What does Hebrews 4:12 mean?

For the full answer, looking at the context, here’s what it means and what I believe the church needs to hear today:

God’s Word calls us to be faithful to Him with our obedience at the deepest level; that’s why we must approach His throne with confidence so we can receive the necessary mercy and grace obedient faith requires.

A message by Chad Harrington, “Hebrews 4:12 Explained: The Piercing Word of God,” adapted here for blog format. Watch the sermon here

Here’s the context of this powerful text, starting with verse 11:

“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For The Word of God is living 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.”
— Hebrews 4:11–13

Here’s what comes next, starting in verse 14:

“Therefore, since we have a GREAT high priest Who has gone through the Heavens – Jesus The Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high Priest Who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach The Throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
— Hebrews 4:14–16

Hebrews 4:12 Explained: The Piercing Word of God


The author of Hebrews writes, “For the word of God is living 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.” — Hebrews 4:12

What does this mean exactly?

For a quick answer, you can jump down to this section here.

For the full answer, looking at the context, here’s what it means and what I believe the church needs to hear today:

God’s word calls us to be faithful to him with our obedience at the deepest level; that’s why we must approach his throne with confidence so we can receive the necessary mercy and grace obedient faith requires.

Here’s the context of this powerful text, starting with verse 11:

“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living 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.”
— Hebrews 4:11–13

Here’s what comes next, starting in verse 14:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
— Hebrews 4:14–16

In order to live an obedient faith, we need God’s help—we desperately need his help—but the problem is we’re often afraid to approach him.

In this post:

But first…

A Story of Fear

I’ve been afraid to approach God at certain points in my life—sometimes for long stretches—especially when my sin is evident and imminent—right in my face. I’m faced with my need for God.


It’s like when I was a kid, afraid to approach my dad with confidence.


I was about six years old; it was when my family lived in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Dad Chad Image

It was the middle of the day, and I was biking on the huge hill next to my house—you know, the kind that when you’re a kid is huge, but when you’re older isn’t nearly as big—and I was going down pretty fast.

My bike had those brakes that trigger when you push back on the pedal. The only problem with those is that they cause you to skid pretty hard.

So I’m going down this hill, and I remember it like it was yesterday: a car quickly pulled out of an alley street to turn onto the hill I was going down and when it saw me just stopped.

I was going too fast and was going to hit the side of the car, so instead, I slammed on the brakes. I proceeded to flip head over heels over the handlebars and landed on the pavement, scratching up the skin on my face and on my arms.

Shaken, I walked my bike home and saw my dad working on the car.

Now, if you know my dad, the image of him working on a car is funny because he doesn’t know how to work on cars!

Anyway, he was working on his car and had his back turned to me because of how I was approaching him.

I remember being hurt so bad, injured from what felt like head to toe—literally bleeding. All I said to my dad,


“Hey, Dad, what are you doing?”


I was afraid to approach my dad because I didn’t know what to do with my need and with his agenda.

That’s what it’s been like at times in my relationship with God, when I need him the most, I sometimes don’t know how to approach him.


Chad Harrington’s Your Spiritual Formation Plan

A Devotional Workbook to Guide Your Next Steps with God

This devotional workbook is for disciples of Jesus at all points in their walk: from the new Christian to the pastor of a church, from the young disciple to the seasoned disciple maker. It’s for any follower of Jesus who wants to experience the fullness of God in a fresh way.

In Christ we “have been given fullness,” but we are still encouraged to “press on toward the goal to win the prize” for which God has called us “heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Col. 2:10; Phil. 3:14).

The exercises in this workbook can help any disciple grow.GET PRODUCT


Our Challenge: Fear of Approaching God

I think we can all struggle with how to approach God when we’re in need. To create a few caricatures of how we sometimes view God, here are a few misconceptions about God:

False Image of God #1: Wizard of Oz god.

We think he’s a far-off and distant god.

oz

Like the wizard in the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, the man in power is hiding behind a curtain, out of reach for us.

For those who see God this way, God is distant and out of touch.

False Image of God #2: Buddy the Elf’s dad.

Or we feel like he’s too busy for a relationship with us and he can’t relate.

elf

Sort of like Buddy’s dad in the 2003 movie Elf, starring Will Ferrell.


“Bye, Buddy, hope you find your dad.” Mr. Narwhal said.


And when he found his dad in the “big city,” his dad was too busy for him—he couldn’t relate and didn’t want to have a relationship with him. For those who feel this way about God, God is cold-hearted and doesn’t understand our challenges.

False Image of God #3: The Grinch god.

grinch

This “god,” when you do encounter him, doesn’t actually give anything; instead he only takes and punishes.

For those who see God this way, he seeks to punish us for having fun and to take from us what we enjoy in life.

We’ve all got reasons that make us afraid to approach God’s throne, but our need remains: we need help from God to live a faithful life. So what can we do to approach his throne with confidence to get the help we need?


We need to know the heart of God.


Hebrews 4:12 can help.

Understanding Hebrews 4:12 in Context

Hebrews 4:11:

“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.”

A few takeaways from this:

  • He calls us to enter his rest, which comes at the Second Coming (Hebrews 9:28).
  • We enter his rest through Jesus, who energizes our obedience, which takes effort.
  • So, God doesn’t want us to follow those who are disobedient but those who have an obedient faith so we can enter his everlasting rest.

How do we do this?

The word of God is our first clue.


Hebrews 4:12 (a): “For the word of God is living and active.”


The “Word of God” in Scripture carries with it different meanings based on context. We know from John 1:1, for example, that the “Word” is Jesus himself, so “word of God” doesn’t necessarily mean “the Bible” in all contexts. That’s why:


We must allow the context of Scripture to determine the meaning of scriptural words.


In Hebrews, the phrase “the word of God” carries a rich meaning. Let me share with you seven of those nuances that describe the Word of God just in Hebrews:

The Word of God in Hebrews 1 to 4

God’s word is spoken by God.

Hebrews 1:2: “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe”

This means it’s personal.

Published by Fellowship of Praise: ALL praise to God our Reason, Hallelujah!!!

To God be The glory. Let us praise God together for His ALL in our lives, Amen.

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