Hebrews 12:4-17 - Outline of Hebrews (Book Notes menu page)
     Knowing that the original readers, of this epistle, were under pressure to turn back from faith in Christ, to ritualistic Judaism (Heb 10:35-39), the writer included numerous examples (ch.11) of other believers who had lived by faith, through very difficult circumstances, including severe persecution (eg., 11:35-40).
     Chapter 12 opened (v.1-3), with direct encouragement to the readers, that they too can remain faithful under persecution, by "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith," who endured far greater opposition than we will ever experience.
     As ch.12 continues, we learn that believers will also experience other types of trouble. But in all cases, we can endure through trusting in our Lord.
12:4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
   {"In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." [ESV]}
resisted {GK=antikathistemi, to be set against, to stand against}
striving {GK-antagonizomai, lit., to agonize against, ie., to wrestle against, to struggle against}
unto blood {ie., bloodshed} - This is the price paid by many witnesses to the Truth; examples:
By "looking unto Jesus" (v.2,3), those who live by faith will endure through:
A. Opposition ("contradiction of sinners") (v.1-4).
B. Chastening (from the Father) (v.5-17).
C. Shaking (of the world system by God) (v.18-29).
12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation
which speaketh unto you as unto children
{GK=huios, sons},
My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord,
nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
{quoting Prov 3:11,12}
despise not - ie., do not regard as of little import
faint not - in Prov 3:11b, the HB text is lit., "loathe not his correction."
12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,
and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
love - is the basis of God's chastening of His children.
son {GK=huios, mature son} -
God chastens every son (not just His little children).
You and I can never consider ourselves beyond the need for His correction.
1Cor 11:32; Rev 3:19
every son whom he receiveth {ie., 'receives with approval'} - cp. "in whom he delights," Prov 3:12).
12:7 If {since} ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons;
for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
chastening {GK=paideuo, child training, discipline, correction}
Chastening may include 'rebuke' {conviction of wrongs, v.5} and 'scourgings' {painful punishment, v.6}, but it is motivated by love, in order to develop godly character.
Chastening demonstrates our sonship. cp. Prov 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13,14
Seven reasons God's people suffer [JVMcGee] -
1. For our own foolishness or stupidity - Prov 11:29; 1Pet 2:20a
2. For taking a stand for truth and righteousness - 1Pet 2:20b; 3:14
3. For sin in our lives - 1Cor 11:31
4. For past sin - Gal 6:7
5. For an unseen purpose of God - eg., the experience of Job, Jam 5:11
6. For their faith (persecuted by ungodly enemies) - Heb 11:35-38
7. For discipline - Heb 12:5-17
12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers,
then are ye bastards, and not sons.
chastisement {This word is the noun form of 'chastening.' (cp. v.7)}
bastards {GK=nothos, illegitimate children, of no certain paternity}:
ie., those whom God does not acknowledge as His children.
  • All true children of God are disciplined by Him.
    But He disciplines only His own. (cp. Joh 1:11-13; Rev 3:19)
  • God has no illegitimate children.
    Of many who claim "God is my Father," He says, "I never knew you."
    eg., Joh 8:38-45; Mat 7:21-23
12:9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected [us],
and we gave [them] reverence:
{Eph 6:1-3}
shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
the Father of spirits -
shall we not... be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
As believers, our life is in union with our Father.
We should be quick to submit to His chastening, lest our fellowship with Him be broken.
Mal 1:6; Rom 8:13-16; Jam 4:7-10; 1Pet 5:6
Chastening accomplishes God's purpose within us:
12:10 For they {ie., earthly fathers} verily for a few days
chastened [us] after their own pleasure;
but he for [our] profit, that [we] might be partakers of his holiness.
they... after their own pleasure - ie., as it seemed good to them, or
to minimize their own discomfort (caused by our offensive behavior).
He... for our profit... that we might be partakers of {share in} His holiness.-
His purpose is to conform His children to the likeness of Christ, fit for His Presence.
1Cor 15:49; Rom 8:29; 1Pet 1:15,16
12:11 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.
fruit - The outcome, the product of chastening is...
-- peaceable - in contrast to the troubling (chastening) that produces it. Isa 32:17
-- righteousness -
This does not mean that chastening somehow turns a sinner into a child of God. But rather, that chastening matures God's sons into what He wants them to be.
cp. Php 1:9-11; Rom 5:3-5; 2Cor 4:17; Heb 13:21
them who are 'exercised' {GK=gumnazo} - The gymnasium benefits only those who use it.
How do I react to God's discipline?
  • despise not (v.5) - Do I discount it as not from God?
    (eg., "Oh, everyone has troubles...")
  • faint not (v.5) - Do I despair, rather than drawing strength from Him?
    (eg., "Why did God let this happen to me? What good is it to live for Christ?")
  • endure (v.7) - Do I endure chastening passively, or actively?
    (eg., "Lord, let this pass soon." or "Lord, what do you want to teach me in this?" v.6)
  • excercised (v.11) - Do I patiently learn and apply the lessons He would teach me?
    1Cor 9:27; Heb 5:14; 1Tim 4:7,8
Two aspects of Chastening:
(1) Individual accountability to the Father (v.5-11).
(2) Corporate accountability to the Father (v.12-17; cp. Heb 10:24).
12:12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
Verse 12 alludes to Isa 35:3,4, where tender care is ministered to strengthen others.
12:13 And make straight paths for your feet,
lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
eg., Rom 14:1-3; 1Cor 8:9-13; Gal 6:1,2
12:14 Follow peace with all [men],
and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
follow {ie., pursue}...
...peace with all men - not only with other believers,
but to the extent possible, even with your persecutors. Rom 12:17-21; 1Pet 3:8-14
...holiness {lit., "the holiness" or "the sanctification"} - which Christ has provided for us,
and which is required for access into God's presence.
Mat 5:8; 1Cor 6:9-11; Heb 2:11; 13:12,13; 1Joh 3:1-3
12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God;
lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [you], and thereby many be defiled;
looking diligently {GK=episkopeo, taking the oversight (as overseers of God's people)}
Contrast the word used in v.2 (re: looking away from other things to focus on Jesus alone).
  • I must first draw near to Him, before I can consider helping a brother (Heb 10:22-24).
  • I cannot oversee the flock, if I have lost sight of the Chief Shepherd. 1Pet 5:1-4
Overseers, exercised by the Lord's chastening, will be humble and dependent upon Him.
Overseers are advised to be watchful, to correct the following problems:
  1. Lest any man fail {ie., come behind, miss, fall short} of the grace of God. Such as:
    • one who knows the Way of salvation, but fails to enter due to unbelief. Heb 4:1; 10:26
    • a believer, who in time of need, fails to obtain grace to help. Heb 4:16
  2. Lest any root of bitterness... spring up... and defile many. Compare: Deut 29:18; Eccl 9:18
       {root of bitterness = root of wormwood (a poisonous plant)}
    • A man, who fails of God's grace, may turn away from God in bitterness.
    • One poisonous root of apostasy may spread to infest a whole community of believers, just as a little 'leaven' of moral unrighteousness contaminates the whole lump (1Cor 5:6).
  3. Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person... (v.16,17)
12:16 Lest there [be] any fornicator, or profane person,
as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
fornicator {GK=pornos, one who engages in sexual sins}
profane {common, unholy} (The English word derives from Latin 'profanum': 'against the temple.')
While the believer is called to moral purity and piety, v.16-17 are not speaking primarily about sexual sin or about profanity of language.
     At issue, in Esau's case, was a worldly mind which set a higher value on the temporal than the spiritual. Esau committed spiritual adultery by his desire for present fleshly gratification, and his disdain for God's promises of spiritual and future blessings.
his birthright - included the priestly privilege and responsibility of the firstborn, and
would have made him heir to God's promises to Abraham and his descendants (Heb 11:8-10).
But Esau regarded that inheritance as something common (profane), of less worth than a bowl of pottage. Gen 25:29-34; 1Cor 6:13-20
So, we must beware lest we squander what God's grace has given us.
Should the Bride of Christ set her affections on earthly things? Col 3:1-4
12:17 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.
he was rejected {ie., disallowed, disapproved}
Because Esau despised his birthright, he was no longer eligible for the inheritance.
he found no place for repentance, though he sought it {the blessing} with tears.- Gen 27:30-38
We might ask whether his tears represented godly sorrow for sin, or worldly sorrow for loss.
     However, the issue, here, is not that Esau could not repent,
but that once he had forfeited his right to God's blessing, his repentance availed nothing.
His tears could not buy back what he had knowingly despised. cp. Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-29

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