Skip to content
10/12/2021 / Test All Things

A Study of Hebrews 4:12-13

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)


For. . . .

For the word of God is quick, and powerful. . . .

And this little word for here signifies that we should pay special attention to the statement that follows, because it contains a powerful incentive to heed the exhortation that precedes, and to obey it with fear and trembling.

That exhortation, which in some form or other occurs repeatedly in the epistle to the Hebrews, is that we must labor, that we should give diligence to enter into the rest that now, in the new dispensation, still remains for the people of God.

It is addressed to those that have a place in the house of God, the house over which the Son, the glorious apostle and High Priest of our profession, is anointed as Lord. In that house His voice is heard. And always that voice demands of those that dwell in the house of God that they shall give diligence to enter into the rest of God, into His covenant. For the covenant of God is the rest that even now remaineth. And, truly, into that covenant the people of God have entered. Principally they have been received into the rest of God. Yet, here in this world, and in the body of this death, they are still in the midst of the unrest of sin and death. Their life is in a tension.

Constantly they must fight the good fight. Always they must give diligence to enter into the rest, to fight against sin, to crucify their old nature, to forsake the world, to walk in a new and holy life.

Give diligence, therefore!

Labor to enter into the rest of God!

Very painstakingly, with holy fear and trembling, work out your own salvation!

For, in the house of God, you are in the sphere of the Word of God!

And that Word of God is quick and powerful!

It is sharper than any two-edged sword; it pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.

It discerns the thoughts and intents of your very heart.

All is exposed and naked before His eyes!

With Him we have to do!


Wonderful Word of God!

Wonderful, principally, because that Word is not a mere it, but a He: with whom we have to do!

Through this Word we have to do with Him that speaks it!

Thus, no doubt, this marvelous passage of Holy Writ must be understood.

Men have thought upon these amazing words, and pondered upon the question what might be meant by this Word of God that has such mighty power; and variously they have answered this question.

It has been concluded that this Word of God is the gospel, as it is contained in the Holy Scriptures, and as it is preached by and in the church of Christ in the world. Is not the author of this epistle speaking of the house of God, where the voice of the Son of God is heard? And is not the Bible the Word of God as it is delivered to the church, and as it is proclaimed and heard in the house of God? To this Word of God, then, as we have it in the Scriptures, and as it is preached by men, the text must have reference.

Nor can it be denied that there is truth in this interpretation.

For, indeed, there is no Word of God heard in the church except that which is proclaimed according to the Scriptures.

Yet, on the other hand, there is no less truth in the objections that are raised against this view by those who insist that the text here does not refer to the Bible, nor to the preaching of the gospel as such by mere men, but to the eternal Logos, the Word of God become flesh, crucified and raised from the dead, and exalted at the right hand of God, the quickening Spirit, the living and mighty and glorious Christ ‘Himself. For, however true it may be that the contents of the Holy Scriptures, and the contents of the Word preached according to the Scriptures always judge and discern the thoughts and intents of the heart, it cannot be said of either that Bible or that preaching, apart from the living Christ, that it is quick and powerful and piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit. If merely the preaching of the Word by men were meant, what is said of its piercing and discerning and judging power, could not be applied to it. Men hear the Word preached, and criticize it, judge it, oppose it, cast it from them in distain, refuse to become doers of the Word. And, besides, does not the text itself sufficiently make plain that the reference cannot be to the Bible, nor to the preaching of the Word by mere men, not to the personal Word Himself, when it declares that there is not any creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and opened before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do?

And yet, without the Word of God as revealed in Holy Writ, and as proclaimed in and by the Church, there is no Word that is heard.

No Word that is heard without the Scriptures; no mighty Word without the living Christ that speaks.

The two must be combined.

They are inseparable.

Separate the personal Word, the Son of God become flesh, who died and was raised, and who is glorified in the highest heavens, from His Word in the Scriptures, as it is preached in the church, and what you have left is a word of man, powerless to pierce the heart of man, to convict and to save.

And again, despise the Scriptures, and separate them from the living Christ, and you must be hopelessly lost in the thick fog of false mysticism, in which you may hear the siren’s song of many voices, but in which the voice of the living Lord does not penetrate.

In the house of God we have to do, not with a mere ‘fit” but with a mighty “He”,

The Word of God is, indeed, the Son of God speaking.

Its contents we have, to be sure, in the Holy Scriptures; and it is proclaimed through the preaching of the Word by men. Nevertheless, it is He, the living Lord, who died and was raised, who received the promise of the Holy Ghost, and who, through and in that Spirit dwells in His own house, that speaks, and whose voice is heard in the church.

It is the sharp, two-edged sword that proceeds out of His mouth!

See that we despise not Him that speaketh!

Labor to enter into the rest!


Mighty Word of God!

Quick and powerful it is!

And “quick” signifies living!

With heavy emphasis, according to the original, this virtue of the Word of God is mentioned first: living is the Word!

And because it is living, vibrating with the life of Him that speaks it, it is powerful, that is, energetic: the Word is a current of living power.

It is not like the word of mere man, that merely communicates to you the thoughts and desires of its subject, but is powerless to lord it over you; that tries to persuade you, but must wait for your consent; that attempts to convince you, but must submit itself to your judgment and determination; it is living and energetic. Never does it reach you in vain. Always it accomplishes that unto which it is sent. It saves or it damns; it quickens or it kills; it brings you to contrition or it hardens. Whether its effect in and upon you is that you, brokenheartedly, humble yourself in dust and ashes, or that, in the vain imagination of your haughty heart, you reject and oppose it, and raise your rebellious fist against Him that speaketh,—-always it is the effect of that living and energetic Word.

That Word darkens and illuminates, it blinds and it gives sight to the blind, it hides and it reveals.

It is a savor of death unto death, as well as a savor of life unto life.

It is a quickening flame, and a consuming fire,

Vibrant it is with the power of eternal election, and of reprobation.

Moreover, it is the Word of your LORD, and such it judges you; and as a judging Word it penetrates into your inmost being, into the most secret recesses of your heart, to expose them to the light of sovereign and most indubitable righteousness and justice, to discern them, and to pronounce upon them the judgment from which there is no appeal!

It is compared to a sharp, two-edged sword, and found to be sharper than it. Without respect of persons, this Word cuts through the outer surface of your appearance, of the conventional words you speak, of your lying and deceitful smiles and tears, of your outward actions and apparently good deeds, in order to penetrate into your deepest existence, your thoughts, your desires, your aspirations, your real purposes and motives, into the heart, whence are the issues of life. Into the finest and tiniest fibers of your nature it cuts, to distinguish, to separate, to expose them. For it pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and in each of these it finds its way into the “joints and marrow” that is, into each secret inclination, and desire, and motive. There is in us a life that is related to this present world in all its relationships, a soul-life, with its thinking and willing, its seeing and hearing, its love and hatred, its joy and sorrow, its pleasure and pain; and there is in us that which is related to God, a spirit-life, also with its joy and sorrow, its pleasure and displeasure, its love and its hatred. And into the “joints and marrow” of each of these this Word of God pierces, distinguishing and exposing whether your joy is joy in God or mere joy in the things of this life, whether your repentance is truly sorrow after God, or mere sorrow of the world, whether you seek the things that are above, or the things that are on the earth.

And always it judges!

For it discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.

For the heart has its thoughts, and the heart has its considerations, its intents, its purposes and motives.

The heart is the deepest in man, from an ethical, spiritual viewpoint. It is the center of his life and activity as a moral being, created to be God’s image bearer, and to be motivated in all his life and acts by the love of God. From the heart are the issues of life as far as their direction is concerned with relation to the will of God. There are found the deepest answers to the questions concerning the reason and purpose of all your actions: why and unto what end you laugh or weep, you sing or curse, you labor and struggle, you pray and give alms, you worship and do well. In your heart is found the answer to the question: what is your worth in relation to God and man?

The thoughts and intents of the heart!

Discerned they are, one and all, by the Word of God.

That Word is your judge!

In the light of the perfect will of God, that Word makes separation between the truth and the lie, light and darkness, righteousness and unrighteousness; and pronounces God’s own verdict upon the hidden things of the heart!

And it knows no respect of persons.

Nor is there any appeal from its judgment.

Powerful Word of God!


With Him we have to do!

As we dwell in the house of God, the Word of God comes to us.

Always it speaks to us, through the Holy Scriptures, through the preaching, through instruction, through personal exhortation and admonition. In the sphere of that Word we live. From earliest childhood we carry it in our mind. It is always with us. Whether we sit in our house, or walk by the way; whether we labor in the factory or sit in our office; whether we lie down or rise up,—always that Word of God is with us, living, energetic, penetrating, piercing into the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of the joints and marrow, discerning, judging, condemning, justifying, quickening, killing. . . .

And through that Word, as it is spoken to us, as it reaches us, and is always with us, we have to do with Him, with the speaker, the living Christ, the Lord of the house of God!

With Him, the Word, the Son of the living God!

And we have to do with Him, exactly because His Word is the Word of the Lord. It is not a philosophy that is submitted to our criticism; nor a mere invitation we may kindly accept or politely decline; nor even a mere doctrine which we may learn to know, and to the truth of which we may consent; His Word is a Word of life and death: it concerns us personally. Through this Word we have to do with Him as our Lord, who owns us because He purchased us with the price of His precious blood; whose servants we are, whose mind is our mind, and whose will is our law; who is responsible for us, and to whom we are responsible. We have to do with Him, the Son of God, because He demands obedience, the obedience of faith and love, that in His house we may walk as children of light.

With Him, Himself we have to do!

See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh!

His speech is clear: give diligence to enter into the rest; love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul, and with all your strength; forsake the world, crucify your old nature; walk in a new and holy life!

And say not in your heart, that you can hide from Him with whom we have to do, or walk in His house with a lie in your right hand. For there is no creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and opened unto His eyes!

Give diligence therefore, to work out your own salvation.

With fear and trembling.

With Him we have to do!

As before His eyes!


Herman Hoeksema

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: