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 fourth post in a series of studies covering this section of Scripture. We have been seeking to understand concretely what this discipline of the Lord is, but I wanted to take a brief aside to explore two ways we can incorrectly respond to the discipline of the Lord. We will be looking at Hebrews 12:5-6.
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.”
The Lord brings His discipline to His children so that the children can share His holiness (12:10) and so that they can yield the fruit of righteousness (12:11). Therefore, the discipline of the Lord is a display of the Lord’s grace toward those who have placed their faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus. But because of the distorting effects of the fall and because of incomplete sanctification in the disciple, the child of God can misunderstand and misinterpret the Lord’s discipline. For this reason, the author of Hebrews issues two warnings about wrong responses.
Warning #1: “Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord.”
What does it mean to “regard lightly”? This means to respond in a way that ignores or despises the magnitude of the gesture. In this case, the Lord of the universe, by His providence, has ordained that His sanctifying, loving discipline is to be applied to one of His children at this specific time in human history. Imagine the immensity of this gesture! Imagine the condescension of the One bringing the discipline! The Lord has perceived in this specific disciple something that is hindering the disciple’s holiness. There is an obstacle to sanctification that the Lord not only sees, but that also moves the Lord to action. Now the Lord is going to bring the perfect discipline to bear on this disciple’s life so that the disciple will bear more of the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Such a spectacular gesture deserves a spectacular response. But to respond requires that the disciple perceive that the Lord is bringing His discipline. For this reason, every disciple should be alert for the presence of the discipline of the Lord in their life (ACTION ITEM). Then, once the disciple senses that the Lord is bringing His discipline to bear on his life, he needs to “lean into” the discipline so that it will have its full effect (ACTION ITEM). Give thanks to the Lord for His gracious care for you in sending His “scourging” discipline (ACTION ITEM). The opposite of “regard lightly” would be “make much of,” so the disciple should recognize this form of the Lord’s grace and praise Him loudly for His good instruction (ACTION ITEM). Taking these actions will help you avoid “regarding lightly” the discipline of the Lord.
Warning #2: “Nor faint when you are reproved by Him.”
The first warning cautioned the disciple not to regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, but this second warning tells us not to make too much of the Lord’s reproof. What I mean is this, that the Lord’s discipline is a perfect discipline. Like He sends His word to accomplish all that He intends and desires (see Isaiah 55:11), so the Lord brings His precise discipline to accomplish His precise ends. We know that His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3), and we can be assured that His discipline is likewise not onerous. The purpose of the Lord’s discipline is, by applying heat and affliction, to burn off the dross of remaining ungodliness and leave the disciple more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). As Job said when he was undergoing the Lord’s severe discipline, “He (the LORD) knows the way I take, and when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
Again, the Lord’s discipline is sent at the exact time needed to affect the change He desires. Although Paul was speaking of the persecution he faced because he faithfully proclaimed the gospel, the idea is similar with the Lord’s discipline: “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing” (2 Cor. 4:8). The Lord brings enough affliction to affect change and to spur greater holiness, but not so much that it crushes the spirit and brings despair.
The discipline of the Lord comes with heat and affliction, and there can be a response of “shrinking back” (Hebrews 10:38-39) and a temptation to faint under the stress. This warning #2 comes as an urgent exhortation to those who do not expect the Lord to test them and who therefore can feel the temptation to quit or to surrender to relieve the stress of the Lord’s discipline.
What is the right response when we are experiencing the affliction and the heat of the Lord’s discipline? Rather than faint, we resolve to endure (ACTION ITEM). Endurance and perseverance mark out our course because it is the enduring of the discipline that brings greater holiness and the fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:10, 11). This is key: It is the enduring of the discipline and the persevering through the pain that brings the spiritual fruit. The Lord sends His perfect discipline, but if the disciple faints or takes shortcuts, then even the perfect discipline of the Lord will not have its intended results.
SUMMARY. When the Lord chooses to bring His discipline into the life of the believer, the believer is not to regard lightly this discipline, but is to receive it as a gift from his perfect heavenly Father and is to allow the discipline to work its full work. Even when the discipline of the Lord feels withering, the believer is not to faint, but is to continue with an attitude of endurance and perseverance.
SDG rmb 2/23/2022 #493