For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
I didn’t realize until recently that this popular (and terribly misunderstood) verse appears in the middle of a discussion about the sabbath rest for God’s people! Look at the immediately preceding verses: “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11). Then comes Hebrews 4:12, which starts out with the word “for,” meaning that the following idea of the word of God dividing and discerning is a result or product of the previous idea, regarding “rest.”
The sabbath rest which God has ordained for us today has nothing to do with a certain day of the week or anything physical. It is all about soul and spirit being divided. I want to look at this idea more closely.
The distinction between our inner parts of soul and spirit is compared to that of our outward, physical parts of joints and marrow. “…of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow…” This comparison isn’t meaningless. The word “joints” refers to a place of connection of two parts; an “articulation.” At these places, there is movement. The soul is also a place where two parts meet, namely the spirit and body. It came about when spirit met flesh. It’s a mixture of the two, and touches both. It is the soul that causes most of the “movement” within us, which we are naturally so aware of, such as our feelings, thoughts, etc. “Marrow” is a hidden substance found inside our bones. I have been told that blood cells and even DNA are formed in the marrow. Though it’s hidden, the function of marrow is perhaps even more important than the parts of our body we are aware of. The spirit is this way – we can’t sense it with our physical senses, or always detect it with our inner self of feelings and mind. We may at times be oblivious to it, but it’s there, and it’s vital.
Hebrews 4:10 says the sabbath rest that God has ordained for His people is a resting from OUR works. This “our” refers to the soul, which is our natural life. All the works of the soul must cease for a believer to enter rest – all our beliefs, actions, considerations, traditions, way of thinking, etc. Many of these things are seen as very good and can be defended using scripture or convincing reasoning. This makes no difference, because soul and spirit are totally distinct. If you want to follow God’s way, the way of the spirit, then everything founded on the soul must cease. You have to let go of all that you have gathered, and rely on the spirit to teach and led you, in his way and time. Hebrews 4:11 says that God sees failure to do this as “disobedience.”
This isn’t easy or automatic. It’s actually likely to be difficult or even traumatic. But it’s not optional. Only when we cease from the works of our soul, refuse its ways and urges, are we are in a position to begin to be spirit-led. That’s when we begin establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, and become disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s also when we’ll find ourselves diverging from mainstream Christianity. Count the cost, and keep your mind on the reward (a truly spiritual existence and communion with God). Amen.