Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
This will most likely be the last post in this series. If you’d like, you can see the first 4 parts using these links:
In those previous posts I listed over 30 faulty common conclusions taken from scriptures (the Bible) that people use against the Bible to say that it is NOT the “Word of God.” Hebrews 4:12 is perhaps the most used, and often perceived as the most powerful “Nuclear Option” to this end.
The end game? To wrench the words of God from the Word of God. To say that there is a higher, more authoritative source than the written word, usually themselves. To make a claim that one’s subjective, existential, and private revelation, is somehow outside of the scrutiny of scripture. To say to others, “I got this,” and here’s the way it is.
One of the over-arching themes in the book of Hebrews is the close relationship between God and his word, such that the difference virtually disappears in some places. For example, in Hebrews 13:7, it states, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” The word of God here is “logos of God.” The Medium and message united.
But, let’s get back to our original text, Hebrews 4:12 - let’s look at the immediate context of verse in 4:12. Hebrews 4:1 sets the context for this entire section and calls back to Hebrews 2:1-3 where the writer says, “We must pay more careful attention to what we have heard.” In Hebrews 4:1-2, he now draws attention to the promise of rest that has been spoken. In doing so he makes a comparison to the Israelites under Joshua. They too heard a message, but the author points out it had no value to them.
In contrast, the author of Hebrews wants his hearers to receive the promise of rest with faith, and so he reminds his listeners of what was spoken through David: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” When in verse 12, then, when the author reminds his listeners that the word of God judges the attitudes of the heart, we see how: for the Israelites, their hearts were judged and shown hard because they did not receive the promise of rest with faith. The entire context, then, of two groups receiving a message points to understanding the phrase “word of God” as the message spoken by the prophets but “in these last days” “by his Son”.
Again, for those who say that the Logos in Hebrews 4:12 is either only Jesus or only the bible, are both wrong. We can not divide medium (Christ) from His message (logos). For a more thorough treatment of this idea, see “The Logos of the Gospel.”
We must remember that Hebrews is very unique in the way it treats the Scriptures. In most of the New Testament – especially in Paul’s letters – whenever someone quotes the Scriptures, they use “It is written” or some variant. In Hebrews, though, the Scriptures are always referred to as “spoken” in some sense when they are quoted. The word of God is very active/performative in Hebrews: it sustains the world (Hebrews 1:3), it sets up a priesthood (Hebrews 7:21), it will shake the world (Hebrews 12:25-27). It’s not surprising, therefore, for the author in this letter to describe God’s word as living and active, dividing soul and spirit, judging thoughts and the heart.
What “God said,” through whom He says it, and the manner in which it is relayed, are all purposed to detect hypocrisy and to lay open the true nature of the feelings of the soul. His “truth” is adapted to bring out the real feelings, and to show people exactly what they are. Truth always has this power – whether preached, or read, or communicated by conversation, or printed on paper via the inspired memory and conscience of the Holy Spirit. There is nowhere to hide from the penetrating, searching application of the W/word of God. That truth has power to show what we are. It is also “like” a penetrating sword that lays open the whole man; compare Isaiah 49:2, Ephesians 6:17, Revelation 1:16 etc. The phrase “the Word of God” here may be applied, therefore, to the “truth” of God, however made known to the mind. In some way it will bring out the real feelings, and show what man is. Just two questions:
Is it wrong to say that Hebrews 4:12 is referring to the Bible alone? Why?
Is it wrong to say that Hebrews 4:12 is referring to Jesus alone? Why?