THE PASSAGE – HEBREWS 12:5-11
INTRODUCTION. Hebrews 12:5-11 is the classic passage in the Bible about “the discipline of the Lord.” This is the third post in a series of studies covering this section of Scripture, and we are now seeking to understand concretely what this discipline of the Lord is. We have found out what it does, but now we are seeking to discover what form it takes when the Lord administers His discipline on us, His children. In the last post we looked carefully at the passage itself to see what the passage taught us about the nature of this “discipline.” Now we are going to turn to dictionary meanings of the Greek words to see if we can gain more definition from them.
THE GREEK WORDS FOR “DISCIPLINE”
For this part of our study, we will look at the Greek noun for “discipline” and the Greek verb for “to discipline.”
First, the noun.
1) the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment) It also includes the training and care of the body; 2) whatever in adults also cultivates the soul, esp. by correcting mistakes and curbing passions. 2a) instruction which aims at increasing virtue; 2b) chastisement, chastening, (of the evils with which God visits men for their amendment)
EXAMINATION. As we examine these definitions, meaning 1) applies to children and so can be ignored. Meaning 2) brings us better results, for the author of Hebrews is certainly speaking to and about adults in our study passage. “Whatever cultivates the soul by correcting mistakes and curbing passions.” This seems to strike pretty close to the target. So, a possible definition might be, “Discipline cultivates the soul by correcting (moral) mistakes and curbing (fleshly) passions.”
Going farther, meaning 2a) says “discipline is instruction that increases virtue.” Meaning 2b) may be the best definition of all. My own rendering of this meaning would be “God bringing (“visiting”) difficulties and trials (“evils”) upon His children for the purpose of chastening.”
Here, then, are the definitions of “discipline.”
“Discipline cultivates the soul by correcting (moral) mistakes and curbing (fleshly) passions.”
“Discipline is instruction that increases virtue.”
“God bringing (“visiting”) difficulties and trials (“evils”) upon His children for the purpose of chastening.”
Blending these together, I would propose this as a good definition:
The discipline of the Lord is when God brings difficulties and afflictions into the life of His child for the purpose of correcting behavioral mistakes and curbing fleshly passions.
Now we want to take a look at the Greek verb for “to discipline.”
1) to train children – 1a) to be instructed or taught or learn; 1b) to cause one to learn; 2) to chastise; 2a) to chastise or castigate with words, to correct; 2a1) of those who are moulding the character of others by reproof and admonition; 2b) of God – 2b1) to chasten by the affliction of evils and calamities; 2c) to chastise with blows, to scourge; 2c1) of a father punishing his son; 2c2) of a judge ordering one to be scourged
EXAMINATION. Definition 1) involves the training of children and so does not apply to the context of Hebrews 12:5-11. Under definition 2) we move immediately to 2b) because this talks about the chastising of God (close parallel to the “discipline of the Lord”). (Notice that the three other definitions under 2b) do not fit the context of Heb. 12:5-11, because God does not administer chastisement either by blows or by a scourge, He does not punish us, and He is not a judge ordering someone to be scourged.) Drilling down more into 2b1), we could render this definition as,
The Lord disciplines His children by bringing into their lives the affliction of evils and calamities.
Our work has yielded two definitions in which the Lord brings difficulties, afflictions, and calamities into the life of His child for the purpose of driving out remaining unrighteousness and increasing the child’s holiness. The Lord brings pain and affliction into His child’s life so that the child can be buffed and honed into an evident godliness. The discipline of the Lord is the Lord’s intentional shaping and sanctifying of His children through the means of painful affliction.
We will refine our study still more in the next post and see how others have understood this concept of “the discipline of the Lord.”
SDG rmb 2/21/2022 #492