Hebrews 12:4-11

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 11, 2022 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline —then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
-Hebrews 12:4-11

Moving into this next section of the book of Hebrews, the author begins sharing about different aspects of the Christian life. The first thing he shares is about discipline – a topic that basically nobody enjoys.

It’s important to note that the author starts this section with a comparison between the believers’ struggle and that of those who had been killed for their faith (verse 4). Persecution to the point of being killed for the Christian faith was a very real danger at the time when this letter was written. All believers struggle with sin, and one of those temptations may have been to give up their faith to save their earthly life. Remember that this is just a few verses after the author provided the great list of the heroes of the faith, many of whom were killed for their faith. The struggle with sin is very real, but it’s important to keep our own struggles in the proper context. Yes, we go through difficult times in life, but at least we have not yet been killed for faith!

Then, the author brings up the topic of discipline, starting with the relationship between a father and son in verse 5 that he uses to introduce quoting Proverbs 3:11-12 in verses 5b-6. God is our father and we are His children, so He disciplines us as a Father would discipline His children. Being disciplined by God is not a sign that God doesn’t like us but rather it shows us how much He loves us! A father corrects his children because he loves them and wants to teach them to live correctly, and God disciplines us in the same manner. Contrary to how we tend to react, we should be encouraged when God disciplines us because it’s Him showing us His great love for us.

The ancient Roman world had a different understanding of discipline than we do today. It was expected, and a father in the Roman world had absolute authority over his children, even to the point of deciding whether to keep a child alive! The father even had the right to execute his child as a form of punishment, though this rarely happened. This shows the extremely serious attitude that they took toward discipline in the culture when this letter was written.

Verse 7 encourages us to look at any hardships we face as God providing discipline to us. God is treating us as his children and providing us with the discipline that we need to correct our wayward behaviors. Again, it was completely expected that a father would discipline his children, just as God does for us.

In verse 8, the author turns that around the other way. Because we are God’s children, He disciplines us; and if we are not receiving that discipline, then we must not be God’s children. Just as it was expected for a father to discipline his children, we as children should expect to BE disciplined by our heavenly Father. If the father felt no responsibility toward his children, he would not correct them. Likewise, God is showing His love and care for us as His true children by correcting us to His ways.

Verses 9-10 again make the connection between the human family and God and us as His children. But the author takes it one step further, showing how God’s discipline is different than that of a human father. Earthly fathers do their best for a short time while their child is young, but God’s discipline is perfect and holy, and it lasts for our entire lifetime. The goal of God’s discipline is to make us more like Him – sharing in His holiness.

The first part of verse 11 may seem like a very obvious statement – “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” The author puts this in contrast to the long-term effects of discipline, which is to “produce a harvest of righteousness and peace.” We need to experience the short-term difficulties, pain, and suffering of God’s discipline in order to become more like God, to work toward that goal of teleios.

Whether you are the giver or receiver of discipline, it is not a pleasant thing to experience. But discipline is very necessary for our lives, both from a human standpoint and a spiritual one. We need to be corrected and instructed in the ways we should live in this world, both by our human parents and by God. That often has to happen through discipline, being punished when we do something wrong.

We will all experience suffering in this life, whether due to our own actions, the actions of those around us, or for reasons we can’t figure out. But when we can look at those times of suffering as being disciplined by God, they have greater meaning in our lives. Jesus experienced suffering on the cross, not as a form of discipline since He did nothing wrong, but He was able to endure that suffering because it had greater meaning – the salvation of all humanity who would turn to Him in faith. If we see the greater meaning in times we’re suffering as God guiding and correcting us, we are better able to endure it as well.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:2-4

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.