Discipline by a Loving Father–Hebrews 12: 5-6

Did you ever hear someone say, “God disciplines those He loves?” Really. God disciplines me out of love? Where does someone get such a strange idea? Probably from Hebrews 12: 5-11.

When I think of God’s discipline, I think of the loving discipline a father gives to his child. Remember when you were a child. Did your father discipline you? One of the responsibilities of a father is to teach his child self-discipline. To this end the father gives his child chores to do, such as mow the yard or wash the dishes after supper.

If the child does not obey, the father must take harsher measures to teach his child self-discipline. For example, he might send his child to his bedroom or make him sit in the corner of a room with his face to the walls. Continued disobedience may result in stricter measures to teach the child discipline.

Does the father want to teach the child to be cruel? Absolutely not. Such lessons in discipline help prepare the child to live as an adult. Responsible adults need self-discipline for regularly perform essential “grown-up” responsibilities, such as getting a job and going to work, paying taxes, and honoring commitments. Lessons in self-discipline are an essential part of life as an adult.

What About Godly Discipline?

What does this have to do with godly discipline? First, please understand that God uses discipline to help you grow. God wants you to grow and mature to the place where you are conformed to the image of His son (see Romans 8: 29 and II Corinthians 3: 18). Discipline helps move us toward that goal.

Second, God’s actions as a Father do not compare to the actions of an earthly father. Some people grew up and never even met their father. Others had fathers who were abusive or cruel. And some of us had fathers who were kind and intelligent and self-sacrificing. They wanted their children to have the best father possible. This last example of a father faintly mirrors God’s kind of fathering. But God is perfect love. Love is the key to His fatherhood. Love also is the key to understanding Hebrews 12: 5-6:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
            “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.” (NASB 1995)

Hebrews 12: 5-6 helps us understand God’s loving discipline. How do these Bible verses do that?

Four Greek words

These two verses use four words describing discipline: discipline and reproved (in verse 5) and disciplines and scourges (in verse 6). Let’s look more closely at these words in the Greek.

  • discipline (noun) — Greek paideias (παιδείας) — properly, instruction that trains someone to reach full development (maturity)(taken from the Discovery Bible’s Word Study HELPS)
  • reproved — Greek elenchomenos (ἐλεγχόμενος) — properly, to convince with solid, compelling evidence, especially to expose (prove wrong, correct) (from Discovery Bible’s HELPS)
  • discipline (verb) — Greek paideuo (παιδεύω) —  to train children, to chasten, correct (Strong); paideúō (“to instruct by training“) is the root of the English terms, “pedagoguepedagogy.”
  • scourges — Greek mastigoi (μαστιγοῖ) — properly, to whip (scourge) with a mastigos; to “flog (scourge) a victim, strapped to a pole or frame” (from Discovery Bible’s HELPS).

Notice that the positioning of these words indicates a progression of godly discipline. First, God uses training to improve our ability to obey and to follow Jesus. If we resist or ignore godly training, God tries to correct our behavior by reasoning with us. Following the failure of correction through convincing arguments, God must chasten us, that is, He must use mild punishment to correct. If this fails, God must resort to punishment that is not mild.

Sadly, the last two categories of discipline (chastening and punishing) causes some people to question God’s goodness and love.

Discipline With Love

Does God discipline with love? Let’s consider some additional thoughts from Hebrews 12.

A Father’s Close, Personal Presence During Discipline

Let’s look again at the opening phrase from Hebrews 12: 5: “And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons.”

The writer of Hebrews used a special Greek word “parakleseos” (παρακλήσεως) for the English word “exhortation.” The Greek words means “a calling to one’s aid for encouragement, comfort, exhortation, or comfort (Strong’s Concordance).

Another form of this word is “parakletos” (παράκλητος). English Bibles translate this word as Comforter or Counselor. Jesus speaks this word when He tells His disciples about the Holy Spirit in John, chapters 14, 15, and 16.

There is one important aspect of “parakletos” that deserves special mention. The word describes a counselor or comforter who stays very close to the person he is helping. In other words, “parakletos,” in this context, refers to God as a heavenly Father Who remains very close to His child during discipline. Our God never leaves us or forsakes us, even during discipline.

Reasons for a Father’s Discipline

Hebrews 12: 7-11 further explains the important similarities between a father’s discipline and God’s discipline.

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (ESV)

Four similarities between a father’s discipline and God’s discipline:

  1. Fatherly discipline confirms the relationship between father and son. Godly discipline also validates your relationship as a child of God.
  2. Children respect their father when he rightly disciplines them.
  3. God disciplines us for our own good that we may share His holiness.
  4. Discipline “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Discipline With Love

Why does God discipline His children? Because He loves us. Believe this if you can because it is the truth.

All About Me

All About me

All about me? That sounds sort of self-centered, doesn’t it? Why would you want to know anything about me? Well, in a word, “credibility.” You want to know whether I am credible, that is, do I have the background, experience, and sufficient knowledge to produce a worthwhile, legitimate website on Christian discipleship.

Credibility is a very important factor for a website. Why? Because the internet today contains a seemingly endless amount of information. You can find websites for almost any topic you can imagine on the internet today.

Hey! This post is all about me!

But does the website offer reliable information? How can you know? This is where credibility is important. One way you can judge the quality of the information on a website is to know more about the source of the information. Is the source credible? In the case of this website, the primary source for credibility on this website is me.

So before you go further into this website, you should find out more about me. What is my background? Am I qualified to write a website on discipleship? Please let me tell you a little bit about myself.

I have been a Christian for more than fifty years. When I was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Max Barnett, the director of the Baptist Student Center at OU led me to the Lord.

Starting on the Road to Discipleship

Max is a strong believer in Christian discipleship. He immediately started me on the road to discipleship. Max used many of the materials developed by the Navigators, an organization that promotes Christian discipleship with headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Navigators use a picture called “The Wheel Illustration” to demonstrate the five major areas for Christian discipleship. Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators, created “The Wheel Illustration” during the 1930s. The Navigators have used it ever since.

The Wheel Illustration

The word “Christ” occupies the center of the wheel. This indicates that Jesus Christ must reside at the center of the life of a Christian disciple. John 15: 5 provides a biblical mandate to support this. According to John 15: 5, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

The four spokes of the wheel represent the four areas of concentration in the life of a Christian disciple.

  • Prayer develops and deepens the disciple’s personal relationship with God.
  • The Word, that is, the Bible, provides instruction for the disciple.
  • Witnessing is performed by the Christian disciple in obedience to Christ’s command to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28: 18-20)
  • Fellowship indicates the importance of the disciple’s involvement in a local Christian community, that is, a church.

Avery Willis developed a similar illustration called “The Disciples Cross.” The Disciples Cross is featured in the MasterLife Course published by Lifeway Christian Resources.

Scripture memory serves as a crucial part of Christian discipleship. Of course, Christian discipleship does not require scripture memory but most disciples who memorize scripture understand its importance. Max Barnett stressed the importance of memorization. So, I started memorizing scripture. Now, I cannot think of a better way to get a firm grasp of the Bible.

Hear God’s Voice, Obey, and Follow

These are the basic disciplines of Christian discipleship. But when Jesus called His disciples, He did not say, “Pray and read your Bible.” Prayer and Bible study are important for every Christian but the call of Jesus to His disciples was, (and is) “Follow Me.”

Where does “follow Me” start? Luke 9: 23 records the following statement of Jesus: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (ESV)  How do I deny myself? By placing Jesus as first in my life. As Jesus said in Matthew 10: 37-38, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (ESV)

Thus, denying self is part of the process of following Jesus. But how can we follow Jesus?

While Jesus was on earth, the original twelve disciples had no problem hearing His guidance. Jesus spoke to them as people normally talk to each other. But how does Jesus “talk” to us today? He speaks through the Holy Spirit. In John 16: 13, Jesus explained this to His disciples, saying, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (ESV)

Jesus also told His disciples that hearing His voice is part of the normal spiritual life of a Christian. He said in John 10: 27-28, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (ESV)

How did I learn to hear God’s voice?

Henry Blackaby in his book Experiencing God provides an excellent description of how God speaks to us. According to Blackaby, “God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.” And when a Christian disciple hears God’s voice what else can he do but obey and follow.

Of course, learning to hear God’s voice, to obey, and to follow does not happen overnight. Several years passed as I learned to hear and obey God’s guidance. This is the path of Christian discipleship: to deny self and to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. With God’s help and my submission, this is my life.

A Bit More About Me

During my fifty-plus years as a Christian, God brought additional treasurers into my life. The most notable gift is my lovely wife Cheri. Since our wedding in 1973, she has been the perfect life partner. We now have two grown children and three wonderful grandchildren. God is good.

The Lord called us to go to seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. With God’s help and leadership, I earned a Master of Divinity degree and a Doctorate of Philosophy in the Philosophy of Religion. Earning the doctorate was God’s idea but that’s another story. God also led my wife to become a registered nurse. God is faithful.

God also allowed me to serve Him as a pastor for fifteen years. Before that I was a soldier in the United States Army and Army Reserve for twenty-four years. During this time my wife and I continued to seek God.

Through all of this hard work with its celebrations and disappointments, I learned to trust God. Following Him has never been a mistake. Yes, God is good.