In this verse there are two action verbs, in the present tense, which means they are this continuously, as regarding the Word of God. The first verb talks of what the Word is and the second speaks of what the Word does.
The first verb is living – the Word has the life and power of God in it. The Word of God brings the convicting power of the Lord. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Two other words give us a description of this living.
• Active – full of energy, powerful. It is effective (Isaiah 55:9-11). Its effectiveness may not be immediately evident to us, but as we mature we will understand it is always so, we will see it being effective in changing lives and also in hardening hearts. It will be a surgeon or an executioner, as we see while progressing through Hebrews 4:11-16. It will perform surgery and bring new life, or it will be the death sentence to the rebel. The Word of God either heals or it hardens, and it never fails to do its intended work.
• Sharper – comparative, not just sharp but sharper. In other words, it is not only effective it is precise. It not only gets the job done, it gets it done exactly right. It goes as deep as it needs to, it hits the root. This is what the word of God is; it is living, and therefore effective and precise, and that is why it is able to discern all things.
The second verb is piercing – to penetrate – two applications are given to describe it.
• The first is division – to separate – soul and spirit (spiritual matters), joints and marrow (physical matters). In other words, as written at the time these things would be impossibly hard to divide but that is how penetrating God’s Word is, it can and will find out the problem right at the root, no matter how deep it is buried, no matter how many layers it has to separate. Like soul and spirit, the immaterial parts of man, things we cannot get a hold of, God’s Word can. Back when this was written, bone marrow transplants weren’t available back then. But God’s Word penetrated as deep as that. The point is that the Word of God lays bare our problem; it exposes it for what it is. It gets to the bottom of it.
• The second is discerning – judging – not condemning but ascertaining what is really going on. It is able to see what needs to be done. It gives a critique. The Word gets to the bottom of things and passes judgment on what it finds. A prosecutor presents the facts of the case, but the judge determines what is right and wrong; the Word of God does both. Thoughts and intents, both the feelings of desire and the imaginations of the mind. As we faithfully use the Scriptures we will be trained to discern the wrong ways of thinking that have become fortresses for sin in our lives so that our minds can be renewed and our lives transformed. This is the surgical power of God’s Word. This is what the Word of God does. We cannot take it for granted. The Word of God identifies the sickness and because it is alive it can give new life. It can change the heart.