“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
I had cataract surgery last week. I was sedated and my eye numbed as the surgeon broke up the old lens with the highly specialized tools and inserted the new lens. I did nothing other than submit to the care of the nurses for pre-op procedures and lie back as my surgeon did the work on my eye. I didn’t even drive myself home. God’s Word acts on us like a surgeon. The passage is familiar to Christians who have spent time studying Scripture under the discipleship of Christ and his under-shepherds. Let’s take another look at it, as we seek to have wisdom in our hearts to absorb all that God has to teach us for our corporate worship today.
The Bible is not a collection of helpful moral stories, history lessons, or principles for good living. With the incisiveness of a surgeon’s tool, it cuts our hearts, opening us up to discern what is in us, and has the power to remove the sin by God’s Spirit working in us, replacing it with the truth. We know that inanimate objects cannot possibly have these properties or perform this work and believe with confidence that God is the author of all Scripture, which is breathed out by him (2 Timothy 3:16). It is the Holy Spirit who is working through our study and meditation on Bible passages—he is living and active, more precise and sharper than any surgeon’s tool to pierce our soul, spirit, joints, and marrow. The Spirit penetrates all parts of us and leaves no part untouched by God’s Word when he is indwelling us. Today, when we hear Scripture read in church and listen to our pastor’s sermon, God is working to penetrate our whole being.
He is discerning the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Oh, it’s not us doing this either! This is all and only a work of God if we approach the Bible with sincerity and a desire to be changed by it. And change we must because our hearts are full of old nature material, like the cataract that has invaded the old lens. As the spoiled lens has to be removed, so does our wickedness and opposition toward God. “Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29) After Scripture reveals our beliefs and desires (thoughts and intentions) of our hearts, it’s our turn to respond in faith by using this knowledge to confess and repent with humility and gratefulness (1 Corinthians 14:25). Then we can love our brothers and sisters in Christ more fully, worshipping together in unity and holiness.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:22-23)