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Hebrews 4:11-14 - The Word Of God Is Like A Two-Edged Sword

Our text this morning is Hebrews 4:11-14. It says, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 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. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.


Our text has three points in these verses.

  • First, the deceitfulness of sin will trip us up. We read, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

  • Secondly, we are to protect ourselves with the Word of God which is like a sword that exposes the sin in our heart. We read, “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.

  • Third, God sees everything and graciously gives us a mediator. We read, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


As we begin this morning I would like you to consider a few verses from Proverbs 23:1-3. Throughout this sermon I will weave these two texts together. Proverbs 23:1-3 says, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.


Proverbs 23:1-3 warns us that when our heart is being caught up in our surroundings, in the food that looks and smells so good, in the things that delight to our eyes, and the things that our heart desires, we are to beware and take drastic measures.


The Word of God tells us that if this happens we are to put a knife to our throat!


What is the Word of God asking us to do here?


First, it could be that the Scriptures are asking us to respond practically with a gesture that will keep us from indulging in something that may harm us. One of my favorite verses encourages this in Proverbs 30:32 when it says, “If you have foolishly exalted yourself or if you have plotted evil, put your hand over your mouth.


Simple actions can keep us from great calamities. But if we are to have growth in sanctification we will need more than this. Therefore, perhaps there is another way to view Proverbs 23:1-3. Perhaps we are being encouraged to have the Word of God, which is like a knife [Hebrews 4:12-13], working in our heart, our soul, and in our minds to keep us from temptation and sin. It is the Word of God that will empower us, protect us, and preserve us until we enter into the Rest of God that has been promised.


Let me give you an example of this. When I am trying to watch what I eat I will often quote1 Corinthians 6:12-13where Paul says, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything. ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’—and God will destroy both one and the other.” When I am tempted to eat I don’t go near the kitchen (practical step) and I remind myself of this Scripture (using the Word of God).


Paul goes on to apply this biblical truth to sexual purity to help with his sanctification. He says in the next verse, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.”


We see here that Paul is using the Word of God like a sword to help him in his sanctification. Paul is using the scriptures to receive grace and to strive to enter into the rest that has been promised.


The book of Hebrews is written to believers who are beginning to be distracted by the things around them. They are losing their focus because of the worldly things that have captured their attention. They are becoming lazy and they were in danger of no longer striving to enter into the rest that God had promised to those who kept their confession. Therefore, the author of Hebrews exhorts them to let the Word of God work in their hearts, in their minds, and in their souls.


In Proverbs 23:1-3we are exhorted in three ways. First, we are told to be aware of the dangers that are present. Secondly, we are to realize that we are being observed by others. Thirdly, we are told to put a knife to our own throat if you are given to appetite.


As I mentioned, in our text today we are being encouraged to respond similarly.

  • We are to be aware of the deceitfulness of sin (3:13).

  • The Word of God is to be a knife that discloses the intentions of our body, soul and spirit (4:12).

  • We are to be aware that we are being observed (4:13) and that grace is being offered(4:14-16)


I’d like to make a few parallels between Proverbs 23:1-3 and Hebrews 4:11-14and use them for the main points of this sermon.

  • In Proverbs 23 the generosity of rulers and the food that is offered is often deceptive; in Hebrews 4 God is gracious by giving Himself and His blessings to all who have faith.

  • In Proverbs 23 we are exhorted to put a knife to our throat; the exhortation in Hebrews 4 is to put the knife of God’s Word to our mind’s, our heart and our soul for our own good.

  • In Proverbs 23 we see that earthly rulers observe and calculate what is put in the mouth; in Hebrews 4 we see that God observes what is in the heart and thoughts of a man.


1) The generosity of rulers is often deceptive, but God is gracious in His invitation for us to enter His rest. Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest...


There are two invitations given to the person in Proverbs 23:1-3. Can you see them?

  • First, there is the invitation by the ruler to sit at his table to share in a meal.

  • Secondly, there is the invitation by the food itself that is served at the meal which smells, looks and tastes so good.


The ruler gives an invitation to partake in a meal but he may not generous in his heart. In Proverbs 23:3we read, “Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food”. His guest is eating ‘his food’ and the host watches and calculates every spoonful that is taken. The ruler appears gracious and very hospitable but he cannot stand to see his guests empty their plates and reach for more.


The food that is set before the person in Proverbs 23is itself an invitation. It is described as a ‘delicacy’. This speaks of the tenderness, the fineness and the quality of the food.

  • The food is the best that can be bought and served.

  • The smell of the food invites the guests to partake.

  • The color of the food on the table invites the guests to grab and eat.

  • The tenderness of the food that is served is an almost irresistible temptation for the guests who rarely eat like this.

  • Everything at this table is a temptation for the guest.


Surprisingly, the only thing that is left to keep the guest from indulging in this deceptive food is the knife on the table. The scriptures warn the guest to put the knife to his throat to keep him from danger. This warning is similar to Jesus saying, “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” (Matthew 18:9)You cringe when you read a passage like this.


Like the ruler in Proverbs 23 God also gives two invitations but He is gracious in His disposition and liberal in the gifts that He offers.

  • The LORD personally invites people to come to Him

  • and when they come in faith He graciously give them countless blessings.


The blessing that we have seen in the book of Hebrews is that we are invited to enter into ‘His rest’. A.W. Pink says, “What does God mean by calling it ‘His rest’? Not they enter into their rest, but His own...God gives us Himself, and in all His gifts He gives Himself...Does God give us righteousness? He Himself is our righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu. Does God give us peace? Christ is our peace. Does God give us light? He is our light. Does God give us bread? He is the bread we eat. As the Son lives by the Father, so he that eats Me shall live by Me (John 6). God Himself is our strength. By the Holy Spirit we are one with Christ, and Christ the Son of God is our righteousness and our life.1


2) Proverbs 23 told us to use a knife to keep ourselves from deceptive foods, Hebrews 4 tells us that the Word of God is like a knife which can discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”


F.F. Bruce says, “The Word of God is not like the word of man; it is living, effective, and self-fulfilling; it diagnoses the condition of the human heart, saying ‘Thou ailest here, and here.’; it brings blessing to those who receive it in faith and pronounces judgment on those who disregard it...The Word of God probes the inmost recesses of our spiritual being and brings the subconscious motives to light.2


This week in our Thursday morning Community Group I was so thankful for the Word of God can set our hearts free from sin and deception. We saw the need for this in Galatians 4:1-20.

  • Consider Galatians 4:8-9 which says, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

  • Consider Galatians 4:21 where Paul says, “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?


Paul says some shocking things here about the hearts of the Galatians.

  • These believers wanted to become enslaved.

  • They desired to be under the law again.


This sort of ignorance and enslavement can only be overcome by the living and active Word of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Westminster Confession reminds us of this when it says, “...our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.3


After Paul makes these shocking statements he says, “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.


How did Paul labor and work for the Galatians?


He preached the Word of God to them. Paul labored as a teacher to ground them in the truth of the Gospel. For a time, this labor produced grace in their hearts. But despite all of his labor Paul says that they were ‘quickly deserting Christ and turning to a different gospel’ (1:6).


By doing this they were revealing that their hearts were wanting to be enslaved again (4:9). Paul is revealing that they desired to be under the condemnation of the law. Their hearts were blinded, deceived, mislead, hardened, unable to hear and understand.

  • These desires made them submit to a yoke of slavery that Christ Himself had come to set them free from (5:1).

  • They were running a good race, they had been striving to enter into His Rest, but now they had been hindered from obeying the truth (5:7-8).


Do you see how important it is to enter God’s rest by remaining in the Word of God, in the Scriptures, and in the Truth?


Are you beginning to see how important it is that we encourage one another with the Word of God?


Our hearts can so easily wander from the truth in our affections, our thinking, and in our beliefs. The author of Hebrews could not be more clear about what we need to do. The Word of God is to be used daily in our lives to protect us and to bring us into ‘His Rest’. The word is ‘living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and it is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts’ (12).


It is the Scriptures that can convict us, challenge us, and provide the grace needed for us to make course corrections within our hearts. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man (or woman) of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.


It is the word of God that can save us from our own deceptive wants (4:9) and desires (4:21).


I do not want to be deceived by my sinful unbelieving heart so I am grateful for the Word of God that exposes these things in me so that I can repent and believe in the promises of God. George Matheson prays a beautiful prayer, “O LORD, as long as I am apart from you, I am self-satisfied, because I have no standard by which to measure my low stature. But when I come near to you, there for the first time I see myself. In your light, I behold my darkness. In your purity I behold my corruption. My very confession of sin is the fruit of holiness. Oh! Divine Man, let me gaze on you more and more until, in the vision of your brightness, I loathe the sight of my impurity; until, in the blaze of that glory which human eye has not seen, I fall prostrate, blinded, broken, to rise again a new man in you. Amen.”4


3) Earthly rulers observe what is put in the mouth, but God observes what is in men’s hearts. Hebrews 4:13 says, “And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.


Albert Mohler says, “It is not we who read the Scriptures, it is the scriptures that reads us. Scripture untangles the human heart and unearths sin like no other book can.5


My sinful and unbelieving heart is comfortable to come to the Word of God if it comes to merely learn facts or principles; but, my heart is uncomfortable when it realizes that the Word of God exposes the thoughts and intentions of my heart.


What I hide so well from myself cannot be hidden from God. Being known this intimately can make me uncomfortable but it is also something that I am grateful for.


Listen to how Paul describes God’s observation of us in Galatians 4:8-9. Paul says, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be know by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?


I have often asked myself, “How can I not become more and more like the world? How can I become less and less like that old me who was enslaved to sin and corruption?” I ask these questions within the context of being someone who spends a fair amount of time in the Word in devotions, preparing for sermons, bible studies, weddings and funerals.


Hebrews 4:13 is a helpful key to answer these questions. We need to remember as we come to the Word that “...no creature is hidden from God’s sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.


John Calvin said, “It is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked on God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself.6


We learned earlier that the world gives us two invitations. One invitation is given by the ruler (or rulers) of this age to sit at his table and partake in his things. The other invitation is given by the things that are offered to us. These very things seek to enslave us to themselves. For example, we read of this in Proverbs 23:31-33. Here the wine offered to us seeks to enslave us and put us in bondage. We read, “Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things.


We have also seen that God gives us two invitations. He invites us to be with Him and to sit at His table and to enter into His rest. He also invites us to enjoy His innumerable blessings and graces. We can be in His presence, and enjoy His gifts, without fear of regret or harm. He has promised to bring us out of our slavery to sin and to deliver us into His Rest. We will see next week that we are invited to come to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace in our time of need.


Whose invitations are you responding to today? The worlds invitation or to God's invitation. Are you striving to enter into His rest, or are you sitting at the table in this world?


Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.



1AW Pink, Exposition of Hebrews, p.212

2F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p.111

3Westminster Confession Chapter One Article 5

4Be Thou My Vision, Gibson, pg. 88-89.

5Albert Mohler, Exalting Jesus In Hebrews, p.61

6Albert Mohler, Exalting Jesus In Hebrews, p.62

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