Welcome back to our study of the book of Hebrews. In today’s session, we’re going to be looking at Hebrews 12:5-11, a portion that focuses on how the believer should react to the trials that he or she faces. Again we have to recall the background to this letter. The writer was addressing messianic Jews who were undergoing persecution because of their faith in Christ. In Chapter 11, he had talked about the necessity and the triumph of faith, and in chapter 12, he’s going to continue with the same train of thoughts by showing how God works in His children to bring about saving faith.
Embrace the discipline of the Lord
5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:5-11 Explanation Verse By Verse
- Verses 5-6
To encourage his original readers and us, the writer quotes Proverbs 3:11-12. The persecution they were facing wasn’t without a purpose. God doesn’t submit His children to testing because He enjoys watching them struggle, there is a purpose to it. I like how Proverbs 3:11-12 reads in the amplified version, it says
My son, do not despise or shrink from the chastening of the Lord [His correction by punishment or by subjection to suffering or trial]; neither be weary of or impatient about or loathe or abhor His reproof, For whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
First the original readers needed to understand that God loved them and as a result of His love, He permitted the persecution for a specific purpose. It was God’s way of disciplining them or training them ( and us as well). Let’s not forget that the writer already mentioned that Jesus ( the only begotten Son of God) underwent persecution Himself, the discipline of the Lord. If we go back to Hebrews 5: 7-9, we read the following
7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus[a] offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Although HE was a son, He learned obedience through what HE suffered. You see, Jesus was sinless, righteous and Holy from birth, but when He took upon a human nature, God the Father submitted Him to trials in order that He could fully identify with our weaknesses and understand the human experience. Through the discipline, He learned how to obey and do His father’s will in the flesh ( as a human) so that He could become a merciful High Priest in service to God. God bore witness about Jesus that He was His beloved Son in the gospels, yet He allowed Him to undergo sufferings. We also read in James 1:1-3
2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Once we are saved, the Lord has to completely reshape our mindset and our thinking and HE often does so through the trials we face. And at the basis of the discipline, is the love of God. That is the key, the writer wanted his readers to understand that the persecution was rooted in the love of God. Because God loved them, He allowed the persecution for the sake of training them and reshaping them through it. It’s tough to understand because most people would think and I’m sure the original readers thought to themselves” if God loves us, why are we struggling so much”. They and we ought to think differently about suffering– we should rather say” I’m glad I’m going through this because it is a sure sign that I belong to God” . Proverbs 3:12 says “ For whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights”. We discipline our children because we love and delight in them and want to see them do that which is right.
The goal of the discipline of the Lord
- Verses 7-11
The writer tells his readers the reason why they have to endure the discipline of the Lord. Endurance carries with it the idea of long-suffering, a marathon. We have to remember that the original readers were being subject to persecution for a long time. And it might have seemed to them that it was never going to end. It is God who decides when the training is completed. Job’s trials lasted a long time but eventually they came to an end. In the meantime, he had to endure. The writer is saying that being disciplined is synonymous with being accepted as a legitimate child of God. And he uses human fathers as an example. As a father, it isn’t my job or duty to discipline someone else’s child. I only discipline my three sons because they are my legitimate children. I may try to discipline somebody else’s child but not with the same intensity and fervor like my own. In the same way, the writer is saying that God only disciplines those HE regards as His children. And there is a principle to learn here. If one claims to be a child of God while indulging in sin and apparently getting away with it, I think that person ought to examine himself/herself to make sure they are in the faith. The enemy of our soul will not be our adversary if we’re on his side. I’m not encouraging anyone to go look for persecution or trials, but as believers they will come organically because God is in the process of doing away with the junk we’ve accumulated in the flesh ( the sinful nature). The writer uses another human example to drive his point. He says to his readers that their human fathers disciplined them and while they may have not like it at first, they eventually respected them because of it, it showed that their fathers really loved them.
And he connects this to God. Our fathers were partly responsible for our existence. They were the fathers of our natural body and they had to ensure that we did what they considered right in their sight. God on the other hand is the author of our spiritual birth as recorded in John 1:12-13
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And because God is the author of our new birth ( the one that matters ) He is responsible( because it is covenant) for our upbringing in this new birth. God ensures that we do what is right in His sight in order that we may live. This is so important, verse 10 is dynamite, our human fathers only disciplined for our short time. I left my house officially when I was 19 years old and I could say with confidence that my earthly father never disciplined me once I was on my own. He did scold me a few times but the official training/discipling was over. On the other hand while we are still on earth, God who is the author and father of our spiritual birth continues His work until we breathe our last, His discipline on this side of eternity never ends until we reach perfection ( when we leave either by death or when Jesus comes back and we are clothed with the imperishable). Verse 10 also informs the readers about the end purpose of the discipline of GOD– Holiness. I can’t stress this enough in our day and age where the love of God has been perverted. Hebrews 12 tells us that God disciplines those He loves for the sake of Holiness yet preachers paint a picture of the love of God that is distorted. Listen to what verse 11 says, another dynamite. At first the discipline isn’t pleasant but painful. But look at what happens later, it yield and leads to a harvest of righteousness for those who have been trained by it. This is why the writer told his readers not to despise the discipline of the Lord. Its end purpose is righteousness and holiness and being used by God. To experience God, personal Holiness is required and foundational. For us to be vessels, He has to set us apart, hence the discipline to rid us of the things of the old nature. We ought to embrace the discipline of the Lord, the end purpose is our Holiness, that we may share in His Holiness, He is making us like Him, like father like son.
What’s our response to the discipline of the Lord? We’ll discuss that next week as we zero in on verses 12-17.
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