In the previous four articles considering discipline, I focused especially on principles of discipline gleaned from the book of Proverbs. This final installment considers the Biblical ideal, modeled by our Heavenly Father, and discussed in Hebrews 12:4-11.
After encouraging believers to walk in faith, with eyes focused on Jesus, the author of Hebrews reminds believers of the importance of the Lord’s discipline on those whom He loves. The writer alludes to Job 5:17 and Proverbs 3:12: “My son do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:5b-6). These verses introduce us to several important principles of our Father’s discipline: (1) it is certain, (2) it is exclusively (in this context) for His children, and is a defining component of that Father/child relationship, and (3) His children are to respond neither by growing faint nor by taking His discipline lightly. The Greek μὴ ὀλιγώρει (me oligorei) can be translated do not despise or do not think little of. Likewise, believers are μηδὲ ἐκλύου (mede ekluou) not to grow weary at His rebukes, arguments, or corrections. The writer reminds, “it is for discipline you endure” (12:7a), or perhaps better translated, “endure unto or for discipline.”
These three principles are confirmed and augmented in the following verses. In vv. 7-8, the writer reiterates that God disciplines believers as His children, and that if the readers aren’t being disciplined, then they are not His children. This certainly confirms the certainty of discipline and the integral aspect of discipline to the father/child relationship. However, the statement goes beyond those simple confirmations, for it reminds that discipline is not punishment—it is not God’s wrath manifest (as κόλασιν denotes in Mt. 25:46). Instead it is, as the word (παιδεία) denotes, the leading of a child toward maturity.