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God Disciplines His Sons June 4, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Hebrews 12:1-13.

Summary: The author begins by exhorting his readers – based on the preceding description of those who went before them in the profession of the faith and are now encouraging them in their duty – to lay aside all vicious habits and patiently persevere in the profession of the Gospel. He then encourages them to look to Christ, as their faith – from first to last – is from Him. Since Christ despised the ignominy and scorn that He was exposed to in His death, they should neither be discouraged with the greatness of the inherent difficulties in their profession of the Gospel nor faint.

The author then warns his readers that as they contend against the effects and fruits of sin in them, they might expect all kinds of violent deaths. Now his readers know that they are being admonished by God; thus, he encourages them as follows:

  • he quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12 to warn them against having little esteem of divine reproofs and show them that God only reproves those whom He has adopted
  • he infers from these verses that God has adopted them
  • he also infers that if his readers had not been reproved by God, then they would have had no right to a divine inheritance
  • he appeals to human experience, where children should be subject to their parents; since their souls belong to God, He is their spiritual parent, and so they should be subject to Him
  • since God is their spiritual parent, he infers that God reproves them so that they can have His image and likeness; in this way, they are sanctified and become peaceable.

Now the author exhorts his readers to apply themselves to their duty; they should overcome their tendency to become tired of professing the Gospel and grow despondent. He concludes by quoting from Proverbs 4:26 to exhort them to make straight tracks for themselves; in this way, they can assist those who retained the Jewish ceremonies and worship alongside the teaching of the Gospel in making spiritual progress.

Thoughts: In verses 1 and 2, the author exhorts his readers to continue in their profession of the Gospel, since the Old Testament believers are encouraging them in that endeavor. Owen offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 1:

At the contest in public games alluded to here, there were multitudes, clouds of spectators, who looked on to encourage those who competed with applause and to testify to their success. So it is with our patient perseverance. All the old testament saints, as it were, stand looking at us in our striving, encouraging us in our duty, ready to testify to our success with their applause.

This passage struck a chord with me, as I enjoy exercising and all of its inherent benefits. Now the critical role that the Old Testament believers play in our profession of the Gospel reminded me of several studies that have shown a link between an appropriate level of external motivation and an improvement in exercise output. Throughout my blog posts, I have consistently demonstrated my eagerness to meet many of the believers whose faith and obedience are recorded in the Scriptures; perhaps they are subtly encouraging me as I attempt to exhibit true faith and obedience on a daily basis. Moreover, as New Testament believers, perhaps we should also use this passage to encourage each other in our respective faith journeys; since “no man is an island,” we need the assistance of fellow believers to complete this difficult endeavor.

The bulk of this passage is devoted to the author’s argument that the difficulties that his readers are experiencing in their profession of the Gospel actually constitute God’s natural discipline of them as His sons. Owen offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 7:

This presumes two things: first, that every son will more or less stand in need of discipline; second, that every wise and tender father will in such cases discipline his son. So the argument is taken from the illustration of the duty that inseparably belongs to the relationship between a father and a son. From this it is clear that God’s discipline of believers is his dealing with them as his sons.

This passage reminded me of the body of research that illustrates the increased risks of being raised in a single-parent household, compared to being raised in a two-parent household. While one can cite many examples of children who were raised in single-parent households and later attained successful careers, including LeBron James and Kevin Durant, at this point it appears that they constitute exceptions to the norm. Thus, I am very fortunate to have been raised in a two-parent household; in particular, I have benefited from their admonitions and reproofs. Indeed, my childhood memories lead me to concur with Owen’s point about each child standing “in need of discipline;” through many difficult experiences, my parents helped me mature in various contexts. So I would also concur with the author’s point about believers standing “in need of” God’s admonitions and reproofs; moreover, we should embrace them as they arise and aim to mature spiritually in response to them.

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