Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

How can God both love us to the point of forgiving (and forgetting) our sin yet chastise us for that sin?   This is the question sparked by Hebrews 12:6.  For that matter, why does God chastise?  What happens when we are chastised?  What is chastisement?  Is it permanent state?  How serious is it?  How are we to react?  To determine the Biblical answer, we look to:

  • Historical Context: Although some include the Book of Hebrews among the apostle Paul’s writings, the identity of the author remains uncertain.  Regardless of the human hand that held the pen, the Holy Spirit of God is the divine author of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16); therefore, Hebrews speaks with the same canonical authority as the other sixty-five books of the Bible.  Written about 65 AD, this letter is an exhortation for persecuted believers to continue in the grace of Jesus Christ.  The writer of Hebrews gives ample encouragement to believers, but there are five solemn warnings we must heed. There is the danger of neglect (Hebrews 2:1-4), the danger of unbelief (Hebrews 3:7–4:13), the danger of spiritual immaturity (Hebrews 5:11–6:20), the danger of failing to endure (Hebrews 10:26-39), and the inherent danger of refusing God (Hebrews 12:25-29).
  • Grammatical Usage: “Lord” in the Greek is “Kurios” and means, “he to whom a person or thing belongs, one who has control of the person, the master.” [It is interesting to note that Paul uses Kurios of the Lord Jesus regularly, but in this context he uses it more broadly as a specific reference to ‘God’ which incorporates a more broad, inclusive tense.  The point being made is that Jesus IS God.  Remember, the audience are converted Jews questioning their decision.]  “loveth” is “Agapao” and means, “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly”; “chasteneth” is “Paideuo” and means, “to correct by moulding one’s character by reproof and admonition”; “scourgeth” is “Mastigoo” meaning, “a metaphor for serious chastening by the Lord administered in love, not anger or vengeance”;  “son” is “Huios” describing, “one who depends on another or is his follower”; “receiveth” is “Paradechomai” and means, “to accept and acknowledge as one’s own.”
  • Literal Application: “God Almighty is so personal that He, out of sheer fondness and desire for our highest good, corrects us to mould our character by reversing wrong attitudes, thoughts and actions while warning us about the same and seriously deals with us in this physical life not out of anger or vengeance as He will with the unsaved but as bloodline descendants whom He recognizes as His own.”
  • Contextual Interpretation: We should begin by taking note of the fact that Hebrews 12:6 is a quotation from Proverbs 3:11-12:

11 My child, do not despise discipline from the Lord, and do not loathe his rebuke.  12 For the Lord disciplines those he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.

Some of the Hebrew saints seemed to think that their suffering was a good reason to doubt their faith. The writer wants them to know that divine discipline is an evidence of sonship. Fathers discipline their children because they are their children, and because they love them. When God chastens or disciplines us, it is evidence of His love for us.  The thrust of the passage is that discipline in the Christian life, although unpleasant for the moment, should aleays be regarded as evidence that we are truly saved.  God does not discipline Satan’s children.  How often have untaught Christians remarked about the mysterious fact that the most reprehensible sinners in the community have the best health, the most money and the least tragedy?  There is nothing mysterious about it.  God has no intention of interfering in their lives.  They are not members of the Body of Christ.  But the Christian is.  He is a son of God (Rom. 8:14; John 1:12).  God thus sustains a parental relationship with him.  This glorious fact becomes apparent as he feels the rod of chastening when he sins.  The true strange and mysterious if not totally irrational and unscriptural case would be the one in which the Christian sinned and got away with it! 

God does forgive our sins when we confess them to Him and repent of them. But this does not mean that there are no painful consequences for our sins. David sinned greatly by taking Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba), and then having Uriah killed. David confessed, and God forgave him of his sins, but this did not prevent God from causing David and the entire nation from suffering some of the consequences of David’s sin:

13 Then David exclaimed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord!” Nathan replied to David, “Yes, and the Lord has forgiven your sin. You are not going to die. 14 Nonetheless, because you have treated the Lord with such contempt in this matter, the son who will be born to you will certainly die.” – 2 Samuel 12:13, 14

Sin has consequences, even when we repent and are forgiven for those sins. Whether we call the consequences of sin “punishment” or “chastening” the bottom line is that God brings about painful consequences, to discipline us, so that we will turn from our sin to Him.

Critical to our understanding of God’s chastisement is that once discipline is over – it is o-v-e-r.  Note 2 Samuel 12: 15-23.  David did not continue in his petition, but accepted the will of the Lord and continued to be the recipient of God’s favor.  David never lost his favor with God given that God chastens whom He loves.  David did suffer consequences, which he accepted – but he didn’t wallow in God’s correction as if it a pit from which one can not escape.  Chastisement is NOT a permanent state, but given the reaction and lifestyle of many Christians one would think that it is.  V. 5 of our text agrees that God’s admonitions are not to be taken lightly.  On the other hand, according to the verse, they should not be regarded as deadly either.  When the Lord speaks we are to listen, but when he rebukes we are not to become ill because of discouragement.  Both extreme reactions of the child of God to divine rebuke are forbidden.  Some Christians pay little attention when the Lord admonishes.  Others are so devastated by His rebuke that they lose their morale and quit due to discouragement.  Hebrews points to the contrary: we should be encouraged when we are punished by the Lord, for that is the evidence of 1) we are truly a child of His and 2) He loves us.  The very point confirmed in V. 6 – our primary text.

  • Scriptural Comparison:  The Christian who harbors secret sin in his life is looking for trouble:

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:8-9

When a true Christian sins, what happens?

1. His Fellowship with God is severed. David,when backslidden, mourned, “Day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:4). As Clouds hide the sun for days, so Sin comes between the soul and God.

2. The Joy of salvation is lost. One loses all relish for spiritual things: the heart is empty. David, in this condition, confessed, “My sin is ever before me” and “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit” (Psalm 51:3, 12).

3. Power for service is lost. The Holy Spirit’s power is Essential for any real witness for Christ. It cannot be Faked. Davidprayed, “Thou desirest truth in the inward parts” and “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:6, 10).

4. The Christian invites divine chastisement. Psalm 89:32-33—“I will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.”

5. There is loss of reward. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) Out of Fellowship means out of Service—out of service means that one is failing to lay up treasures in heaven. He is building of “wood, hay, and stubble” which cannot endure the test of the rewarding day (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Many will be chagrined in that day by suffering Loss of Reward.

It is interesting to note four requisites of Hebrews:

  • Without shedding of blood, no remission (Hebrews 9:22)
  • Without faith no pleasing God (Hebrews 11:6)
  • Without holiness (true conversion), no heaven (Hebrews 12:14)
  • Without chastisement, no sonship (Hebrews 12:8)

Believers are partakers:

1. Of his promise in Christ, salvation (Ephesians 3:6)

2. Of the divine nature, regeneration (2 Peter 2:4)

3. Of the inheritance, competency (Colossians 1:12)

4. Of the heavenly calling, position Hebrews 3:1)

5. Of Christ’s sufferings, discipleship 1 Peter 4:13)

6. Of fatherly chastisement, discipline (Hebrews 12:6)

7. Of the glory, prospective (1 Peter 5:1)

A critical point to believers are sins not just of commission but omission.  Hosea 4:6 says, “…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”  Critical to the admonishment associated with chastening is knowing God’s word so that we might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). Conclusion: The professed Christian who sins with impunity is a spiritual illegitimate.  He is not God’s child.  Conversely, one way, among many other more pleasant ways, that the Christian knows he is truly saved is that he feels God’s chastening hand when he disobeys the Holy Spirit.  Yet we keep in mind that even during periods of chastisement, God’s love for us never fails.  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a). This is God’s description of love, and because God is love (1 John 4:8) this is what He is like.  He loves whom he chastises – this should bring every believer into a new realm of understanding and acceptance of God’s dealing in our lives given it is for our good and His highest purpose.