C. S. Lewis said, "God
whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our
conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His
megaphone to rouse a deaf world" (The Problem of
Pain, p. 81).
The Psalmist profited
from his afflictions. "It is good for me that I was
afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes" (Psalm
Discipline is evidence
that God accepts us as His children.
God disciplines us so we
will grow spiritually. The Lord God seeks to develop
our intimate walk with Him, encourage us be to be
more Christ-like, and to have victory over the power
of sin in our daily life.
God sends trials and
hardships designed to strengthen our faith in Him.
"For consider Him who has
endured such hostility by sinners against Himself,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You
have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood
in your striving against sin; 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; For
those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He
scourges every son whom He receives.' 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? But if you are without
discipline, of which all have become partakers, then
you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Hebrews
12:3-8 NASB95). All Scripture quotes are from New
American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
The Need for
Discipline in our Spiritual Lives
No one enjoys hostile
persecution from the ungodly. Jesus patiently
endured it and set the perfect example for His
believers. He suffered the shame of the cross to
accomplish our redemption. We are assured that
because we are His disciples we, too, shall endure
hostility by those who oppose Him. When this
persecution comes we should have the assurance that
God is treating us as His sons and daughters. In our
case God overrides and turns the hostility to our
gain to cause us to grow in Christ-likeness. God
uses it to chastise the Christian and bring about
intended correction needed in our lives. The
Christian who is truly wise understands that God's
method of using hardships in training and
disciplining are to be taken as the reality a
beloved child of God. Their reproof is to be counted
as a profitable thing. The person who is not
disciplined is not His child.
The writer of Proverbs
said long ago, "He who withholds his rod hates his
son, But he who loves him disciplines him
diligently" (Proverbs 13:24). "The ancient world
found it incomprehensible that a father could
possibly love his child and not punish him," writes
R. Kent Hughes. Is this the reason committed
Christians appear to experience more pressures in
life than non-committed believers?
If we have been loved by
our parents we have been disciplined. Stop and
imagine what your life would be like if no one had
ever disciplined you. We would be the most arrogant,
selfish, and self-centered, out of control people
around. Much of the problems we face in American
homes today, and as a nation, are the result of lack
of discipline in homes. No human disciplinarian is
perfect, but it is better than no discipline. It is
necessary for the healthy development of the
Donald Guthrie observes,
"A father who neglects to discipline a son is
deficient in his capacity as father, and a son who
escapes all discipline is losing out on his sonship.
This is a principle which would not be recognized by
all schools of thought in this modern age where
permissiveness has such powerful influence. The
authority of parents has been so eroded that
discipline rarely if ever comes into play. It has
generally ceased to be a part of sonship. It is
small wonder that those brought up in such an
atmosphere find genuine difficulty in understanding
the discipline of God" (The Letter to the
Hebrews: An Introduction and Commentary, p.
Discipline is proof of
Discipline is the common
experience of all children. Every child of God is
subject to the Father's discipline. "For those whom
the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every
son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:6). His discipline
proves that we are His true spiritual children.
Spicq noted that when persecution comes it should
have the ringing assurance in our hearts, "God is
treating you as a son."
Even Jesus, God's unique
one of a kind Son "learned obedience by the things
which He suffered" (Heb. 5:8). But we must ever keep
in mind He was without sin. Jesus' suffering was
unique and never to be repeated.
denotes training of a child, and includes
instruction, correction, chastening. It would
naturally include correction and punishment as
needed. Note how many times this word is used in
We should be careful to
note the difference between chastisement or
discipline and judgment.
God's discipline and judgment
Only true believers
experience the discipline of the heavenly Father.
"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? But if you are
without discipline, of which all have become
partakers, then you are illegitimate children and
not sons" (Hebrews 12:7-8). On the other hand,
the true child of God does not experience God's
condemnation. That is reserved for the Devil and his
children. "He who believes in Him is not judged; he
who does not believe has been judged already,
because he has not believed in the name of the only
begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). Chastening and
judgment are two entirely different subjects. "And
if anyone’s name was not found written in the book
of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire"
"Beloved, do not be
surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes
upon you for your testing, as though some strange
thing were happening to you; but to the degree that
you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on
rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His
glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are
reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed,
because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you"
(1 Peter 4:12-14). I have been around humble
believers who rejoice because they share in Christ's
sufferings and it is convicting and contagious. They
have a fire in their bones that exalts the Lord
Jesus and glorifies His holy presence.
discipline of His children
In verses nine and
following, the writer of Hebrews argues from the
lesser, the experience of human fathers, to the
greater which is our spiritual relationship to God
the Father. Our earthly fathers disciplined us for a
short time to produce character. Our earthly parents
had limited knowledge and goals, but our heavenly
Father disciplines us for the best character. He
knows us better than we know ourselves and has the
highest goals for our character that we should share
in His holiness. It issues in everlasting glory and
joy in His presence.
"Father of spirits" is
simply a designation for the Lord God as our
spiritual Father in heaven. The cults come up with a
lot of far-out ideas reading all kinds of weird
ideas not in the writer's mind. This is a simple
contrast between our earthly fathers and our
spiritual heavenly Father. John Calvin said it
correctly, "God is the Father both of soul and body,
and properly speaking the only one." Keil and
Delitzsch, the Hebrew scholars said, "the God of the
spirits of all flesh." He is "the Creator and
Preserver of all being, who has given and still
gives life and breath to all flesh, is God of the
spirits of all flesh." John Brown wrote, "the Father
of spirits is our spiritual Father, as opposed to
our natural fathers—He to whom we are indebted for
spiritual and eternal life."
The Goal of Discipline
Chastisement is the holy
discipline of the heavenly Father. "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? 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. 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.
Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and
the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths
for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may
not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification
without which no one will see the Lord. See to it
that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no
root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and
by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or
godless person like Esau, who sold his own
birthright for a single meal. For you know that even
afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing,
he was rejected, for he found no place for
repentance, though he sought for it with tears"
God's goal is that we
will bear fruit of righteousness. In the allegory of
the vine Jesus teaches that the Father wants us to
produce an abundant harvest of fruit. The
vinedresser "cuts off every branch in me that bears
no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he
prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John
15:2). The subject of the passage is sanctification,
not salvation. When the vinedresser has finished
cutting away the old branches, the only thing left
are the essential branches that will produce an
abundant harvest at the end of the season. The
divine Vinedresser is at work in our lives using
discipline to cut away all that is worthless and
God wants us to be
"Positive holiness" is
the emphasis in this passage. F. F. Bruce says, "the
emphasis is rather different from that found earlier
in the epistle where the sanctification procured for
believes by the sacrifice of Christ is that
cleansing of conscience which fits them to approach
God in worship. That was the initial gift of
holiness; the holiness mentioned here is rather the
goal for which God is preparing His people—that
entire sanctification which is consummated in their
manifestation with Crist in glory. But this
consummation is not attained 'sudden, in a minute' .
. ." (The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 359).
God designs discipline
for what is best for us. He disciplines us so we
will produce righteousness. His goal is holiness.
Chastisement has an amazing way of correcting our
wrong thinking, attitudes and behavior. God uses it
to bring about behavioral changes in our lives. "But
when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord
so that we will not be condemned along with the
world" (1 Corinthians 11:32).
The heavenly father is
the source of eternal life. How tragic when people
turn away from Him. How many tragically drop out
when the hardship and discipline comes. I have
observed through the years that for some the
pressures of life cause them to flee to Jesus'
loving arms, while others use it as an excuse to
drop out of the Christian race giving evidence that
they never did belong to Him.
God sanctifies those
whom He redeems.
One of the ways God
sanctifies us from the power of sin is by His
chastening. God has called us to holiness. "For this
is the will of God, your sanctification; that is,
that you abstain from sexual immorality . . . . For
God has not called us for the purpose of impurity,
but in sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7).
Chastisement is part of God's sanctifying work. God
sanctifies those whom He redeems. "And now I commend
you to God and to the word of His grace, which is
able to build you up and to give you the inheritance
among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).
"For both He who sanctifies and those who are
sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason
He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews
2:11). "By this will we have been sanctified through
the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for
all" (Hebrews 10:10). "For by one offering He has
perfected for all time those who are sanctified"
(Hebrews 10:14). God will not give up on us if we
are truly His children because no one will see the
Lord and stand in His presence apart from His
We need to always
distinguish the difference between justification and
sanctification. Justification is our legal standing
with God based upon the saving death of Christ. The
believing sinner is declared to be right with God
based upon that sacrifice. It is a foreign, alien
righteousness in the sense that we do not merit or
earn that right standing with God in any manner. It
is God's provision for the believing sinner. God
declares the sinner right with Him the very moment
that sinner believes or receives Christ as their
Savior. The infinite payment that satisfies the
righteous demands of a holy God forever were paid in
full for all who believe on Christ. "For all have
sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being
justified as a gift by His grace through the
redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God
displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood
through faith. This was to demonstrate His
righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He
passed over the sins previously committed; for the
demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the
present time, so that He would be just and the
justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans
Sanctification begins the
moment a person is justified by faith. It is the
moment by moment separation from sin to God and
continues throughout this earthly life. Positionally
we are separated to God and are His possession for
all eternity. All believers obtained God's holiness
judicially, past sanctification, but here the writer
is concerned with our present sanctification which
takes place daily. Then one day our sanctification
will be consummated and we will be perfect, just
like Jesus Christ. That will happen when we see
Jesus face to face in heaven. We will one day be
glorified with Christ in heaven.
Since we are not yet
perfect in our Christ-likeness we need the
discipline of God. Every believer experiences this
discipline because God loves us and wants us to be
like Him. His goal is "that we may be partakers of
His holiness" (Heb. 2:10). The apostle Peter wrote:
be ". . . like the Holy One who called you, be
holy yourselves also in all your behavior" (1 Peter
1:15). Jesus said, "Therefore you are to be perfect,
as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
The LORD God is holy.
"Pursue peace with all
men, and the sanctification without which no one
will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). The holiness God
seeks is inward, in the heart. "He who has clean
hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his
soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully"
Why is holiness so
"holy" in v. 14 is the Greek word hagiasmos.
It has the same root as the adjective hagios
meaning "holy," "separated." The root meaning is
always separation. The Christian lives in the world,
but he must always be different or separated from
it. His attitudes, standards, values behavior is
different from the worlds. B. F. Westcott said,
hagiasmos is "the preparation for the presence
of God." Our blessed hope is that one day we will
see Him just as He is and we will be like Him. Even
so, come, Lord Jesus! Come. The unholy life is just
the opposite. It is a life without the awareness of
God. The attitudes, thinking, values, standards,
behavior is focused on this world.
Obviously, God rejects
hypocrites who put on a public display of
self-righteousness. Only the pure in heart will see
God. Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for
they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). The apostle John
states our blessed hope: "Beloved, now we are
children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what
we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be
like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And
everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies
himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2-3). To see
the LORD God is to be like Him in His holiness. Only
those who are holy will be admitted into His
"Peace and holiness are
two sides of the same coin. Holiness is not the
state of perfection already attained. Rather, the
word in the original Greek refers to the sanctifying
process that occurs in the life of the believer. To
put it differently, the believer reflects God's
virtues. In so doing, he becomes more and more like
Christ who through the Holy Spirit continues to work
in the believer's heart. . . Jesus is the one who
makes the believer holy (Heb. 2:11), Therefore, we
as believers must do everything in our power to
obtain holiness" (William Hendriksen and Simon
Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary
Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews, pp.
How do we become holy
in God's eyes?
The only way sinners will
ever be holy in God's eyes is achieved in Jesus
Christ and His atoning sacrifice for our sins. God
the Father made Jesus our sanctification. The
apostle Paul wrote: "But by His doing you are in
Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and
righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1
Corinthians 1:30). Jesus is my wisdom. Jesus is my
righteousness. Jesus is therefore my sanctification.
Every believer stands
clothed in the imputed righteousness of Jesus
Christ. "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on
our behalf, so that we might become the
righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
And there is the righteousness imparted to the
believer as the Holy Spirit dwells within changing
us from the inside out.
The apostle Paul
encouraged Timothy to pursue holiness. "Now flee
from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith,
love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from
a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22). How do you do that?
The Holy Spirit brings about these changes as we
yield to His presence working in our daily lives.
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not
inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived;
neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,
nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor
the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such
were some of you; but you were washed, but you were
sanctified, but you were justified in the name of
the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God"
(1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
When there is disharmony
in a church you can be sure there is unholiness
"If some incipient sin
manifests itself in their midst, it must be
eradicated at once; if it is tolerated, this is a
sure way of falling short of God's grace, for the
whole community will then be contaminated. Such a
sin is called a 'root of bitterness' . . . " (F. F.
Bruce, ibid, p. 365).
The "chastening" and
"scourging" has nothing to do with the payment for
the penalty of sin. "The wages of sin is death . .
." Jesus died that death as our substitute. The
atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross was
the righteous and perfect payment for our penalty of
sin. Our sin debt has been paid in full by the death
of Christ on the cross. God does not punish us; He
punished Jesus Christ on the cross when He poured
out His wrath on Him in our stead. Jesus is our
sin-bearer who bore God's wrath for us, so that we
would never bear that judgment. God does not punish
us; He punished His Son on our behalf.
However hardships and
pressures in life are aids to bring us to a closer
fellowship with God. The Lord's chastening is
designed to lead us to confess our sins, repent and
grow in Christ-likeness. It is part of our training
in godliness. God is shaping us, fashioning us,
forming us into the likeness of Christ. Any
attitude, imagination, desire, behavior, thought
process that is not Christ-like will be brought
under the discipline of God.
"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
12:11). This reminds us of Paul's admonition: "For
momentary, light affliction is producing for us an
eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison"
(2 Corinthians 4:17). "The righteousness produced by
discipline is that perfect righteousness which,
imputed in justification and striven for in the
Christian race, is fully imparted when at last the
victor stands before his exalted Lord face to face
(1 John 3:2); for it is indeed nothing other than
the unblemished righteousness of Christ Himself"
(Philip Hughes, The Epistle to the Hebrews,
It is important to note
that not all chastisement is because the believer is
living in sin. True, we are all sinners, and God is
working to draw us to Himself. He causes us to
confess our sins. He convicts us of sin, causes us
to confess them and repent. But He brings these
pressures into our lives so we will grow in His
grace and likeness.
God is in control of
God's chastening is
directed by His sovereign goal in our lives. God
will not allow anything to touch us that has not
already gone through His loving hands. God is more
loving and demanding than any earthly parent.
God is in ultimate
control of "all things" that work together for the
good and wellbeing of His children. "And we know
that God causes all things to work together for good
to those who love God, to those who are called
according to His purpose. For those whom He
foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to
the image of His Son, so that He would be the
firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:28-29). We
get preoccupied with our happiness, physical
wellbeing, material prosperity, but God is concerned
about our spiritual wellbeing, our Christ-likeness.
He loves us with an
infinite love and He has infinite power to bring
about His eternal purpose in our lives. I often hear
sincere well-meaning individuals say that sufferings
are sent by God as punishment for sin. However,
Jesus Christ, God's unique one of a king Son, knew
no sin, but learned obedience through His suffering.
Believers should have this mind set regarding
suffering. God's education program for His children
includes discipline and it comes in many different
forms. God does not vent His anger; He brings us to
spiritual maturity and promotes holy living.
"The hostility of ungodly
men is always difficult to endure, but it is
overruled and turned to our advantage by God and it
should be accepted, even gratefully, as chastisement
from the hand of the Heavenly Father intended for
the correction and benefit of those whom He receives
as sons," declares Philip Hughes, The Epistle to
the Hebrews, p. 528).
F. F. Bruce notes, "The
man who accepts discipline at the hand of God as
something designed by his heavenly Father for his
good will cease to feel resentful and rebellious; he
had 'stilled and quieted' his soul (cf. Ps. 131:2),
which thus provides fertile soil for the cultivation
of a righteous life, responsive to the will of God."
John Piper writes, "This
whole passage is built on another answer to the
question: Where does this suffering come from? And
who's doing this? And who's in charge? The main
answer of the passage is that God is in charge here,
and that he is in ultimate control of these
afflictions and that they are in fact the loving
discipline of a perfect heavenly father. That's the
burden of this passage."
Piper continues: "It says
that God is disciplining us; he is teaching us and
correcting us and transforming us. In other words,
God has a purpose and a design in what is happening
to us. God is the ultimate doer here. Verse 6b goes
so far as to say, "[God] scourges every son whom he
receives." Who is scourging? Who is whipping? (See
11:36). God is. God is not a passive observer in our
lives while sinners and Satan beat us up. He rules
over sinners and Satan, and they unwittingly, and
with no less fault or guilt, fulfil his wise and
loving purposes of discipline in our lives."
Piper adds, ". . . .
some Christians simply will not believe. They say
that God is not in charge of the evil that happens
to us. That he has given the world over to Satan and
the free will of man. But it will not work in this
passage. The hostility of sinners is real and it is
wrong and responsible and guilty. But it is also -
and this is a great hope for us - it is also the
loving, painful discipline of our Father in heaven.
God is not coming to his children late after the
attack, and saying, "I can make this turn for good."
That is not discipline. That is repair. It's the
difference between the surgeon who plans the
incision for our good, and the emergency room doctor
who sews us up after a freak accident. This text
says, God is the doctor planning our surgery, not
the doctor repairing our lacerations."
Why does the author
Esau rejected his
birthright. He brought judgment upon himself and
became an embittered person. He did not go to God
with true repentance that leads to salvation. He is
an example of the earthbound. He had no interest in
the things of God until the end. He was bound by
earthly pleasures. When it came to repentance there
was no change of mind. The word repent in the Greek
means a change of mind. There are certain choices we
make in life that have eternal consequences. There
is a certain finality in life, and the decisions you
make determine where you will spend eternity. God
can and will forgive when we repent and put our
trust in the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.
But when we reject God's saving grace we must abide
forever by that choice.
How do you respond to
God's discipline in your life?
What is God teaching me
in this experience?
The right response to
divine discipline promotes our sanctification.
The Christian who accepts
disciple at the hand of a loving heavenly Father as
something designed for his good will cease to feel
bitterness and rebellious toward God. He will grow
in righteousness and respond to the will of God.
One day we will stand
before the Lord and give account of how we have
lived our lives here on the earth. "Therefore do not
go on passing judgment before the time, but wait
until the Lord comes who will both bring to light
the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the
motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise
will come to him from God" (1 Corinthians 4:5). Like
the apostle Paul, I do not want to run the race and
then be disqualified. It is worth the discipline and
chastisement now so that we can declare: ". . .
the time of my departure has come. I have fought the
good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept
the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the
crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the
righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and
not only to me, but also to all who have loved His
appearing" (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
humility on our part. We can get angry and resent
God for His disciplining hand. We can accept it with
self-pity thinking we are like everyone else and we
really don't deserve it. Why pick on me? We can
respond to it with a grateful submissive attitude in
appreciation of God's love, grace and purpose that
we become holy in our daily lives.
Principles and Practical Applications
"The Lord is faithful,
and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil
one" (2 Thess. 2:3).
"The world has yet to see
what God can do with, and for, and through a man who
is fully and wholly consecrated to Him," said Henry
Varley. By God's grace I will be that man. We need a
Spirit-produced love for Christ. I pray that He will
create a hunger in our hearts for Him.
Holiness is being
conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
God the Father
disciplines us for our good and His glory. He brings
into our lives whatever is necessary to accomplish
His eternal purpose which is Christ-likeness. These
painful experiences cause us to grow in His
The mature Christian is
the disciplined Christian.
Hugh Latimer said
affliction stirs up in us a desire to be like
Christ. When everything is going our way we care not
for Christ, "but when we be in tribulation, and cast
into prison, then we have a desire to Him; then we
learn to call upon Him; then we hunger and thirst
after Him; then we are desirous to feed upon Him. As
long as we be in health and prosperity we care not
for Him; we be slothful" (Hugh Latimer, Works,
vol. 1, p. 463). Do you hunger and thirst for
Fiery trials purify our
faith as gold is tested and purified by fire.
We are always in
training. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to knock
off the rough edges of our character, convict us of
sin, bring us to repentance, and submission to the
Father's will. When we do not respond to His gentle
wooing, He will use whatever hardship necessary to
accomplish His goal in our lives. He will put us
through the fire to make us holy. His goal is our
holiness; not our happiness.
Suffering is only rightly
understood when seen as our heavenly Father's
Suffering is evidence
that God's truly loves us. It is essential that we
view our sufferings as the Lord's discipline rather
than His displeasure or judgment. He knows what is
best for us.
We need to build up our
faith so we can work effectively and run without
God sends trials and
hardships designed to strengthen our faith in Him.
The renewing of our faith and spiritual power comes
as we draw upon our spiritual resources in the Word
of God applied to our hearts by our Great High
Tertullian said, "You can
judge the quality of their faith from the way they
behave. Discipline is an index to doctrine."
12:3-17 When God Disciplines in Love