How God Performs Surgery on Our Hearts

Continuing our 5-part series on the sufficiency of Scripture for life and godliness, another core text we need to meditate upon is Hebrews 4:12–13. Here we learn of the power of Scripture to perform surgery where true change begins — in the invisible, immaterial heart. Here we are given five characteristics of the Word of God, which further testify to its sufficiency for soul work.

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 are able to transform the inner person because the Scriptures are alive. The word “living,” from the Greek verb meaning “to live,” is in the present tense and, therefore, can be translated “constantly actively alive.” Because it is the voice of Jesus Christ — the Living Word — the Bible never rests. It is always working. Being alive, it is also life-giving. It is able to save the soul. 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 counseling, it is like spiritual rain being poured out on God’s people, and the result is growth and fruitfulness.

The Bible Is a Penetrating Book

Fourth, Scripture pierces the heart and conscience. The adjective “sharper” originates from the root temno, 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 twist and turn to expose whatever is in 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 in order to gain spiritual health. Biblical counselors, therefore, must let the Word of God do its cutting and healing work. 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 tool will be readily available for Him to minister to the deepest hurts and needs of our broken condition.

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 kritays 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 in order 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. Knowing the Scriptures enables us to take foolish speculations captive to correction. As we faithfully employ the Scriptures in counseling, we train others to discern the wrong ways of thinking, which have become fortresses for sin in their lives, so that their minds can be renewed and their lives transformed by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:2).


This is the fourth of five posts which are brief excerpts/adaptations derived from the chapter that Steve Viars and I contributed to the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s book, Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World, from Zondervan. Pastors, elders, counselors, small group leaders…anyone interested in growing in the personal ministry of the Word to one another would benefit greatly by reading this volume.

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