The Living Word
“For the word of God is quick (alive) and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”—Hebrews 4:12
The words of great men are treasures. We read books to find out what they said. We look to the papers and magazines to learn the last utterances of the great leaders of science, politics or religion. How much more important a word of God. Suppose it could be proven that God, who created the heaven and the earth, had spoken just one sentence? It would be a diamond sentence. WE would treasure it above all the wealth of Earth. THE WORD OF GOD. Yet that is what we have. “For the word of God.” The word written, the word spoken, the word lived. The word written as we have it in the Bible; the word spoken as we speak it and transmit to others; the word lived as we translate it into character and deed.
The Living Word
“All Scripture is God-breathed.” As God made man and breathed into him the breath of life and he became a living soul, so He inspired men to write the Scriptures, breathing into them the breath of His life, and their words became His living words. So we ought to treat God’s book as a living thing. We ought to have the reverence for it that we have for life. We have more reverence even for vegetable life than for death. We certainly respect a living, growing flower more than an artificial thing. Where there is life it is elevated to a higher realm, and life makes all the difference between respect and disrespect, reverence and desecration.
I remember going through the Smithsonian Institution one day with a friend and we came to a glass case which had a number of receptacles underneath it fill with substances of various colors. “Well, what is that?” The guide said: “It is the constituent parts of a human body. That is a child you see under the glass case. Every part of the child is there. There is so much of lime, phosphorus, water, iron and other things.” And yet, I confess to you if someone had brought that stuff into my room and left it there I should have thrown it out of the window. Too gruesome. Don’t want it around. Had no special respect for it. Looking into the glass case with us were some ruddy cheeked children and some beautiful women and robust men. When I looked at one of those beautiful children I said: “That is a child under the glass case in weight and in substance, but it is not a child after all.” The difference is in the life, and I would not have thrown one of those children out of my room for my right arm. The fact that the child had life gave respect, reverence and value. So it is with the word of God. The men who cut the word of God to pieces, let them remember they are cutting life; they are putting the sword into the vitals of living truth. They need to respect and reverence the Word of God as having in it the very life of God Himself.
When this word gets into our hearts and lives it becomes active; it shows life. No Christian is respected who does not show life. He may have the constituent parts of the Christian in different receptacles under the glass case, and people can look at him with a curious, gruesome sort of interest if he is dead, but unless they see him move, and move along the line of God’s life, they have little respect for him or his claims.
Difference Between Life and Death
Some medical students went out to the Potter’s Field and got a subject for the dissecting room. They dug it up hurriedly after midnight, flung it into a cart, rattled the cart down the road, carried it into the dissecting room, went off, got ready and came down for business. They laid the cadaver out on the marble slab, and after they began to work, one of them noticed that a finger moved. “What’s the matter?” And presently another finger moved. One of them said, “There must be some electric current around here.” Then it moved an arm and turned over. You ought to have seen those fellows move as they went upstairs, two steps at a time, to tell the professor that there was a live corpse in the dissecting room and they didn’t know what to do with it. When the professor came in, there the fellow sat, very much addled of course. The professor said: “Good eveing! What number of hat do you wear? What is the size of your shoe?” He gave one of the boys some money and sent him out to buy that fellow a hat and coat and pair of shoes and everything he needed; then he gave him five crisp ten dollar bills and told him to go out and say nothing about it. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CORPSE AND A MAN! As a corpse they dumped him into a cart, rattle him down the road, flung him into the dissecting room, but the moment he became a man, they asked him about the hotel he would put up at, the number of his hat and the size of his shoes. If you show yourself a Christian corpse they will just dump you into a cart and rattle you off into some graveyard or dissecting room, for everything that is dead ought to be buried or cut up. One reason why people criticize us so unmercifully is that we show so little life. Life is beyond criticism. Spiritual life you cannot touch with criticism, and when a man shows that he is brimful of the life of God all the scalpels of the critics cannot harm him.
Some of us have smiled at the foolish fellow who stood here on a Chicago street, and, looking through the window of a taxidermist’s shop, saw an owl in the midst of the animals and birds he was stuffing for exhibition, and began to criticize the owl. The feathers were not arranged right, the head was not on right, the body was not poised right, and when he got through his criticizing, the owl turned around and winked at him. The man walked off, feeling that he was a fool, and so he was. The moment that owl turned around and winked he was beyond that fellow’s criticism, and everything he said up to that moment was true. If we have a stuffed sort of Christianity in the window for exhibition the world will pass by and criticize us and everything about us, but when we show life, the life of God, we get beyond the scalpels of all the critics in the world.
The Surgical Word
And yet there is a sense in which “the word of God” is surgical, “Sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and joints and marrow.” The word of God is not only living, but it is sharp—sharper than a two-edged sword. The business of the sword is to pierce, and it can pierce between soul and spirit, the joints and marrow, cut right into the innermost being. The soul here represents the natural man; the spirit represents the spiritual man. “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” “The natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit,” exactly the same words, “the soul of man discerneth not the things of the Spirit,” and it takes the word of God to discriminate between the natural and spiritual.