“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.” (Heb. 4:12)
Throughout my life, I’ve heard a lot of people quote Hebrews 4:12 as an ode to Sola Scriptura and the importance of studying the Bible. Not only have I heard it, I’ve said it. In this interpretation, the Bible is viewed as being alive and active and having the ability to reveal to us our inner sins, thoughts, and concerns. The Bible is pictured as being able to read our minds and know our hearts.
I think this is a standard interpretive perspective among many people. On one hand, it elevates Scripture and its effectiveness in our spiritual formation. To that, I can say, “Amen!” Yet I’m not convinced this is the most convincing exegetical perspective to hold, nor the most robustly theological!
The phrase “Word of God” (ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ) includes the genitive “of God” (τοῦ θεοῦ) and it is subjective. This means that we’re talking about a message from God. This obviously includes the Bible because the Bible is God’s infallible Word. No arguments there. My issue is when we limit this phrase “Word of God” (ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ) in Heb. 4:12 to only be the written word. I don’t think that’s contextually as convincing as we might assume.
In the context of the author’s argument, there’s an emphasis on hearing God’s word/voice today. The author uses Psalm 95:7-11, a passage that has already been attributed to the Holy Spirit (cf. Heb. 3:7-11), as the foundation for his argument. This suggests that the author of Hebrews has in mind the spontaneous voice of the Spirit, not just that which was written down. In fact, even in the context of the Psalms, the emphasis was on responding to God’s voice “today,” or, in the moment.
In no way am I suggesting that the Bible isn’t God’s Word and isn’t “active” or “alive.” I’m simply suggesting that Continuationists have it right when they emphasize hearing from God through Scripture and through the various other means that God chooses to speak and/or reveal himself.
Since this is a blog and not an academic paper, I’ll leave any more exegetical work for the comments 🙂
What do you think? Is there more to Heb. 4:12 being all about the Bible?
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.