No matter what kind of ministry the Spirit of God calls any of us to, we may be profoundly thankful for the sufficiency of the Word to accomplish His soul-edifying work. This is true because of the unique qualities of Scripture. Hebrews 4:12-13 uncovers the power of Scripture to perform surgery where true change begins — in the invisible, immaterial heart of man when it says:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
For is a connecting word that takes us back to the previous verses where we learn about Jesus, the Living Word, who is our spiritual rest. In other words, by faith in His finished work of Christ, we enter our Sabbath, where we rest from the works of human achievement as the basis of acceptance with God. However, like the Israelites in the days of Moses and Joshua, we must guard our hearts against a spirit of unbelief by remaining “diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11, NASB).
The first readers of Hebrews knew enough of God’s Word to know what was required of them, yet they remained on the edge of unbelief. As a result, the writer warns them that if they fail to appropriate the spiritual rest found only in Christ, then they will be in danger of becoming immune to the truth. This danger is as real today as it was then and, therefore, the warning must be heeded by us. Thus Hebrews 4:12 presents the solution to this problem: submitting to the authority of Christ by submitting to the functional authority of His sufficient words. Here we are given five qualities of the Word of God, which testify to its sufficiency for our personal ministry of soul care.
The Bible Is a Divine Book
First, Scripture is the Word of God. It is divine. In its very first words, God is revealed as the One who speaks. He spoke the universe into existence (Gen. 1); He spoke to Adam in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2); He spoke to the fathers of His chosen nation (Gen. 12; 15; 31); and He spoke to that nation through His prophets. Ultimately, He spoke to the world through His Son, the divine speech in human form (John 1:1–14; Heb. 1:2). God chose to record the revelation of His Son in written form in the text of the Scriptures, the Word of God. Since the Bible is a divine book, it speaks with divine authority.
The Bible Is a Living Book
Second, the Scriptures transform the inner person because the Scriptures are alive. From the Greek verb meaning “to live,” the word living” is in the present tense and, therefore, can be translated as “constantly actively alive.” Because it is the voice of Jesus Christ — the Living Word — the Bible never rests. It’s always working. A. W. Tozer says it well: “It is the present Voice which makes the written Word all-powerful. Otherwise, it would lie locked in slumber within the covers of a book.” Being alive, it is also life-giving. It can restore the soul (Ps. 19:7). Thus, James exhorts us to “in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21, NASB).
The Bible Is an Energizing Book
Third, Scripture is productive. Active comes from the word from which we get “energy.” While the Bible is constantly actively alive, it is also productive. Scripture is the Holy Spirit’s instrument for producing spiritual results. God instilled this confidence in the prophet Isaiah that, when preached, the words of God would accomplish the purpose for which God sent them (Isa. 55:9 – 11). This is equally true in the personal ministry of the Word. When Scripture is employed for the work of soul care/counseling, it is like spiritual rain being poured out on God’s people, and the result is nourishment, growth, and fruitfulness.
The Bible Is a Penetrating Book
Fourth, Scripture pierces the heart and conscience. The adjective sharper originates from the root, meaning “to cut.” The Word has cutting power; it is incisively penetrating. As a two-edged sword pierces through body parts, so the Word of God pierces through the innermost person. This piercing work is what took place in the hearts of his Jewish audience during Peter’s preaching at Pentecost. They were “cut to the heart” and brought to repentance (Acts 2:37). The piercing words of God expose our hearts so that we may repent. It is the scalpel used by the Divine Surgeon to expose cancerous sin that must be dealt with to gain spiritual health. We must always speak the truth in love, but we must always speak the truth. Our counseling must be Word-saturated so that the Spirit’s primary instrument is readily available for Him to minister to our broken condition’s deepest hurts and needs.
The Bible Is a Discerning Book
Fifth, the Bible is a “discerning” book. The Greek word is kritikos, from which we get “critical.” This is the only occurrence of this adjective, but the root is used throughout the New Testament of God as Judge and of men when they act like judges (Heb. 12:23; James 4:11). Scripture analyzes and sifts through our inner being, exposing “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). It weighs out the reflections of our mind and the affections of our heart to show us what we truly worship and, therefore, serve.
As we offer faithful counsel to others, we use the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17), which is the Word of God, “to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4–5). “Strongholds” are false ways of thinking, philosophies of the world that hold people captive and harm the soul. Knowing the Scriptures enables us to take foolish speculations captive to correction. A. W. Pink correctly noted, “There is only one safeguard against error, and that is to be established in the faith; and for that, there has to be prayerful and diligent study, and a receiving with meekness the engrafted Word of God.” As we graciously employ the Scriptures in the personal ministry of soul care, we train one another to discern errant ways of thinking, which have become fortresses in our lives, so that our minds can be renewed and our lives transformed by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:2).
*Note: “This article is adapted from Paul’s chapter in Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World (Zondervan, 2014).
 A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1982), 74.
 James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.), #5114.
 A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1975), 23.