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Hebrews 4b

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Hebrews 4:12-13… For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.


The entire book of Hebrews is a sermon complete with biblical doctrine from the OT, examples from Jewish life, and exhoration to obey that which is being preached. The author was an expert expositor – one who “exposed” the truth of God’s Word and attempted to clarify with simple statements difficult doctrines found throughout the OT. From Hebrews 1:1-4:11 the author has quoted the OT incessantly to make his point about Jesus Christ being superior to angels (Hebrews 1-2), to Moses (3), and to Joshua (4). Without his belief that the OT was written by the Holy Spirit (3:7) the author would have had no authority and no point to make.

So Hebrews 4:12 is an appropriate passage regarding God’s Word in the context of the author’s sermon. The statement itself speaks of God’s Word as “living and active.” The Word of God, the Bible, isn’t a simple history book filled with myths and half-truths and legends about the heros of the past like Greek mythology. The Greek text literally says, “Living is the Word of God and active…” In other words, the written text of God’s revelation is not dead but alive and also “active” – (Greek energes from whence “energy”)  which means “effective; able to make things happen.” Amazingly Jesus Christ is called the “Word” in the NT (see John 1), and He too is “living and active.” He’s not dead but alive, and he is effective, able to make things happen!

Not only is God’s Word living and active, it is “sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as division of soul and spirit…” Of course a two-edged sword cuts both ways and is used to slice deeply. Spiritually speaking the Word of God does the same thing. It is able to penetrate beneath all hypocrisy and lack of diligence in those who profess faith in Christ but who don’t truly possess saving faith. God’s Word lays bare moral recklessness and self-delusions common in people who profess Christ but who don’t truly follow Christ. The Word “pierces” and goes through a person’s soul and into his spirit. The soul of man has been described as the lower part of man’s animal instincts – his natural and sinful tendencies. So his spirit would be his higher part, the one receptive to God, having been made in God’s image and able to have fellowship with God. God’s Word penetrates both soul and spirit even into the “joints and marrow” (soft tissue). This may be a poetic statement which parallels a literal sword going through human joints and marrow with the Bible which cuts into man’s deepest depravities.

Finally, God’s Word is said to “judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” To judge means “to sift out and analyze evidence.” So the Word of God analyzes and sifts out the intentions of man’s depraved heart laying everything open and bare to God. Verse 13 states that all creatures are open in God’s sight. The word “open” comes from the Greek noun form of “throat.” The verb form means “to seize and twist the throat.” This imagery recalls warriors and wild animals exposing their victim’s neck and throat in order to kill. God’s Word does the same!

Food for Thought

            Charlie Daniels sings: “Well you know what’s wrong with the world today? People done gone and put their Bibles away!” (Simple Man). How true and how sad. Even some pastors tend to care little about what the Bible teaches, using it only out of context to defend a point in their so-called sermons today. But if man’s problem is unbelief, and if unbelief is exposed by Bible preaching, then the answer to man’s problem is obvious. Let us be diligent to enter God’s rest.

Hebrews 4:14-16… Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


            Having established Jesus Christ as superior to the angels (Hebrews 1-2), superior to Moses (Heb. 3), and superior to Joshua (Heb. 4), the author draws a pertinent conclusion. The angels were mere servants of God. But Jesus is the Son of God. Moses was also a mere servant in God’s house, but Jesus is the builder of the house. And Joshua failed to give the children of Israel eternal rest in the Promised Land, while Jesus is the believer’s rest. So the conclusion is obvious: submitting to Jesus as Lord is the logical choice for anyone considering an apostate turn back into Judaism or any other inferior religion. And all religions are inferior to Jesus Christ.

            The author of Hebrews states clearly that “we have a great high priest” in Jesus Christ. While some in the audience were considering going back to Judaism with their Aaronic high priest, the author and all the true believers who read his letter were submitting to THE High Priest – Jesus Christ. While the Jewish high priest, privileged as he was, made sacrifices daily on behalf of the people of Israel and also made the annual Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) sacrifice in Leviticus 16, Jesus made the one perfect sacrifice then “passed through the heavens” and sat down at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3). He went through the first heaven (earthly atmosphere), the second heaven (deep space), then to the third heaven where God sits on his throne (2 Cor. 12:2-4). And when Jesus sat down at God’s right hand it signified that His work of redemption was finished. While the Jewish high priest made continual sacrifices, Jesus sacrificed himself and sat down after his finished work. Therefore he is the great High Priest.

            In light of this, the author exhorts his audience to “hold fast” their “confession.” To hold fast is to maintain one’s grip. “Confession” is literally “one word.” And the “one word” is the “Word of God that is sharper than any two-edged sword…” (Heb. 4:12-13). So in light of the power of God’s Word and the superiority of that Word, professed Christians have no business falling back into inferior beliefs and practices; they must maintain a firm grip on their faith.

            Verse 15 explains that Jesus Christ as the Great High Priest is able to sympathize with the weaknesses of those who place their faith in Him. He is able, because he was tempted in every way, to understand the difficulties of life. The Jewish high priest could not do that! He wasn’t tempted in all matters nor was he able to sympathize with all of Israel’s weaknesses. Now of course Jesus, because he wasn’t married, did not experience marital difficulties nor did he experience the problems of having children. He knew not what a woman experiences in simply being a woman, and he knew nothing of computer viruses that wipe entire hard-drives clean! But at the root of all of these trials Jesus experienced all the basic tests of humanity, and he came forth unscathed by sin. He endured all because he is the faithful high priest.

            So the author, in light of who Jesus is, invites the audience to come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in times of need. What a God to serve!

Food for Thought

            The Christian faith is about Jesus Christ. Believers are never called to consult a priest or a medium to bring them to God or to intercede on their behalf. On the contrary, believers are priests in that they can come boldly before the very throne of God! And a merciful God at that.

Hebrews 4:12… For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

·         The Word of God:

  1. Living… like Jesus (the Word) is not dead but alive
  2. Active (energetic)… not idle but working
  3. Sharper than a two-edged sword… deadly and divisive

Ø  Isa 49:1-2… The LORD called me from the womb; from the body of My mother He named me. 2 And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword;

Ø  Heb 13:7… Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

Ø  Rev 20:4… And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I {saw} the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God…

Ø  Rev 2:16… Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.

Ø  Rev 19:15… And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron…

Ø  Isa 11:4… and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.

Ø  Acts 2:36-37… let all the House of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ -- this Jesus whom you crucified. Now when they heard they were pierced to the heart…

Ø  Acts 5:30-33… The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and {so is} the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him. But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and were intending to slay them.

Ø  Eph 6:17… and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

  1. Pierces (separates) dead spirit from the soul of man – both physically and spiritually (soul is the animal instincts of man led by the dead spirit which is charged by the lusts of the eyes and flesh and the boastful pride of life; the new spirit is given by God with the intention of pleasing God, not the flesh).
  2. Judges thoughts and intentions of the heart… nothing is hidden, but all motives of the heart are in fact judged by God.

Ø  Ps 139:2… Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar.

Ø  Jer 17:10… I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.

Ø  Rev 2:23… and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts…

Hebrews 4:13… And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

·         No creature hidden from His sight… that which God has created he knows where they are!

·         Laid bare… to expose the trachea; standing face to face with a sword under one’s chin forcing the enemy to look him in the eye. His neck is pulled back and exposed.

·         To whom we the word (logos)… or “to whom we are responsible to,” namely Jesus, our judge.

Hebrews 4:14… Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

  • Passed through the heavens… See also Mark 16:19; Acts 1:11 where Jesus ascended to the right hand of God the Father (cf. Heb. 1:3). Jesus intercedes for us (Rom. 8:34).
  • Hold fast… Heb. 2:1; 3:6; 3:14; 10:23; Rev. 2:13 I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast my name, and did not deny my faith… (cf. 2:25; 3:11).

Hebrews 4:15… For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as {we are, yet} without sin.

  • High Priest… the Jewish high priest was only a man who had not been tried and tested in all matters as Jesus had. Jesus could sympathize, and that’s the high priest we want.
  • Phil 2:7… but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men.
  • Luke 4:2… for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days;
  • Luke 22:28… And you are those who have stood by Me in My trials;
  • Heb 2:17-18…

Hebrews 4:16… Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

  • Draw near… a present verb meaning to continually draw near to God.
  • With confidence… not with trembling but with an attitude of expectation
  • Throne of grace… God’s throne is characterized by grace
  • That we may receive mercy… seems to be a sure thing to receive God’s unmerited pardon
  • That we may find grace… another sure thing that mercy is trumped with unmerited favor.
  • Rom 8:15-17… For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with {Him} in order that we may also be glorified with {Him.}
  • Eph 2:18… for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
  • Eph 3:12… in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.
  • Heb 10:19-23… Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since {we have} a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled {clean} from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
  • Heb 13:6… we confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?"

Drawing near to God is justified given that His Word (Jesus) exposes our thoughts and intentions. Nothing is hidden from Him, so when we are exposed for who and what we are we are at an impasse. Either we can draw back and drift away, or we can draw near to find mercy and grace from the God who has exposed us for who and what we are. The Jews in the wilderness were repelled by God’s Word, and their thoughts and intentions were exposed. Yet they refused to come to God’s throne of grace. And those who refuse to come to Him He refuses to take with Him.

Israel saw God’s works and wonders and was given ample opportunity to believe. When they failed to enter the Promised Land they were reprimanded. And when they came to their senses and tried to do so, it was too late. They missed the opportunity to believe, so they died in the wilderness and serve as an example for all not to follow. The promise remains. Enter today!

12 Ζῶν γὰρ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐνεργὴς καὶ τομώτερος ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν

For living (PAPtcp) the word          of God         and     effective         and         sharper             over      all

μάχαιραν δίστομον καὶ διϊκνούμενος ἄχρι μερισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ

sword                     two-edged      and                     passing through (PMPtcp) until division               of soul   and

πνεύματος, ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, καὶ κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ

spirit,                     of joints            both and marrow,         and      judging           thoughts                      and 

ἐννοιῶν καρδίας· 13 καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν κτίσις ἀφανὴς ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ, πάντα

intentions     of a heart.                 And    not       is (PAI) creature/authority hidden from before him,              all

δὲ γυμνὰ καὶ τετραχηλισμένα τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐτοῦ, πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν

but  naked             and neck having been stuck out (RPPtcp) in the eyes       of him,              to whom to us the              

λόγος. 14 Ἔχοντες οὖν ἀρχιερέα μέγαν διεληλυθότα τοὺς οὐρανούς,

word.                      Having (PAPtcp) then a high priest great       having gone through (RAPtcp) the heavens,

Ἰησοῦν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, κρατῶμεν τῆς ὁμολογίας. 15 οὐ γὰρ ἔχομεν

Jesus the                son          of            God,        let us hold (PAS) the confession.                      For not we have (PAI)

ἀρχιερέα μὴ δυνάμενον συμπαθῆσαι ταῖς ἀσθενείαις ἡμῶν,

a high priest    not   being able (PPPtcp) to suffer with (AAIn)       the weaknesses          of us

πεπειρασμένον δὲ κατὰ πάντα καθʼ ὁμοιότητα χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας.

Having been pressured (RPPtcp) but by all                by       likeness                 without       sin.

16 προσερχώμεθα οὖν μετὰ παρρησίας τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς χάριτος, ἵνα

Therefore let us come into (PMS)    with         boldness               the throne             of      grace,            so that

λάβωμεν ἔλεος καὶ χάριν εὕρωμεν εἰς εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν.

We might receive (AAS) mercy and grace           and might find (AAS) for good season help.

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