Sharper Than Any Two-Edged Sword

November 9, 2014

Hebrews 4:11–13 11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12For 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. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. ESV


  1. Knowing Jesus as he is
    1. John 17:3 3And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. ESV
    2. Jeremiah 9:24 24but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” ESV
    3. John 17:17 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. ESV
    4. 1 Corinthians 3:18 18Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. ESV
    5. 1 John 3:2 2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. ESV
    6. Life is knowing God, truth is knowing God,
    7. I realized I tend to memorize certain types of verses, and to underline certain types of verses
      1. Is underlining a sign that some verses are important and some unimportant
      2. Are there things about God that you do not care very much about
      3. Is what you memorize and what you don't, is what you underline and what you don't a tool you can use to look at your own heart and see, are there things about God that you do not care about.
    8. A common theme in the Bible is the wrath of God, the vengeance of God, the judgment of God, when his justice and holiness will be on display and he will receive glory as he judges the world.
      1. Remember, eternal life is knowing God, you will be sanctified in the truth (the truth reveals God as he is), and when you see God as he really is (not as you imagine him to be), then you will become like him. Beholding the glory of God (he puts his glory on display through works of judgment) and we beholding the glory of God will be transformed into being like him from one degree of glory to another.
      2. Can you see all the parts of God and worship there?
      3. Can you look at the vengeance of God, the wrath of God, the justice of God as it will be displayed in the coming judgment and glory there and have life there and boast there because I know the God of vengeance just like I know the God of love? Just like I know the God of mercy, I know the God of justice and my life is knowing him. ALL OF HIM!
  2. Therefore I decided to memorize a verse (Rev 19:15)
    1. That's my Jesus. Just like I can meditate on John 3:16 and say, that's my Jesus, I can meditate on Rev 19, and say, that's my Jesus.
    2. This is who God is, and our life is knowing God truly as his word reveals him to be and the lamb of God is a God of vengeance.
      1. Revelation 6:16 16calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, ESV
    3. I open this way, because if there is anything in you that doesn't want to know this aspect of Jesus as much as you want to know the mercy and love of Jesus, there is something amiss in your soul. You have not yet discovered that true life is knowing Jesus. You might claim the verse, but you do not live it yet, because you don't want to know him.
    4. You think there are good parts of him and not so good parts and you want to know the good parts and avoid the others, because you do not know him as ALTOGETHER LOVELY. If you knew him you would say of him, YOU ARE ALTOGETHER LOVELY.
    5. There is a loveliness to the vengeance of God, and if you cannot see that, I hope it is that you just haven't grown there in your sanctification, but I fear that it is because that you don't know him at all, you've made him into another God.
      1. In Hosea, they knew God, but they knew him as my Baal. Do you know Jehovah under the name of Baal because you worship him as the God of your imagination?
      2. Hosea 2:16 16“And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ ESV
  3. Hebrews 4:11-13
    1. Do you know the Jesus that has a sharp sword that comes out of his mouth. The Jesus that will rule the nations with a rod of iron?
    2. Do you know the Jesus before whom you are naked and exposed because his eyes pierce right through you?
    3. When God shows up on the scene in the end of Job he uses words which cut Job to the core. Have you in any measure realized what it would be if the living God came into this room and spoke words to us? Do you have a conception of how quickly you would be undone and left a cowering ball before the force of the words that he would speak to you?
    4. What is it then that Jesus is called the Word of God? When words are what God so often uses to slay men.
    5. What does it mean that Christ is living and active?
    6. What does it mean that he is a sharp sword?
    7. What does it mean that he pierces and divides soul, spirit, joints, marrow, thoughts, and intentions?
    8. How is no creature hidden from his sight?
    9. What does it mean that we are naked and exposed to his eyes and that to him we must give our account?
    10. And then when we understand these things we will see why we must strive to enter into his rest so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For this is why these words exist, to motivate us towards steadfastness, diligence, courage, and confidence in entering the rest of God.
  4. Hebrews 4:12-13, 11

To open these questions ...

Jesus: The Word of God

  1. Does the phrase, "the word of God"vs 12 refer to the scriptures or to Jesus?
  2. Jesus is often called the Word of God.
    1. John 1:1 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ESV
  3. He is especially called the Word of God in revelation with respect to his judging
    1. Revelation 19:13 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. ESV
      1. Why? Because he slays by his words and with truth and with right judgment.
  4. So, we see that it is at least a possibility that Jesus is being spoken of here, but another possibility is that it is the scriptures being spoken of.
  5. Arguments for Jesus being the Word of God spoken of in Hebrews 4:12
    1. Jesus is the one by whom God has been speaking to us. He is the "word of God" Hebrews refers to thematically.
      1. Hebrews 1:1–2 1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son
      2. If 4:12 was referring to scriptures as the Word of God you would expect Hebrews 1:1 to read very differently.
    2. He is the one who reveals to us the radiance of the glory of God
      1. Hebrews 1:3 3He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, ESV
      2. Not scriptures as the revealer of God but Christ.
    3. Paul has set up a contrast between the Word of God which is found in the scriptures and the Word of God as revealed to be Jesus Christ which continues throughout the epistle.
      1. Hebrews 1:1–2 1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son
      2. Hebrews 10:28–29 28Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? ESV
    4. We see the Word of God here judging, punishing, and piercing. These are the acts of a person.
      1. Now punishing is the act of a person, and not of the word, (that is not of the scriptures)
    5. Specifically, in Hebrews, we see a warning of judgment and this is always in regards to a neglect of a due consideration of Jesus, not the scriptures themselves.
      1. Hebrews 2:1–3 1Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, ESV
      2. Hebrews 6:6 6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. ESV
      3. Hebrews 10:28–29 28Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? ESV
      4. Hebrews 12:18 18For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest ESV
      5. Hebrews 12:22–23 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, ESV
      6. Every warning in Hebrews is in reference to a neglect of Jesus Christ, unless you believe the warning we are now considering to be the one exception because you see it as the scriptures which are living, active, piercing, dividing, seeing, discerning, and finally judging when we must give our account.
  6. Living
    1. The description of God as "living" is used several times in Hebrews:
      1. Hebrews 3:12 12Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. ESV
      2. Hebrews 4:12 12For 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. ESV
      3. Hebrews 9:14 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. ESV
      4. Hebrews 10:31 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ESV
      5. Hebrews 12:22 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, ESV
      6. And herein the apostle lets both the Hebrews and us know that the power that is in Christ lies not idle, is not useless, but is continually exercising itself towards us as the matter does require
    2. Now this cannot properly be ascribed unto the word of the gospel. ... but in itself it is not absolutely “*living*,”—it hath not life in itself, nor in its power.
    3. Take away the Spirit from the gospel and you render it a dead letter, and leave the New Testament of no more use unto Christians than the Old Testament is of unto the Jews.
  7. I do judge, therefore, that it is the eternal Word of God, or the person of Christ, which is the subject here spoken of
  8. for the design of it is to beget a reverent fear in the minds of men about their deportment in the profession of the gospel, because of the consequents of disobedience in punishment and revenge. And Jesus as the Word of God is he who will avenge and judge neglecters of the gospel as can be seen in Rev 19:13
  1. Summary: We have covered to some small extent
    1. what it is that Jesus is called the Word of God
    2. What it is that Jesus is living and active, that he is the living God as mentioned before in the book of Hebrews

Mouths and swords

  1. The phrase, “the mouth of the sword,” is a Hebraism, a Jewish idiom
    1. The metaphor is doubtless taken from wild beasts, whom mankind first feared, that devour with their mouths; which when the sword began to be used for destruction, gave them occasion to call its edge by the name of its “mouth:” [or], “double mouthed,” cutting each way, that leaves nothing unpierced whereunto it is applied.
  2. This of a “sword” is often mentioned with respect unto the Lord Christ ... And it is principally assigned unto him with respect unto the exercise of his power in and by his word, which is called “the sword of the Spirit,” Eph. 6:17; the “sword that is on his thigh,” Ps. 45:3, which he hath in readiness when he goeth forth to subdue the souls of men to himself; as it is also “the rod of his power,” Ps. 110:2. But it is Christ himself who makes the word powerful and sharp (Not neither nor, but both and. The focus is Jesus himself who is wielding the sword of scriptures.)
    1. Isaiah 49:2 2He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. ESV
    2. Revelation 1:16 16In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. ESV
    3. Ephesians 6:17 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, ESV
    4. Psalm 45:3 3Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! ESV
  3. If you want to see this sword in action, look at how God addresses Job:
  4. The Lord Christ, by his word and Spirit, pierceth into the souls of men
    1. He “smites the earth with the rod of his mouth, and slays the wicked with the breath of his lip,” Isa. 11:4

Dividing Sacrifices

  1. The objects of the piercing of this sword is said to be between the soul and the spirit, the joints and the marrow, the thoughts and the intentions, and this done in such a way as to leave every creature naked and exposed to his eyes.
    1. What does all of this represent? Paul is instructing the Hebrews by referring to the sacrificial system.
    2. The first thing that was done with the body of it, after it was slain, was its being flayed. This work was done by the priests. Hereby the carcass of the beast was made γυμνόν, “naked,” laid open to the view of all. Then were all its entrails opened, from the neck down to the belly; after which the body was cut into its pieces through the chine-bone: whereby in both the senses mentioned, both of opening and division, it became τετραχηλισμένον, “opened and divided,”exposed so that every part of it was exposed to view. Hence the apostle, having compared the Word of God before in his operations to a “two-edged sword, that pierceth to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow,” as did the sharp knife or instrument of the sacrificer; here affirms that “all things” whatever, and so consequently the hearts and ways of professors, were “evident, open, and naked before him,” as the body of the sacrificed beast was to the priests when flayed, opened, and cut to pieces.
  2. Thus we, like a sacrifice laid out on an altar lay flayed and opened before him.
  3. As a butcher can divide and separate an animal limb by limb so Christ can take apart your soul.
  4. All our most hidden inward parts are on display for him to see.
  5. And if this hasn't struck you yet, let me lay it out for you clearly. This sacrifice metaphor is just that, it is a metaphor for something else.
  6. To divide between a sheep and a goat is an external separating based on external features. To lay open a sacrifice and to separate out pieces of the animal is an internal separating based on internal features. But there is a yet further separating, to go into a persons thoughts and intentions to go into the inward man himself into the soul into the spirit and be able to separate at that level is something only God can do, and he does do it.
  7. What happens to the sheep when its inward parts are separated on the table. What will happen to you when he who is able to separate you to the level of soul and spirit, thought and intention does so?
  8. Matthew 10:28 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. ESV
  9. What will you as a person look like when Jesus Christ lays you open on the table having divided out the parts of you that make you you so that they are all exposed before him.
  10. This probably doesn't strike us as graphically as it would to the Jews as the sacrificial system is not part of our daily experience, I've never taken part in dividing up an animal for a sacrifice. The closest I've come is carving up a cooked chicken or the Thanksgiving turkey. But if that's the closest we have then picture it that way, picture Jesus Christ laying open your soul and dividing it up the way you carefully separate the wing and the thigh and the breast meat from the turkey, carefully and skillfully working the tip of the knife between the joints until the whole bird is laid out before you. That is who you have to deal with, this is the Jesus who knowing is eternal life. Do you know this Jesus?

Jesus Sees and Knows All

  1. "to the eyes of him to whom we must give account"
  2. the eyes of God see right through you
  3. every thought you have, every motivation, every unthankful frame, every deviant desire, Jesus knows it all.
    1. He sees all the unkindness and unthankfulness from whence our decays proceed; all the contempt of him, his love and grace, wherewith they are attended
    2. O that we could always consider with what awe and reverence, with what care and diligence, we ought continually to walk before this holy, all-seeing One!
  4. it is said that “his eyes were as a flame of fire,” Rev. 1:14
  5. “I know thy works,”
  6. when Judas was in the height of his profession, he judged him a devil, John 6:70, 71; and when Peter was in the worst of his defection he judged him a saint
  7. And the thought of God coming into the room and judging rightly what is going on here right now is a terrifying thought for his eyes see all and we are naked and exposed to him.

Summary: Putting it all together

  1. That, then, which in all these expressions is intended, is the absolute power and ability of the Son of God to judge rightly of man's crookedness and man's uprightness.
  2. Perhaps God will overlook my failures to walk with him, to love him with all my heart soul and strength, to strive daily to enter into our promised land, the paradise of resting in him who is to be my rest. He will not, you are naked and exposed before him to whom you must give an account.
  3. Having exhorted them to perseverance, and to take heed that they neglected not the promise of entering into the rest of God through unbelief, he presseth them further to care, diligence, sincerity, and constancy, in the performance of the duty that he had exhorted them unto. And this he does from the consideration of the person of Christ, the author of the gospel. [and unto this purpose] he insists upon Christ's ability to discern and discover all the secret frames and actings of their spirits

Application to 3 sorts of people

Applied to the unconverted, backsliding, and weak

  1. Unconverted men
    1. If you do not know God, God still knows you.
    2. God sees all, all you have done is open and plain before him and you will have to give an account of everything to him.
    3. Though you may hide things from yourself and others, yet you cannot hide from the power of Christ in his word from piercing into you.
      1. One day, Christ by his power will enter into your soul and conscience, utterly casting down all your confidence, and destroying your hopes and expectations.
        1. For such a person, nothing now remains but that he betake himself wholly to the life which he can make in sin, with its lusts and pleasures; or else come over sincerely to him in whom is life, and who giveth life unto all that come unto him. So he “slays the wicked with the breath of his lips,” Isa. 11:4
        2. And hereon they either betake themselves wholly to their sins, so to free themselves from their convictions and fears, or sincerely give up themselves unto him for relief.
  2. To the backsliding Christians who are tempted with apostasy
    1. Revolters and backsliders do their utmost endeavour to hide the beginnings of their falls from themselves and others
      1. There is, then, no greater evidence of an unsound heart than to be careless about the beginnings of spiritual decays in any kind
      2. There needs no greater evidence that self is their utmost end, that they have neither care to please God, nor love to Christ, nor delight in the gospel, but, with Balaam, desire only to “die the death of the righteous.” Yet thus is it with them who neglect the first entrances of any cold, careless frame or temper of heart in gospel duties.
      3. Where, therefore, there is any thing of sincerity, there will be a continual care about these things upon the account of the concernment of Christ in them
    2. no one of those churches seems to have had the least sense of their own decays
      1. One is charged with loss of love and faith; another of works; a third with luke-warmness and carnal pride; a fourth with spiritual death as to the generality of them, and most of them with various decays and miscarriages, and those such as themselves took no notice of. But his eye, which stays not upon the outside of things, be they never so gay or glorious, but pierceth to the secret embryos and first conceptions of sin and declensions, found them out, and passed judgment on them in righteousness and equity.
    3. It is a great and difficult matter really and practically to convince professors of the practical judging omniscience of Jesus Christ, the Word of God.
      1. Few things are more agreed upon than that God is all knowing. Yet few truths there are that are more difficult to see realized into actual practice.
      2. Everyone thinks God is all knowing, no one lives accordingly.
      3. Have you ever jumped when realizing you are not alone and that someone else might be seeing what you are doing?
      4. "we find by experience how difficult it is to leave a lasting impression of it on the souls of men"
  3. Christians who desire to walk with God no matter how weak that desire may be.
    1. There exists in you devious ungodly ways that would see you brought down to hell if left unchecked and you don't know about them, but your God does. He will search you and try you and sift out of you every way that is false and wayward. All the things that bring you away from God, he will soon purge out of you, that you might walk uprightly with him. This is a great encouragement to a soul that is weary with its own weakness.
    2. the apostle intends not merely to terrify those who are under the guilt of the evil cautioned against, but to encourage the meanest and weakest sincere believer
    3. Our God sees the gem in the midst of the mud (faith is to him more precious than gold)
    4. He sees and perceives the principle and actings of grace in that very sorrow and trouble wherewith the soul is even overwhelmed in an apprehension of the want of it
      1. He knows that much of many a soul’s trouble for want of grace is from grace. There is in it the search of grace after an increase and supply. He sees the love that works in trouble for want of faith; and the faith that works in trouble for want of holiness.
    5. How small soever that grace be which he discovers in the souls of his, he accepts of it, approves it, and takes care for its preservation and increase. The life of it does not depend on our knowledge, but his.