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What is God’s discipline (Hebrews 12)?

Quick Answer: Does God discipline His children? What is God’s discipline (Hebrews 12)? Some teach that God disciplines His children because they sin. But this is inconsistent with the fact that Christ removed our sins and remembers them no more (Hebrews 8:12; Hebrews 10:14). The truth is that we are always under the discipline and counsel of our Father. God’s discipline is training for the future, not punishment for the past.

Diving Deeper: Some interpret God’s discipline in Hebrews 12:7-11 as occurring because of sins committed. However, the context reveals they are being persecuted and enduring hardship. The passage states that God disciplines His children for “good, so that we may share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). In other words, God disciplines us so we continue to grow and mature in His love.

What is the result of this discipline? It’s the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). Discipline leads to peace. The Hebrew believers were enduring tremendous hardship (Hebrews 12:7), and the author is encouraging them to endure these hardships knowing their Father is using them for good.

Perhaps the most difficult portion of the passage is Hebrews 12:6 which likens God’s discipline to scourging – the act of digging deeply into someone’s back with shards of metal attached to long leather straps. Scourging was torture, and it was reserved only for criminals. A father never scourged his children.

So, is God our Father really scourging us? The Greek word (mastigoo) that is translated as scourge does mean “to scourge.” However, Hebrews was likely originally written in Hebrew. That would mean that the Greek word mastigoo was a translation of the Hebrew word biqqoret. Interestingly, biqqoret can mean “to scourge” or “to deeply inquire into” (its original and older meaning). When the scourge instrument was invented later, one can see why they wanted to use the same word – scourging is “deeply inquiring” into a person’s back!

The bottom line is that God does not scourge His children, but He does deeply inquire into our lives. Remember that Jesus was scourged for us, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). We are always under the loving discipline of our Father. And God’s discipline is training for the future, not punishment for the past.

Let’s Make It a Conversation!
1. What have you imagined God’s discipline to be? Has reading this perspective changed your view in any way?
2. Read Hebrews 8:12. How does this impact your view of God’s discipline and why He disciplines us?
3. React to this statement: God’s discipline is training for the future, not punishment for the past.


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