Phil Cox

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Sharper than any double-edged sword - Part 1

14th December 2013

As I said last time, I was taught as an evangelical to think of "the word of God" as almost always meaning the Bible but I'm learning to look at the scriptures that talk about "the word" on a case-by-case basis. I think I'm still an evangelical. In fact, I hope I'm more of an evangelical than ever. An evangelical trusts in the infallibility of the Bible and wants to understand it as well as possible. And I think my understanding of the Bible is growing. It's certainly supposed to.

As I also said last week, I'm thinking about this passage in particular:

Hebrews 4v12
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

What does the writer of his letter mean by "the word of God" here?

Consider the following sentences:

Jesus Christ is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, he penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; he judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Bible is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Every word God utters is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

They're all true, aren't they? But the writer must have had one of them in mind. Opinion is divided as to which.

Evangelical heroes John Calvin and John Gill believe the writer of the letter means Jesus Christ. Jesus is more living and active than anybody or anything, and He divides like a double-edged sword. He said:

Matthew 10v34-36
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'"

There can be no greater division than between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness, between the saved and the lost, between heaven and hell:

2 Corinthians 6v14b-16a
what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?

In British churches in our generation, it seems that we're denying this doctrine more and more. We want to be "inclusive", which is a good thing, but not if we're willing to compromise the Bible in an attempt to avoid alienating others. But if we're not radically different from society, then we have nothing to offer people. The church should embrace its role as God's alternative to the lost world around us.

2 Corinthians 6v17a
Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord."

If we refuse to be different from the world then, sooner or later, God will say to us:

Revelation 3v15-16
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Some understand this as convicting the church in Laodicea of laziness but perhaps it's more about compromise.

And, at the end, the ultimate division will come:

Matthew 25v31-46
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
"The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

"Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
"They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
"He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

This passage says that the test of our discipleship to Christ is our loyalty to His church which He calls His family. It's our willingness to stand with our brothers and sisters, whatever the cost, and meet their needs. Jesus said:

Matthew 12v46-50
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."
He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."


Next time, I hope to consider this verse as applied to the Bible.