Treated As Sons
“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?” (Heb. 12:7).- Hebrews 12:7
Two thousand years ago, the original audience of the epistle to the Hebrews found itself suffering for its faith. However, instead of bearing their sufferings for Christ proudly, some were thinking of leaving Jesus and returning to the old covenant. They had forgotten their need for endurance in the midst of their trials (10:35–36).
For those in the audience with true faith, this amnesia would be only temporary. The elect are secure in their salvation. Though they may waver in their faith, they will return to it before the end. They will again exercise it and, by doing so, preserve their souls (v. 39). Nevertheless, the elect need to be reminded of endurance so that they will stop wavering and press on with renewed faith and love.
Endurance only comes if we look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (12:2). It only comes as we consider that Jesus endured much suffering and yet pressed on because He was looking for future glory (v. 3). If we look away from the Lord, we will not endure.
When we look to the Lord, we may find, like the original audience of Hebrews, that God sometimes brings suffering into our lives in order to discipline us. Today’s passage tells us that the original audience was suffering because
God was disciplining them just as a father disciplines his son (v. 7). When His people go astray or are in danger of going astray, God will often bring suffering in order to renew their faithfulness.
Though God disciplines us for sin, we should not necessarily equate discipline with retributive punishment. The commentators agree that the elect are not punished when disciplined because Christ has already been punished in their stead. In fact, if God were really to punish those with true faith, they would not be able to endure it.
When the people of God are disciplined, they are not punished in the strictest sense, for to be punished would mean that we would be sent to hell. However, we should not think that discipline is not real or that God cannot ever be displeased with our sin. God really does discipline us, He really does chastise us, bringing hardship into our lives so that we will turn from sin unto Him. He really does these things so we will understand the gravity of our sin and the mercy He bestows on His children.
Good earthly fathers always love their children even though they may become displeased with them at times. So too does God always love His elect though we may sometimes displease Him. Look at your life, and see if your job or relationships are displeasing to God. If they are so, take the necessary steps to make them pleasing to Him.
Passages for Further Study
2 Sam. 11
2 Cor. 5:9–10
1 Thess. 2:3–4