The Convicting Power of Scripture

The Scripture possesses divine power to convict human hearts, exposing sin and revealing one’s true need for God and grace. “Convict” refers to the judicial act of indicting one who has broken the law with a view toward sentencing them. The idea of conviction pictures a courtroom scene in which the guilty are accused before a judge and justly condemned. So it is with the ministry of the Word of God. When preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, the proclamation of the Word brings the supernatural power of conviction to the guilty soul. Consequentially, the need for salvation is exposed and made known to the condemned heart.

The Word is Living and Active
This is seen in the following text: “For the word of God is alive and active and sharper than any two-edge 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). The Bible claims to be “alive” (zon), meaning it is full of life—divine life, supernatural life, the very life of God Himself. Every other book is a dead book, devoid of life. But not the Bible. It alone is alive, always relevant, never stagnant. Martin Luther said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; It has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.”

According to this text, the Scripture is also “active” (energies). This is the same Greek word from which we draw our English word “energy.” This is to say, when Scripture is preached, it is always energetic, always working, always executing God’s sovereign purposes. God has said, “So shall My Word be which goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Wherever God’s Word goes forth, it is always working to accomplish God’s will. It never fails to succeed in the work for which it is intended. In other words, it is always capable to fulfill God’s eternal purposes on the earth.

Sharper Than Any Two-Edged Sword
Moreover, the Bible is likened to a sharp “two-edged sword.” In other words, it is incredibly sharp, able to cut deeply into the human soul. “Two-edged” means that it possesses the ability to cut both ways. The sword is the Spirit, able to build up and tear down, comfort and afflict, harden and soften, save and damn. “Of this divine dagger, Charles Spurgeon said it is “all edge…no blunt side.” When proclaimed, the Bible does not merely inflict surface scrapes, or flesh wounds. Rather, it penetrates the outward façade of a person’s life and cuts all the way to the “joints and marrow.” Thus, the Bible is able to reveal the depths of man’s inward depravity and need for saving grace. No worldly message or conventional wisdom can do this.

Possessing a razor-sharp, leading edge, the Word is capable of penetrating into the innermost recesses of the soul. The Scripture cuts far deeper than simply stroking felt needs, which merely lie on the exterior of a person’s life. It does not stroke egos or tickle ears. Instead, the living Word of God cuts to the bone, all the way to a person’s real needs, exposing the heart for what it is—desperately sick (Jer. 17:9). These unfelt needs remain covered until probed and provoked by Scripture.  

Like A Hot Knife Through Butter
Nothing else compares to God’s power to convict the human soul than the two-edged sword of His Word. “God’s Word cuts through our hard-shelled souls,” Kent Hughes writes, “like a hot knife through butter.” Unlike the superficial, synthetic messages of this age, God’s Word is actually able to slice to the bare bones of a person’s innermost being. The power of the Word leaves one flayed, exposed, and convicted. 

With unshakable confidence in the Scripture, John Calvin wrote, “There is nothing so hard or firm in a man, nothing so deeply hidden, that the efficacy of the Word does not penetrate through it.” When properly handled, the Holy Scripture is the most powerful cutting instrument known to man. It is a sharp scalpel that is able to slash into the human heart, convicting it of sin, and exposing its human depravity. Why believe in anything else to reveal one’s true need for Christ?


Steven J. Lawson is the President of OnePassion Ministries. Dr. Lawson is also the Professor of Preaching at The Master’s Seminary and Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries. The author of numerous books and articles, the latest of which is The Daring Mission of William Tyndale


Dr. Steven J. Lawson

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is President and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring about a new reformation in the church. Dr. Lawson hosts The Institute for Expository Preaching in cities around the world. Dr. Lawson is also a Teaching Fellow for Ligonier Ministries, where he serves on its board. Moreover, he is Professor of Preaching and oversees the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master’s Seminary, where he also serves on its board. Dr. Lawson is also Professor in Residence for Truth Remains, a work designed to promote and proclaim God’s written Word. Further, Dr. Lawson serves as the Executive Editor for Expositor Magazine published by OnePassion Ministries.