OUR TWO-EDGED SWORD
That an identical peril lies at
our door as lay at
So the Holy Spirit turns a burning searchlight on to that which holds the entire secret of our triumph or failure. The Scripture is for ever the critical test; and so the Spirit here says three things about Scripture:- it is living; it is powerful; it is all-searching. For the word of God is LIVING. The Word comes from life; it contains life; it imparts life: it never hardens into a seed that has lost its vitality, it is never a dead letter: it is an inexhaustible dynamo for ever giving off shocks for life or death. Immense spiritual movements are associated with the names of Augustine, Luther, Knox, Bunyan, Wesley; and in every case (as always) the fountain was opened by a Scripture, which, changing one man, changed Multitudes. Augustine Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13: 14). Luther- Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him: but the just shall live by faith (Hab. 2: 4). Knox I give unto them eternal life ; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand (John 10: 28). Bunyan Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out (John 6: 37). Wesley He hath granted unto us His precious and exceeding great promises ; that through these ye may become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1: 4). The Word is God teaching the soul; only a living Word can make dead men alive; and, when it is received, it not only makes alive, but creates rivers of living water.
Consequent on life is power. The word of God is POWERFUL: it proves itself operative and efficient (Lange): it has dynamic to lift us from the lowest hell to the highest heaven. For it enshrines Christ. The Bible opens with the Seed of the woman - Genesis; it continues with the blood on the lintels - Exodus; it unfolds into the slain sacrifice - Leviticus; it foretells a Saviour - the Prophets; it records His life - the Gospels; it imparts His Spirit - the Epistles; and it foretells His triumph - the Revelation. Therefore the planted Scripture never fails of effects and results. The Word of God is energizing, explosive, compelling action: the Scripture never lies in the soul a dead, inert mass, a mere addition to previous knowledge: it provokes motion, energy, life: it impels and empowers to all glorious conduct and holy living. FOR NO WORD FROM GOD SHALL BE VOID OF POWER (Luke 1: 37).
Scripture is next here described as the sword of the Spirit the word of God is sharper than any TWO-EDGED SWORD, than any ever made or ever conceived. As no word of God is obsolete, or impotent, so no word of God is blunt; the Scripture is edge all over. Our Lord addresses one church thus:- These things saith he that hath the sharp two-edged sword (Rev. 2: 12) proceeding out of His mouth; a double-edged weapon which, in the masses of apparently conflicting truths, states both, while it cuts away error on both sides. Speech can be sharper than steel; and Gods speech plays, like an insinuating blade, into our inmost recesses, knowing us better than we know ourselves: as a surgeon, in an operation, dissects an anatomy of which the patient, who possesses it, is largely ignorant, so Scripture cuts its way into the soul until it is face to face with the real man; it descends, like the surgeons knife,* where our secrets are.
[* It has its probing as well as its smiting office (Alford)
For (we are further told) it is an internal use to which this two-edged sword is put:- piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow. God, who made the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow, so speaks as to penetrate what He has made: His utterance purposely searches into our whole man, so that body and soul, motive and act, conduct and character, are all sifted and analyzed. It penetrates past all prejudice and illusion and ignorance and unbelief: our heart, deceitful above all things and extraordinarily subtle, it lays bare: it pierces hypocrisy, dissipates illusion, strips off disguise, convicts conscience; equally it detects purity, uncovers straightness, discloses goodness, and lays bare nobility of character. God has so framed every jot and tittle of His Word that it sifts and winnows every listening heart.
The consequence is momentous. It is quick to discern - it is a judge, a critic, a tribunal the thoughts and intents - the affections and the reason (Westcott) of the heart: it discriminates our mental life, with a view to passing judgment on it. Gods Word is able and ready on all occasions to distinguish and decide upon the most intricate problems of the mind, and the most subtle emotions of the heart; and it passes divine judgment on these thoughts - emotions, notions, fancies - and intents - conscious trains of thought (Delitzsch) - that are lodged in our inmost soul. The Word stands over us like a sacrificial knife. As the sacrifice was first flayed, then dissected and laid open and all nerves and sinews and arteries exposed to view, so the Scripture pierces asunder soul and spirit, and penetrates secrets never known or even guessed, and lays them all bare before the eye of God.
So therefore a truth leaps to light of extraordinary significance. How we react to Scripture is an instant X-ray photo, revealing the man - on the point illuminated by the particular Scripture - through and through. The moment an ox in a cattle auction steps on to the weighing machine, instantly, silently, utterly unconsciously to the animal, its exact weight, and therefore its value, is indicated on the dial, for all to see: so the moment a soul comes within hearing of the Word of God, silently, swiftly, what he is, is marked on the dial of the mind, self-weighed, self-valued, self-registered.* Our reaction as we read or hear is what we are: in proportion as we flinch or refuse or disbelieve or disobey or else ponder and assimilate and accept and fulfil - in that proportion we are holy or unholy, spiritual or carnal. Our reaction to Scripture is the critical test of our character.
[* There is no more dread test for a speaker than for a silent, godly listener to watch how he handles the Scripture passage with which he is dealing: his heart, with all its lights and shadows, stands out photographed in his treatment of the Word. This explains why the Scriptures usually rejected, even among evangelicals, and on a variety of expositional pretexts, are nearly always the costly and dangerous truths, or the truths which involve most peril hereafter.]
A further golden truth emerges of priceless worth. As each word of God, rejected, makes us less like God, so every word of God, accepted, makes us more Godlike; and with this two-edged sword in my hand, I am (to some degree) master of my own heart: with it I can slaughter my own sins. By laying ourselves open to the judging Word, it acquits or condemns: what is disguised is unveiled: so therefore, by suffering it as a cautery, we can cut out the cancers of lust, the tumours of worldliness, the carbuncles of sin. If we suffer the Scripture to be our judge, all that is evil will be sentenced, and all that is wrong executed; and therefore if we judged ourselves, we should not be judged (1 Cor. 11: 31).* Nothing is impossible to the man who allows the Scripture to operate in him. Ye have purified your souls, says the Apostle Peter, in your OBEDIENCE TO THE TRUTH (1 Pet. 1: 22).
[* Our danger the Apostle James (1: 23) portrays. If any one is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.]
For the Apostle rises at last into the region of Divine power and imperceptibly makes the written Word merge into the personal Word. And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do. The Bible is the book we always shut when we want to sin, and therefore we know Who dwells in the Book. The Word of God is the mental image of God the Word; and Scripture is therefore all that matters, for the whole Godhead is in it and behind it.
God in the Word can transform us to the highest. The demands of God in the New Testament, said a French infidel, are like telling an elephant to fly: it hasnt the apparatus. But the infidel does not know the power lodged in the Book. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Phil 2: 13); and lo, as He works, fresh Calebs and fresh Joshuas are born! He that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth, but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed IN HIS DOING (Jas. 1: 25).
A Church that during a war so
largely allows itself to become an annex to the recruiting office and the
Ministry of Propaganda may after the war find itself a rejected Church. Non-conformity has forgotten or despised its
one constructive, constitutive principle, the foundation alike of its theology,
its policy and its discipline - the Word of God. Only the heirs of
It is important to observe in
these days how the Lord (in the Sermon on the Mount) includes the Old Testament
and all its unfolding of the Divine purposes regarding Himself in His teaching
of the citizens of the