WORDS…AND THE WORD A sermon based on Hebrews 4:12

WORDS…AND THE WORD
A sermon based on Hebrews 4:12-16
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
October 10, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.


The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul
from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12


You can see it everywhere. There’s no way to escape it. I think that it would be fair to say that it
is one of the most recognizable corporate logos in the entire world. It can be seen in TV ads and on
billboards. It adorns countless numbers of t-shirts, shorts, jerseys, and all kinds of other athletic apparel.
And it is especially prominent on shoes. The thing that I am describing is the iconic Nike swoosh logo.
The origin of the Nike swoosh is a fascinating story. It was created by a woman named Carolyn
Davidson. The story goes like this…
In 1971, Carolyn was a design student at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. As is
usually the case with college students, Ms. Davidson found herself short on cash and was looking for
some extra creative work in order to earn some money and meet her expenses. She decided to accept a
job from a man named Phil Knight. He asked Carolyn to design an image for an athletic company that he
was starting. The logo would need to be one that would look good on the shoes that he would be selling.
The two had met a few years earlier when he had been an assistant professor at Portland State. Carolyn
decided to take the job that he offered her…
As she considered what form the logo should take, Ms. Davidson considered a lot of different
ideas. She wanted to create an image that felt like it was moving and yet, one that also felt smooth and
fluid. So she worked on the image and eventually hit upon the idea of the swoosh stripe.
It is incredible to consider the fact that Carolyn Davidson was initially paid only $35 for the
creation of the world famous Nike logo. Seriously…At the time, the minimum wage in the US was set at
$1.60/hour. Ms. Davidson charged Mr. Knight $2/hour for her services and billed him for 17.5 hours of
work. Thus the bill for $35.
For years, the success of her eye-catching logo went unrewarded by the company. But once Nike
grew to become the wildly successful organization that it is, her work was eventually recognized and
P a g e | 2
celebrated. To that end, she was gifted with some shares of Nike stock in 1983. That stock is now
estimated to be valued at more than $1,000,000. It’s a nice ending to a nice story…1
Instead of creating the logo to merely brand the company’s merchandise, Ms. Davidson
intended for the swoosh logo to do more. She desired that the logo evoke certain characteristics that
the company wanted to be associated with the Nike brand: things like boldness, movement, innovation,
and power. When you think about it, it is really amazing how that one simple little image could be so
effective in creating those kinds of feelings in a person. And ideally, that is really what every company
logo should do—it should be distinctive, it should be memorable, and it should say something about the
company it represents…
The English word “logo” is a word that is derived from a Greek word that is found in today’s text
from Hebrews. That Greek word is logos. Logos is found some 330 times in the New Testament. It is
variously translated as “saying,” “speech,” and “story” among other renderings. But the majority of the
times in the New Testament, it is translated as “word.”
When logos is translated as “word” in the Bible, it is not simply “word” in a grammatical sense.
No—it means much more than that. Logos is derived from a root word that means “to speak”…”to
teach”…or “to call by name.”
Perhaps the most well-known use of the word logos in the New Testament is in that great
opening passage of the gospel of John. You all know the passage. It is a scripture selection that we read
every year around Christmas time. It is the prologue concerning the coming of the Christ in John chapter

  1. It goes, “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” John
    continues by telling us that “The Logos became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the
    glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And in today’s passage
    from Hebrews, we read, “The Logos of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,
    piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and
    intentions of the heart…”
    I do not know about you, but most of the time when I have heard sermons dealing with
    Hebrews 4, the phrase “word of God” in verse 12 is usually taken to refer to the Bible. The preacher will
    wave the Bible around and loudly proclaim the sufficiency of the Bible and point out the functions of the
    Scriptures. Those functions include teaching and training in the ways of righteousness for living the
    Christian life. I am not disparaging those who choose to interpret this passage that way. I have no
    quarrel with them.
    And as members of the First Baptist Church, we certainly believe that the Scriptures are our sole
    guide in the ways of salvation and righteousness. We adhere to the historic Baptist principle that the
    Scriptures are the sole trustworthy source of information about who God is…of what God has done in

1 www.fontbundles.net/blog/the-fascintaing-story-behind-the-nike-swoosh (Accessed October 5, 2021)
P a g e | 3
Christ…and what God is continuing to do in his world and in our lives. This is who we are. Let no one say
anything otherwise. But the truth of the matter is that today’s passage is not describing the Bible as “a
two-edged sword, living and active.” No—the writer of Hebrews is describing Jesus…
If Jesus is the word—the Logos of God—then what does that mean? It means that Jesus
represents God to us in a totally unique way. All of who God is can be found in the person of Jesus
Christ:
Jesus demonstrated his mastery over the natural order by causing the wind and the waves to be
still and to turn water into wine. God also bends the natural order to his will in order to
accomplish his purposes in the world.
Jesus showed compassion to those who were hurting—those who were hurting both physically
and spiritually. God knows and cares for you—even to the point of having the hairs on your
head numbered. God shows his compassion toward us.
Jesus had little patience with those whose religious hypocrisy made them regard themselves as
better than others. In the same way, God sees right through our pretenses and the disguises
that we show to others and declares them to be a sham. God knows who you really are.
Jesus told a woman caught in adultery to “Go and sin no more.” God also desires us to make a
clean break in our lives. Through the work of his Holy Spirit, he puts our sins behind us and puts
us on the road to becoming the people that he created us to be.
When Jesus met people, their lives were inevitably changed. And when God meets us where we
are, our lives change as well.
As the Logos of God, Jesus answers the question, “What is God like?” the foregoing all describe
aspects of who God is. But the ultimate answer given to that question is that “God is really like a Man
dying on a Cross. He is as helpless and as mighty, as vigilant in truth, and as utterly self-giving in love.”2
That’s what God is like…
The author of Hebrews likens the work of Christ among his people to a “two-edged sword.” It is
a striking image for one we regard as “The Prince of Peace,” isn’t it? It does not seem to fit with the way
that we normally think of Jesus. But then the writer goes on to describe what he means…
The sword being referred to in this passage is one that would have been very familiar to those
1
st
Century readers of the book of Hebrews. It is the Roman short sword. Historians refer to the Roman
short sword as “the sword that conquered the world.” It was something that—if you’ll pardon the pun—
was cutting edge technology in its day. It was a piece of military hardware that reigned supreme on the
ancient battlefield for roughly 700 years.
The Roman short sword—known as a “gladius”—had a 20-inch long double blade with a
diamond-shaped or triangle-shaped tip. It was the most feared weapon of its day. Because of its shorter
length, it allowed a soldier to step inside an enemy’s guard during combat. Then the sword could be

2
George A. Buttrick, Christ and History (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1963), 129.
P a g e | 4
thrust in any direction with deadly consequences. Injury could be inflicted by either stabbing straight
ahead or by slashing to the left or the right. At that kind of range, a longer sword—or a sword with only
one charpened edge—was simply not as effective.3
Notice how the author of Hebrews uses the image of the Roman short sword in this passage. He
mentions two actions that the sword was known for on the battlefield. First, he describes the “piercing
until it divides soul from spirit.” That is the reference to the Roman short sword’s sharp tip and the
effectiveness of a sharp thrust against an opponent. And second, he mentions dividing “joints from
marrow.” This refers to the short sword’s ability to slice and cut with surgical precision…
Verse 12 and 13 go on to tell us that this allows the Logos of God—that is, Jesus—“to judge the
thoughts and the intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and
laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” The point that the writer of
Hebrews is making is that Jesus can uncover and expose what we really think…and what our true
motives really are. It teaches us that nothing escapes his notice. Nothing can be hidden from him…
The truth is that many times our motives are mixed—even in the best of us. We may think that
we are doing something simply because it is a good thing to do or because it is the right thing to do. But
somewhere, hidden way down deep in the recesses of our minds and hearts, if we really look and are
honest with ourselves, we may discover that it is something else is our true motivation…
There is an old joke about lawyers that goes something like this: Once a successful lawyer was
asked why he went into the law profession. He replied, “Well, there’s a lot of injustice in this world.
There are a lot of wrongs that need to be righted. There are a lot of people who are being taken
advantage of and they need someone to advocate for them…and there’s a lot of money to be made
from all of that…” Cynical? Undoubtedly. But given the low reputations that many in the law profession
have, perhaps there is at least a grain of truth in it for some…
Jeremiah 17: 9 tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can
understand it?” The truth is that even we can never know our own hearts entirely. The Apostle Paul
describes the struggle inside of him to do righteousness in these terms: “I do not understand what I do.
For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, that is the very thing that I do….For I have the desire
to do good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:15, 18)
The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is Jesus who is able to expose those areas in our lives
where we are living less than we ought to. He is able to search us and try us. But it is not for the purpose
of condemning us. It is not to shame us. It is not to “put us in our place.” Oh no! Not by any means!
Instead it is to assure us that we are not being self-deceived—that we are following Him with the
integrity that he desires us to show. That we reflect God’s ongoing kingdom in our lives—both our

3 www.swordhistory.info/?p=120#:~:text-roman-gladius (Accessed October 7, 2021)
P a g e | 5
interior lives where no one no one else can see as well as in the way that we relate to one another. It is
to open us up to his truth when at times we might be misled by our own foolish hearts.
God does not dictate what we are to do and who we are to be. That would never do. Instead
God gently guides in the paths that he wants us to take. Just as a surgeon’s scalpel may need to cut
away the malignant tumor in order to restore health to us, sometimes the two-edged sword of God’s
Logos is needed to cut away those things from our lives that hinder us from being all that God’s Spirit
intends.
So as we come to the close of our time together, our prayer should be that of King David in
Psalm 139:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way to everlasting life.
And to God alone be the glory! Amen

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul
from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12


You can see it everywhere. There’s no way to escape it. I think that it would be fair to say that it
is one of the most recognizable corporate logos in the entire world. It can be seen in TV ads and on
billboards. It adorns countless numbers of t-shirts, shorts, jerseys, and all kinds of other athletic apparel.
And it is especially prominent on shoes. The thing that I am describing is the iconic Nike swoosh logo.
The origin of the Nike swoosh is a fascinating story. It was created by a woman named Carolyn
Davidson. The story goes like this…
In 1971, Carolyn was a design student at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. As is
usually the case with college students, Ms. Davidson found herself short on cash and was looking for
some extra creative work in order to earn some money and meet her expenses. She decided to accept a
job from a man named Phil Knight. He asked Carolyn to design an image for an athletic company that he
was starting. The logo would need to be one that would look good on the shoes that he would be selling.
The two had met a few years earlier when he had been an assistant professor at Portland State. Carolyn
decided to take the job that he offered her…
As she considered what form the logo should take, Ms. Davidson considered a lot of different
ideas. She wanted to create an image that felt like it was moving and yet, one that also felt smooth and
fluid. So she worked on the image and eventually hit upon the idea of the swoosh stripe.
It is incredible to consider the fact that Carolyn Davidson was initially paid only $35 for the
creation of the world famous Nike logo. Seriously…At the time, the minimum wage in the US was set at
$1.60/hour. Ms. Davidson charged Mr. Knight $2/hour for her services and billed him for 17.5 hours of
work. Thus the bill for $35.
For years, the success of her eye-catching logo went unrewarded by the company. But once Nike
grew to become the wildly successful organization that it is, her work was eventually recognized and
P a g e | 2
celebrated. To that end, she was gifted with some shares of Nike stock in 1983. That stock is now
estimated to be valued at more than $1,000,000. It’s a nice ending to a nice story…1
Instead of creating the logo to merely brand the company’s merchandise, Ms. Davidson
intended for the swoosh logo to do more. She desired that the logo evoke certain characteristics that
the company wanted to be associated with the Nike brand: things like boldness, movement, innovation,
and power. When you think about it, it is really amazing how that one simple little image could be so
effective in creating those kinds of feelings in a person. And ideally, that is really what every company
logo should do—it should be distinctive, it should be memorable, and it should say something about the
company it represents…
The English word “logo” is a word that is derived from a Greek word that is found in today’s text
from Hebrews. That Greek word is logos. Logos is found some 330 times in the New Testament. It is
variously translated as “saying,” “speech,” and “story” among other renderings. But the majority of the
times in the New Testament, it is translated as “word.”
When logos is translated as “word” in the Bible, it is not simply “word” in a grammatical sense.
No—it means much more than that. Logos is derived from a root word that means “to speak”…”to
teach”…or “to call by name.”
Perhaps the most well-known use of the word logos in the New Testament is in that great
opening passage of the gospel of John. You all know the passage. It is a scripture selection that we read
every year around Christmas time. It is the prologue concerning the coming of the Christ in John chapter

  1. It goes, “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” John
    continues by telling us that “The Logos became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the
    glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And in today’s passage
    from Hebrews, we read, “The Logos of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,
    piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and
    intentions of the heart…”
    I do not know about you, but most of the time when I have heard sermons dealing with
    Hebrews 4, the phrase “word of God” in verse 12 is usually taken to refer to the Bible. The preacher will
    wave the Bible around and loudly proclaim the sufficiency of the Bible and point out the functions of the
    Scriptures. Those functions include teaching and training in the ways of righteousness for living the
    Christian life. I am not disparaging those who choose to interpret this passage that way. I have no
    quarrel with them.
    And as members of the First Baptist Church, we certainly believe that the Scriptures are our sole
    guide in the ways of salvation and righteousness. We adhere to the historic Baptist principle that the
    Scriptures are the sole trustworthy source of information about who God is…of what God has done in

1 www.fontbundles.net/blog/the-fascintaing-story-behind-the-nike-swoosh (Accessed October 5, 2021)
P a g e | 3
Christ…and what God is continuing to do in his world and in our lives. This is who we are. Let no one say
anything otherwise. But the truth of the matter is that today’s passage is not describing the Bible as “a
two-edged sword, living and active.” No—the writer of Hebrews is describing Jesus…
If Jesus is the word—the Logos of God—then what does that mean? It means that Jesus
represents God to us in a totally unique way. All of who God is can be found in the person of Jesus
Christ:
Jesus demonstrated his mastery over the natural order by causing the wind and the waves to be
still and to turn water into wine. God also bends the natural order to his will in order to
accomplish his purposes in the world.
Jesus showed compassion to those who were hurting—those who were hurting both physically
and spiritually. God knows and cares for you—even to the point of having the hairs on your
head numbered. God shows his compassion toward us.
Jesus had little patience with those whose religious hypocrisy made them regard themselves as
better than others. In the same way, God sees right through our pretenses and the disguises
that we show to others and declares them to be a sham. God knows who you really are.
Jesus told a woman caught in adultery to “Go and sin no more.” God also desires us to make a
clean break in our lives. Through the work of his Holy Spirit, he puts our sins behind us and puts
us on the road to becoming the people that he created us to be.
When Jesus met people, their lives were inevitably changed. And when God meets us where we
are, our lives change as well.
As the Logos of God, Jesus answers the question, “What is God like?” the foregoing all describe
aspects of who God is. But the ultimate answer given to that question is that “God is really like a Man
dying on a Cross. He is as helpless and as mighty, as vigilant in truth, and as utterly self-giving in love.”2
That’s what God is like…
The author of Hebrews likens the work of Christ among his people to a “two-edged sword.” It is
a striking image for one we regard as “The Prince of Peace,” isn’t it? It does not seem to fit with the way
that we normally think of Jesus. But then the writer goes on to describe what he means…
The sword being referred to in this passage is one that would have been very familiar to those
1
st
Century readers of the book of Hebrews. It is the Roman short sword. Historians refer to the Roman
short sword as “the sword that conquered the world.” It was something that—if you’ll pardon the pun—
was cutting edge technology in its day. It was a piece of military hardware that reigned supreme on the
ancient battlefield for roughly 700 years.
The Roman short sword—known as a “gladius”—had a 20-inch long double blade with a
diamond-shaped or triangle-shaped tip. It was the most feared weapon of its day. Because of its shorter
length, it allowed a soldier to step inside an enemy’s guard during combat. Then the sword could be

2
George A. Buttrick, Christ and History (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1963), 129.
P a g e | 4
thrust in any direction with deadly consequences. Injury could be inflicted by either stabbing straight
ahead or by slashing to the left or the right. At that kind of range, a longer sword—or a sword with only
one charpened edge—was simply not as effective.3
Notice how the author of Hebrews uses the image of the Roman short sword in this passage. He
mentions two actions that the sword was known for on the battlefield. First, he describes the “piercing
until it divides soul from spirit.” That is the reference to the Roman short sword’s sharp tip and the
effectiveness of a sharp thrust against an opponent. And second, he mentions dividing “joints from
marrow.” This refers to the short sword’s ability to slice and cut with surgical precision…
Verse 12 and 13 go on to tell us that this allows the Logos of God—that is, Jesus—“to judge the
thoughts and the intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and
laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” The point that the writer of
Hebrews is making is that Jesus can uncover and expose what we really think…and what our true
motives really are. It teaches us that nothing escapes his notice. Nothing can be hidden from him…
The truth is that many times our motives are mixed—even in the best of us. We may think that
we are doing something simply because it is a good thing to do or because it is the right thing to do. But
somewhere, hidden way down deep in the recesses of our minds and hearts, if we really look and are
honest with ourselves, we may discover that it is something else is our true motivation…
There is an old joke about lawyers that goes something like this: Once a successful lawyer was
asked why he went into the law profession. He replied, “Well, there’s a lot of injustice in this world.
There are a lot of wrongs that need to be righted. There are a lot of people who are being taken
advantage of and they need someone to advocate for them…and there’s a lot of money to be made
from all of that…” Cynical? Undoubtedly. But given the low reputations that many in the law profession
have, perhaps there is at least a grain of truth in it for some…
Jeremiah 17: 9 tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can
understand it?” The truth is that even we can never know our own hearts entirely. The Apostle Paul
describes the struggle inside of him to do righteousness in these terms: “I do not understand what I do.
For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, that is the very thing that I do….For I have the desire
to do good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:15, 18)
The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is Jesus who is able to expose those areas in our lives
where we are living less than we ought to. He is able to search us and try us. But it is not for the purpose
of condemning us. It is not to shame us. It is not to “put us in our place.” Oh no! Not by any means!
Instead it is to assure us that we are not being self-deceived—that we are following Him with the
integrity that he desires us to show. That we reflect God’s ongoing kingdom in our lives—both our

3 www.swordhistory.info/?p=120#:~:text-roman-gladius (Accessed October 7, 2021)
P a g e | 5
interior lives where no one no one else can see as well as in the way that we relate to one another. It is
to open us up to his truth when at times we might be misled by our own foolish hearts.
God does not dictate what we are to do and who we are to be. That would never do. Instead
God gently guides in the paths that he wants us to take. Just as a surgeon’s scalpel may need to cut
away the malignant tumor in order to restore health to us, sometimes the two-edged sword of God’s
Logos is needed to cut away those things from our lives that hinder us from being all that God’s Spirit
intends.
So as we come to the close of our time together, our prayer should be that of King David in
Psalm 139:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way to everlasting life.
And to God alone be the glory! Amen