person is deceived, he does not recognize that he is deceived, because he has been deceived!  For all that we think we know, we must know this as well: we can be wrong.  If we refuse to accept this truth, how will we ever be corrected from our errors?  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 30)

 

The word rendered “laid bare” (trachēlizō) is an unusual one, found here only in the NT and not very common outside it.  It is obviously connected with the neck (trachēlos), but just how is not clear.  It was used of wrestlers who had a hold that involved gripping the neck and was such a powerful hold that it brought victory.  So the term can mean “to prostrate” or “overthrow.”  Those who accept this meaning render this verse in this way:  “All things are naked and prostrate before his eyes.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 45)

 

God will discern whether or not we make every effort (4:11) and whether or not we have truly come to faith in Christ; nothing can be hidden from God.  We may fool ourselves or other Christians with our spiritual lives, but we cannot deceive God.  He knows who we really are because the word of God is living and powerful.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 55)

 

In the ancient world, the double-edged sword was the sharpest weapon available in any arsenal.  And in verse 12b, the author of Hebrews likens the Word of God to this weapon.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 116)

 

Fellow-believers, if we really want to understand ourselves, we must fill our souls with God’s Word.  God’s Word–read, mediated upon, and prayerfully applied–will give us brilliant discernment and profound self-knowledge.  James indicates that God’s Word functions as a mirror revealing who and what we really are (cf. Jam 1:23, 24).  This gift of self-knowledge is no small grace because when we grasp something of the serpentine ways of our hearts, we are disposed to cast ourselves even more on God’s grace.  And that is no small grace!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 122)

 

The word of God exhibits an uncanny ability to judge (4:12).  The Greek word kritikos (2924) is not meant in a legal or judicial sense, but in a mental sense of discerning, analyzing, or scrutinizing.  In fact, we get our words critical, criticize, and critique from this term.  The word of God is able to sift through the “thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  That is, God’s probing truth functions like a high-resolution body scan that can show details nothing else can reveal.  It exposes our deepest feelings, desires, instincts, passions, and motives.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 71-2)

 

That the Word is living shows that it reflects the true character of God himself, the source of all life.  This kind of life is full of energy to achieve its declared end.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 117)

 

Elsewhere in the NT, authors associate the sword imagery with the word of God.  For example, in Eph 6:17 the word of God is referred to as “the sword of the spirit;” in Rv 1:16; 2:12; and 19:15 the “sharp sword” proceeds from the mouth of the Son of Man, a symbol of the dynamic, spoken word of judgment.  In Heb 4:12-13 the word is a sharp word of discernment, which penetrates the darkest corners of human existence.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 156)

 

Who is able to divide soul and spirit or joints and marrow?  And what judge can know the thoughts and attitudes of the heart?  The author uses symbolism to say that what man ordinarily does not divide, God’s Word separates thoroughly.  Nothing remains untouched by Scripture, for it addresses every aspect of man’s life.  The Word continues to divide the spiritual existence of man and even his physical being.  All the recesses of body and soul–including the thoughts and attitudes–face the sharp edge of God’s probing eye, God’s Word uncovers them.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 117)

 

What the author is saying is that God’s Word can reach to the innermost recesses of our being. We must not think that we can bluff our way out of anything, for there are no secrets hidden from God.  We cannot keep our thoughts to ourselves.  There may also be the thought that the whole of man’s nature, however we divide it, physical as well as nonmaterial, is open to God.  With “judges” we move to legal terminology.  The Word of God passes judgment on men’s feelings (enthymēseōn) and on their thoughts (ennoiōn).  Nothing evades the scope of this Word.  What man holds as most secret he finds subject to its scrutiny and judgment.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 44)

 

In listing the parts of a person on which the word acts–“soul and spirit, joints and marrow”–the preacher simply proclaims the word’s ability to break past a surface religion to an inner, spiritual reality.  Rather than dealing with externals such as religious observance, the penetrating word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 156)

 

“Living and active” shows that there is a dynamic quality about God’s revelation.  It does things.  Specifically it penetrates and, in this capacity, is likened to a “double-edged sword” (for the sword, cf. Isa 49:2; Eph 6:17; Rv 19:15; and for the doubled-edged idea, cf. Rv 1:16; 2:12).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 44)

 

“Nothing in all creation,” or, “no created being” (ktisis means “the act of creating” and then “a created being,” “a creature”), remains invisible to God.  “Uncovered” renders gymna, a word used of the soul being without the body (2 Cor 5:3), of a bare kernel of grain (1 Cor 15:37), or of a body without clothing (Acts 19:16).  Here it means that all things are truly uncovered before God.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 45)

 

The mention of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow, then, serves to convey effectively the notion of the extreme power of penetration of the word of God, to the very core of man’s being.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 166)

 

“O thou elect blade and sharpest sword,” exclaims an ancient author, “who art able powerfully to penetrate the hard shell of the human heart, transfix my heart with the shaft of thy love. . . Pierce, O Lord, pierce, I beseech thee, this most obdurate mind of mine with the holy and powerful rapier of thy grace.”  (Liver Meditationum xxvii, in Augustini Opera, IX)  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 166)

 

This profound and solemn truth is one that man in his fallenness does not like to face:  it is damaging to his self-esteem; it destroys his proud pretensions to wisdom and competence; and it discloses the futile superficiality of all the elaborate defenses which he seeks to erect against God (cf. 2 Cor 10:4f.).  But God sees all things, as man never can, in the ultimate light of their undisguised reality; his gaze penetrates beneath the surface and beyond every specious facade to the radical heart of our being (cf. 1 Sm 16:7).  Indeed, a man’s knowledge even of his own self is faulty and inadequate; and wisdom begins in his recognition of this fact and in the prayer that God therefore will search him and know him and reveal to him the true depths of his depravity and also the wonders of divine grace (cf. Ps 139).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 167-8)

 

Let us then know that the Apostle speaks generally of the truth of God, when he says, that it is living and efficacious.  So Paul testifies, when he declares, that by his preaching there went forth an odor of death unto death to the unbelieving, but of life unto life to believers, (2 Cor 2:16) so that God never speaks in vain; he draws some to salvation, others he drives into ruin.  This is the power of binding and of loosing which the Lord conferred on his Apostles (Mt 18:18).  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 102)

 

When God wills it, his Word will pierce anyone.  George Whitefield, the great eighteenth-century evangelist, was hounded by a group of detractors who called themselves the “Hell-fire Club,” derided his work, and mocked him.  On one occasion one of them, a man named Thorpe, was mimicking Whitefield to his cronies, delivering his sermon with brilliant accuracy, perfectly imitating his tone and facial expressions, when he himself was so pierced that he sat down and was converted on the spot!  Mr. Thorpe went on to become a prominent Christian leader in the city of Bristol. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 121)

 

III-  The Word of God exposes everything so we can know where we stand before Him to Whom we must one day give account.  (Heb 4:13; see also: Jn 12:47-48; Gal 3:24; Eph 5:28; Col 3:16; 2 Tm 3:16-17; Jam 1:18) 

 

The Word of God now exposes his innermost being.  Having eyes to see, he discovers, for the first time, what a vile, depraved and hell-deserving creature he is.  Though, in the mercy of God, he may have been preserved from much outward wickedness in his unregenerate days, and so passed among his fellows as an exemplary character, he now perceives that there dwelleth “no good thing” in him, that every thought and intent of his desperately-wicked heart had, all his life, been contrary to the requirements and claims of a holy God.  The Word has searched him out, and discovered him to himself.  He sees himself a lost, ruined, undone sinner.  This is ever the first conscious effect of the new birth, for one who is still “dead in trespasses and sins” has no realization of this awful condition before God.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 217-8)

 

Make no mistake about it, dear friend, the thrice holy God of Scripture “requireth truth in the inward parts” (Ps 51:6).  If the Word of God has searched you out, then you cried with Isaiah “Woe is me! for I am undone” (6:5); with Job, “I abhor myself” (42:6); with the publican, “God be merciful to me the sinner” (Lk 18:13).  But if you are a stranger to these experiences, no matter what your profession or performances, no matter how highly you may think of yourself or Christians think of you, God says you are still dead in sin.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 218)

 

This solemn thought prepares the way for the second main part of the epistle in which the purpose and effectiveness of the high-priestly work of Christ is expounded.  The fact that nothing can be concealed makes all the more pressing the need for an effective representative who can act on behalf of men.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 119)

 

We may conceal our inner being from our neighbors, and we can even deceive ourselves; but nothing escapes the scrutiny of God; before him everything lies exposed and powerless.  And it is to him, not to our fellow-men or to our own conscience, that our final account must be rendered.  Stripped of all disguise and protection, we are utterly at the mercy of God, the Judge of all.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 114)

 

It is a judge of the thoughts of men.  And the Word of God is such a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart that when men twist about, and wind, and wander, yet it tracks them.  There is nothing so difficult to get at as a man.  You may hunt a badger, and run down a fox, but you cannot get at a man–he has so many doublings and hiding places.  Yet the Word of God will dig him out, and seize on him.  When the Spirit of God works with the gospel, the man may dodge, and twist, but the preaching goes to his heart and conscience, and he is made to feel it, and to yield to its force.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 104)

 

If we will not have it judge us now, it will condemn us hereafter.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 161)

 

To the unbeliever this thought is law, warning him that God cannot be fooled, neither will he be mocked.  To the believer this thought is gospel, warming him with the thought that God knows all his weaknesses and stands ready to provide in Christ all that is needed.  How vital for both is the recurring theme of this chapter, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 41-2)

 

Two thoughts are presented by the phrase “everything is uncovered and laid bare.”  (1) We are naked before God.  We cannot give excuses, justifications, or reasons–everything is seen for exactly what it is.  No one can deceive God.  (2) We are exposed, powerless, and defenseless before God.  The word refers to the paralyzing grip of a wrestler in a choke hold.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 58)

 

Based on insights gained from Genesis 2 this rest consists of resting from one’s own work as God did from his work on the seventh day.  This, however, does not mean a cessation of effort but rather an obedient, active dependence on God.  The powerful language of 4:12-13, by contrast, reminds the listeners that God is not casual in assessing their spiritual condition.  Rather, his word cuts deeply to the darkest corners of the inner life and lays bare spiritual realities that one might wish to keep hidden.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 157)

 

The first word of this verse (which has the force of “because”) denotes that the apostle is here furnishing further reason why professing Christians should give diligence in pressing forward to the rest which is set before them.  That reason is drawn from the nature of and the effects produced by the Word of God.  This verse and the one which follows appear to be brought in for the purpose of testing profession and enabling exercised souls to discover whether or not they have been born again.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 216)

 

If special significance is to be assigned to the details of symbolical language–and it is a procedure which is open to some question–it would be preferable to suggest that the word of God, like a sword with two sharp edges, always cuts with one side or the other, that is to say, either in a saving or in a judging manner.  Thus, on the one hand, Christ proclaims, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Jn 6:63), and, on the other hand, he says of him who rejects him, “The word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day” (Jn 12:48).  The same sword cuts both with an edge of life and with an edge of death (cf. 2 Cor 2:15f.).  With this sword Peter cut his hearers to the heart savingly on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37) and shortly after pierced the consciences of another audience to their condemnation (Acts 5:33; cf. 7:54).  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 165)

 

If we say we didn’t understand Him, that we weren’t sure the Bible meant what it said, He will know how much light we had and how we acted on that light.  When He assigns us our future status (jobs), it will be a just decision.  We will not have a single complaint.  The recording of our thoughts and motives will prove Him to be right.  We may see ourselves as fairly good Christians, but in the day when we stand before Him, stripped and naked of all pretense, we will be seen as we really are.  Before His holy presence we may want to hang our heads in shame for the way we’ve treated Him and the opportunity He has given us.  We’ll wish we’d forsaken everything for Him, but it will be too late.  If I read the author correctly, we won’t even be able to hang our heads in shame.  He has chosen a remarkable word from the Greek to picture our nakedness before God.  We are to see a man being led to judgment with a knife point held under his chin so that he can’t bow his head.  He has to look the judge squarely in the face, unable to turn his face aside in shame.  This is the writer’s way of exhorting his readers to heed God’s voice NOW and act on Jesus’ Word.  He doesn’t want them ashamed to look the Lord in the face on that day.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 99)

 

The word of God cannot be taken for granted or disobeyed.  The Israelites who rebelled (described at length in previous verses) learned the hard way that when God speaks, they must listen.  Going against God means facing judgment and death.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 56)

 

Nothing can be hidden from God; neither can we hide from ourselves if we sincerely study the word of God.  It reaches deep past our outer life as a knife passes through skin.  It delves deep into our inner lives, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  The word translated “is a discerner” can also be translated “judges” (NIV).  At this point, our thoughts, motives, attitudes, and intentions are shown to us as being good or evil; we cannot escape God’s judgment on them and we dare not ignore God’s warning to us.  We cannot keep secrets from God.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 57)

 

The symbolism conveys the message that God’s judgment is stern, righteous, and awful.  God has the ultimate power over his creatures; those who refuse to listen to his Word face judgment and death, while those who obey enter God’s rest and have life eternal.  Let no one take the spoken and written Word for granted; let no one ignore it; let no one willfully oppose it. That Word cuts and divides, much as the scalpel of a surgeon uncovers the most delicate nerves of the human body.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 117)

 

If God’s Word uncovers everything, then it follows that God himself is fully aware of all things.  It is therefore impossible for man to hide his sinful motives in the dark corners of his heart.  God knows.  He sees everything; even darkness is as light to him (Ps 139:12).  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 118)

 

Worship Point:  Praise God that He has not only revealed to us His Word in print that we might know Who God is, who we are, and what God has done to save us; but God has also sent His Son to provide for us a more comprehensive revelation.

 

Gospel Application:  The only way we can truly understand God’s revelation is through God’s Spirit.  And God’s Spirit comes to those who have asked Jesus to come into their hearts, minds and lives and be Master, Lord and Savior.  (Isa 66:1-2; Eph 1:13)

 

Sometimes in Christian circles we’re given false choices:  the Bible or the Spirit, conservative or charismatic, Word-driven or Spirit-led.  They constitute a false dichotomy, but let’s explore them a little.  All analogies break down at some point, but try this one: the Bible can be likened to a road map, and the Holy Spirit can be likened to a tour guide.  The guide knows the map (indeed wrote it!) and follows the map, and so I need to pay close attention to him.  I can kid myself that I can get around fine by knowing the road map, but actually I need the tour guide to direct, reveal and empower me to get where I need to go and do what I need to do.  The Pharisees ultimately made the mistake of seeing knowledge of the Word as an end in itself, rather than leading them to an encounter with the person of Jesus through the Spirit of God.  (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 9-23)

 

I am very much aware that Scripture memorization has largely fallen by the wayside in our day of microwave meals and television entertainment.  But let me say as graciously but as firmly as I can:  We cannot effectively pursue holiness without the Word of God stored up in our minds where it can be used by the Holy Spirit to transform us.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 175)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Know God’s Word (in both flesh and print).  Pray for the Spirit of God to give you accuracy, clarity, and relevancy concerning your knowledge of the Word of God so you may become like Jesus.  (Acts 17:4)

 

We shall never be renewed in the whole mind, which Paul requires (Eph 4:23) until our old man be slain by the edge of the spiritual sword.  Hence Paul says in another place, (Phil 2:17) that the faithful are offered as a sacrifice to God by the Gospel; for they cannot otherwise be brought to obey God than by having, as it were, their own will slain; nor can they otherwise receive the light of God’s wisdom, than by having the wisdom of the flesh destroyed.  Nothing of this kind is found in the reprobate; for they either carelessly disregard God speaking to them, and thus mock him, or clamor against his truth, and obstinately resist it.  In short, as the word of God is a hammer, so they have a heart like the anvil, so that its hardness repels its strokes, however powerful they may be.  The word of God, then, is far from being so efficacious towards them as to penetrate into them to the dividing of the soul and spirit.  Hence it appears, that this its character is to be confined to the faithful only, as they alone are thus searched to the quick.  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 101)

 

So What?:  If we do not allow the Word of God to do its work so we obey it, we can easily take our eyes off of Jesus and fall away.  Receive the Word of God and allow it to produce 30, 60 or 100 times in your lives.  (Isa 66:1-2; Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 11:19; Mt 7:24-27; 13:1-23; Mk 4:1-20; Lk 11:28; 2 Cor 5:17; 1 Thess 2:13; Jam 1:23-28)

 

The word is like seed:  everything depends on the treatment it receives.  Some receive the word with the understanding:  there it cannot be quickened.  The word is meant for the heart, the will, the affections.  The word must be submitted to, must be lived, must be acted out.  When this is done it will manifest its living, quickening power.  It is not we who have to make the word alive.  When, in faith in the life and power there is in the word, the heart yields itself in humble submission and honest desire to its action, it will prove itself to be life and power.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 160)

 

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next.  Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.  -John Jay

 

If we want to know the glory of God, if we want to experience the beauty of God, and if we want to be used by the hand of God, then we must live in the Word of God.  (David Platt, Radical, 192)

 

The Word works if we work the Word.  (Joyce Meyer, “God is Faithful and True” )

 

Unfortunately, no medication can soften a hard heart.  No physical therapy can reverse a person’s pride.  No high-priced physician can perform a spiritual procedure to remove the heart-stopping panic that threatens true joy in the Christian life.  From a strictly human perspective, there is no treatment for the tendency toward hard-heartedness inherited from our fallen, depraved ancestors.

But don’t despair!  Our sympathetic, divine Surgeon, the Word of God incarnate, wields a spiritual precision scalpel–the written Word of God.  Christ alone is able–and willing–to perform a heart transplant, to remove the “heart of stone” that has become insensitive to spiritual things and replace it with a “heart of flesh” that beats in rhythm with His (Ezek 11:19).  And the only thing it will require of you is an earnest desire to sing with King David, a man after God’s own heart, these words:  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps 51:10).  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 68)

 

The Bible demands a response, because God does not tolerate indifference and disobedience.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 116)

 

It is one of the facts of history that wherever men have taken God’s word seriously things have begun to happen.  When the English Bible was laid bare and the word of God came to the common people, the tremendous event of the Reformation inevitably followed.  When people take God seriously they immediately realize that his word is not only something to be studied, not only something to be read, not only something to be written about; it is something to be done.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 39)

 

Did you know that when you carry “the Bible”, Satan has a headache, when you open it, he collapses, when he sees you reading it, he loses his strength, AND when you stand on the Word of God, Satan can’t hurt you!

 

The Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.

— D. L. Moody

 

JESUS:

THE WORD

THE WORD:

THE SWORD OF THE LORD

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