12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
This is a passage I keep coming back to again and again. I meditate on it, study it, preach it, teach it…it’s been a consistent theme for me for more than twenty years. I’m still not sure I quite get it though.
Post-enlightenment westerners tend to think of words as tools to transmit data. That’s not how we experience them though, is it? Cruel words tear us down and wound us deeply. Encouraging words can build us up and cause hope to spring up in the deep places of our hearts. Words about data do in fact transmit data, but words about identity do much more.
God’s words do so much more than transmit correct information about doctrine (what we’re supposed to agree with) and morals (what we’re supposed to do). God’s word is living and powerful. God’s word is alive and it does stuff! A lot of the stuff it does is external to me. The entire universe has been formed and is being sustained by God’s word. But that’s not the focus of this verse.
God’s word divides soul and spirit. God’s word cuts to the deepest places within me. God’s word smells out every thought and motive within my heart. God’s word is living inside me! God’s word is doing stuff inside me! This is great news because inside me is where I need the most stuff done. How about you? We tend to think that if God would just fix our circumstances then everything would be ok. But that’s not really true. What’s wrong in my life is internal, not external, in the vast majority of instances.
One of the things I need to internally experience is the division of soul and spirit. My spirit is the deepest part of me. It’s the part of me that came to life when I accepted Christ. It’s the part of me that is one with him. It is from this spirit to Spirit connection that I receive the life that comes from his voice and presence.
My soul is my mind, emotions, and will – what I think, feel, and want. I’m very used to being ruled by my soul. It’s all I was ever ruled by before I became alive in Christ in my spirit. Now sometimes, quite often actually, it is necessary to distinguish between the strong force of what I think, feel, and want and the still small voice of the Spirit. God’s word is alive and powerful within me to help make this distinction.