March 4, 2010

The Power of the Word of God - Hebrews 4:12

If you haven’t noticed and it’s almost impossible not to, many churches these days seem to advertise their sermons along the lines of self-help, relevant, practical messages to change a person’s life.

Sure, the Bible is referred to in these types of messages but it achieves very little in the way of increasing an understanding of the text and the context of Scripture because these message only touch the surface of a person’s life rather than penetrating it deeply.

In this manner, the message is focused more on the physical aspects of life, how to achieve this or that, here and now, rather than having a priority focus of living in the righteousness of Christ, in a manner that is above reproach on a daily basis. Now, I am not advocating a practice of lifestyle-evangelism, absolutely not.

What I am saying is that a lifestyle such as this can be achieved because of the power of the Word of God that has penetrated a person’s life and its ability to change a person from the inside out, because the Scripture has been thoroughly explained to the congregation, which would cause them to live in a deeper devotion to Christ and to reading the Bible on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, in settings where these relevant types of messages are filled with persuasive words that lack the power of the Spirit of God, the Bible has become a harmless toy sword for Christians instead of a powerful sword that it is intended to be.

It has been such an amazing period in my life over the last two years, to hear the value of expository preaching having listened to preachers such as John MacArthur of Grace Community Church and his
Grace to You broadcast, Alistair Begg of Parkside Church and his Truth for Life broadcast, Dr. Steven Lawson of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church and Phil Johnson.

These are just a few of the well-known expositors that preach the Bible who explain every verse of Scripture, so that the congregation gains a more thorough understanding of the text, as Hebrew and Greek words are defined and utilized to illuminate even more, an understanding of the Scripture.

In the book of Hebrews, the writer says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Because I have been listening to expository preaching each week now since December 2010 under the leadership of Pastor
Phil Morgan at First Assembly of God, in Brookfield, CT, I gave an exposition of this verse to the young men of the youth ministry at First Assembly last night.

In the past, I had seen this verse only for what was on the surface. Yet there is more to understand about the Word of God, as a sword and what it accomplishes in the life of the believer. So what are the affects of this sword, the Word of God from this verse?

First, the Word of God is alive, powerful and sharp

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,…

Make no mistake, the Word of God is not a dead at all, rather fully alive and stronger than all the armies of the world. God demonstrated the power of His word when He spoke the world into existence and He upholds all things by the word of his power (Genesis 1; Hebrews 1:3).

Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34) and John Gill says this is "dividing and separating the people of Christ from the men of the world, and from their principles and practices, and one relation from another;" That is what the sword, the Word of God accomplishes.

Second, the Word of God Cuts Deep

...piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow…

There is nothing that the power of the sword, the Word of God cannot penetrate to the very depths of the life of a human being. The Word of God goes where no other surgical instrument can go.

The Word of God penetrates our lives deeply, whether it is accepted or not and those that reject it do so, because the Word that exposes their sin is unquestionably true and they are unwilling to confess and repent of it before God.

Piercing…soul and spirit, joints and marrow...
But if they do not obey, they shall perish by the sword, And they shall die without knowledge. Job 36:12
The Word as a sword, has the capability to reach and penetrate the deepest innate behaviors of our life that has been contrary to living, for example, in the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Word as a sword, pierces our lives to the most intimate part of the physical body that is a great struggle with every man and woman, the lust of the flesh. The lust of the flesh has always been the motivating desire for fulfillment in a human being's life and is often a lust that is carnal and of a sinful nature.

It doesn't just pierce it to cause a minor wound, but pierces it to cease from living anymore in the motivation of the carnal pleasure to sin.

Lastly, the Word of God is critical of what and how you think

...and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart

The word discern in Greek is kritikos. Does that sound familiar to an English word? It does. It is the word critique. The sword here spoken of in Hebrews 4:12, critiques, or is critical of our thought and the intentions of our actions, meaning a thorough evaluation is made upon those thoughts and intentions of the heart.

For example, when Jesus said that adultery begins by looking with lust (Matthew 5:28) and not just in the act of committing adultery, the Word of God then is critical of the thoughts that follow whether or not a man has looked at a woman with a sexual intent or if a woman has looked at a man with a sexual intent. The Word of God critiques whether those thoughts are pure or they are selfish and sinful.

The Word will turn the inside of a sinner out, and let him see all that is in his heart.

The Omniscience of the Word

In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-2, 14)

The Word that was in the beginning with God and is God that became flesh is Jesus Christ and there are a number of biblical references to support this too.

See Bible verses that show Jesus is Divine

I cannot discern what you are thinking right now, but the Word of God can and does. Here are two examples:

First, in John 6:60-66, there were a number of disciples that complained about Jesus' teachings and the text says that many had complained (murmured, KJV) about this and Jesus had knowledge of it without anyone informing Him.

Verse 64 says that Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.

Second, in Matthew 9:3-5, Jesus healed and forgave a paralytic which was followed by, "And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?"

"By giving them this proof that he knew their hearts he also proved that he was God; that he could not be deceived himself, and that it was impossible for him to deceive any; consequently, that the doctrine he taught them must be the truth of God." Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible.
These two passages, in addition to others, demonstrate the very Omniscience of God, which is God’s ability to know everything that is said secretly in a whisper or silently in thought, even if you do not think He has heard it, He has.

In summary, the Word is God’s weapon that is fully alive that penetrates our heart and mind, our soul and body, to expose the inside of a human’s life and reveal to them all that is sinful in their heart. The thoughts and intentions of our heart cannot escape the Word of God and how the Word criticizes them without partiality.

It cannot be emphasized enough regarding the benefit to the preacher as well as to the congregation regarding a weekly exposition of Scripture, letting the sword cut us open to remove any hindrance of sin in our lives.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; Ephesians 6:17.


Here are six MP3s of the messages from the SEBTS conference God Exposed: Awkward Preaching in a Comfortable Age, (Sept. 25-26, 2009):

Mark Dever,
“The Power of God’s Word” (Mark 4:26-34)
Daniel L. Akin,
“The Preacher on Preaching” (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14)
Michael McKinley,
“The Centrality of the Word” (Luke 10:38-42)
C.J. Mahaney,
“Expository Faithfulness” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
Thabiti Anyabwile,
“Will It Preach? Exposition in Non-White Contexts” (Nehemiah 8)
Mark Dever,
“Expositional Preaching: A Defense and Charge”

John MacArthur, The Consequences of Non-Expositional Preaching Part 1 & Part 2

The video of this message is available at from the Pulpit section of the video playlist, which lists the sermons in alphabetical order.

Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Verson 7.8) [Computer software].

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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