Hebrews 12:6 – For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and He punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
“Yeah but what about this verse! It says right here in my Bible that God punishes each one he accepts as His Child!” I can hear your thoughts. I hear your objections. I know them all too well, because these thoughts were also once mine. We’ve all heard the story about how the “good shepherd” will break the legs of the wandering lamb to teach it a valuable lesson. We’ve believed that God was made in our image. And that since our fathers punished us, then surely this is how God must deal with His own children. After all, we have lots of scripture to back up this thinking. All one has to do is start reading their Bible from the beginning, and they will see this pattern over and over again, of a Father punishing His children.
And now, even in the New Covenant, we find that “God punishes each one He accepts as His child.” Some versions might read that He chastises” or “scourges” His children. Wow! That doesn’t sound too fun. No one wants to be scourged by God.
But is this really what the verse means in context of the New Covenant? After all, hasn’t God dealt with sin once and for all on the cross? (Psalm 103:10, Romans 6:10, Hebrews 7-10, & 1 Peter 3:18) Is he still dealing with men and their sin? If so, wouldn’t that mean, that He has NOT “dealt with sin once and for all” then? So the question that we need to answer first is if this, “Is God still in the business of punishing sin?”
Romans 3 makes it very clear that Christ took upon Himself the punishment for our sins, and freed us from the penalty sin deserves.
Psalm 103:10 says that God has not dealt with us according to our sin.
Romans 6:10 says that Christ died once and for all.
Hebrews 7 through 10 really go into depth about how Christ offered Himself up once and for all time as a sacrifice for the sin of men. God chose to accept one offering, one sacrifice. Once. One time. For all men. And by that sacrifice those who believe have been released from God’s wrath that was appeased on the cross.
1 Peter 3:18 again shows how Christ died once and for all.
The Bible makes it clear that God chose to deal with sin once and for all on the cross. He is no longer dealing with men according to their sin. He is dealing with them as much loved children of God. But only those who believe does He give the right to become “Children of God.” Everyone else is still subjected to the law of sin and death which is governed by the law of sowing and reaping. When a man sows sin, he will reap death. It’s not a punishment from God. It’s the nature of the seed.
So let’s go back to Hebrews 12:6. Is God punishing His children. The answer may surprise you. God is NOT punishing His children. He punished sin and disobedience once and for all on the cross. When bad things happen in your life, it’s either one of two reasons.
- You’ve sinned, and are reaping the consequences or fruit of that sin.
Note: But God promises that you need not reap that harvest if you confess that sin. When we confess, He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He allows the harvest that you should reap from the seeds (of sin) that you’ve sown to be gleamed on the cross. He allows Christ to receive the punishment and death that you so rightfully deserve, and in turn offers you Christ and His life.
- You’re suffering unjustly.
Note: Once we confess our sin, we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. We are justified in the sight of God, just as if we’ve never sinned. Therefore, even any consequences we might face, we can rejoice, because we are suffering unjustly knowing Christ already suffered “Once and For All.”
So let’s look at what the meaning of the translated word “punishes” is in the original language.
The Greek word translated as “punish” is paideuō.
The King James translated paideuō in the following ways:
chasten (6x), chastise (2x), learn (2x), teach (2x), instruct (1x).
- to train children
- to be instructed or taught or learn
- to cause one to learn
- to chastise
- to chastise or castigate with words, to correct
- of those who are molding the character of others by reproof and admonition
- of God
- to chasten by the affliction of evils and calamities
- to chastise with blows, to scourge
- of a father punishing his son
- of a judge ordering one to be scourged
Without an understanding of the Good News, we can immediately jump to definitions 3 and 4. After all, we have a wealth of examples of how God took this very action against the Children of Israel, all throughout the Old Covenant. We can even apply definitions 3 and 4 to 1 and 2, and think that the way we instruct and teach our children should be with blows and scourging. Doesn’t the Bible encourage “fathers to not spare the rod?”
However, God is no longer dealing with men according to their sin. He has dealt with sin once and for all on the cross. Once and for all time He has punished sin and disobedience on the cross. God could not deal with the Children of Israel in the Old Covenant the same way He deals with His children in the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was imperfect, and the Law could never make anyone perfect. It only covered sin. But Jesus came to sacrifice Himself once and for all time, once and for all men to not just cover sin, but to remove it. He took upon Himself God’s chastisement for our peace. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was pierced for our rebellion. He was bruised for our iniquities. He was crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be made whole. He took the stripes on His back so that we could be healed. In other words – HE TOOK OUR PUNISHMENT.
God punished His only begotten Son so that you and I might become sons and daughters of the king. Not through any work that we have done. Not because we completed any good works. And not because we were able to bear the punishment that we deserved for our sins. We couldn’t bear the punishment we deserved. Because the wages of sin is death! And we know that death is eternal separation from God.
So when we read Hebrews 12:6 in a New Covenant context we understand that God is not punishing us for our sins. He loves us. And perfect love casts out all fear. Because fear involves punishment. And the one who fears has not been perfected in love.
Allow His love to perfect you. Allow God to be your Father. He is a good father. He instructs and trains the children that He loves. He sends His Holy Spirit to correct His own. He reveals our true identity as partakers of His divine will. Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!