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 fifth and final post in a series of studies covering this section of Scripture, and this article will draw the series to a conclusion. In the last two posts in this series (February 21 and 23), we had worked to discover the exact nature of this “discipline of the Lord.” Now we are going to apply what we have learned and understand how we are to respond when the Lord brings His discipline into the life of the child He loves.
WHAT IS THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD?
What did we discover in our previous posts about the nature of the discipline of the Lord? Although the author of Hebrews does not speak in this passage of suffering, I think the best way for the believer to understand the Lord’s discipline is to see that the Lord is bringing the perfect amount of affliction and yes, even suffering into the disciple’s life for the purpose of bringing about the disciple’s greater holiness. We experience this as suffering and pain and affliction, for these are the human labels we attach to this anguish, but from the Lord’s perspective He is bringing His sanctifying discipline onto the child He loves. The Lord is demonstrating His love to the disciple of Jesus through the means of His purifying affliction.
EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF SANCTIFICATION
Why does the Lord choose to use suffering to produce sanctification? He does this because of His immense grace to us. The Lord has given to His children many means for growing in holiness. He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit who allows us to understand His Word. He has given us the Bible so that we can be renewed in the spirit of our minds and can know what it is to hunger and thirst for righteousness. He has given us communion with Him through prayer. He has given us His church, where we can worship Him with other believers and disciple one another and spur one another on to love and good deeds. These ordinary means of grace allow the believer to steadily grow in practical holiness and to increase in usefulness to the Master.
But the Lord is so personal with His children that, when He perceives an obstacle to His child’s holiness that is resistant to the ordinary means of sanctification, He crafts extraordinary means which the stubborn obstacle cannot resist. This is “the discipline of the Lord.” This discipline often feels like suffering and affliction, but it is the Lord’s appointed means of purifying us with hyssop so that the stubborn, entrenched unholiness can be cut out of our life.
Consider the grace of this discipline of the Lord. First, the Lord is so concerned about His child’s greater holiness that He is attentive to when there is a stubborn unholiness that must be addressed. The Lord then crafts the perfect discipline for this specific unholiness. He custom designs the discipline so that it is painful enough to purge away the unwanted unholiness but is not so painful that it crushes the disciple’s spirit. The Lord Himself then brings the discipline into the life of the believer so that the believer can share His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).
THE HUMAN RESPONSE AND RESPONSIBILITY
How should we respond to the discipline of the Lord? We have already found much instruction in our study about how we are to respond, but before we review those responses, I wanted to make an observation from my own life. We have said that the Lord brings His discipline into our life to address an obstacle to holiness that He perceives. So, He knows the reason He is bringing His discipline, and what the intended result of the discipline is. But the disciple who is experiencing the affliction of the discipline of the Lord usually does not. When I have experienced the discipline of the Lord, I only perceived that the Lord was bringing suffering into my life, but I did not know the purpose of His discipline. By faith, I believed that the suffering I was experiencing was from the Lord as His discipline and was sent from heaven for the purpose of my greater holiness. This is the typical experience of the disciple, that they are aware of the suffering but do not know the specific reasons why or the details of the intended result. Even when the affliction is over, and the suffering has past, rarely does the disciple know the “whys” of the discipline of the Lord. But the Lord does. The disciple is called to trust the Lord and persevere through the affliction until the Lord determines that His intended greater holiness has been achieved.
We can review Hebrews 12:5-11 to remind ourselves of how we are to respond to His discipline. When we perceive that the Lord is bringing His discipline into our life, we are not to faint (12:5). We saw in post #493 (2/23/2022) what this meant: “We resolve to endure. 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). To reinforce this point, we see that Hebrews 12:7 calls us to endure: “It is for discipline that you endure.” By faith, we are also to patiently “be subject to the Father of spirits” (12:9) and allow His extraordinary work to have its intended result. Finally, we are to be trained by His discipline (12:11) so that we will “yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
SUMMARY OF THE STUDY
This study of Hebrews 12:5-11 and “the discipline of the Lord” has yielded a solid understanding of the nature of the discipline of the Lord and of how the disciple of Jesus can respond when they perceive that the Lord is bring His extraordinary means of sanctification into the disciple’s life.
SDG rmb 3/3/2022 #496