'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.'
As a missionary evangelist outside abortion clinics for 18 years it has been my observation that most pro-life ministries are humanistic. In other words, they are woman-centered rather than God-centered and biblical. While it is an ancient temptation to exchange the commandments of God and His threatenings with humanistic reasoning and appeals to pleasure self-preservation, we have the open declaration of the Bible that it is pride and foolishness to believe that anything we have to say (however compassionate-sounding and compelling) comes near to the power and authority of the Law and Word of God.
Please take time to prayerfully meditate on the scripture above and the commentaries on this verse below. May God help you to be unashamed of Christ and to love and do all good to your neighbors, first and foremost, with a mind for giving glory to Christ.
Together for Life & Eternity,
The truth of God is all-penetrating and searching. The real thoughts and intents of the heart will be brought to light. If there is insincerity and self-deception there can be no hope of escape. The "Word of God" is "what God speaks" - whether it be a promise or a threatening; whether it be Law or gospel; whether it be a simple declaration or a statement of a doctrine. The idea here is, that what "God had said" is suited to detect hypocrisy and to lay open the true nature of the feelings of the soul, so that there can be no escape for the guilty. His "truth" is adapted to bring out the real feelings, and to show man exactly what he is. Truth always has this power - whether preached, or read, or communicated by conversation, or impressed upon the memory and conscience by the Holy Spirit. There can be no escape from the penetrating, searching application of the Word of God. That truth has power to show what man is, and is like a penetrating sword that lays open the whole man; compare Isaiah 49:2.
Its power is seen in awakening the conscience; alarming the fears; laying bare the secret feelings of the heart, and causing the sinner to tremble with the apprehension of the coming judgment. All the great changes in the moral world for the better, have been caused by the power of truth. They are such as the truth in its own nature is suited to effect, and if we may judge of its power by the greatness of the revolutions produced, no words can over-estimate the might of the truth which God has revealed.
The comparison of the Word of God to a sword or to an arrow, is designed to show its power of penetrating the heart; Ecclesiastes 12:11, "The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies;" compare Isaiah 49:2. "And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword;" Revelation 1:16, "And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword;" Revelation 2:12, Revelation 2:16; Revelation 19:15. The comparison is common in the classics, and in Arabic poetry; see Gesenius, on Isaiah 49:2. The idea is that of piercing, or penetrating; and the meaning here is, that the Word of God reaches the "heart" - the very center of action, and lays open the motives and feelings of the man. It was common among the ancients to have a sword with two edges. The Roman sword was commonly made in this manner. The fact that it had two edges made it more easy to penetrate, as well as to cut with every way.
Soul and spirit - The animal life from the immortal soul... This distinction occurs in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, "your whole spirit, and soul, and body;" ... this is the idea here, that the Word of God is like a sharp sword that inflicts deadly wounds. The sinner "dies;" that is, he becomes dead to his former hopes, or is "slain" by the Law; Romans 7:9, "I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." This is the power referred to here - the power of destroying the hopes of the sinner; cutting him down under conviction; and prostrating him as if a sword had pierced his heart.
The thoughts and intents of the heart are brought out to view by the Word of God. And can anyone doubt this? See Romans 7:7. Is it not true that people are made to see their real character under the exhibition of the truth of God? That in the light of the Law they see their past lives to be sinful? That the exhibition of truth calls to their recollection many long-forgotten sins? And that their real feelings are brought out when the truth of God is proclaimed? Men then are made to look upon their motives as they had never done before, and to see in their hearts feelings whose existence they would not have suspected if it had not been for the exhibition of the truth. The exhibition of the truth is like pouring down the beams of the sun at midnight on a dark world; and the truth lays open the real feelings of the sinner as that sun would disclose the clouds of wickedness that are now performed under cover of the night. Many a man has a deep and fixed hostility to God and to his gospel who might never be sensible of it if the truth was not faithfully proclaimed. The particular idea here is, that the truth of God will detect the feelings of the hypocrite and self-deceiver. They cannot always conceal their emotions, and the time will come when truth, like light poured into the soul, will reveal their unbelief and their secret sins. They who are cherishing a hope of salvation, therefore, should be on their guard lest they mistake the name for the reality. Let us learn from this verse:
(1) The power of truth. It is "suited" to lay open the secret feelings of the soul. There is not an effect produced in awakening a sinner; or in his conviction, conversion, and sanctification, which the truth is not "adapted" to produce. The truth of God is not dead... it is in its own nature fitted to produce just the effects which are produced when it awakens, convicts, converts, and sanctifies the soul.
(2) The truth should be preached. Men who preach should endeavor to understand the nature of the mind and of the moral feelings, as really as he who would inflict a deadly wound should endeavor to understand enough about anatomy to know where the heart is...Truth is just as wisely adapted to save the soul as medicine is to heal the sick; and why then should not a preacher be as careful to study the nature of truth and its adaptedness to a particular end, as a student of the healing art is to understand the adaptedness of medicine to cure disease? The true way of preaching is, to feel that truth is adapted to the end in view; to select what is best suited for that end; to preach as if the whole result depended on getting that truth before the mind and into the heart - and then to leave the whole result with God. He will be more likely to praise God intelligently who believes that he has wisely adapted a plan to the end in view, than he who believes that God works only at random.
~ excerpted from Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Piercing even to the dividing asunder soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, He cuts and divides all things, even all sensible things... The apostle's meaning seems to be this, that whereas the soul and spirit are invisible, and the joints and marrow are covered and hid; so sharp and quick sighted, and so penetrating is the divine Word, that it reaches the most secret and hidden things of men. Christ knows what is in man; he is the searcher of the hearts, and the trier of the reins of the children of men; ... He will make manifest the counsels of the heart, and will critically inquire, and accurately judge of them.
~ excerpted from Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The nature of the Word of God (the doctrine of God which is preached both in the Law and in the Gospel) is so powerful that it enters even to the deepest and most inward and secret parts of the heart, fatally wounding the stubborn, and openly reviving the believers.
~ Geneva Study Bible
For the Word of God preached, (Heb 4:2), and armed with threatenings, (Heb 4:3) is living and powerful. It is attended with the POWER of the living God, and conveying either life or death to the hearers ...and is a discerner - Not only of the THOUGHTS, but also of the INTENTIONS.
~ John Wesley
The Holy Scriptures are the Word of God. When God sets it home by His Spirit, it convinces powerfully, converts powerfully, and comforts powerfully. It makes a soul that has long been proud, to be humble; and a perverse spirit, to be meek and obedient. Sinful habits, that are become as it were natural to the soul, and rooted deeply in it, are separated and cut off by this Sword. It will discover to men their thoughts and purposes, the vileness of many, the bad principles they are moved by, the sinful ends they act to. The Word will show the sinner all that is in his heart. Let us hold fast the doctrines of Christian faith in our heads, its enlivening principles in our hearts, the open profession of it in our lips, and be subject to it in our lives.
~ Matthew Henry
Together for Life & Eternity,