If you have not read part 1 yet, go back and read it first:
The God of Discipline
Growing up as a Christian Fundamentalist, I was often taught that when we suffer, God may be disciplining us for something that we have done wrong. I read an article the other day that reminded me of these teachings that are prominent in some circles.
I have heard Hebrews 12 used many times to teach inaccuracies about suffering and discipline.
For some of us who have heard this passage used poorly, I thought that I would walk us through it.
Hebrews 12:5-6 is commonly used to set up the context of the discipline conversation in Hebrews 12, instead of understanding that the actual context starts earlier in the text.
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.
This is a quote from King Solomon in Proverbs 3:11-12.
- Proverbs is not a “Do this – get this result” formula. It is wisdom literature for the sake of guidance.
- The Jewish writers and teachers were well known for quoting the Old Testament (sometimes out of context on purpose) not always to tie theological concepts, but to create a creative collage of phrases. It was much like cutting words out of magazines and pasting them on a piece of paper to make a note about something unrelated to their original articles that they are cut out of. When the New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament, it is often times for a purpose that was unrelated to the original passage.
(We see Paul doing this often. A very interesting one that we see is Romans 15:9-12)
If you want to understand this more, you can take 5 minutes and watch this video:
Hebrews 12 does talk about viewing suffering as “discipline”, but is it about a frustrated Father God taking out his belt and bending us over?
Let’s take a quick look at the actual setup and context of Hebrews 12 and the conversation about discipline in this passage.
Hebrews 11 is about all of the great people of faith.
Read it here – Hebrews 11
Let’s look at the first few verses of Hebrews 12 for context.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (“cloud of witnesses” is referring to all the people mentioned in chapter 11), let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (this is where we understand context for the word “discipline”), 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
We are about to look at the word “discipline” in the text, but remember that it is in the context of a race that we are running. If we were prepping for a race, we are going to train and be “disciplined” in doing so.
There are three words in greek that translate to the word “discipline” and are used in this chapter of Hebrews?
- παιδεία (paideia): training
- παιδεύω (paideuō): instruct
- παιδευτής (paideutēs): instructor, teacher
Hebrews 12 uses them and plays leap frog with them in the text.
Let’s look at it in the ESV version and replace the word “discipline” with it’s original greek word and meaning:
7 It is for paideia (training) that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not paideuō (instruct)? 8 If you are left without paideia (training) in which all have participated (again tying to the people of faith in chapter 11), then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who paideutēs (have taught, instructed referring to instructor) us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they paideuō (instructed) us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he paideutēs (teaches, instructs – referring to instructor) us for our good that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all paideia (training) seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained (bonus word – γυμνάζω (gumnazō):exercised to train) by it.
God is not bringing suffering as a mad parent. The author is saying to look at the faith of the people who have gone on before us, look at the suffering of Jesus, and reshape suffering as endurance training for the race that we are in.
I love how the NIV puts verse 7. “Endure hardship as discipline (paideia (training))“.
We endure by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. If we understand that we get stronger for the race because of suffering, it gives us hope and we can see God working in our weakness to strengthen us.
God is on our side more than you will ever know. He is not an angry parent!
God will comfort, strengthen, and restore what seems broken. He is not an angry parent!