The Arguments, 2:10-12:29

3. God's people persevere through suffering by faith, 11:1-12:24

vii] Suffering as a disciple


In the passage before us, our author examines God's fatherly training of his children, training through the troubles of life.


i] Context: See 11:1-3. These verses continue to develop the second part of the third main argument, God's people persevering in times of suffering through the instrument of faith. This part of the argument, covering 12:1-17, makes the point that, following the example set by Jesus, a believer should strive, as an athlete strives, to reach their eternal goal. The rhetorical climax of Hebrews follows in v18-24, Mount Zion.


ii] Background: A general introduction; See 1:1-4.


iii] Structure: This passage, Suffering as a disciple, presents as follows:

Exhortations set on the example of the great-ones of faith.

As a dedicated athlete:

Run with endurance, v1-2;

Consider Jesus, v3;

Accept correction, v4-6;

Note the suffering of others, v4-5a;

Supporting text, Prov.3:11-12;

Endure hardship, v7-11.

Exposition of Proverbs 3:11-12, v7-10;

Sonship entails having to face life's troubles, v7;

Only illegitimate sons are beyond their father's instruction and training, v8;

Believers should willingly submit to the training of their heavenly Father, v9;

God's training achieves its intended end, v10;

Conclusion, v11;

A believer's training, under God, in the troubles of life:

eiV to + inf. "in order that we may share in his holiness."

Be strong, v12-13;

Live in peace, v14-17.


The final two verses, v12 and 13, may serve as a concluding exhortation for v4-11, or an introduction to v14-17.


iv] Interpretation:

Having defined faith, 11:1-3, and illustrated faith in action in the lives of Israel's famous ancestors, 11:4-40, our author sets out in 12:1-17 to encourage his readers to persevere in their own exercise of faith, to persevere in a race which Christ himself has already completed on our behalf. In v4-11 the issue of divine training, by means of the troubles of life, is examined. Drawing on Proverbs 3:11-12, endurance is encouraged in the face of God's fatherly training.


The problem of pain: Preachers will understand that the subject of this passage inevitably raises a difficult question; in what sense are life's troubles the product of the chastising hand of God? "Hebrews is not focusing on the need to repent in the face of divine chastisement, but to endure by drawing on divine training", Koester, cf. 12:7. God's judgment of sin, or in the case of his people, his chastisement of sin, may well involve a direct intervention on the part of God, eg. the destruction of Jerusalem. But how do we explain God's hand in the trials we face "for the sake of training"?

Some years ago a young Christian missionary was killed in the Philippines. She was a member of a fundamentalist church. Her pastor described her death as "the will of God". He described it as a sovereign act of a loving God whose intention in her sufferings may be hidden for the present, but will ultimately be shown as good and glorious. So, her church gave praise to God for her death. The pastor ended up on a TV talk show and found himself under some fairly stiff questioning. The presenter wanted to know what possible reason God could have in wanting a young girl pack-raped and then shot. What type of God would order such a thing?

Hebrews teaches that affliction serves to train God's children. A church facing persecution needs to reflect on the trouble and learn from it. Yet, we have to be very careful how we link God with the trouble. For example, would it really be right for the members of that church in the Philippines to say, "Thank you Jesus for taking this girl to yourself, it has really taught us obedience." The girl's father may find it hard to thank God for this wonderful intervention.

So, if affliction serves to teach us obedience, to aid our sanctification, to aid the realization of the person we are in Christ, to prepare us for our reign with Christ in eternity, in what sense is God involved in the affliction?

If we like, we can answer this question by returning to sixteenth century theology. The question is then resolved in either an Armenian or Calvinist way. On the one hand we may argue for personal freedom, or on the other hand, for God's sovereign control. The trouble is, this is really not an either/or truth, but a lateral one. Inevitably we are free and God is sovereign. So, our problem may have more to do with the way we view God's creation in that we view it through empirical eyes, rather than the eyes of Christ.

We know that God made our universe, that he sustains it and purposes its end. This much is clear. What is unclear is how he does this. The Bible tells us the "why", not the "how". For example, at sometime or other we have all gotten into a debate on creationism versus evolution. The creationist uses the Bible to develop a scientific description of the origin of the universe. Mind you, this debate is not new. Even in the middle ages Christians were debating how they should use the Bible in relation to science. One rather progressive Cardinal at the time said, the Bible doesn't tell us how God made man, but how man can get to heaven. At least he understood that the Bible is a theological manual, not a scientific textbook.

What then can we theologically say about the creation, a creation which seems out of control?

First, God's creation is good. God has created an environment in which a people, created in his image, may live with the integrity of their being - they may live as God lives, freely. The creation is good. If the creation provides food for the birds, will it not provide food, clothing and shelter for all mankind? Are we not special in the eyes of our heavenly Father, "O ye of little faith"?

Second, it is real. Our environment is surging with chaos, a chaos which reflects the cosmic chaos caused by Satan's rebellion. At times, the chaos brings us trouble. The surging environment crushing, changing and shaping. Our universe, created by the hand of God, reflects this reality. We cannot complain. In reflecting reality, God is treating us with integrity while preparing us for our service with him in eternity. If we don't see our world this way we end up claiming earthquakes come from the hand of Satan, or worse, from God.

Third, our world is affected by sin. The creation is infused with evil. So, God "allows" evil to touch his good creation. Mind you, the powers of darkness are restricted in their influence; their intervention is primarily through suggestion. Satan does not have the power to control the will of beings made in the image of God, he can only suggest evil. The shape of much around us is the shape of darkness. Even many things we call light are often darkness veiled in a lie. So, we struggle with the darkness within and without. It is the way things are in reality, and this creation is reality. In this struggle, God is treating us with integrity, while preparing us for our service with him in eternity.

Fourth, chaos stretches discipleship. The child of God experiences the troubles that are common to all humanity. In a sense, we suffer more. The powers of darkness, like a roaring lion, seek to devour us. Our Lord's commands, not only put us at odds with the powers of darkness and therefore secular humanity, but also make it harder to handle the chaos about us, while limiting our use of the good things of God's creation.

So then, in what sense is God involved in our troubles? If the above is correct then our conclusion must be that life's difficulties simply reflect the way things are. Our heavenly Father has shaped this reality in such a way as to provide an environment which enables the gathering of a people of his own and the preparing of this people for service in eternity. Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God, for in suffering we learn obedience, or as Hebrew's would have it, our training through the troubles of life "produces a harvest of righteousness."


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 12:4

Suffering as a believer, v4-11: iii] Accept correction, v4-6: a) "In your struggle to live for the Lord in a world affected by sin, you need to remember that others have suffered far worse than you, in fact, it's probably true to say that you have become altogether forgetful of God's words of encouragement (ie. Prov.3:11-12) to you who are his sons", v4-5a. The author of Hebrews points out to his readers that the troubles they are presently undergoing are not to the point of death, as was the case for many of the great ones of faith, particularly Christ. His readers, as God's sons in Christ, have forgotten the encouragement to be found in scripture. They should see their present troubles as an expression of God's fatherly love, purifying, strengthening, straightening, .... training them for their future service in eternity.

gar "-" - for. Possible variant, "for you have not yet ...", but a causal sense is unlikely here. What we have here is the introduction of a new thought, and therefore a new paragraph.

antagwnizomenoi (antagwnizomai) pres. part. "in your struggle" - struggling. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal, "while struggling against sin." "You have not yet, as you have struggled against sin, ...", Williams.

proV + gen. "against" - before. Here expressing opposition; "against".

thn aJmartian (a) "sin" - Certainly "sin" within the Christian community may be in mind, but it seems more likely that it refers to either "the hostility of sinners", as faced by Christ and the heroes of faith celebrated in chapter 11, so Bruce, or in a more general sense, "the sinful state of the world", ie. troubles in general, not just persecution.

ou[pw .... antikatesthte (antikaqisthmi) aor. "you have not resisted" - not yet have you resisted, confronted, stood in opposition against. The language here is athletic, possibly mortal combat, boxing, ... continuing the imagery of the first three verses which represent the Christian life as running a race.

aiJmatoV (a atoV) "[to the point of] shedding your blood" - [up to] of blood. Christ's sacrifice is probably in mind, but it is unclear whether the language is to be taken literally or metaphorically. If literal, the point is that the recipients of the letter have not suffered to the degree of Christ's crucifixion, ie. to the point of "violent death"; "Others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through", Peterson. Persecution may be in mind, but better just the rough-and-tumble of life. A metaphorical sense is also possible, "you have not done your utmost", Koester.


kai "and" - The function of this conjunction here is unclear. Some commentators take it to introduce a new point, but it seems more likely to serve as an emphatic coordinate with v4. Note also that v5a may be treated as either a question or a statement, with the weight falling on a statement (RSV, a question; NRSV, a statement). "In fact, you have become altogether forgetful of the encouragement to be found in words from scripture ....", Cassirer.

eklelhsqe (eklanqanomai) perf. "you have forgotten" - The prefix is intensive, so "completely forgotten."

thV paraklhsewV (iV ewV) gen. "that/this word of encouragement" - of the encouragement, exhortation. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting the noun "word" understood; "that encouraging text of scripture."

dialegetai (dialegomai) pres. "addresses" - he disputes, discusses. Obviously here with the general sense of "speaks".

uJmin pro. "you" - [which as sons he speaks] to you. Dative of indirect object.

wJV "as" - as, like. Comparative; "addresses you like sons."

uiJoiV (oV) "sons" - The readers are "sons" because in Christ, as high priest, they have acquired sonship before God and thus have become inheritors of glory.


b) Our author now provides the scriptural word of encouragement by quoting Proverbs 3:11-12, following the LXX version rather than his usual MT source, v5b-6. The image presented is of fatherly training - harsh, but loving. Many Christians still take the view that God sorts out parking spots for them in busy car-parks as a blessing for obedience, and of course, also denies them a parking spot as chastisement for disobedience. Although a rather facetious example of divine intervention, it does serve to illustrate the difficulty we face in exegeting this text and the passage as a whole. God's children in the Bible era saw every event in their life as directly attributable to the hand of God. We are more inclined today to sit easily with a natural cause-and-effect-world under the ultimate authority of God. This approach will require that the text be contextualized, while at the same time assessing any diminution of Biblical authority.

"Don't short-sell the difficulties of life,

and don't be crushed by them either,

for the Lord builds-up those he loves,

and shapes-up everyone in his family."

uiJe (oV) voc. "[my] child" - son. "Son" is being used here of a young person receiving advice from his teacher. So, for the modern ear it is best left out; "When the Lord punishes (disciplines) you, don't make light of it", CEV.

mh oligwrei (oligwrew) pres. imp. "do not make light of" - do not think light of / neglect / belittle. A hapax legomenon, once only use in the NT.

kuriou (oV) gen. "the Lord's" - of Lord. We may classify this genitive as verbal, subjective, or ablative, source / origin; "the discipline enacted by the Lord.

paideiaV (a) "discipline" - training, instruction / punishment, discipline [of Lord]. Proverbs generally reflects the idea of training/instruction through firm discipline so rather than just positive education ("do not neglect the instruction of the Lord", Koester), the word "is explicitly seen as including unpleasant elements ...... inc. the pain of persecution", Ellingworth. Translations such as "discipline / chastisement" are unfortunate. The point being made is that troubles lift us up where we belong, ie. life's difficulties, under the Lord, serve to train us in discipleship, preparing us for our reign with Christ in eternity. "Don't short-sell the difficulties of life under the Lord."

mhde ekluou (ekluomai) pres. imp. "and do not lose heart" - nor become weary, discouraged. "And don't be crushed ("depressed and discouraged", Barclay) by it either", Peterson.

elegcomenoV (elegcw) pres. pas. part. "when he rebukes [you]" - being rebuked, reproached, reproved. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV. The meaning of this word obviously aligns with "training", so "when he corrects you", Barclay. When contextualized the "reproach" is "the difficulties of life under the Lord", so "don't be crushed by them", ie. the difficulties of life.

uJp (uJpo) + gen. "-" - [being reproved] by [him]. Expressing agency / means; "by him / it."


gar "because" - for, because. Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why the child of God should not "make light of ... and ... not lose heart."

paideuei (paideuw) pres. "disciplines" - he instructs, trains / disciplines. We face similar interpretive problems as for the noun above. If this "discipline" is "the instructing / shaping / moulding / training power of the troubles of life lived within the frame of God's love", rather than "chastisement for sin", then the sense is "because the Lord builds-up those he loves."

de "and" - but, and. Here obviously connective, as NIV.

mastigoi (mastigow) pres. "he punishes" - whips, beats. The word continues the fatherly training image expressed in the text. The translation "he punishes" assumes that the text addresses chastisement for sin, but as already noted, it is very unlikely that Hebrews understands the text this way. For a child of God, the troubles of life have refining power and for this reason the Lord wills that "everyone accepted into his family in Christ" (every son whom he receives) be "whipped into shape by life's troubles."


iv] Endure hardship, v7-11: a) Exposition of Proverbs 3:11-12, v7-10: First, Sonship entails having to face life's troubles, v7. A true son will always be treated differently to an illegitimate child, so the training (the word "discipline" is misleading) will always be harder for a child of God. Our author has already made this point regarding Jesus. Even Christ, God's one and only son, "learned obedience by the things which he suffered."

eiV "[endure hardship as discipline]" - to, toward [discipline / chastisement you endure hardship ("trials", NAB)]. Probably here expressing purpose "for / as / with a view to." Variant ei "if you endure discipline", cf. AV, is discounted by most commentators. "It is for discipline (training) that you have to endure", Hughes. "Training" = "the training of life's troubles."

prosferetai (prosferw) pres. pas. "[God] is treating" - is acting toward, dealing with, behaving toward. "God is dealing with you as sons of his", Cassirer.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - [as with sons God is acting toward] you. Dative of direct object after the verb prosferetai, "acting toward, dealing with." "Sons", uiJoiV, is also dative since the same verb is assumed; "as (wJV, comparative) God deals with sons so he deals with you."

gar "for" - Expressing cause/reason; drawing a conclusion in the form of an implied double negative rhetorical question. "Is there any father whom his son does not discipline (firmly train)?", Barclay, ie. as above, "train through life's troubles."


Second: Only illegitimate sons are beyond their father's instruction and training, v8. If our life is free of troubles then we need to ask which lord we follow, is it the Lord of the flies, or the Lord of heaven and earth?

ei + ind. "if" - The clause reads like a conditional clause, 2nd class, contrary to fact, where the condition is assumed as untrue, although at first glance the construction is of a 1st. class conditional clause (the verb in the protasis is not past tense and there is no an introducing the apodosis). "If, as is not the case, [you are without the training in which you have all shared] then [you are illegitimate children and not true sons]". The presence of ara, "therefore / then as a result", serving to introduce the apodosis, indicates that a formal conditional clause is not intended.

cwriV + gen. "not [disciplined]" - without [discipline]. Expressing separation; "without, apart from."

h|V gen. "[and everyone undergoes discipline]" - of which [all have participated]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.


Third: We have happily submitted to the training of our natural father and obviously have good reason to submit to the training of our heavenly Father, v9. The idea that the troubles of life serve to teach the disciple is further developed. We willingly accept the training of our earthly father and respect him for it. We do this, even though this training is imperfect. Our heavenly Father similarly trains those whom he loves, yet he does it in perfection, and for this reason we should submit to it.

ei\ta "moreover" - furthermore, besides this.

men ...... de "-" - Adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand [we have .....] but on the other hand [how much more .....]." Note that de is not a reliable variant.

paideutaV (hV ou) "who discipline us" - We have had father's of our flesh / earthly fathers instructors, correctors; "one who educates and trains", Zerwick. Further indicating that discipline as chastisement is not in the writer's mind, so "those who have corrected and guided us."

enetrepomeqa (entrepw) imperf. pas. "[and] we respected them for it" - [and] we respected, were having regard for (when passive as here). The imperfect expresses durative action / customary; "and we paid due respect to them", Cassirer.

ou "-" - no. Used in a question expecting a positive answer; "shall we not far rather submit to our spiritual Father and enjoy life?", Berkeley.

uJpotaghsomeqa (uJpotassw) fut. pas. "should we submit to" - will we submit, be in subjection to. If we accept the training of our natural father, we have even more reason to accept the training of our heavenly father.

tw/ patri (hr roV) dat. "the Father" - Dative of direct object after the verb "submit to" / dative of subjection.

twn pneumatwn (a atoV) "of our spirits / of spirits" - of spirits. The genitive is probably adjectival: i] possessive, "the spirits" belonging to the Father, either angelic spiritual powers, although better human spirits, as NIV, so Attridge, possibly an inclusive "a world of spirits", Cassirer; ii] or attributive, limiting "Father", "our spiritual father", CEV, although there is no agreement in number.

zhsomen (zaw) fut. "live" - we will live. The Father's training serves to promote endurance to "eternal life", although this "life" may be the business of living for Christ now, so "in order to learn to live", Barclay.


Fourth: God's training is not limited by human frailty, but fully achieves its intended end, namely holiness, v10. God's training shapes us toward holiness. As we individually seek to apply the Word of God to our lives, by grace through faith, in interaction with the rough-and-tumble of life, so we are shaped for eternity, prepared for the divinity that is ours in Christ. "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."

gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause further explaining why God's discipline is not unreasonable, given the discipline we received from our parents.

oiJ men ......... oJ de "our fathers ....... but God ...." - on the one hand they .... but on the other hand he ....." An adversative comparative construction, in this case, a lesser to greater comparison.

kata + acc. "as" - according to. Expressing a standard.

autoiV dat. pro. "they" - to them. Dative of interest, advantage.

to dokoun (dokew) pres. part. "thought best" - the thing seeming [to them]. The participle functions as a substantive. The comparison is not between a short period of training by our natural fathers and a long period of training by our heavenly Father, rather our natural fathers training was subjective, it was "according to what they thought was best", whereas the training of our heavenly Father is objective, it is designed by God "for our benefit so that we may share in His holiness", Berkeley.

epi + acc. "for" - upon. Spacial, "down upon"; God's discipline "rests on what is actually profitable for us", Lenski.

to sumferon (sumferew) pres. part. "our good" - [toward, up to] the thing benefiting, profitable, useful. The participle functions as a substantive; "that which is to our advantage."

eiV to + inf. "that [we may share]" - to share, receive, partake. This construction, the preposition eiV with the articular infinitive, usually forms a purpose clause, "in order to share."

thV aJgiothtoV (hV htoV) "in [his] holiness" - of holiness, divinity, sanctity [of him]. A genitive direct object after a partitive verb; "in order that we might partake of his divinity." A believer shares "with one another and with Jesus the life of God himself", Ellingworth. "For Hebrews the believer's share in divine sanctity derives from the act of the true High Priest, and consists primarily in the perfecting cleansing of conscience that his sacrifice effects", Attridge.


b) Conclusion; The author now sums up this sub-section which covers the subject of a believers training, under God, in the troubles of life, v11. Our author points out that the child of God, who accepts life's troubles as training from the hand of a loving God, ceases to feel resentful. Such a person becomes open to God's word and thus open to the cultivation of righteousness, of Christ-likeness. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn of thy statutes", Psalm 119:67.

men ..... de "-" - An adversative comparative construction, here of time; "for the moment [all discipline seems painful ......] but [later it yeilds ......]", ESV.

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "-" - [but all training for the present does not seem] to be. The infinitive forms an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what one "does not perceive", namely that troubles are pleasant.

caraV (a) gen. "pleasant" - As with luphV (h), the genitive is somewhat unexpected. They are possibly ablative, source/origin; "discipline / training, at the moment it is applied, is not perceived as a source of happiness, but of grief."

alla "but" - but [painful, stressful, despairing]. Here a strong adversative; "It is in fact most unpleasant", Phillips.

u{steron adv. "later on, [however]" - [but] afterwards, later.

apodidwsin (apodidwmi) "it produces [a harvest]" - it pays back, gives back, pays = yields [peaceful fruit]. Of the yield itself, ref. Proverbs 3:9, "the root of education is bitter, but the fruit is sweet."

dikaiosunhV (h) "of righteousness" - The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic / appositional, explaining the nature of the "peaceful fruit", "the peaceful fruit consists of righteousness." "Righteousness", possibly in the terms of a recognition of covenant inclusion and thus of being judged right in the sight of God, "right with God", but probably more likely in an ethical sense: "godliness", Junkins "a good life", Barclay; "do[ing] right", CEV; "upright life", REB....

toiV .... gegumnasmenoiV (gumnazw) perf. pas. part. "for those who have been trained by it" - to the ones having been trained. The participle serves as a substantive. The perfect indicating permanent results from the training. Note how our writer has again reverted to a word which images athletic training, ongoing training for a race.


Hebrews Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]