Characteristics of the Sacred Scriptures
Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword…

For the Word of God is quick and powerful, etc. We take "the Word of God" here as meaning the sacred Scriptures, and the text as presenting to our notice several characteristics of them.

I. THE VITALITY OF GOD'S WORD. "The Word of God is quick," or, "living." Sometimes the written Word is spoken of as a "dead letter;" but with at least equal propriety it may be spoken of as a "living Word." "The Word of God, which liveth and abideth. For all flesh is as grass," etc. (1 Peter 1:23-25). We mention three evidences of the vitality of the Word of God.

1. Its continued and unimpaired existence notwithstanding innumerable, persistent, and powerful assaults. If these writings had not been instinct with a Divine life they would have been destroyed long ere this.

2. Its adaptation to all ages and all peoples. This book is as true and living for us today as it was for the men of the second century of our era; it is as applicable to the European as to the Asiatic.

3. Its inexhaustible interest. Like God's book of nature, it is endless in its significance and undiminishing in its attractiveness. Dr. Payne Smith has well said, "For nearly eighteen centuries men have thought and written upon that one Book, and if for eighteen more centuries men so write, yet will there still remain much that calls for fresh examination and fuller inquiry; new knowledge to be won, old truths to be better and more fully understood. The books of men have their day, and then grow obsolete. God's Word is like himself, 'the same yesterday, and today, and forever.' Time passes over it, but it ages not. Its power is as fresh as if God spake it but yesterday."

II. THE ENERGY OF GOD'S WORD. "Quick, and powerful," or active, or energizing. This power is seen:

1. In the conviction of men of sin. "Is not my Word like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" Its exhibition of infinite mercy has melted many a stubborn soul into genuine penitence.

2. In the conversion of sinners. "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." It is the instrument of spiritual regeneration. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth."

3. In the correction of faults and errors. "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction," etc.

4. In the consolation of the mourner. "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope." "He that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and comfort, and consolation." "Comfort one another with these words."

5. In the sanctification of the believer. "Sanctify them in the truth: thy Word is truth." "Ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you." "Sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word." "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth."

III. THE PENETRATION OF GOD'S WORD. "And sharper than any two-edged sword," etc. The Word of God is frequently compared to a sword. "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." And to a two-edged sword. "Out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword." "As it is from the mouth that man's word proceeds; so this sword, not wielded in the hand, but proceeding from the mouth of the Son of God, is his Word (cf. Isaiah 49:2)." Here are two suggestions concerning the penetration of God's Word.

1. It searches the whole of man's nature. The "soul," i.e. man's animal soul; "spirit," i.e. man's religious spirit. By the former he is related to the brute creation; by the latter he is related to angels and to God himself, who is the "Father of spirits." The Word enters the heart and makes an impression there; it pierces through even to the spirit, and works mightily there. It divides "both joints and marrow;" it investigates the most interior and hidden parts of man's being.

2. It searches the whole of man's nature most rigorously. "Even to the dividing of soul and spirit;" not dividing the soul from the spirit, but dividing the soul itself and the spirit itself. This Word is not as an ordinary sword, but is "sharper than any two-edged sword;" and it does not as an ordinary sword cut to the bone, but through the bones and through the innermost marrow. So thoroughly and rigorously does the Word of God search man's moral nature.

IV. THE DISCRIMINATION OF GOD'S WORD. "And is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." It exercises a critical and separating power upon the thoughts and ideas, opinions and principles, of the heart. And it discovers to men the true moral character of their thoughts and intents, their opinions and principles. The Word of God frequently reveals man to himself. "The Bible," says Dr. Parker, "exposes the very innermost recesses of human nature; sets a light where no other hand ever placed a candle; lights up the pathways of our most secret life and thought; and we begin to feel that the book we must shut up when we are going to do evil is God's Book. This is the great hold, the sovereign mastery, which the Book of God has over the ages - that it knows us; that it gives articulation to our dumb reproaches; that it puts into the best words the things we reap against ourselves and cannot fully explain. Esaias knows us; Jeremiah has analyzed and dissected and anatomized us. It any man would know the human heart, he must read the human heart in God's Book."

"The sacred page
With calm attention scan! If on thy soul,
As thou dost read, a ray of purer light
Break in - oh, cheek it not; give it full scope!
Admitted, it will break the clouds which long
Have dimmed thy sight, and lead thee, till at last,
Convictions, like the sun's meridian beams,
Illuminate thy mind."

(Samuel Hayes.) = - W.J.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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.

WEB: For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

An All-Seeing God
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