His Penetrating Word

After urging believers to enter God’s “rest,” Hebrews provides an eloquent description of the powerful Word of God and returns to the subject of the priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek.” Believers must strive to enter His “rest” while the opportunity remains - “TODAY, hearken to His voice.” In contrast, Ancient Israel refused to believe the words of God and suffered the consequences. In the final analysis, no one will escape from His penetrating Word.

The promise in the 95th Psalm of a “rest” for God’s people remains open. There is yet “a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God.” Israel failed, but the promise of God has not. For this reason, we must “give diligence to enter into that rest” lest we commit the same acts of unbelief and stubbornness as Israel did.

Knife - Photo by Jimmy Chang on Unsplash
[Knife - Photo by Jimmy Chang on Unsplash]

  • 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 quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do – (Hebrews 4:12-13).

The phrase “Word of God” refers to the passage just quoted from the Hebrew Bible. The example of Israel’s failure should motivate us to engage in serious soul-searching and self-correction. It also has in view the final “Word” of revelation that God has “spoken in His son…upon these last of these days” – (Hebrews 1:1).

The Greek term translated as “sword” or machaira refers to a “knife,” or possibly the short sword carried by Roman troops. The latter was used for thrusting and stabbing rather than slashing, a fitting image for the Word described as “piercing” and “dividing…joints and marrow.”

This Divine Word divides “soul and spirit.” The sharpest knife could not sever soul from spirit, but the one wielded by God certainly would. This is one of the more comprehensive statements about the human soul and spirit found in the Bible. It has no exact parallel elsewhere in Scripture.

The Letter does not explain the difference between “soul” and “spirit.” The purpose is to stress that, not only does God’s Word penetrate and reveal our innermost thoughts but also that He alone has the power to destroy us, including all our constituent parts. His Word could easily cut the ties between our soul and spirit. As Jesus warned, God is well able to destroy both “body and soul in Gehenna.”


  • Having then a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast the confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to have fellow feelings with our weaknesses, but one tested in all respects, by way of likeness, apart from sin. Let us, then, be approaching with boldness to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and may find grace for seasonable succor” – (Hebrews 4:14-16).

As our “High Priest,” Jesus has “passed through the heavens.” This transition was hinted at when the Letter described how he, “having achieved the purification of sins,” sat down at God’s right hand. The Son is not in the “heavens” - He has passed through them to the Throne and presence of God Himself – Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 9:11).

Let us be holding fast the confession.” The Greek verb translated as “holding fast” is a strong term that denotes “grabbing hold of, grasping, cleaving to” something or someone. Clinging to our “confession” is necessary for us as his disciples.

Confession” means to “profess together.” This refers to the collective confession of faith professed by the entire congregation - (“Wherefore, holy brethren, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1).

His priesthood is “great,” not only because he is the Son, but also in contrast to the old Levitical priesthood. His Word, name, sacrifice, covenant, and high priesthood are all “superior” to the old system. He achieved what none of his predecessors or the rites and sacrifices of the Levitical code ever could.

The Greek noun translated as “boldness” signifies boldness in speech. This is fitting since the emphasis is on approaching him to find help in our times of need while clinging to our “confession.”

The disciple receives “grace for seasonable succor.” The Greek term translated as “succor” is derived from a verb that denotes “making an outcry.” The idea is the succor or help we need to avoid pending disasters. The verbal form is found in Hebrews 2:18, “He is well able to SUCCOR them that are tempted.” “Seasonable” means “well-timed,” “opportune season”; in other words, help and deliverance in the nick of time.

Thus, ignoring the piercing Word of God revealed in His Son is folly. For unrepentant sinners and apostates from the faith of Jesus, there will be no escape. Whether we openly abandon the Lord or gradually drift away from his Assembly, “how shall we avoid much sorer punishment if we neglect so great a salvation?

Having demonstrated the superiority of the Son over angels and even the greatest of all the prophets, Moses, the Letter will now explain his superior priesthood, sacrifice, and covenant in detail.

  • Do not drift away - (The Letter gives a dire warning of the consequences for failing to heed the superior word spoken by God in His Son – Hebrews 1:4-2:7)
  • Hold Fast to His Word - (Followers of Jesus must cling continually to the word spoken in the Son lest they drift away from the salvation they have received from God)
  • Harden not your Hearts - (Disciples of Jesus that fail to hold fast to their confession due to unbelief will not inherit the coming rest of God)

{Published originally on the Hight Priest Forever website}



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