Text: Hebrews 12:5-17
The people to whom the writer was addressing himself were having fainting spells…spiritual fainting spells. And much of the Book of Hebrews deals with trying to encourage these Hebrew Christians…trying to cure their disheartenment because of trials, tribulations, sufferings and difficulties that have come their way. In the passages preceding this one he’s been giving why they should not be disheartened because of adversity. Remember chapter 11 is that great faith chapter and the writer there is pointing out to them the example of the great men of faith…their faith was brought out through suffering and trials and adversity.
Then, in chapter 12, he uses the example of Jesus as one who suffered…therefore they should not be disheartened when they suffer. There is a third reason that they suffer and much of their discouragement and disheartenment is a result of their forgetting a primary truth in the spiritual life and in verse 5, he picks up this third reason that Christian suffer…this thing that they have forgotten which has led to some doubt and frustration which in turn has caused some disheartenment in their own Christian life.
So, let’s begin reading with the verse 5 and read through verse 17…
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou are rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure: but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance though he sought it carefully with tears.”
One of the greatest mysteries that faces Christians is this mystery of suffering. Why do Christians suffer? That used to be one of the favorite sermon topics among Christians. You let an evangelist come into a church for a week and announce that he was going to preach a message on why Christians suffer and there would immediately be a built-in audience, because not any of us is exempt from asking that question… “Why is it that after I have given my life to Jesus Christ, and have done that not in a nominal way but have really given to Him the obedience of my life, and as much as in me is, have acknowledged Him to be the Lord of my life, and striving always to please Him…” Why is it then that so much trouble comes into the life of a Christian?
You’ll not read the Bible very much until you discover that a great person of the Word of God struggled with this mighty mystery of divine providence and human suffering. Why do Christians suffer?
You know, David almost backslid, well, as a matter of fact, he did, because he said, “My feet were well nigh slipped, because I became I envious of the wicked.” He said, “I looked at the wicked…that man who cares not a thing about the Lord and man, he seemed to have it made. Everything went smooth for him! There seems to be no problem surrounding his life,” but he said, “I knew nothing but trouble, sorrow, tears,” and he said, “I began to think that maybe I was serving the Lord for nothing…that I was making a fool of myself.”
Why do Christians suffer? I think there are three reasons illustrated by three Biblical characters as to why Christians suffer. Some Christians suffer like Job, who was a perfect [an upright] man and God allowed the devil to afflict and inflict him as a trial, as a test of his faith. And 1 Peter 1 says that God is going to test…that God is going to try our faith that the Father might be glorified through our stability of believing. So many times a Christian will suffer as Job suffered. Job illustrates that kind of misfortune and tragedy and sorrow and suffering that comes into a Christian’s life in order to exhibit that this man’s faith is sound and firm and steadfast and to increase this man’s faithfulness and stability in the Lord. Many Christians suffer as Job and God allows this to happen. Paul, the apostle, and his thorn in the flesh is another example of the Job-type of suffering.
Then, there is the Jesus-type of suffering. Jesus suffered simply because He was godly. Jesus suffered because He was Truth. And Peter says again in chapter 4, “Don’t be surprised when you suffer as Jesus suffered.” In John 15, Jesus said, “If the world has hated me, you know that it will also hate you.” In Matthew 5, as Jesus was giving the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “When you are persecuted for My sake, rejoice and be exceedingly glad…” And so, Christians suffer like Jesus suffered simply because Jesus was obedient with the Heavenly Father…He was identified with the righteousness of God and the world reacted to that with suffering and chastisement, and so Christians suffer like Jesus suffered, simply because they’re identified with Jesus. When a Christian suffers this way, the Bible says he ought to be happy, because it identifies him with his Lord.
But, then there is a third kind of suffering and that is the Jonah-type of suffering. Jonah suffered not as a test of his faith…not because he was identified with the righteousness of God…but Jonah suffered because he was disobedient and rebellious to his Lord. Now, the Bible calls that chastisement and discipline. The Hebrew Christians had forgotten that. And the writer of Hebrews is saying, “Some of you are suffering like the heroes of faith suffered…you are suffering the ‘Job-kind’ of suffering. Some of you are suffering like Jesus suffered, simply because He was righteous and some of you are suffering the ‘Jesus-kind’ of suffering…” But, now in verse 5, he says, “…but some of you are suffering because of your disobedience….because of the sin that’s in your life…you are experiencing the ‘Jonah-kind’ of suffering.”
This message this morning is “the ministry of chastisement” or “the ministry of discipline.” And the Bible very clearly teaches that God is going to discipline His children. God has a right to do it as any father has a right to chasten and to whip and to spank and to discipline his child. As far back as the Book of Deuteronomy God warned the people that this would be…He says in Deuteronomy 8:5:
“Thou shalt also consider in thin heart that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.”
Again in 2 Samuel 7:14, the Lord says:
“I will be his father and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the stripes of the children of men.”
God said, “I’m going to be a Father to you and if you commit iniquity I’m going to chasten you just as any father chastens the son that he receives…the son that he loves…” So the Heavenly Father is going to chasten us.
Now, not every time suffering comes is it an indication that I have sinned. It’s not always chastisement. This is why, dear Christian, it is important for you to always live right with God so that when adversity comes and difficulty comes you will be able to know whether or not this is simply God’s trying your faith, or is it God’s punishing you, chastening you, disciplining you because of sin in your life.
The ministry of chastisement…we’re going to look at the ministry, the manner, and the message out of these verses. You follow along as we study what God has to say about this matter of chastisement.
I. The ministry of chastisement.
God not only has a right to chasten us, but He has a reason. God never does anything without a purpose. Notice in verse 10…He’s using a contrast between our earthly fathers and our Heavenly Father… He says our earthly fathers chastened us for a few days…that means while we were living with them…while we were under their leadership, they chastened us “after their own pleasure…” Now, that is an unfortunate translation. That doesn’t mean that the dad got a kick out of doing it. And I say this because I have a feeling some young people are sitting there saying, “I knew it all along. I knew it all along…now I’ve got Scripture to prove the only reason my dad spanked me was because he enjoyed it.” Well, that is not a good translation. Sorry about that. What that means is they chastened us as seemed right or as seemed good to them. And the writer is saying, “Now, they were not always correct in doing it.” And any parent knows that there are times when he chastens the child and he chastens him for a wrong reason more because he’s angry than because they’ve disobeyed…and that’s a sin. And sometimes they’re punished wrongly.
I could write a list of times that I got spanked for something I didn’t do. But I could also make a longer list of the times that I did something when I didn’t get caught and didn’t get spanked for. So, I really have no right to complain about those times that my father and mother misjudged me and misinterpreted the circumstances and perhaps punished me wrongly. It didn’t happen very often, but I have no right to complain about that because actually they were just kind of catching up for all the things they didn’t know about.
This is what the writer is saying. An earthly father and an earthly mother are human…they will err…they punish us…they chasten us as seems good to them and once in a while, they make a mistake, but he says that God never does. The Heavenly Father knows all things, and He chastens us for our profit, for our good. He chastens us in order to make us better, and in order to perfect His purpose within us.
Now, there are basically three reasons the writer gives why God chastens a Christian. There are times in a Christian’s life when God is going to lay the rod to you. Now, chastening is not the everyday trial that you just fall into by circumstance. This is something that God lays on you. This is something God instigates. This is something the Lord inaugurates. He does it! He takes up the whip. He takes up the rod…and He chastens His children.
a) God chastens us in order to prove our sonship.
What is the ministry of chastisement? It proves our sonship.
Over and over again in this passage he says that every true child will share in this chastisement. Verse 8 says that if there is no chastisement then we are illegitimate children. Back in the New Testament days, if a man had an illegitimate child he never gave that child any love, he never gave that child any nurture, he never gave that child any care…he felt no responsibility towards that child. He completely ignored and neglected it.
You know, the Book of Proverbs says that if a man spares the rod and doesn’t chasten and discipline his child, the Bible says he hates that boy. He hates that child. And sometimes I’ve heard parents brag about the fact they never discipline their children. The Word of God says you don’t love them! You know what you love? You love yourself. You love taking the easy way. The difficult way is to take the responsibility and to discipline and to become unpopular with them and to incur their anger and their misunderstanding, but you must do it because you love them and you want them to grow in the way that God wants them to grow. And the parent that does not chasten his child treats his child as an illegitimate child whom he neither loves nor feels any responsibility towards.
God says, “You’re My son! And if you be without chastisement, then you are not My son!” Now, I think you need to stop just a moment. You say, “Preacher, I’ve been listening to you preach for nigh onto six years and you’ve preached this and you have taught this and you have said we’re supposed to live certain ways and be a certain kind of people…I want you to know that I live any way I want to, I do as I please…I come to church once in awhile if it pleases me…I live my own life…I do my own thing…I’m my own boss and I want you to know God has never ever chastened me.” Then, friend, you classify yourself according to verse 7…you are not a child of God. If that professing church member can persistently rebel against God and suffer no chastisement it is evident that he is not a child of God. He’s never been saved. He’s an illegitimate child, spiritually speaking.
I may walk out in the front yard and there are two boys standing out on the street corner, both of them cursing. One of them is my son, and the other one is a neighbor’s boy. Now, I’ll go out there and I’ll punish my son. I won’t fool with the neighbor’s boy. He’s not mine. I may go out in the back yard and there are two children and they’re telling lies. Both of them telling lies. One of them is my child and the other is the neighbor’s child…I’ll leave the neighbor’s child alone…I have no responsibility for that child! I have no right to chasten that child. I will only chasten my child! And the explanation why some people can live a godless life and a careless life and never have any kind of chastening…never have any kind of adversity…everything runs right for them…the explanation is that God never chastens anybody but His own children. The chastening is a proof of our sonship and that ought to be a warning because, dear Christian, you are not going to be able to persistently rebel against the known will of God in your life without suffering the chastening rod of God. Some of you have already felt that…some of you are going to feel it. If you’re a child of God, you’re going to be scourged. You’re going to be chastened when you willfully, knowingly, deliberately persist in your rebellion against God. It is proof of our sonship!
b) God chastens us in order to purge us from our sin.
Look at verses 10 and 11… For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, [and that’s an understatement if I’ve heard one] but grievous: [now, notice…] nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Why does God chasten us? To purge us from some unrighteousness in our lives! To purge our sin. Jonah is the great illustration of that. If God had not laid the rod of chastisement against the back of Jonah, Jonah would never have repented. He would never have become obedient. He would never have preached to Nineveh. Nineveh would never have repented. The whole city would have been lost forever! And God had to chasten Jonah in order to purge out that sin of rebellion.
Is there some sin in your life that you continue to hang onto…cling to…love and practice and participate in against all the warnings of God…against all the gentle reproofs of God? Then, what you’re doing…you are forcing God to pick up the rod and to lay it to you in order to purge you of your sins.
c) God chastens us in order to promote our sanctification.
Now look at verse 10:
“…He chastens us for our profit…that we might be partakers of His holiness.”
And this goes onto to say [verse 14] without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Listen, when you came to Jesus Christ and received Him as Lord and Savior God said, “Alright, here’s My plan for you…My plan for you is not to take you to heaven, but to make you holy.” Heaven is thrown in as a dividend…as a fringe benefit. Did you know that? Did you know that heaven is a fringe benefit of salvation? It’s not the main thing! Did you know that? I read in Ephesians 1 where he says He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy before Him in love without blame…that we should be holy. Well, I thought God predestined me to go to heaven! No, He predestined you to be holy…to be like Jesus…to be a sharer in His holiness and God is going to see to it that you are, whether you want to or not!
I don’t think we’ve ever really realized this. When we come to Jesus Christ, we’re locked in! In other words, if you’ve ever been saved, you’re going to go to heaven whether you want to go or not! And if you’ve ever been saved, you’re going to be holy whether you want to or not! You say, “I will stiffen my neck and I will harden my heart and I will refuse to be exercised by the chastening of the Lord.” Alright, then you’re forcing God to do more. You are His child and our Heavenly Father is not like the sweet namby-pamby, scared, intimated, weak parents we have so much of today who are afraid of their own children.
God isn’t afraid! And God is going to see to it that you become a partaker of His holiness! He wants to make you like Jesus! Because He knows that only as you are holy are you going to be happy. The most miserable person in this building this morning is that Christian, that true born again believer who is outside the will of God!
I emphasize the fact that that true, born again believer, because a professing church member can be just as happy outside the will of God as he can be inside the will of God. And God chastens us and lays the rod to us in order to promote our sanctification. That’s the purpose for which He saved us and He uses every means available to make us holy. The indwelling Spirit, as we yield to His guidance and His leadership makes us holy. But, many times we will not yield to that gentle pressure…that gentle friendly persuasion of the Holy Spirit who indwells us and so God must take up the rod. He says, “I want you be a partaker of My holiness…I’m not going to allow you to dishonor My name…you belong to Me…you’re My son, I’m your Father…I love you and I’m going to chasten you in order to promote your sanctification.” That is the ministry of chastisement.
Okay, let’s look briefly at…
II. The manner of chastisement.
In verses 5 and 6, he uses three different words to describe the discipline of the Father. …do not faint when thou art rebuked of Him… The rebuke is one manner of God’s chastisement. That’s the easiest. That’s the gentle kind. The word of rebuke…this word means to reprove or to convict. How many times when we kneel in prayer all of a sudden God begins to chasten us with a word of rebuke. He begins to convict us and He begins to bear upon us the sorrow for our sinfulness. Now, I believe God always uses this method first. The word of rebuke…from the Bible…from the pastor…from conscience…from the indwelling Spirit…from the feeling of conviction…God first of all uses the gentle word of persuasion…rebuke, conviction.
But, He moves on… My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord… Now, we get our word education from that word chasten. It means to correct and that’s a little bit more severe than just the word of rebuke. Sometimes the word of rebuke is not enough. There has to be some discipline…some measures have to be taken. Some penalties have to be erected.
Then, He uses the word scourge… For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. Now there is nothing gentle about scourging. There is nothing tender about scourging. But when the gentle word of rebuke will not bring us into line with God’s holiness…when the correction of chastisement will not bring us into line with God’s holiness…then, God is forced to pick up the scourge, the rod and He scourges us!
Many times God rebukes us with just our thoughts, our emotions. And then God has to resort to more severe means with physical illness…many times. And yes, even death. You say, “Preacher do you really believe that God will take a Christian, remove a Christian from this world and take him to be with Himself?” I most certainly do! There is no doubt in my mind about it as I study the Word of God.
Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5. There was a problem in that church at Corinth. There was a man living in immorality and he would not repent and moreover, the church wouldn’t do anything about it. So, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:4-5:
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Now, he’s not talking about the spiritual flesh, that was crucified on the Cross two thousand years ago. He’s talking here about physical flesh…a man’s life! Paul says that this person who is living in persistent immorality and will not get right and the church will not do anything about it…in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ…we will turn that one over to the devil for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
Alright, again in 1 Corinthians 10:8-10, here are some illustrations from the Old Testament:
Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, [and tempt means to see how far we can go in sin before God does anything about it…neither let us see how far we can go with Jesus] as some of them also tempted and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
In 1 Corinthians 11:28… he’s talking about the wrong use of the Lord’s Supper…they’re taking it lightly…:
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, [there is physical illness and weakness because they were blaspheming the Lord’s table…they were taking the Lord’s Supper with sin unconfessed in their lives…] and many sleep.
For this cause [what cause?…eating and drinking the Lord’s table unworthily, without spiritual examination] many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
That doesn’t mean they’ve fallen asleep. That means they’re dead. I read in Acts 5 where Ananais and Sapphira came in and they had lied to the Holy Ghost and they were trying to deceive the church that immediately they fell dead…God’s judgment and God’s chastisement upon them!
You say, “Do you really believe that God will take a Christian’s life…take him from this earth?” I say, “I most certainly do!”
God wants you to be a partaker of His holiness and I pray that God will impress upon you the seriousness of this. In verse 5, he says, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord,” and that word despise means “don’t treat it lightly.” You better not treat lightly the chastening of the Lord! When a child of God persists in his backsliding, in his rebellion, in his disobedience, and God reproves him, God rebukes him, and he doesn’t take it…and God chastens him and he isn’t corrected by it…and God scourges him and he does not repent…the Bible teaches in many cases, God, in order to spare His holy name, will take that child unto Himself and deal with him at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Several years ago I heard a minister illustrate it this way. He said, “Say I go and visit someone and I take my child with me. While we’re sitting in the living room visiting, this child begins to climb on the coffee table and knock over a lamp, get crayons and color on the wall and I tell that child, ‘Now, don’t do that.’ But he still persists in doing that. And after awhile I say, ‘If you do that again, I’m going to spank you.’ And he continues to be unruly and disobedient and so I take off my belt and I spank him. And after awhile he still is unruly, he still is rebellious and finally I cannot control him and it’s embarrassing to me and to my host…I cannot control him and finally I say, ‘Get up. I’m going to take you home. I can’t do anything with you…I’m just going to take you home.’” And I believe that’s what God has to say to some Christians. I believe He has to say, “I’ve tried every way I know to make you behave yourself. I have loved you. I have nurtured you. I have given you every good thing. I have rebuked you. I have chastened you. I can’t make you behave yourself…I’m just going to have to take you home in order to save My holy name.”
This is why he says, “Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord.”
Don’t you treat it lightly!
III. The message of chastisement.
What’s God trying to say to me?
a) It’s a word of comfort.
Verse 6: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth…
The scalpel that cuts into us is held by the hand of our Heavenly Father who loves us. And no chastening for the present seems to be joyous and we misunderstand…just as a child misunderstands his father’s correction and thinks that the father is correcting him because the father doesn’t love him or because he just enjoys seeing him mistreated and it’s only years later that the child understands that had it not been for the correction, the discipline, imperfect as it may have been, of the father, he would not have grown up to understand and to know how to behave himself in society.
Afterwards, we understand God is doing this for my good. And I want to say this morning that I praise the Lord for the chastening He has dealt out in my own life. If God had not laid the rod to me and chastened me I wouldn’t be here this morning. I thank God that He loves me…and He knows what’s best for me. The message of chastisement is a word of comfort! He is our Father. Notice it always says “father”. The idea of a father-son relationship moves all the way through this passage – not some unknowable, unreachable, uncaring, unfeeling fate…it’s a Father who loves His son!
But, it’s also
b) It is a warning against carelessness.
Notice verse 12…
“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet…”
“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”
The message of chastisement is a warning against carelessness and against careless living…because the Father loves us and chastens every son whom He receives and He scourges us.
There is a ministry of chastisement and God many times must use the chastening rod in my own personal life. I do not believe that God will chasten you for something I’ve done. And I do not believe that God will hurt you for something that I have done. When God chastens, He chastens me personally. Now, in order to make my faith stronger, in order to have the Job kind of suffering, He might allow something to happen to a loved one in order to teach me and strengthen me…but when there’s iniquity in my heart and sin in my heart and rebellion in my heart…God chastens me, not someone I love. He chastens me! He breaks my heart. He puts the rod to me, because of my iniquity.
And many of you here this morning could stand up and give testimony of God’s chastisement. Many of you this morning are going to in later years be able to stand up and say, “God has chastened me. God had to do it. I forced God to do it by my rebellion.”
So, this is the message that I want to leave with you this morning…a word of comfort and a warning against careless. Dear Christian…dear teen-ager…adult…DON’T FORCE GOD TO CHASTEN AND TO SCOURGE…TAKE THE GENTLE WORD OF REBUKE AND CONVICTION.
Let’s pray together…
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005