Online Bible Commentary
Discipline Leads to Holiness
Hebrews 12:9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. (NIV)
n this passage, the writer of the book of Hebrews continues on the subject of discipline. Our discipline begins at an early age. God has entrusted our early discipline to our “human fathers” (v. 9a). The discipline by our fathers was intended to establish respect for them (v.9b), and people in general. The respect we learn from our father’s discipline helps us to later “submit” (v. 9c) even more so to our Father in Heaven.
This is why it is so important to instill discipline in our children when they are young. Discipline of our children at an early age helps them to have the discipline to obey God when they get older. Notice that discipline of the children falls upon the father in the family, not the mother. God intended that every child have a father and mother. Both have separate, but equally important, roles to play in the lives of their children. While this is not always possible, it is the ideal situation for our children. It is not God’s will for children to have two parents of the same sex.
Fathers are to discipline their children “for a little while” (v. 10a). Discipline should begin when the child is able to understand the difference between right and wrong, and should continue until the age of accountability, generally considered to be age twelve. Discipline is to include whipping (v. 6). The word translated “punish” in verse six means “discipline by scourging, or whipping,” in the literal Greek. Apparently, the NIV translators were attempting to be politically correct, while distorting the meaning of scripture.
The discipline from fathers is to be “as they thought best” (v. 10b). Discipline from our human fathers is not perfect, because they are not perfect. But discipline should be fair. The discipline should not exceed the crime. The discipline should always be explained before it is rendered. It should never be done in anger, and it should never result in permanent scars or injury.
God’s discipline is perfect, because God is perfect. “God disciplines us for our good” (v. 10c), as does our earthly father. God’s discipline is designed to result in our “holiness” (v. 10d). The discipline from our earthly father is designed to prepare us to properly receive the discipline from our Heavenly Father. The desired result of all discipline is to bring us to holiness.
Discipline is not to be pleasant, but painful (v. 11a). Without pain, the lesson is not learned. Without pain, the poor behavior will continue. The result should be “a harvest of righteousness and peace” (v. 11b). Righteousness and peace are results of holiness.
Discipline is not a one time event. The harvest only comes “for those who have been trained by it” (v. 11c). A harvest comes from someone continuing to sow seeds that later become an abundant harvest. In the same way, discipline may not bring immediate results, but the harvest comes later.
Discipline is a form of training. The key is to be consistent. Athletes continue to practice even though they may not see immediate results. However, as they train they are building muscle memory which will ultimately bring the desired results. The results of discipline will come, if the discipline is consistent.
Verses twelve and thirteen of this passage almost seem out of place. However, proper interpretation requires them to be interpreted within the context of the passage. The literal Greek translation of these two verses is: “Therefore the hanging alongside hands and the having been enfeebled knees straighten up; and straight tracks make for the feet of you, that not the lame be turned aside, but rather be healed.”
In beginning the sentence with the word ‘therefore’, the writer is referring back to the previous sentence, specifically “the harvest of righteousness and peace”. The “straightening up” of arms and legs may refer to the new found strength of the believer that comes with righteousness. Whereas, the “straight tracks” (the new walk with God) and the healing of the lame may refer to the spiritual healing that comes from experiencing God’s peace.
Holiness, righteousness, and peace…all come as a result of discipline. So, is it worth it to discipline our children so that they will learn respect for, and submission to, God? I believe so. No one likes to do it, and certainly no one likes to receive it. But it is necessary. It is part of God’s formula for raising children to become Godly men and women. Discipline leads to Holiness.