Context: The author of Hebrews is writing to Christians who were undergoing persecution. They were struggling with temptations to revert back to the law and practices that were now fulfilled in Christ. Like us at times, they wanted to “give up” in the face of persecution and suffering. It is likely that many of them were compromising the gospel, forgetting what Christ did for them on the cross and looking to their circumstances rather than to Christ inside of them.
v. 4 How much do we really struggle against sin?
Do you think the “less inclined” we are to “fight against” sin (lust of the flesh, compromise, drug use, lies, selfishness, etc.,) the more we should undergo discipline?
As we read the text let’s seek answers to the question: What is the purpose of discipline?
A few initial thoughts: to equip us, to empower, to train us to eagerly want/desire to desperately fight against sin!
The Holy Spirit through the writer says (paraphrased), In our struggle against sin we haven’t gone the distance! In comparison to Christ and the heroes of the faith we must continue to fight! I’d say one purpose of the writer was to motivate the readers of the day and us today, “to persevere!”
The comparison of the cross and martyrs of old should ignite us to fight the good fight!
We have to understand and say with absolute conviction, “I have to engage in the process of living out my faith!” Yield! Surrender! Be honest! Stop giving in to the flesh! Trust! Cry out for Mercy! Get on your face! God is Holy! Accept! Surrender! God in all of His glory loves you!
The outcome of our Christian life, hence our life in Christ, does depend on the choices we make. If we are genuine transformed followers of Christ, we either co-participate, hence engage, or continue to suffer at the mighty hand of discipline.
Why do we need to be disciplined by our Father God?
v. 5 This is very serious! Our growth in Christ, our maturity as believers, our personal relationship with God depends on understanding the role of discipline in our lives from our Father.
Calvin Commentary: paraphrased
Many times God keeps us under the yoke of His discipline lest our flesh prevail. We do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord or grow weary when reproved by Him because punishment is to enable us to be more inclined to walk in the Spirit and become overly cautious when it comes to our tendency to move toward sinful behaviors.
Discipline can remedy our sinful behavior and “anticipates” or prepares/equips us before we engage in sin. God our Father exercises us in the conflict with sin. We are carrying on war with sin- our intense enemy. We are called to plead and defend the cause of Christ against the ungodly (sin) and at the same time battle against sin within.
v. 6 God cares about your suffering and the dynamic of our “internal war against sin.” The tendency to “give in” has to be overcome, especially as Christ abides in us.
As we give in to flesh, our failure to heed to the Spirit and Christ within, we have to undergo discipline to lessen this “giving in to flesh” as we abide in Christ. The more I actively surrender to the Spirit and determine to rest in Christ over sinful behavior the less I experience suffering: pain, depression, pessimistic outlook, despair, and the more I experience: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control…. In Christ, it is easier to be humble and have compassion for others in their struggle against sin.
Is it clear that God will discipline us to awaken us to our sin?
We want to learn from discipline. We won’t be overwhelmed by discipline if we understand the purpose of God.
v. 7-8 “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons” (ESV).
We have to endure because God is dwelling in us as sons and daughters. There is a purpose to our discipline. This is comforting and encourages us during our time of suffering. God loves us and has our best interest in mind.
What if you are not experiencing discipline? Does this imply anything about your salvation?
v. 9-10 Biological fathers, “of flesh” or even men in the role of father, earthly fathers. This is an argument from lesser to greater. Many of us understand the fallible wisdom of earthly fathers. However, may we find rest in our heavenly Father’s infinite wisdom. His discipline is always for our good and it makes us holy, as He is holy.
v. 11 May we view discipline as “training” and eagerly desire to be formed and shaped into holy, holy, holy vessels of God.
1 Peter 1:3-9
Fletcher (webpage) said, “Our response to God’s discipline is all-important. We must endure and willingly change our wayward behavior. We are in holiness training. Discipline is the exercise that equips us to share in his holiness. God’s purpose in bringing discipline to our lives is to make us righteous, to fit us to share in his holiness.” C. S. Lewis said it well: “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains…”
http://www.proseandphotos.com/Discipline.htm The Discipline of God’s Children.
The Reformation Study Bible, R.C. Sproul (Ed) ESV. Ligonier Ministries.