CUTS LIKE A KNIFE
Sometimes at certain times we, as Christians, may be tempted to figuratively "beat someone over the head with the truth" or with the Word of God. Sometimes, in certain cases, we may be tempted to say "God, I know vengeance is Yours, so I give it to you," and then advise God on how to do that by really "giving it to them" - like David did occasionally in his Psalms (see, for example Ps. 58:6-7). Maybe we even look forward to Jesus' return when He will rule with a rod of iron and think “I know someone who needs to be hit with a rod of iron.” (Rev. 12: 5; 19:15) Maybe we even point other sinners (not me!) to Hebrews 4:12 with an attitude that says (though we might not actually say it) "read the Word - it will CUT you."
I believe this is an inappropriate stance and an idea that might actually be out of focus with God's plan. Please bear with me while I give some input and ideas about Hebrews 4:12. Here is that scripture:
"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."
Let's begin by looking at the verse before it, to get some context and perhaps answer the question "why is Paul saying this?"
V. 11 "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
To me, this is saying, "this is important so that you don't end up like the Old Testament nation of Israel, falling away and into unbelief." So, I believe what is going on here is the recipe for keeping us from falling away and failing to make it to the eternal rest that is our reward - that is eternity as a Spirit being/eternal life in the Kingdom.
Here are the definitions of some key words:
- Quick = alive, living (like living water)
- Powerful = active
- Pierce = go through or penetrate
- Dividing asunder = separating
- Soul = breath of life (that which is human, keeps us alive as humans, not an immortal soul or spirit)
- Spirit = Holy Spirit (the part of Him in us)
- Discerner = skilled at judging
- Heart = our inner being
I believe we can break it down this way:
- The word of God is living/alive and active. It is not some dead, archaic, applicable only to ancient times book. It is compared to a living, breathing, dynamic thing.
- The word of God penetrates (us). It is not just a surface thing, looking only at the outer man or fine words or the good deeds. It is skilled in judging my inner being.
- The word of God separates the human/carnal/natural man in me from the Spirit/holy part that is really God in me. It helps me to know what is being prompted by human nature and what is being prompted by the Spirit in me. And it helps me remove that which is human/carnal/natural so that God in me is what comes out in my words and deeds.
Here is an example and analogy from my life experience that helps me think this through:
Four to six times a year I go to my dermatologist to be checked for skin cancer. He almost always finds something. Luckily for me, frequently, all these spots need are to be frozen off. But, fairly often, he will find one or two places that have to be cut out. He is able to discern the sick (or bad) cells that must be removed so that my skin can be heathy. We try to find the spots early and remove them so they don’t continue to grow.
When my doctor has to cut out a cancer spot, he first takes a small piece - a biopsy - to check to ensure it is cancer = he is careful to discern what is or is not skin cancer (and what type of skin cancer) and what should be done about it.
Then, if necessary, if the diagnosis warrants it, he will take the smallest portion possible that both ensures the cancer is gone and also keeps the wound small. For the largest cancer I've had removed, my doctor removed it in a three step process - taking as much as he thought would get it all, testing the margins and then going back in to get more as necessary. He did not just lop off a pound of flesh and call it a day.
As many skin cancers as I've had on my arms and hands, he never suggested cutting out my bicep, let alone lopping off a hand. And always, if the wound is big enough to need it, he stitches me up so it will health with as little a scar as possible and gives me a prescription for antibiotics so it won’t get infected. The nurse hands me instructions for wound care so that it heals properly.
The precision of a surgeon is an amazing thing - perhaps even a gift. Why do we think that the God who formed us in His image, has less skill or less concern than a surgeon or my dermatologist?
Why would I think, even just for a moment, that to correct me, God's first step will be to slice me to smithereens with His two-edged sword – leaving me open and wounded? Why would it even occur to me that the Bible, the Word of God, is meant to cause me damage or inflict pain? If I allow myself to have this view of God, I could be in danger of coming precariously close to thinking that I, as His servant, have the right and the calling to act the same – to hit people over the head with, wound them with, cut them with the sword of the word? I could be in danger of looking forward to "dividing asunder" unbelievers when Christ returns to rule this earth – instead of looking forward each day to removing more of the parts of me that need to go and to helping direct others to God so that He might do the same for them.
I am very thankful that God is a skilled surgeon and His word carefully removes the parts of me that need to go, while leaving the rest in tact so that more of Him shows through. I’m thankful that He is gentle and loving and doesn’t seek to crush me. It isn’t my job to perform surgery on others though. Nor should I misrepresent God’s word as “cutting.” If I do, then I should not be surprised that others do not want to read the book or seek His guidance.
The word of God cuts like a skilled surgeon, carefully and thoughtfully creating the new me.
I’d love to hear your thoughts too. Write me at:
Next time: “How to Win a Three-legged Race.”
About the N.E.W. Church Lady – She is just an average middle aged woman who has been a believer and church attender all her life. She is married with three grown children. She lives in a small town and works in sales. Her hobbies are fitness, reading, cooking, writing and travel.