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In thanksgiving… for the Living and Active Word (Hebrews 4:12)

11th November 2020

In thanksgiving… for the Living and Active Word (Hebrews 4:12)

The Rev. Matthew Mahan

Today we thank God for giving us His “living and active” word. In Hebrews 4:12 we read that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword… discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This depiction may be familiar to you, but consider how strange these ideas are to describe a written work. I would describe my three young children as “living and active.” I would not describe any of the books on my shelves in this way.

Yet we believe that God’s Word is both living and active. How can this be? Because the author is alive. It is the word of God, not merely a human word. We must not forget that as we read the words of Peter or Paul and hear the stories put down by Moses and Matthew that they spoke as God’s Spirit carried them along (2 Peter 1:21). This is how the word of God continues to work: even thousands of years later, the same living Spirit acts in the lives of God’s people to accomplish the plan of God’s salvation described in the Bible.  Let us consider then from Hebrews how God’s word is both living and active.

First, the word of God is active in exposing our sin and God’s judgment against it. Hebrews 4:12 uses the image of a double-edged sword to describe to ministry of the word. This blade cuts to our hearts and exposes the secret counsels and sins of our innermost thoughts and desires. This exposure may not seem to be a source of thanksgiving for us, yet it must be. All our deeds will be laid bare and exposed, either now or at the final judgment (Luke 8:17) – how much better it is to have this happen now while we can still seek God for his remedy! We thank God that he has given us his word to serve as a mirror for our wicked hearts.

If the word is a mirror to our hearts and the sin within, it is also a window to the solution, found outside ourselves. The activity of the word of God reveals God’s salvation in Jesus, his Word-made-man. The word of God testifies to us that God’s Son has entered into the world, bringing God’s salvation with him. It points us to the death of Jesus, the Great High Priest who offered his life for ours, bearing the penalty for our sin. It tells us that through his priestly ministry we can now boldly approach God and seek his grace (Hebrews 4:14-16). We thank God that after his Word exposes our hearts, it brings to us the solution to our deepest needs.

Finally, the word of God serves as an invitation to us to enter into God’s rest (Hebrews 4:11). The word reveals to us that there is more to existence than this life, that God is calling us to something far greater. We are called by the word to enter into an imperishable Kingdom where we will dwell at peace with God. The word propels us toward the glorious day of Christ’s revealing and our entrance, through Christ, into his eternal Kingdom. The Holy Spirit works through the word to help us set our minds on God’s kingdom, draw our desires to his new creation, and sanctify our lives to be in line with the ways of Christ. 

Thanks be to God for the indescribable gift of this living and active word!

The Rev. Matthew Mahan
Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Pensacola, Florida, a parish in the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word, a diocese in the Anglican Church in North America.


A prayer for inner renewal through the Word:

“Gracious God and most merciful Father, you have granted us the rich and precious jewel of your holy Word: Assist us with your Spirit, that the same Word may be written in our hearts to our everlasting comfort, to reform us, to renew us according to your own image, to build us up and edify us into the perfect dwelling place of your Christ, sanctifying and increasing in us all heavenly virtues; grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.”

BCP 2019, p. 667

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