Robert D. Pace
THE WORD OF GOD UNLEASHED!
Hebrews 4:12 uses powerful phraseology to illustrate the Word’s authority. It says: “the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” These words can’t refer to anything but God’s Word. Think about it, nothing else in the universe exists that, of itself, is “living and active, and sharper than a double-edged sword.”
Science, technology, and medicine have made enormous progress, but it can’t be said they are “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.”
The computer is an awesome demonstration of ingenuity, capable of processing billions of bytes of information with one tiny micro-chip. But it can’t be said of the computer, “[it is] living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.”
Modern warfare is mankind’s most developed science. It sports scud missiles, smart bombs, laser weapons, and infrared tracking systems. But it can’t be said of warfare, “[it is] living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.”
This statement is reserved only for God’s Word. God’s Word is empowered to speak to us in a more living way than any human being.
It can enlighten our understanding about issues, both spiritual and secular, like nothing else on earth.
It can feed our soul, inspire our heart, and sustain our flesh.
God’s Word can deliver us when we’re bound, heal us when we’re hurt, and calm us when we’re concerned.
It’s no exaggeration to say, “It’s the cure-all, the remedy, the panacea for every situation.”
(Definition) Exactly what is the Word of God? Is it the pages of Scripture, is it Christ, or is it both Christ and the Scriptures? The answer is, both:
Concerning this Book Paul said: “All Scripture [everything in this Book] is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 TIMOTHY 3:16). In referring to Jesus, the Apostle John said: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (1:14). And Revelation 19:13 describes Christ “dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” So the Word of God is the written revelation we call “the Bible” and it’s the divine “Word made flesh”— Jesus Christ.
(Transition) It’s from that framework that I’ll make three observations about God’s Word. First, God’s Word is living. And it’s not only living it imparts life to others.
I. The Word of God is Living
Life is special. To suggest something has life means it has its origin in God. Life doesn’t materialize spontaneously or by chance, it originates from our Sovereign Creator. The Word of God lives because it wasn’t written by men of superior intellect or those skilled in prose. It was written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” And because this Book is inspired by God that means you can completely trust it. You can build your life on it and stake your future on it. It will never let you down.
(Illustration) Years ago, an artist rendered his depiction of the immutability of God’s Word. At the centerpiece of his artwork was a large anvil. Lying around the anvil were broken and ruined hammering instruments. Underneath the picture were the words: “The Word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25). Now I don’t know about you, but I love pondering that picture! I can see a huge anvil that’s surrounded with every kind of battering instrument . . . but they’re all worn and shattered. Just like that anvil, God’s Word has endured an unfeigned assault from skeptics and critics and mockers throughout the ages, but all to no avail! As the writer said: “Hammer away, ye hostile hands. Your hammers break, God’s anvil stands” (S.M. Cole).
Let me tell you something about the Word. The world can mock it, slander it, ignore it, or distort it. The assassins of Scripture can shred its pages, outlaw its reading, or ridicule its integrity. But as long as the Lord lives, His Word will live! Peter called it “The imperishable . . . living and enduring Word of God” (1PE 1:23). It’s alive and nothing will overpower it!
What do you think Hebrews 4:12 wants us to understand when it says the Word of God is “alive”? I believe the writer wants us to understand that God’s Word can enrich us by imputing its inherent life to dead situations. Think about it. We’re constantly battling against famine, deadness, and drought. It seems like God calls us to plant in a desert and then hope for a harvest. We’re trying to get life out of a graveyard. But that’s alright because God’s Word has power to bring life to hopeless situations.
(Example) Do you realize God doesn’t reward a farmer with a harvest based solely on his willingness to implement the laws of agriculture? The farmer is required to till, plant, tend, and prune but his work alone doesn’t produce the harvest. God’s Word does. Every farmer on earth, whether they realize it, harvest under the authority of Genesis 8:22. Moses wrote: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” God’s Word produces the harvest!
God uttered those words thousands of years ago and they’ve continued, without abating, ever since. That means there’s an incredible miracle of divine grace involved with every harvest. Have you ever thought through the process of how a seed produces fruit? Did you know before a seed produces its fruit, it first dies? It dies! Jesus said in John 12:24-25, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” The question is, Who resurrects the dead seed that falls into the ground, God or the farmer? God does. More specifically, Genesis 8:22 resurrects it according to the law of ‘Seedtime and Harvest’! And the Word of life can resurrect whatever is dead around you. That’s why we need to study it, stand on it, believe it, and confess it. God’s Word brings life to dead situations.
(Bible Example) There’s a wonderful story that illustrates this in Luke 7. A woman from the town of Nain had not only lost her husband, but was in procession to bury her only son. I like the wording that Luke employed to describe what happened. “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” Let’s stop there for a moment.
Did you know God earnestly desires to help you? He even yearns to help you. Isaiah 30:18 says: “the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.” He desperately longs to get the life-giving power of His Word into your life. Let’s get back to Luke 7 and this funeral. Look again at verse thirteen: “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” (14) And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (15) The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.” In other words, faced with an absolutely hopeless situation up walked Christ, out went His Word, in came life, up sat the boy, and everything was fine. The Word of God specializes in hopeless situations!
(Transition) Second, not only is God’s Word alive, Hebrews 4:12 refers to it as “active.” Let’s discuss the Word’s activity.
II. The Word of God is Active
There are many things alive but not active. Turtles and sloths are alive but display little activity. That’s not the case with God’s Word. It never rests, sleeps, or vacations. It’s always working to accomplish God’s plan. Psalm 147:15 says, “The Word of God runs swiftly through the earth.”
(Illustration) Let’s illustrate the Word’s activity. I remember using the microscope in my college Biology laboratory class. The lab assistant would drop liquid under the microscope and we would squeeze it between two slivers of glass. As I peered through the lens I witnessed amoebas tirelessly swimming and changing shape in their tiny world. Amoebas are single-cell creatures that multiply by dividing. In their unique way they are living and active, providentially fulfilling their purpose.
That describes God’s Word. The natural eye can’t always perceive and comprehend the Word’s working. But regardless of your perceptions you can be certain that it’s very much alive and actively accomplishing God’s eternal plan of the ages.
The Word Found By Hilkiah (2 Kings 22)
A powerful story is recorded in 2 Kings 22 and 23 revealing the Word’s activity in the world. Josiah, one of Judah’s three righteous kings, ruled and Hilkiah was High Priest. Years had passed since the Law of Moses was consulted in worship. Actually the chronicler indicated it was lost! Can you imagine attending God’s house without the Word? King Josiah began repairing the Temple and commissioned the Priests to spearhead it. That’s when Hilkiah uncovered the Scriptures. The Scrolls were taken to Josiah and the Temple secretary read them to him. When he realized his predecessor’s irresponsibility he tore his robe. He was so overwhelmed he initiated reform throughout the kingdom. Josiah himself took the Scriptures, stood by the Temple pillar, and read the Covenant to everyone “from the least to the greatest.” The Word’s power was so convicting the hearers immediately renewed the Covenant and pledged to obey it (2KI 23:1–3). Notice the reshaping, overhauling effects the Word produced:
- The Temple was cleansed from Baal and Asherah fetishes (4). Judah’s idolatrous Priests that burned incense at the high places were expelled (5).The Temple apartments of the male prostitutes were destroyed (7). The High Places from Geba to Beersheba were removed (8). The fiery altar of Topheth where children were incinerated to Molech, was destroyed (10). The household gods, mediums, and spiritists from Judah and Jerusalem were expelled (24).
Do you know what brought this reformation? Not righteous Josiah. These accomplishments were achieved by the sovereign power of God’s Word. This is a really unique story because it actually began 348 years earlier. In an effort to strengthen his kingdom king Jeroboam did something really bizarre. He constructed demonic altars throughout the land and appointed cultic priests to offer sacrifices. He then constructed two gold calves and told the people they delivered them from Egypt. His treachery actually doubled Aaron’s sin of forging a single gold calf. At the height of these heinous events a prophet lunged before Jeroboam with God’s Word. “A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you [O king] he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who now make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you’” (1KI 13:2).
Listen folks. The Word of God didn’t come to pass in a day or even a week, but make no mistake, it came to pass. It spanned 348 years before its fulfillment. Turn to 2 Kings 23:16-20 and let’s read.
2 Kings 23:16–20
Isaiah 55:11 says, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” God won’t permit a stroke from His Word to fade or falter without complete fulfillment. It’s His eternal, unfailing bond!
You may not have any empirical evidence today for a past promise from God. Your sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell can’t verify that God’s pledge is forthcoming. But remember, the natural man can’t perceive God’s working. Faith discerns God’s promises! And if you’ll persevere and believe, at God’s appointed time your lingering promises will manifest. One tiny blade growing from the seed of God’s planted Word can uproot and topple a great granite mountain.
(Transition) First, God’s Word is alive, second, it’s active, and third, Hebrews 4:12 describes it as a weapon “sharper than any double-edged sword.”
III. The Word of God is Sharper than any Double-Edged Sword
Look at Hebrews 4:12 again: “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” In other words, there’s no dullness to it; it is all edge, sharp and penetrating. It’s so cutting that Hebrews depicts it “dividing the soul and spirit . . . joint and marrow.” It effortlessly accomplishes what nothing else can. Science or psychology cannot divide man’s soul from the spirit. Only the Word can. Let me explain:
(Example) A physiological joint is where bones and tissue adjoin. A joint provides flexibility and manipulation. It doesn’t provide life, but it certainly enhances living. Marrow, on the other hand, exists deep within the cavities of bones and its functions are vitally linked with life. Marrow produces red blood cells that convey oxygen; it manufactures white blood cells that combat infection; and it makes the platelets that assist blood clotting. Joints assist life, whereas, marrow provides life.
The same correlation exists between the soul and the spirit. The soul is our intellectual and emotional nature. We move, feel, and reason with our soul. It’s the joint of our being that expresses life. Can you imagine how bland we would be without the vibrancy of passion and enthusiasm from our soul? Although emotions are important they don’t produce life, they only express life. Our spirit is the seat of life. That’s what invigorates everything about us. The spirit is the only portion of Believers that’s transformed, righteous, and really alive. That’s why Jesus said: “They that worship God must worship in spirit [the life part of us] and truth.” He wants worship from the portion that’s been invigorated by the Holy Spirit.
That’s why soulish, emotional worship alone is unacceptable. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m Pentecostal and all for exuberant, energetic worship. Scripture calls for Believers to sing, shout, clap, and dance. But there’s a difference between exuberant worship and spirit-enlivened worship.
(Example) At times the Church opens, the prelude begins, choruses resound, the minister preaches, and everyone falls under a religious spell. But is this spiritual or is it just religious? I know it can be difficult to decipher, but occasionally it’s merely a “form of godliness.” Only God’s Word can discern and divide the difference. It separates “the joint from the marrow and the soul from the spirit.” And the reason it makes this piercing distinction is so we can distinguish between what’s real and what’s phony! It prevents us from faking a religious experience. Let me illustrate how the Word of God separates the genuine from the artificial:
During your devotional time, you pick up your Bible and begin reading. Suddenly your eyes fall on words that pierce your heart. They stop you in your tracks because God’s Word has “read your mail” and exposed something in your life.
Or, the preacher speaks one sentence from God’s Word that is inconsequential to everyone else, but the Holy Spirit makes that “word” alive to you.
When God’s Word knifes you with conviction or correction, stop and confess your sin. Don’t ignore it, or try to worship past it, pray it through!
(Example) Look how the Word influenced Saul of Tarsus who consented to Stephen’s stoning. Here was a merciless, unyielding, hater of Christians. That is until the Word confronted him. Stephen preached that memorable sermon that stirred the crowd to stone him to death. Saul stood there approving of the carnage. But I believe Stephen’s sermon latched an unshakable hold on Saul. They murdered the man but not the message. Stephen’s words so hounded Saul that the moment Christ struck him on the Damascus road he blurted out, “Who are you Lord?” He was calling Christ “Lord” before Jesus could introduce Himself. The Word Stephen preached penetrated Saul and confronted him at every turn. Like a double-edged sword it sliced him to pieces.
(Application) Listen, mom and dad, grandmother and grandfather: Never underestimate the Word’s power! Teach it to your children. Teach them in devotions, songs, videos, literature, or coloring books. Use every resource available. Get them in God’s house while they are young and fill them with the Word. It will influence them forever.
Folks, there’s never been a Book like this Book. Its influence, power, and provisions are unsurpassed. When you hear it, you will never outrun it. You may not accept it in this life but you will meet it in the next. The Bible says, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.” If you ignore Christ today you’ll give account for every occasion you rejected the Gospel. But you’ll accept the Gospel when you stand before Christ on Judgment Day! You’ll accept it not willingly, as you have the opportunity today, but you’ll accept it out of constraint. God’s Word will force you to accept the judgment of your sin. If you don’t personally know Christ, submit to His Lordship today.