Sermon from Hebrews 4:12 | The Qualities of the Word

The Qualities of the Word (Hebrews 4:12)

Why do some people go to great lengths to read and study the Bible? What is there about the Bible to value? Why should we value the Word of God?

The Word of God is Divine

The author of Hebrews here refers to the Word as the “Word of God.”

There has been some discussion as to what this “Word” is. Some see this word as the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ. However, that view doesn’t seem to fit the context.

It is far better to see this Word as the will of God. Hebrews 4:2 speaks of the “word which they heard.” The description of the word as being sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing into the recesses of man seems to fit God’s will better than God’s Son.

This is a divine Word; it came from God. 2 Timothy 3:16. 2 Peter 1:21.

The Word of God is Living

“The word of God is living.”

This contrasts to our Words which pass away. Our words do not endure through the ages. What we say shall not be remembered long after we leave this world. The words of great men that are remembered after they die shall not live beyond this world.

Matthew 24:35. The word of God shall never be destroyed.

The word of God is living in that it produces life – only living things can produce life. 1 Peter 1:23. It is through this living word of God that we are able to be born into the family of God.

The Bible is living in that it does things – the author tells us what the word of God does: it pierces man’s innermost being and discerns his thoughts.

The Word of God is Effectual

“The word of God is living and powerful.”

The word of God has the power to comfort us. John 16:33. Who has not been comforted when faced with the unknown by reading the words of the Creator, reading how he loved us and sent his Son to die for us?

The word of God is powerful for salvation. The word of God has the power to convert those who hear it. Jeremiah 5:14. Romans 1:16. Have you been converted by the Word?

The Word of God is Cutting

“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.”

A double-edged sword is a far more formidable weapon than a single-edged sword. The double-edged sword offers less resistance: therefore, it cuts deeper than the single-edged. But, the double-edged sword was also a common simile for sharpness. The author is saying there is nothing quite as sharp as the Word of God.

The word is so sharp that it cuts to the distinction of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow. There is a great deal of overlap between “spirit” and “soul.” The “soul” refers to that which is eternal in man – Matthew 16:26. The “spirit” refers to that part of man which thinks and reasons – Mark 2:8. Yet, the “spirit” also refers to the eternal part of man -Matthew 27:50. It is quite difficult to separate bone and marrow – Although they are clearly separate, one must use an extremely sharp instrument to separate them. The point here is that the Word of God is so sharp it can penetrate into man’s innermost being. It can divide things that are very difficult to separate.

The word of God is unique in that it will penetrate us like nothing can. The word of God will not leave us alone. Once the word of God has penetrate our hearts, we will not rest until we have obeyed. When those at Pentecost heard the word of God through Peter’s mouth, they were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). They wanted to know what they should do.

The Word of God is Revealing

“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.”

“Discerner” is actually an adjective in the Greek; the term means “able to judge.” The word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart. Because the word of God can go into the heart like nothing else can, it is able to judge the heart. I do not know your heart; I do not know your motives; I do not know your thoughts. Therefore, I cannot speak directly to what you’re thinking, to the state of your heart.

But, God, the Creator of Man knows man better than man knows himself. He inspired Scripture so that the word would convict our hearts. How many times have you read Scripture, heard Scripture preached or taught and thought, I need to stop thinking/feeling that way?” Jesus said the Spirit would “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn. 16:8). He continues to do that work through the Word of God.

The Word of God also discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart in that it will judge us at the last day. John 12:48. On the last day, we shall stand before God and be judged according to the Word of God. Are you ready to be judged by that Word?


This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.

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