That this is the theme of our passage is not difficult to detect. The word “discipline” is used 9 times in the six or seven verses that we read.
In verse 6 it says that he “chastises the one he receives.” At least that’s what it says in my version.
So you really get the idea that the son really gets something of a whooping.
There’s no doubt that the Hebrews are feeling a little beat down. They had been suffering and the author has been trying to coax them along. He’s been trying to help them cope with this suffering. And in our passage he attempts to have them view their situation from a different perspective. The author wants us to reflect on their miseries in light of God’s divine providence. He wants them to see it in terms of God’s discipline.
Now some of you can probably relate to that kind of discipline. Growing up you might have received a nice little bit of love from your parents that left you a little tan on the hind end.
But that’s the perspective that the author wants us to maintain when we find ourselves suffering for Christ. He wants us to think about the hardships we face as Christians as a form of God’s discipline. You might say he wants us to see these persecutions, not so much from our own perspective, but from a heavenly perspective—God’s perspective.
It is my belief that we will be less likely to turn away from the Lord when we think of our woes this way. Viewing our situation in terms of God’s discipline will better equip us to persevere because we will understand more of God’s power, love and purpose.
I like this passage because it really makes us think about God’s providence. It makes us consider life, not so much as random occurring events, but as events that come directly by the hand of God.
And I think that is perhaps the first thing that we should glean from this passage. We need to see persecution as God’s discipline because it will remind us of the extent of God’s power.
I. It should remind us of God’s power 
Look at verse 5. I really want us to think seriously about what it says here. It says, “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.”
Now he quotes from the book of Proverbs. And there is more to the quote. But I want us to stop there because what is said here is crazy interesting. As a matter of fact, there is a little irony here.
We’ve been saying that the Hebrew people to whom this is written have been facing trials, specifically the trials of persecution. They are tempted to go back to Judaism because being a Christian is not very popular. More than that, it is downright dangerous. The motto may be “Believe at your own risk.”
But look at what he does here. He calls the hardships they are facing “the discipline of the Lord.” So what he is saying is that the hostilities that they are currently undergoing are the direct result of God.
Yes, their oppressors are guilty of the attacks. Yes, wicked people are the one’s who are responsible for all the offenses and injuries that have occurred. But the author says that all the evils falling upon them are still under the sovereign control of Almighty God.
He’s reminding us that there is not one thing in all this creation that God does not govern. Even the wild blasphemies of wicked men are still subject to the supreme rule of Christ!
Now, there is an element of this we will not be able to fully understand. We should be careful to say that God is not causing these unbelieving people to sin. God cannot be the author of sin. He is holy and he cannot be the instigate sin or be that which prompts people to sin.
But He does ordain whatsoever comes to pass. And somehow, in his all mysterious power, he is able to make the free actions of evil people work to His good.
I know that this can be hard to understand. But this is something we see all through Scripture. Remember the story of Joseph: Joseph’s brothers committed a terrible sin by selling him into slavery. But what does Joseph say at the end of the Genesis narrative? He says to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good; to bring about the salvation of many.”
And this is the whole point of the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk saw that the Lord was allowing the Babylonians to crush His chosen people, and he questioned how God could allow this wicked people to do such a thing? The answer that came back was simply, “I’m sovereign and I rule over the evil actions of men just as much as anything else.”
And really, this reminds us of the greatest evil that was ever perpetrated. Jesus was crucified at the hands of evil men, but it was all part of God’s design.
What we find here in Hebrews 12 is just reiterating all that. When we hear the words, “Do not despise the discipline of the Lord,” we are to recognize that God is in control.
Because what are we typically tempted to do? When we see bad things happening to us we tend to think that all hell is breaking loose and that God is not in control. That’s why we worry and fret and get ourselves all in a tizzy. Isn’t that why you’d be tempted to give up on God? It’s because you don’t see him as all powerful.
But when we see these event in terms of God’s providence it gives us a new perspective on things. We’ll be able to endure it because we know that God is ruling and directing it. We’ll see that he is sovereign over these events and working in these events.
But it’s not enough to know of God’s power, is it? It might make enduring persecution a bit easier, but it may also think that God is a cruel tyrant. We just said that the word ‘scourge’ is used here. A God who flogs his people—and uses infidels in it—I mean, what kind of God is that?
If you were left to think about God’s power alone that might not make you a little less inclined to follow him. But that’s why this idea of discipline is so needed. Because when you think discipline, you’re forced to think about God’s love as well as his power.
II. It reminds us of God’s love [6-9]
The idea of God’s love is brought out in verses 6-9. In verse 6 he continues his quote from the OT. It says, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and he chastises every son whom he receives.” Who is the one he disciplines? It is the one he loves. It’s his son. It is the one for whom he has so much affection.
The next few verses draw out the love God has for us by means of this father-son analogy. In verse 7 he emphasizes the idea of “tough love.” He says, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”
Every one of you who have been reared by a loving father have experienced at some point some “tough love,” haven’t you? You’ve probably had the board of education applied to the seat of knowledge. But why did your father treat you that way? It’s because he loved you. He wanted you to grow up to be a respectable person. He wanted what was best for you.
That’s what the Father is doing in his discipline too. He’s applying some tough love because he knows it will benefit you in the long run.
It’s not just a tough love that he shows though, it is a real and vibrant love. That’s what he’s getting at in verse 8 when he says, “If you are left without discipline, you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
He’s putting it negatively here. If you are not disciplined, then what relation do you have to the loving father? You have no relation, do you? You are not a son at all because a loving father demonstrates his affection by disciplining his child.
But if you are being disciplined, then that should be an affirmation to you that your father does love you, shouldn’t it? It should remind you of the special relationship you have to the father.
Young people, think about this for a minute. Who does your dad discipline? Does your dad discipline the kids next door? I would hope not. He may want to. The kids next door might need a good spanking. But your dad can’t discipline them because he doesn’t have any authority over them. He’s not their dad.
So who does your dad discipline? He disciplines you! And you might not like that, but you should see yourself as being in a very privileged position. If he’s disciplining you that means you are in a special relationship to him.
That’s why he also says in verse 9, “We all had father’s who disciplined us, and afterwards we respected them.” Why did we respect them? It is because we know they loved us.
Now, we understand that there are a lot of dads out there who are just downright mean. They are not disciplining out of love. And, really, what they are doing is not discipline. They are just being abusive.
And young people, if your father is abusive with you, we want you to tell us. We’ll protect you and keep you safe.
But even though there may be some wicked fathers out there, we know that there are plenty of good fathers. And these fathers will show their love in a way that replicates God’s loving discipline.
And this is where we find a lot of comfort when we are facing persecution. When people try to intimidate us or discriminate against us because of our belief in Christ, we need to see that this is happening—not just because God is causing it to happen, but because we stand in a special relation to the Father. God loves us and he’s letting these things happen to us because he wants the best for us.
And that leads us to the purpose of God’s discipline. When we view our hardships in terms of God’s discipline we’ll understand more of God’s power and love. But we will also understand why he allows us to suffer like this.
III. It should remind us of God’s purpose [9-11]
God brings us into these situations so that he may teach us. His purpose in allowing us to be oppressed is a pedagogical one. The word discipline is the greek word “paidea.” It is the root word upon which we build the word “pedagogy.”
The word paidea has to do with education, and in the Greek language it meant the whole training of a child. Not one specific discipline, but the full curriculum that enabled a student to become mature and useful for society.
That’s the purpose of God’s discipline. God intends to train us. Persecution is part of his core curriculum for maturity.
And you’ll notice that there are a few lessons that are specifically listed in this passage. God’s purpose in oppression is to teach us, first of all, holiness.
A. Holiness 
That’s found in verse 10. It says, “For they [i.e. our earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” Verse 11 reinforces this when it says that this discipline produces “the fruit of righteousness.”
These persecutions then, have a purifying affect upon us. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that these trials “correct and cure our sinful disorders.” They make us to become even more holy and more righteous.
A father disciplines his son because he wants him to do what is right. He’s correcting him and seeking to teach him how to properly conduct himself. That’s what this is saying. God uses persecution as a way of correcting us and leading us into greater holiness.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t really understand this at first. I will even admit that I still don’t understand its full implications. How is it that we can be made righteous and holy through persecution?
But I thought about it for a while and this is what I came up with. During persecution, you learn to pray more, don’t you? You learn to rely more on God’s grace. You probably spend more time searching God’s word and thinking about it. If you are doing those things, you are doing exactly what God wants you to do. You are becoming more and more holy.
But God’s purpose in disciplining us not just to teach us how to be holy. God’s plan is to teach us peace.
B. Peace 
Perhaps you saw that I missed this in verse 11. It says that discipline yields—not just righteousness—but the “peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
That’s certainly something these Hebrews needed, wasn’t it? They didn’t have peace at the moment. But in the midst of persecution God grants peace.
One commentator said that “though there may be pain in the body, God promises peace in the soul.”
It never ceases to amaze me how saints can be so peaceful in the midst of persecution. You read about the martyrs who have been tortured and killed, and you can read some of the most excellent testimonies and orations that have ever been given. How is it that they could speak with such eloquence when being burned at the stake or fed to the lions? It is because they had peace in the midst of it.
It’s not to say that they weren’t scared or were in anyway anticipating what was to happen. But God often granted them a calm repose in the face of it. They learned obedience, and with it came peace.
I also believe these things occur in order to teach us eternal life.
Look at verse 9 again. It says, “Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?”
Some commentators think that this sentence was to remind the Hebrew people of what the OT taught about the rebellious son. In the OT God commanded parents to bring their rebellious children to the elders to be stoned. They were to say, “This son of ours is a drunkard and a glutton.” If he rebelled against their discipline, he was to be put to death.
And I think that this is reminding us that God’s purpose in disciplining us is that we might have eternal life.
Some people rebell against God’s discipline. They look at the events in their lives and they shake their fist at God. They’ll say, “How cruel God is! Look at the way he treats me!” And they become embittered against God.
But that’s the wrong reaction. God’s discipline is that you might be subject to him and, ultimately, gain eternal life.
Don’t forget that God does love you. His heavy hand comes upon you because He wants to have communion with you.
A woman who’d endured much suffering asked her pastor, “When am I going to get out of these troubles?” The pastor wisely responded, “Instead of asking ‘when am I going to get out of these troubles,’ you should be asking ‘What am I going to get out of these troubles.’”
That is a good thing to keep in mind. God has a plan and purpose for these trials, and we should always be looking for what he is seeking to teach us.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
to the preaching and teaching ministry of
Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.