The Nature of Chastening (11)

Mike Crushon
Lebanon, Tennessee

The main thought of Hebrews 12 is the three sources from whence physical and emotional strains may come. The three sources of strain are the discipline of God, the weakness of self, and the contradiction of and by sinners. Our Study deals primarily with the first two of the enumerated sources; however, the other sources often play a vital role in the exercise of God's discipline. 1

The Hebrew writer introduces the subject of chastening by admonishing the readers concerning the teaching of the Old Testament. The writer reproves them for forgetting the teachings of the Old Testament, and then used the scriptures as an admonition to bear up under their present stress. 2 The passages quoted in Hebrews 12:5, 6 are found in Job 5:17 and Psalms 94:12. The quotation from Job admonishes the receiver of God's chastisement not to despise the chastening. In the words of William Barclay, "A man that despises God's chastening accepts it, but he resents it. He considers it an act of vindication by a vengeful God.''3 Against such an attitude the people are warned. They are also encouraged not to faint in the face of rebuke. Robert Milligan points out that while on the one hand they were not to despise, or treat lightly the rebuke of God, they on the other hand were not to faint, or become discouraged and disheartened by what seemed to them to be such a heavy burden? 4

The reference to Psalms 94:12 gives the readers the reason why they should not on the one hand treat lightly the chastening of the Lord, or on the other hand be too dejected by it. The simple fact that this chastening is from God makes it a very grave and momentous matter, and at the same time it gives us the assurance that chastening is not the punishment of revenge, but the discipline of love. 5 After all, no life can have value apart from discipline. We should look at discipline as the sign of love and responsibility shown by the Father. 6

So we can see that chastening is the act of a loving God, but the latter part of this passage contains another significant point. Chastisement is placed upon his children by God. No child of God need, therefore, expect to enter heaven without on his way thither, passing through the furnace of afflictions. As is said in Acts 14:22, "We must through much tribulation enter in the kingdom of God." Every son, whom God accepts and receives, is made to feel his chastening rod. 8 Hastings echoes this thoughts and adds, "Suffering is the rod in the Father's hand, and the sole instrument by which the purposes of the Father's love can be effected.''9 So we can indeed look upon the scourging of God as a sign of acceptance and recognition on the part of God.

The seventh verse begins with a conditional statement, "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons;" we are admonished to endure the chastening. That means that we should bear up patiently under the chastisement and not merely undergo it.10 Rotherham points out in connection with this verse that, "For the sake of discipline we should persevere."11 The idea is the same; we should not shrink back from our responsibility to accept chastisement. The statement goes on to tell us the result, for if we endure chastening; then God deals with us as sons. The second clause of the verse asks, "For what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?" This is certainly true for no genuine child lives without the experience of fatherly reproof. 12

This line of reasoning is carried into the next verse, where the writer states, "But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." So we can see that if all the children of God experience chastisement, and we do not experience it, then we are not sons. In the words of Barclay, "Chastisement is the discipline of a loving father; the supreme punishment is when God lets us alone as unteachable."13 Truly if we do not experience chastisement we are like bastards, the illegitimate children, whose education is commonly neglected, much to their own injury and disgrace.14 Certainly, we should recognize that when God deals with us as sons, there will naturally be tribulations put upon us. Historically it can be observed that the most saintly of men suffered the most.15 "Instead, therefore, of murmuring and complaining at the chastening of the Lord, you should rather feel encouraged by it, knowing that it is evidence of your sonship, and of God's love for you as his adopted children." 16


1. The Preachers Homiletic Commentary, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 11 volume edition), X, p. 411.

2. Henry, Alford, The Greek testament, (chicago: Moody Press, 1958), IV, p. 240.

3. William Barclay, THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1957), p. 200.

4. Robert Milligan, EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Company, 1967) p. 347.

5. Ibid.

6. Barclay, OP. CIT. p. 200.

7. Milligan, OP. CIT. p. 347.

8. Franz Delitzsch, EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1952) 11, p. 312.

9. James Hastings, DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905), p, 374.

10. H. D. M. Spense and Joseph S. Exell, THE PULPIT COMMENTARY, (Grand Rapids: Winni. B. Eerdman's Publishing Company), p. 357.

11. Joseph B. Rotherham, STUDIES IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Company.

12. Delitzsch, OP. CIT. p. 316.

13. Barclay, OP. CIT. p. 200.

14. Milligan, OP. CIT. p. 348.

15. THE PREACHER'S HOMILETIC BIBLE, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 32 volumes), XXX, p. 416.

16. Milligan, OP. CIT. p. 348.


March 12, 1970