JohnSWilson3 Blog

“Endure hardship as discipline…”
June 19, 2012, 2:50 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

This section in Chapter 12 of the Letter to Hebrews is perhaps one of the more controversial sections of the Bible. It is in fact a mystery. You probably have heard some ask or read a book trying to answer the question: Why do bad things happen to good people? My guess is that it is a matter of perspective; a matter of attitude. In Chapter 12 the author wants us to see life and its difficult circumstances from an “other” point of view, namely Christ’s.

If we were to read the Bible starting with the earliest written manuscript then we would need to begin with Job. Most scholars would claim that Job was the first written book of the Bible. Perhaps we might have a more “accurate” understanding of God’s eternal purpose in the whole of scripture if we looked at it through the lens of Job.

God’s eternal purpose is to reveal His Son in His fullest expression, to be the all in all. Only when the flesh has been buried, seen as dead, nailed to the cross, can the expression of His Son be revealed. This burial, this denying the “soul life” looks different for each follower of Jesus, for each local ekklesia. The results are the same, so that His life will be expressed in and to and through our soul life to the glory of God. Perhaps only when we are brought to our lowest point, whatever that looks like, when everything seems to be against us, and we trust completely in Christ Jesus our Lord and by faith love, will the fuller expression of His magnificent Son be revealed.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 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!”

The author takes an interesting shift in his letter to this ekklesia. Earlier in the letter the author was encouraging the ekklesia “to persevere” in keeping their “confidence” in God because of their various trials, e.g. being “in a great contest in the face of suffering,” “publicly exposed to insult and persecution,” and “the confiscation of your property.” The religious rulers were trying to get these brothers and sisters of this ekklesia to fall back to Judaism, and some were. But here in Chapter 12, this “opposition from sinful men” and “struggle against sin” is being described as the rebuking and punishing by the Lord! This is a totally different perspective; seeing our difficult circumstances as a form of discipline. This word “discipline” means “training of a child, including instruction.” (1) It is a form of correction. Suffering, while difficult at the time, helps us correct how we live and by whom we live. The tests and trials of life happen to help us live by His life together by faith with love. They help us learn obedience to Christ.

As the author said earlier: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Obedience is not about obeying the commandments with its rules and regulations, this is what Judaism was trying to get the ekklesia to fall back to; these were abolished in the flesh of Christ. It is about obeying the Son who is now our life; we hear Him, believe Him, and follow Him together who is our New Covenant. We live by the inward life of Christ not by the outward adherence to rules, keeping a clear conscience before God, no matter the consequences. Let us then therefore fix our eyes on Jesus, instead of our circumstances; this is submitting to the Father, this is real life with other brothers and sisters, and it’s messy! This is where God gets what He wants, the expression of His Son through His sons and daughters.

Let us keep in mind that the tests and trials in this life are for “our good,” while it doesn’t seem “pleasant at the time, but painful,” they are used by God to help us lose our “soul life,” to break the vessels of our flesh, so that He might possess it, obtain it, so that the light of His life may be seen not our flesh. “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” An original translation would be “it produces a righteousness of peaceable fruit.” (2) It is the tests and trials of life, the fellowship in His sufferings, that Christ’s resurrection life, His righteousness, gets expressed in His body and will show forth “peaceable fruit,” or “resting love.” (Since peaceable is synonymous with rest and fruit is synonymous with love I have chosen to use “resting love.”) In our struggles let us see that God’s purpose for them is to help us persevere, to endure, by keeping our eyes on Jesus. Jesus has been through them already.

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” As we “press on to the goal” we must remember that we are part of a body. It is His body that is pressing on, it is about Christ expressed in His body. F.F. Bruce comments that this passage describes doing “everything possible to help them,” those who are “feeling especially discouraged and disinclined to make the necessary effort.” (3) As the author noted earlier: “Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison…” Christ’s love is selfless, focused on others, our brothers and sisters, Christ’s body loves one another sacrificially as God enables each one by His measure of faith and gift. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” It is not about you or I going to the throne of grace but “us” and “we.” In Him we find “resting love,” we find mercy and grace in our time of need and as we live by Him together. Helping and encouraging one another, we will see that “resting love,” the fullness of His mercy and grace expressed through the body. Christ is His body’s resting love.

In all of life’s difficulties, let us see them for what they are a means whereby we “make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” As we live by Him together, in the tests and trials of life, expressing by faith love to one another and to “all men,” God gets what He wants, people “will see the Lord,” the Son of His love, and He obtains a witness of life in His Son, who becomes and is the all in all.

(1) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 97.
(2) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 667.


1 Comment so far
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On a facebook discussion group a dear sister made some comments reference this blog. Below are her comments and some responses.

Joy Garrision Simpson: John, I do appreciate what you share. Do you see how you make an emphasis of our part in responding to the scriptures? I see such a fine, fine line in this. Yes, it is about us responding, but it goes farther back than that and that is where our words end. Our responding simply comes out of the discipline itself, not in making the right things happen because we have been disciplined. Like Peter, “Lord where would we go….” Through what he had been through he saw and heard his Lord and that was all he could say. It wasn’t hearing the Lord and then agreeing and then doing. Am I explaining this? Or do you understand this? It is a mystery. I am not trying to be critical or judgmental, simply to encourage you to see beyond what you have shared to see that Jesus does it all, even our saying “yes Lord”. We have no part.

John Wilson: I reread what was written and can see your perspective. I guess the authors in the scripture do the same thing, they write of the inner experience and at the same time write of the outer expression of that inner experience in Christ but may not necessarily always relate one to the other. I totally agree that Jesus does it all, it is Christ who builds his ekklesia. In fact to hear Him, to believe Him, and to follow Him is by His life. There is though the problem of our soul life, Christ wants to express Himself through us, through our soul life. This is mentioned throughout scripture. In the first part of Hebrews the author focuses on the ekklesia hearing His voice and combining that with faith to obedience and then describing how those who believe enter His rest, a life of continual resting in Him. This perhaps is not that difficult when things are going okay for us but when tests and trials come into our lives, whether from believers or unbelievers, for the breaking of the soul life, we have the possibility of falling back to eating from the wrong tree of religion of living by the flesh or by Christ. There is this constant tension, albeit spiritual warfare. I guess from my perspective to say that we have no part would mean that we are not really necessary to the Lord. Thinking our part is to learn to rest in Him, which comes from hearing Him together, believing what He says, and following Him. And each aspect is from His life in us. Perhaps this is part of the oneness that we have in Him. Totally agree, it is a mystery. May the Lord open more of our eyes to His life in His body. Blessings sister.

Joy Garrison Simpson: Hey John, no worries, in retrospect I should have kept my mouth shut. Sometimes the Lord can open things up at a side angle and that doesn’t mean what was shared isn’t real to the person. I often see things from a side angle and have to learn to just let the Lord work and reveal as he is obviously doing in all of us in a beautiful way. We just don’t all see through the same pane of glass from the same angle. I’m writing and you are writing….. 🙂 so true John, it is wonderful to be part of the body. Right now I do not feel much part of the body though…..but it is yet another place the Lord is taking me. Thankful for online contact the NT church never had! 🙂

John Wilson: Joy, I appreciate you sharing, it was helpful for me to see what was written in light of your thoughts to better seeing Christ.

Comment by John Wilson

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