HEBREWS 4:12-13

For the word of God is alive 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.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

(New International Version)

Be careful with the word of God! Be careful because it cuts both ways. Those who take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) in hand to attack others may very well find themselves pierced to the heart with soul lain bare and bleeding before the Lord.

There are those, many in fact, who use the word of God as a weapon against others; not against false spirits, or evil influences, or even errant doctrines and teachings, but against others. What I mean is, in light of their own socialization and what they’ve been taught to believe, they form personal interpretations and applications of Bible teaching. Then, based on what they have come to perceive with regard to what they think the Bible teaches, they use it to attack, criticize, judge, and condemn others.  They say to themselves, and to others, that it is God’s word that is doing the judging but, in reality, it is not the word of God, but their own ideas, opinions, and personal interpretations of the word that constitute the framework of their attack.

Jesus condemned this mindset when He said to the religious leaders in Israel, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3) and “… you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:6-9).

To give an example, consider the “faithful” (a hem) sister in Christ who feels it her Christian obligation to inform others of the particular background of someone whose personal history she finds objectionable. Perhaps this other person has been married and divorced for reasons she may be completely unaware of, but which she has determined to be outside the perimeters of Biblical teaching. So, without giving it a second thought, she is always quick to mention the unsavory track record of the person in question and, if pressed, she is more than willing to point out just where she thinks this person stands condemned by scripture. However, in her haste to use the sword the Spirit to impugn another, she appears completely oblivious to what the word of God teaches about her own attitude and actions: “…being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, STRIFE, deceit, MALICE; THEY ARE GOSSIPS, SLANDERERS, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, UNLOVING, UNMERCIFUL; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things ARE WORTHY OF DEATH, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:29-32, NASB).

Whoaaaa… So, while attempting to use the word of God to point out the unrighteousness she detects in someone else’s life, she herself is committing sinful acts that the Apostle Paul says, “are worthy of death.”

Should someone care enough for her soul to point these facts out to her, and should she herself be, in fact, a true disciple of Christ in submission to God, surely, she would find her own heart pierced through and laid bare before the Lord. The sword, indeed, cuts both ways.

I find it interesting that the Hebrew writer says that this double-edged sword, the word of God, “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (verse 12).  In this particular passage of scripture, it is not anybody’s physical performance that is in view. Other passages of scripture deal with that kind of thing, as when Jesus said of the false prophets, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). But Jesus also indicated that the outward fruits may look good, while one’s heart is filled with evil intent, as when He told the religious leaders, “For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).

But the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, plunges deep, way beyond physical performance. It gets plunges deep beyond our outward behavior and pious acts of devotion. Unlike a physical sword which can only plunge to the separation of joints and marrow, and even separate one’s physical life force from his or her eternal spirit, God word plunges all the way down into one’s true heart, one’s mind, one’s intellect, one’s motivations, one’s thoughts and intentions.  It lays bare, challenges, and convicts the inner man.

We must, each one, be careful how we wield the sword of the Spirit. When we are tempted to pick up that sharp, double-edged sword and use it to convict someone else, we would do well to, first, let it have its divine work in our own hearts and lives.

I love what my Lord Jesus said with regard to respecting the power of God’s word and the attitude required to handle it accurately and appropriately when He said, “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.  And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:47-50, NKJV).

Lord God, I come to You in Jesus’ name asking that Your Spirit strengthen me and help me to be of the same mind and heart as my Lord Jesus; to be continually submissive to and in agreement with Your holy word.  May I, in complete surrender, allow Your living and active word to have its perfect work, first and foremost, deep within my own heart.  May the thoughts and intentions of my heart be revealed before you and be brought into conformity with Your word.  I pray for opportunities to share Your word with others. But, in so doing, may I be, like my Lord Jesus, compassionate in my presentation and in the application of Your word to the hearts and lives of others. May I always remember that I am nobody’s judge. May I remember that my place is simply to “speak the truth in love,” as Your servant Paul admonishes in his letter to the Ephesians; and leave all the judging to Your word on the last day.

Copyright © 2023 Philip R. Stroud

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