THE PASSAGE – HEBREWS 12:5-11
Hebrews 12:5-11 is the classic passage in the Bible about “the discipline of the Lord.” In this post, we will give an overview of these verses and will make several comments before explaining how to understand and apply this passage. The two key words are “discipline” (both the noun and the verb) and “endure.”
5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. – Hebrews 12:5-11
The author of Hebrews begins by making clear (12:5-6, a quote from Proverbs 3:11-12) the universality of this “discipline of the Lord.” The exhortation is addressed to all those who are considered as ‘sons.’ (Obviously, this is not limited to the male children of the Lord. Of course, this includes all the children of the Lord, meaning all those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ.) So, all the children of the Lord are not to regard the Lord’s discipline lightly. The writer goes on to make clear that the discipline of the Lord comes universally to all “whom the Lord loves” and that the Lord “scourges every son (child) whom He receives.” Therefore, if you are loved by the Lord and if the Lord has received you into His household based on your faith in His Son, then you can expect to experience His discipline.
“It is for discipline that you endure” (12:7a). “Discipline” is used here as a noun and “endure” is a verb. Discipline describes the positive outcome of endurance. To endure means to willingly experience pain, stress, difficulty, or suffering because there is something valuable to be gained by the experience. And so, the child of God endures the Lord’s discipline.
The author then draws a parallel between the discipline we received from our earthly fathers and the discipline that all the children of the Lord receive from the Lord (12:7b-10). Every responsible earthly father diligently trains his children using whatever means he has at his disposal. Thus, all legitimate children receive their father’s discipline (training). We subjected ourselves to our earthly father’s imperfect discipline, so should we not subject ourselves to our heavenly Father’s perfect discipline, especially since the outcome of God’s training is that we “share in His holiness” (12:10)?
From 12:11, we learn that “discipline seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful.” Once again it is clear that the author intends for “discipline” to be understood as a painful experience that the disciple (“trainee”) willingly endures because the one bringing the “discipline” can be trusted to use the pain and the suffering and the trial of the discipline to produce a greater good. In this verse, we observe that those who have been trained by the discipline of the Lord obtain “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING OF THIS PASSAGE.
All the children of the Lord are going to receive “the discipline of the Lord” as evidence that they are, indeed, the Lord’s legitimate children. Discipline is to be endured because the pain of the Lord’s discipline produces spiritual fruit. As we subjected ourselves to our earthly father’s imperfect discipline, so now we subject ourselves to our heavenly Father’s perfect discipline, especially since the outcome of God’s training is that we “share in His holiness” (12:10). The disciple who will endure the pain and suffering of “the discipline of the Lord” and be trained it will obtain “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
BUT WHAT EXACTLY IS “DISCIPLINE”?
In this post, we have established a basic interpretation of this passage, but there is still work to do to see how this interpretation works itself out in life. What I mean is that we understand what the discipline of the Lord does, but we have not yet made clear what the discipline of the Lord is. How do we recognize when we ourselves are experiencing this discipline? What prompts the Lord to bring His discipline into our life? What circumstances cause me to experience this discipline? Is this discipline sent as retribution for my misbehavior? Is the discipline like punishment? Is the discipline a good thing or is it a bad thing? What should be my response if I sense that the Lord has brought discipline into my life? These are some of the questions we will tackle in the next post.
SDG rmb 2/16/2022 #488