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. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Most of us are probably able to remember a day—a long, long time ago—when going to pick up newly developed photos was an exhilarating event. We had dropped off our rolls of film or disposable cameras a week, or a day, or an hour before, and were then approaching CVS filled with great anticipation. We had not seen, edited, or shared these photos. No one had “liked” them, “regrammed” them, or commented on them. We were filled with both hope and fear as we anticipated what we might find in that little envelope. Would we be overwhelmed with the beauty of the people and places the photos captured? Would we be overcome with sweet nostalgia for the memories the photos represent? Many of us, if we are honest, looked not immediately at the people and places surrounding us, but at ourselves. Would we be satisfied with how we looked, or would our own flaws strike us glaringly? Or worst of all, would we find ourselves not to be the blossoming photographers we thought ourselves, with an entire roll overexposed?
While this may be over dramatized a bit, if many of us are honest, we often approach the Word of God with a similar mindset. We know, as the author of Hebrews has said, that the Word of God is living and active. Therefore, we approach it with a certain level of anticipation, wondering what will meet us when this living Word comes in contact with our hearts. Will we be overwhelmed with the beauty of God and the Gospel? Will we be overcome with joy? Will we rest in remembering the God who loves us and the experience of life in Him? Or will we be most aware of ourselves, struck glaringly by our own flaws and all the ways we have fallen short? Will we find ourselves to be exposed?
What is God’s intention for when this living, active Word comes in contact with our hearts? All of the above; He intends for us to be exposed—both by and for the Gospel.
None of us wants to be exposed. Exposure is one of our greatest fears. Exposure means that all the things we have tried so hard to keep hidden are seen. We see. Others see. God sees. God’s Word exposes us. The Gospel causes the thoughts and intentions of our hearts to be seen. The center, the causal core of who we are, is naked and exposed not only before our own eyes, but before the eyes of the One to whom we must give account.
We find our experience to be parallel to that of our first parents in the garden. “The man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25), a statement we read with wonder, with longing for the experience of “being known but not feeling exposed.”1 But we know this coveted reality did not last long. Upon Adam and Eve’s disobedience, being seen no longer felt like being loved but like being exposed and thus ashamed and afraid. It caused them to hide and to attempt, in vain, to cover themselves. We fear this exposure, but this is not the exposure that God intends.
We are not meant to look at the picture and see only ourselves; we are meant to see ourselves against the beautiful and glorious backdrop of the Gospel. The beauty of the Gospel is that it brings us to the place of exposure—our lowest point, our darkest place, the end of ourselves, where we have nowhere to hide—and it meets us there! It meets us there in the person of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, who hung naked and exposed for us.
Exposure can make us want to hide in fear and shrink away in shame. But because Christ pleads His perfect obedience and sacrifice on our behalf, the Gospel, as it exposes us, invites us to come. The Gospel exposes so that we will come—not with our heads bowed low with shame, but with confidence; not to the back door, but before the throne; not to receive punishment, scorning, or shame, but to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
When we come to God’s Word, we are exposed both by and for the Gospel. Here we find an exposure that both convicts and invites. Here we see not merely ourselves, but our gracious High Priest, Jesus Christ, by whom and in whom we are invited to come as we are, messy and needy but confident, before the throne of the living God, where in being fully seen and fully known, we are fully loved.
1 Ed Welch