Take a moment and imagine a cute puppy. It’s your first day with your new furry friend. She’s adorable, cuddly, and brings you a ton of joy. Now, imagine that same puppy a few weeks later when she’s discovered just how fun it is to get into the trash and spread it across your kitchen floor. Not so cute anymore, right? Consider this: what did the puppy believe about getting into the trash?
Did she think it would get her in trouble? Probably not. Did she think it would disappoint you? Again, probably not. Did she have the understanding from years of living with you and internalizing the laws of your home that this was wrong? Of course not. She’s a puppy.
She believes she won’t get in trouble.
What do we believe?
There is a distinct difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. Hebrews 4:12 indirectly addresses this:
From this single verse, we can learn three observations about the Bible.
- The Word is alive.
- The Word is powerful.
- The Word exposes what we believe.
The Word is alive
Looking back at the King James, the Bible is described as “quick” instead of alive. Does this mean the Bible is literally fast? Diving deeper into the original Greek, the same word that is used here is also used in reference to Jesus rising from the dead.
The same word is also used to describe the living water Jesus offers the woman at the well in John 4:11-14. Jesus stated that whoever drank of it would never thirst again, although the woman takes him literally.
When we pull these different uses of the word zaō — quick, alive, living — you start to get a sense of energy. Excitement. Passionate. Fulfilling.
In other words, the Bible should stir your heart.
The Word is powerful
What images pop in your mind when you see or hear the word powerful? Do you picture a large bodybuilder? Do you picture an F350?
Or, do you picture a book? The second observation from this verse is that the 929 chapter book known as the Bible is more powerful than anything we can imagine. Of note, however, is that the word used for powerful — energēs — is only used three times in the entire canon!
The first two uses, from 1 Corinthians 16:9 and Philemon 1:6, both mean effectual. But a closer look at these two verses reveals that they’re using the feminine form of the word. Masculine vs feminine forms of nouns are something most of us haven’t heard about since elementary school, but to keep it simple:
- Actor = Masculine
- Actress = Feminie
Essentially, they’re the same word with just a slightly different meaning. The masculine form of energēsis what we see in Hebrews 4:12.
So what does this mean? To better understand the depth and effectiveness of this powerful, read the next part of the verse:
The King James says the Bible can “divide asunder.” Immediately, I think of how a covenant was “cut” in the Old Testament. Back then, to create a covenant an animal was killed, cut in half, and then the individuals making the covenant would walk between the two halves. The implication was that if either party broke the covenant, then may the same “cutting” be done to them.
Those halves of the animal were divided. There is no human way they could be reunited. They’ve been divided asunder. In Hebrews 4:12, what is being divided?
The soul and the spirit. Aren’t they the same thing?
Believe it or not, no. Different words are used for both, even though in English we tend to think they’re the same. The soul is the literal breath of life given to us at creation. It’s when God gave life to man made from the dust of the earth. Spirit is our eternal “essence” — the part of us that will live on forever in one of two destinations.
These two are intertwined, so much that in our language they seem interchangeable. The Bible gives us another image to better understand how powerful and effective it is. Few of us think about the inner part of our bones called marrow. If we break a bone, we don’t say “I broke my bone and my marrow.” They’re interchangeable.
But yet the Word of God is so effective, so powerful at what it does, that it can separate these things we think of as the same.
The Word exposes what we believe
Our final observation from this verse is that the Word of God exposes who we really are. Once again, looking back to the King James we see that it reveals the “intents of the heart.”
The Biblical word for heart is kardia which might sound familiar to you. We get our word cardio, and by extension cardiovascular, from this word. However, the author of Hebrews isn’t saying that somewhere deep in that beating muscle in our chest we call the heart lie our intentions. It’s a metaphor, and we need to really understand what kardia meant back then.
To summarize, it’s your core of our being. The very essence of who you are. The things that mean the most to you — that’s your kardia.
And now we come full circle.
The Big Idea: What we believe
As I said, Hebrews 4:12 indirectly addresses the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. It boils down to this single thought:
The Word of God is alive, powerful, and reveals what we genuinely believe in the very core of our being.
Take a moment and think about your core beliefs? Do they reflect trust in your Heavenly Father? If not, that’s ok — He’s telling you to come to Him just as you are. Download our prayer journal and start having daily conversations with Him and ask Him to help you believe His promises.
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