Hebrews 12:10
For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(10) After their own pleasure.—Rather, as seemed good unto them. The contrast is continued here between human liability to mistake and the perfect knowledge of our heavenly Father, who seeks our profit, and cannot err in the means which He employs. There is a general resemblance between this verse and the last, the “few days” corresponding to the “fathers of our flesh;” and the last clause here, “that we may be partakers of His holiness,” to the words which close Hebrews 12:9, “and live.” To the “few days” no contrast is directly expressed in the second member of the verse; none was needed, because the last words so clearly imply the permanence of the result.



Ecclesiastes 1:13
. - Hebrews 12:10.

These two texts set before us human life as it looks to two observers. The former admits that God shapes it; but to him it seems sore travail, the expenditure of much trouble and efforts; the results of which seem to be nothing beyond profitless exercise. There is an immense activity and nothing to show for it at the end but wearied limbs. The other observer sees, at least, as much of sorrow and trouble as the former, but he believes in the ‘Father of spirits,’ and in a hereafter; and these, of course, bring a meaning and a wider purpose into the ‘sore travail,’ and make it, not futile but, profitable to our highest good.

I. Note first the Preacher’s gloomy half-truth.

The word rendered in our text ‘travail’ is a favourite one with the writer. It means occupation which costs effort and causes trouble. The phrase ‘to be exercised therewith,’ rather means to fatigue themselves, so that life as looked upon by the Preacher consists of effort without result but weariness.

If he knew it at all, it was very imperfectly and dimly; and whatever may be thought of teaching on that subject which appears in the formal conclusion of the book, the belief in a future state certainly exercises no influence on its earlier portions. These represent phases through which the writer passes on his way to his conclusion. He does believe in ‘God,’ but, very significantly, he never uses the sacred name ‘Lord.’ He has shaken himself free, or he wishes to represent a character who has shaken himself free from Revelation, and is fighting the problem of life, its meaning and worth, without any help from Law, or Prophet, or Psalm. He does retain belief in what he calls ‘God,’ but his pure Theism, with little, if any, faith in a future life, is a creed which has no power of unravelling the perplexed mysteries of life, and of answering the question, ‘What does it all mean?’ With keen and cynical vision he looks out not only over men, as in this first chapter, but over nature; and what mainly strikes him is the enormous amount of work that is being done, and the tragical poverty of its results. The question with which he begins his book is, ‘What profit hath a man of all his labour wherein he laboureth under the sun?’ And for answer he looks at the sun rising and going down, and being in the same place after its journey through the heavens; and he hears the wind continually howling and yet returning again to its circuits; and the waters now running as rivers into the sea and again drawn up in vapours, and once more falling in rain and running as waters. This wearisome monotony of intense activity in nature is paralleled by all that is done by man under heaven, and the net result of all is ‘Vanity and a strife after wind.’

The writer proceeds to confirm his dreary conclusion by a piece of autobiography put into the mouth of Solomon. He is represented as flinging himself into mirth and pleasure, into luxury and debauchery, and as satisfying every hunger for any joy, and as being pulled up short in the midst of his rioting by the conviction, like a funeral bell, tolling in his mind that all was vanity. ‘He gave himself to wisdom, and madness, and folly’; and in all he found but one result-enormous effort and no profit. There seemed to be a time for everything, and a kind of demonic power in men compelling them to toil as with equal energy, now at building up, and now at destroying. But to every purpose he saw that there was ‘time and judgment,’ and therefore, ‘the misery of man was great upon him.’ To his jaundiced eye the effort of life appeared like the play of the wind in the desert, always busy, but sometime busy in heaping the sands in hillocks, and sometimes as busy in levelling them to a plain.

We may regard such a view of humanity as grotesquely pessimistic; but there is no doubt that many of us do make of life little more than what the Preacher thought it. It is not only the victims of civilisation who are forced to wearisome monotony of toil which barely yields daily bread; but we see all around us men and women wearing out their lives in the race after a false happiness, gaining nothing by the race but weariness. What shall we say of the man who, in the desire to win wealth, or reputation, lives laborious days of cramping effort in one direction, and allows all the better part of his nature to be atrophied, and die, and passes, untasted, brooks by the way, the modest joys and delights that run through the dustiest lives. What is the difference between a squirrel in the cage who only makes his prison go round the faster by his swift race, and the man who lives toilsome days for transitory objects which he may never attain? In the old days every prison was furnished with a tread-mill, on which the prisoner being set was bound to step up on each tread of the revolving wheel, not in order to rise, but in order to prevent him from breaking his legs. How many men around us are on such a mill, and how many of them have fastened themselves on it, and by their own misreading and misuse of life have turned it into a dreary monotony of resultless toil. The Preacher may be more ingenious than sound in his pessimism, but let us not forget that every godless man does make of life ‘Vanity and strife after wind.’

II. The higher truth which completes the Preacher’ s.

Of course the fragmentary sentence in our second text needs to be completed from the context, and so completed will stand, ‘God chastens us for our profit, that we should be partakers of His holiness.’ Now let us consider for a moment the thought that the true meaning of life is discipline. I say discipline rather than ‘chastening,’ for chastening simply implies the fact of pain, whereas discipline includes the wholesome purpose of pain. The true meaning of life is not to be found by estimating its sorrows or its joys, but by trying to estimate the effects of either upon us. The true value of life, and the meaning of all its tears and of all its joys, is what it makes us. If the enormous effort which struck the Preacher issues in strengthened muscles and braced limbs, it is not ‘vanity.’ He who carries away with him out of life a character moulded as God would have it, does not go in all points ‘naked as he came.’ He bears a developed self, and that is the greatest treasure that a man can carry out of multitudinous toils of the busiest life. If we would think less of our hard work and of our heavy sorrows, and more of the loving purpose which appoints them all, we should find life less difficult, less toilsome, less mysterious. That one thought taken to our hearts, and honestly applied to everything that befalls us, would untie many a riddle, would wipe away many a tear, would bring peace and patience into many a heart, and would make still brighter many a gladness. Without it our lives are a chaos; with it they would become an ordered world.

But the recognition of the hand that ministers the discipline is needed to complete the peacefulness of faith. It would be a dreary world if we could only think of some inscrutable or impersonal power that inflicted the discipline; but if in its sharpest pangs we give ‘reverence to the Father of spirits,’ we shall ‘live.’ Of course, a loving father sees to his children’s education, and a loving child cannot but believe that the father’s single purpose in all his discipline is his good. The good that is sought to be attained by the sharpest chastisement is better than the good that is given by weak indulgence. When the father’s hand wields the rod, and a loving child receives the strokes, they may sting, but they do not wound. The ‘fathers of our flesh chasten us after their own pleasure,’ and there may be error and arbitrariness in their action; and the child may sometimes nourish a right sense of injustice, but ‘the Father of spirits’ makes no mistakes, and never strikes too hard. ‘He for our profit’ carries with it the declaration that the deep heart of God doth not willingly afflict, and seeks in afflicting for nothing but His children’s good.

Nor are these all the truths by which the New Testament completes and supersedes the Preacher’s pessimism, for our text closes by unveiling the highest profit which discipline is meant to secure to us as being that we should be ‘partakers of His holiness.’ The Biblical conception of holiness in God is that of separation from and elevation above the creature. Man’s holiness is separation from the world and dedication to God. He is separated from the world by moral perfection yet more than by His other attributes, and men who have yielded themselves to Him will share in that characteristic. This assimilation to His nature is the highest ‘profit’ to which we can attain, and all the purpose of His chastening is to make us more completely like Himself. ‘The fathers of our flesh’ chasten with a view to the brief earthly life, but His chastening looks onwards beyond the days of ‘strife and vanity’ to a calm eternity.

Thus, then, the immortality which glimmered doubtfully in the end of his book before the eyes of the Preacher is the natural inference for the Christian thought of moral discipline as the great purpose of life. No doubt it might be possible for a man to believe in the supreme importance of character, and in all the discipline of life as subsidiary to its development, and yet not believe in another world, where all that was tendency, often thwarted, should be accomplished result, and the schooling ended the rod should be broken. But such a position will be very rare and very absurd. To recognise moral discipline as the greatest purpose of life, gives quite overwhelming probability to a future. Surely God does not take such pains with us in order to make no more of us than He makes of us in this world. Surely human life becomes ‘confusion worse confounded’ if it is carefully, sedulously, continuously tended, checked, inspired, developed by all the various experiences of sorrow and joy, and then, at death, broken short off, as a man might break a stick across his knee, and the fragments tossed aside and forgotten. If we can say, ‘He for our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness,’ we have the right to say ‘We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’



Hebrews 12:10FEW words of Scripture have been oftener than these laid as a healing balm on wounded hearts. They may be long unnoticed on the page, like a lighthouse in calm sunshine, but sooner or later the stormy night falls, and then the bright beam flashes out and is welcome. They go very deep into the meaning of life as discipline; they tell us how much better God’s discipline is than that of the most loving and wise of parents, and they give that superiority as a reason for our yielding more entire and cheerful obedience to Him than we do to such.

Now, to grasp the full meaning of these words, we have to notice that the earthly and the heavenly disciplines are described in four contrasted clauses. which are arranged in what students call inverted parallelism - that is to say, the first clause corresponds to the fourth and the second to the third. ‘For a few days’ pairs off with ‘that we might be partakers of His holiness.’ Now, at first sight that does not seem a contrast; but notice that the ‘for’ in the former clause is not the ‘for’ of duration, but of direction. It does not tell us the space during which the chastisement or discipline lasts, but the end towards which it is pointed. The earthly parent’s discipline trains a boy or girl for circumstances, pursuits, occupations, professions, all of which terminate with the brief span of life. God’s training is for an eternal day. It would be quite irrelevant to bring in here any reference to the length of time during which an earthly father’s discipline lasts, but it is in full consonance with the writer’s intention to dwell upon the limited scope of the one and the wide and eternal purpose of the other.

Then, as for the other contrast - ‘for their own pleasure,’ or, as the Revised Version reads it, ‘as Seemed good to them’ - ‘but He for our profit.’ Elements of personal peculiarity, whim, passion, limited and possibly erroneous conceptions of what is the right thing to do for the child, enter into the training of the wisest and most loving amongst us; and we often make a mistake and do harm when we think we are doing good. But God’s training is all from a simple and unerring regard to the benefit of His child. Thus the guiding principles of the two disciplines are contrasted in the two central clauses.

Now, these are very threadbare, commonplace, and old-fashioned thoughts; but, perhaps, they are so familiar that they have not their proper power over us; and I wish to try in this sermon, if I can, to get more into them, or to get them more into us, by one or two very plain remarks.

I. I would ask you to note, first, the grand, deep, general conception, here firmly laid hold of, of life as only intelligible when it is regarded as education or discipline.

God corrects, chastens, trains, educates. That is the deepest word about everything that befalls us. Now, there are involved in that two or three very obvious thoughts, which would make us all calmer and nobler and stronger, if they were vividly and vitally present to us day by day.

The first is that all which befalls us has a will behind it and is co-operant to an end. Life is not a heap of unconnected incidents, like a number of links flung down on the ground, but the links are a chain, and the chain has a staple. It is not a law without a law-giver that shapes men’s lives. It is not a blind, impersonal chance that presides over it. Why, these very meteors that astronomers expect in autumn to be flying and flashing through the sky in apparent wild disorder, all obey law. Our lives, in like manner, are embodied thoughts of God’s, in as far as the incidents which befall in them are concerned. We may mar, we may fight against, may contradict the presiding divine purpose; but yet, behind the wild dance of flashing and transitory lights that go careering all over the sky, there guides, not an impersonal Power, but a living, loving Will He, not it; He, not they, men, circumstances, what people call second causes - He corrects, and He does it for a great purpose.

Ah! if we believed that, and not merely said it from the teeth outwards, but if it were a living conviction with us, do you not think our lives would tower up into a nobleness, and settle themselves down into a tranquillity all strange to them to-day?

But, then, further, there is the other thought to be grasped, that all our days we are here in a state of pupilage. The world is God’s nursery. There are many mansions in the Father’s house; and this earth is where He keeps the little ones. That is the true meaning of everything that befalls us. It is education. Work would not be worth doing if it were not. Life is given to us to teach us how to live, to exercise our powers, to give us habits and facilities of working. We are like boys in a training ship that lies for most of the time in harbour, and now and then goes out upon some short and easy cruise; not for the sake of getting anywhere in particular, but for the sake of exercising the lads in seamanship. There is no meaning worthy of us - to say nothing of God - in anything that we do, unless it is looked upon as schooling. We all say we believe that. Alas! I am afraid very many of us forget it,

But that conception of the meaning of each event that befalls us carries with it the conception of the whole of this life, as being an education towards another. I do not understand how any man can bear to live here, and to do all his painful work, unless he thinks that by it he is getting ready for the life beyond; and that ‘nothing can bereave him of the force he made his own, being here.’ The rough ore is turned into steel by being

‘Plunged in baths of hissing tears, And heated hot with hopes and fears, And battered with the shocks of doom.’

And then - what then? Is an instrument, thus fashioned, and tempered and polished, destined to be broken and ‘thrown as rubbish to the void’? Certainly not. If this life is education, as is obvious’ upon its very face, then there is a place where we shall exercise the faculties that we have acquired here, and manifest in loftier forms the characters which here we have made our own.

Now, brethren, if we carry these thoughts with us habitually, what a difference it will make upon everything that befalls us! You hear men often maundering and murmuring about the mysteries of the pain and sorrow and suffering of this world, wondering if there is any loving Will behind it all. That perplexed questioning goes on the hypothesis that life is meant mainly for enjoyment or for material good. If we once apprehended in its all- applicable range this simple truth, that life is a discipline, we should have less difficulty in understanding what people call the mysteries of Providence. I do not say it would interpret everything, but it would interpret an immense deal. It would make us eager, as each event came, to find out its special mission and what it was meant to do for us. It would dignify trifles, and bring down the overwhelming magnitude of the so- called great events, and would make us lords of ourselves, and lords of circumstances, and ready to wring the last drop of possible advantage out of each thing that befell us. Life is a Father’s discipline.

II. Note the guiding principle of that discipline.

‘They... as seemed good to them.’ I have already said that, even in the most wise and unselfish training by an earthly parent, there will -mingle subjective elements, peculiarities of view and thought, and sometimes of passion and whim and other ingredients, which detract from the value of all such training. The guiding principle for each earthly parent, even at the best, can only be his conception of what is for the good of his child; and oftentimes that is not purely the guide by which the parent’s discipline is directed. So the text turns us away from all these incompletenesses, and tells us, ‘He for our profit’ - with no sidelong look to anything else, and with an entirely wise knowledge of what is best for us, so that the result will be always and only for our good. This is the point of view from which every Christian man ought to look upon all that befalls him.

What follows? This, plainly: there is no such thing as evil except the evil of sin. All that comes is good - of various sorts and various complexions, but all generically the same. The inundation comes up over the fields, and men are in despair. It goes down; and then, like the slime left from the Nile in flood, there is better soil for the fertilising of our land. Storms keep sea and air from stagnating. All that men earl evil in the material world has in it a soul of good.

That is an old, old commonplace; but, like the other one, of which I have been speaking, it is more often professed than realised, and we need to be brought back to the recognition of it more entirely than we ordinarily are. If it be that all my life is paternal discipline, and that God makes no mistakes, then I can embrace whatever comes to me, and be sure that in it I shall find that which will be for my good.

Ah, brethren, it is easy to say so when things go well; but, surely, when the night falls is the time for the stars to shine. That gracious word should shine upon some of us in to-day’s perplexities, and pains, and disappointments, and sorrows - ‘He for our profit.’

Now, that great thought does not in the least deny the fact that pain and sorrow, and so-called evil, are very real There is no false stoicism in Christianity. The mission of our troubles would not be effected unless they did trouble us. The good that we get from a sorrow would not be realised unless we did sorrow. ‘Weep for yourselves’ said the Master, ‘and for your children.’ It is right that we should writhe in palm It is right that we should yield to the impressions that are made upon us by calamities. But it is not right that we should be so affected as that we should fail to discern in them this gracious thought - ‘for our profit.’ God sends us many love-tokens, and amongst them are the great and the little annoyances and pains that beset our lives, and on each of them, if we would look, we should see written, in His own hand, this inscription: ‘For your good.’ Do not let us have our eyes so full of tears that we cannot see, or our hearts so full of regrets that we cannot accept, that sweet, strong message.

The guiding principle of all that befalls us is God’s unerring knowledge of what will do us good. That will not prevent, and is not meant to prevent, the arrow from wounding, but it does wipe the poison off the arrow, and diminish the pain, and should diminish the tears.

III. Lastly, here we see the great aim of all the discipline.

The earthly parent trains his son, or her daughter, for earthly occupations. These last a little while. God trains us for an eternal end: ‘that we should be partakers of His holiness.’ The one object which is congruous with a man’s nature, and is stamped on his whole being, as its only adequate end, is that he should be like God. Holiness is the Scriptural shorthand expression for all that in the divine nature which separates God from, and lifts Him above, the creature; and in that aspect of the word the gulf can never be lessened nor bridged between us and Him. But it also is the expression for the moral purity and perfection of that divine nature which separates Him from the creatures far more really than do the metaphysical attributes that belong to His infinitude and eternity; and in that aspect the great hope that is given to us is that we may rise nearer and nearer to that perfect whiteness of purity, and though we cannot share in His essential, changeless being, may ‘walk’ - as befits our limited and changeful natures - ‘in the light, as He’ - as befits His boundless and eternal being - ‘is in the light.’ That is the only end which it is worthy of a man, being what he is, to propose to himself as the issue of his earthly experience. If I fail in that, whatever else I have accomplished, I fail in everything. I may have made myself rich, cultured, learned; famous, refined, prosperous; but if I have not at least begun to be like God in purity, in will, in heart, then my whole career has missed the purpose for which I was made, and for which all the discipline of life has been lavished upon me. Fail there, and, wherever you succeed, you are a failure. Succeed there, and, wherever you fail, you are a success.

That great and only worthy end may be reached by the ministration of circumstances and the discipline through which God passes us. These are not the only ways by which He makes us partakers of His holiness, as we well know. There is the work of that Divine Spirit who is granted to every Believer to breathe into him the holy breath of an immortal and incorruptible life. To work along with these there is the influence that is brought to bear upon us by the circumstances in which we are placed and the duties which we have to perform. These may all help us to be nearer and liker to God.

That is the intention of our sorrows. They will wean us; they will refine us; and they will blow us to His breast, as a strong wind might sweep a man into some refuge from itself. I am sure that among my hearers there are some who can thankfully attest that they were brought nearer to God by some short, sharp sorrow than by many long days of prosperity. What Absalom, in his wayward, impulsive way, did with Joab is like what God sometimes does with His sons. Joab would not come to Absalom’s palace, so Absalom set his corn on fire; and then Joab came. So God sometimes burns our harvests that we may go to Him.

But the sorrow that is meant to bring us nearer to Him may be in vain. The same circumstances may produce opposite effects. I dare say there are people listening to me now who have been made hard, and sullen, and bitter, and paralysed for good work, because they have some heavy burden or some wound that life can never heal, to be carded or to ache. Ah, brethren! we are often like shipwrecked crews, of whom some are driven by the danger to their knees, and some are driven to the spirit-casks. Take care that you do not waste your sorrows; that you do not let the precious gifts of disappointment, pain, loss, loneliness, ill-health, or similar afflictions that come into your. daily life, mar you instead of mending you. See that they send you. nearer to God, and not that they drive you farther from Him. See that they make you more anxious to have the durable riches and righteousness which no man can take from you, than to grasp at what may yet remain, of fleeting: earthly joys.

So, brethren, let us try to school ourselves into the habitual and operative conviction that life is discipline. Let us yield ourselves to the loving will of the unerring Father, the perfect love. Let us beware of getting no good from what is charged to the brim with good. And let us see to it that out of the many fleeting circumstances of life we gather and keep the eternal fruit of being partakers of His holiness. May it never have to be said of any of us that we wasted the mercies which were judgments too, and found no good in the things, that our tortured hearts felt to be also evils, lest God, should have to wail over any of us, ‘In vain have I smitten your children; they have received no correction!’

12:1-11 The persevering obedience of faith in Christ, was the race set before the Hebrews, wherein they must either win the crown of glory, or have everlasting misery for their portion; and it is set before us. By the sin that does so easily beset us, understand that sin to which we are most prone, or to which we are most exposed, from habit, age, or circumstances. This is a most important exhortation; for while a man's darling sin, be it what it will, remains unsubdued, it will hinder him from running the Christian race, as it takes from him every motive for running, and gives power to every discouragement. When weary and faint in their minds, let them recollect that the holy Jesus suffered, to save them from eternal misery. By stedfastly looking to Jesus, their thoughts would strengthen holy affections, and keep under their carnal desires. Let us then frequently consider him. What are our little trials to his agonies, or even to our deserts? What are they to the sufferings of many others? There is a proneness in believers to grow weary, and to faint under trials and afflictions; this is from the imperfection of grace and the remains of corruption. Christians should not faint under their trials. Though their enemies and persecutors may be instruments to inflict sufferings, yet they are Divine chastisements; their heavenly Father has his hand in all, and his wise end to answer by all. They must not make light of afflictions, and be without feeling under them, for they are the hand and rod of God, and are his rebukes for sin. They must not despond and sink under trials, nor fret and repine, but bear up with faith and patience. God may let others alone in their sins, but he will correct sin in his own children. In this he acts as becomes a father. Our earthly parents sometimes may chasten us, to gratify their passion, rather than to reform our manners. But the Father of our souls never willingly grieves nor afflicts his children. It is always for our profit. Our whole life here is a state of childhood, and imperfect as to spiritual things; therefore we must submit to the discipline of such a state. When we come to a perfect state, we shall be fully reconciled to all God's chastisement of us now. God's correction is not condemnation; the chastening may be borne with patience, and greatly promote holiness. Let us then learn to consider the afflictions brought on us by the malice of men, as corrections sent by our wise and gracious Father, for our spiritual good.For they verily for a few days - That is, with reference to a few days (πρὸς pros}}; or it was a chastisement that had reference mainly to this short life. The apostle seems to bring in this circumstance to contrast the dealings of earthly parents with those of God. One of the circumstances is, that the corrections of earthly parents had a much less important object than those of God. They related to this life - a life so brief that it may be said to continue but a "few days." Yet, in order to secure the benefit to be derived for so short a period from fatherly correction, we submitted without complaining. Much more cheerfully ought we to submit to that discipline from the hand of our heavenly Father which is designed to extend its benefits through eternity. This seems to me to afford a better sense than that adopted by Prof. Stuart and others, that it means "during our childhood or minority;" or than that proposed by Doddridge, that it refers both to our earthly parents and to our heavenly Father.

After their own pleasure - Margin, "as seemed good, or meet to them." Meaning that it was sometimes done arbitrarily, or from caprice, or under the influence of passion. This is an additional reason why we should submit to God. We submitted to our earthly parents, though their correction was sometimes passionate, and was designed to gratify their own pleasure rather than to promote our good. There is much of this kind of punishment in families; but there is none of it under the administration of God.

But he for our profit - Never from passion, from caprice, from the love of power or superiority, but always for our good. The exact benefit which he designs to produce we may not be able always to understand, but we may be assured that no other cause influences him than a desire to promote our real welfare, and as he can never be mistaken in regard to the proper means to secure that, we may be assured that our trials are always adapted to that end.

That we might be partakers of his holiness - Become so holy that it may be said that we are partakers of the very holiness of God; compare 2 Peter 1:4. This is the elevated object at which God aims by our trials. It is not that he delights to produce pain; not that he envies us and would rob us of our little comforts; not that he needs what we prize to increase his own enjoyment, and therefore rudely takes it away; and not that he acts from caprice - now conferring a blessing and then withdrawing it without any reason: it is, that he may make us more pure and holy, and thus promote our own best interest. To be holy as God is holy; to be so holy that it may be said that we "are partakers of his holiness," is a richer blessing than health, and property, and friends, without it; and when by the exchange of the one we acquire the other, we have secured infinitely more than we have lost. To obtain the greater good we should be willing to part with the less; to secure the everlasting friendship and favour of God we should be willing, if necessary, to surrender the last farthing of our property; the last friend that is left us; the last feeble and fluttering pulsation of life in our veins.

10. Showing wherein the chastisement of our heavenly Father is preferable to that of earthly fathers.

for a few days—that is, with a view to our well-being in the few days of our earthly life: so the Greek.

after their own pleasure—Greek, "according to what seemed fit to themselves." Their rule of chastening is what may seem fit to their own often erring judgment, temper, or caprice. The two defects of human education are: (1) the prevalence in it of a view to the interests of our short earthly term of days; (2) the absence in parents of the unerring wisdom of our heavenly Father. "They err much at one time in severity, at another in indulgence [1Sa 3:13; Eph 6:4], and do not so much chasten as THINK they chasten" [Bengel].

that we might be partakers of his holiness—becoming holy as He is holy (Joh 15:2). To become holy like God is tantamount to being educated for passing eternity with God (Heb 12:14; 2Pe 1:4). So this "partaking of God's holiness" stands in contrast to the "few days" of this life, with a view to which earthly fathers generally educate their sons.

For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure: as God hath his prerogative in paternity, so he hath the transcendency in the end of chastening his children; for our natural parents, fathers of our bodies, nurtured us by the word and rod for a little time, the days of childhood and youth, as they would and thought good, as they apprehended their power over them, arbitrarily, passionately, without reaching what is best for them by it; their own thoughts, whether good or bad, were the rule of their chastening, and such as their thoughts are, such is their end; how imperfect and defective must that be!

But he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness; but God, the Father of our spirits, corrects us epi to sumferon, which strictly notes comportation, intimating, that in his chastening his children he brings in his help, puts as it were his shoulder to it, brings in his stock of grace, and so bears together with them unto their advantage and profit in spiritual life, and this during our whole lives. That which he bears home to them, and puts in them by his chastening, is his holiness; of which being made partakers, they thrive mightily as to their spiritual life, and increase in the Divine nature with all the increases of God, Ephesians 3:13,19 Col 2:19.

For they verily for a few days chastened us,.... Which respects not the minority of children, during which time they are under the correction of parents, and which is but a few days; nor the short life of parents; but rather the end which parents have in chastening their children, which is their temporal good, and which lasts but for a few days; which sense the opposition in the latter part of the text requires: and this they do

after their own pleasure: not to please and delight themselves in the pains and cries of their children, which would be brutish and inhuman; though corrections are too often given to gratify the passions; nor merely in an arbitrary way, and when they please; but the sense is, they correct as seems good unto them; in the best way and manner; to the best of their judgments, which are fallible:

but he for our profit; saints are no losers by afflictions; they lose nothing but their dross and tin; they do not lose the love of God; nor their interest in the covenant of grace; nor the presence of God; nor grace in their own hearts; nor spiritual peace and comfort: on the contrary, they are real gainers by them; their graces gain by them fresh lustre and glory; they obtain a greater degree of spiritual knowledge; and a larger stock of experience; and are hereby restored to their former state, duty, and zeal; and become more conformable to Christ; yea, their afflictions conduce to their future glory; many are the profits arising from them. The Alexandrian copy reads in the plural number, "profits": particularly God's end in chastening of his children is,

that we might be partakers of his holiness; not the essential holiness of God, which is incommunicable; but a communicative holiness of his, which it is his determining will his people should have: it comes from him, from whom every good and perfect gift does; it is in Christ for them, and is received out of his fulness; and is wrought in them by the Spirit; and it bears a resemblance to the divine nature: now men are naturally destitute of this holiness; they have it not by nature, but by participation; as God's gift; and they first partake of it in regeneration; and here an increase of it is designed, a gradual participation of it; and it may include perfect holiness in heaven: afflictions are designed as means to bring persons to this end; to bring them to a sense of sin, an acknowledgment of it, an aversion to it, and to a view of pardon of it; to purge it away; to wean the saints from this world; to increase their grace, and lead them on to a perfect state of glory, where there will be no more sin, and no more sorrow.

{7} For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

(7) An amplification of the same argument: Those fathers have corrected us after their fancy, for some frail and temporary good: but God chastens and instructs us for our singular good to make us partakers of his holiness: which although our senses do not presently perceive it, yet the end of the matter proves it.

Hebrews 12:10. Justification of the πολὺ μᾶλλον, Hebrews 12:9, by presenting in relief the diversity of character borne by the disciplinary correction of the earthly fathers from that of the heavenly Father. The emphasis falls upon κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς and upon ἐπὶ τὸ συμφέρον, while πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας is an unaccentuated addition, which belongs equally to both members of the sentence.[117] For if πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας belonged only to the first member, and served for the indication of a further particular of diversity, an antithetic addition corresponding to the same could not have been wanting in the second member. But to find such antithesis, with Bengel, Ebrard, Bisping, Delitzsch, Hofmann, and others, in εἰς τὸ μεταλαβεῖν κ.τ.λ., is inadmissible, since these words are only an epexegetical amplification of ἐπὶ τὸ συμφέρον. Πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας denotes, therefore, not the period of the earthly life, brief in comparison with eternity (Calvin, Estius, Justinian, Cornelius a Lapide, Schlichting, Limborch, Er. Schmid, Bengel, Tholuck, Ebrard, Bisping, Maier, Kluge, al.), in such wise that the thought would be expressed, that the earthly fathers aimed in connection with the παιδεύειν at a benefit or gain merely in regard to the earthly lifetime; God, on the other hand, at a gain for eternity,—by which at any rate a false opposition would arise, since the first half of the statement could not be at all conceded as a universally valid truth. Rather do the words affirm that the chastisement on the part of the natural fathers (and not less that on the part of the heavenly Father) continued only a few days, lasted only during a brief period. In a sense quite corresponding is πρός employed immediately after, Hebrews 12:11, as well as 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 7:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:17, and very frequently elsewhere.

κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς] according to their judgment, which was not always an erroneous one.

The imperfect ἐπαίδευον stands there for the same reason as the imperfects, Hebrews 12:9.

ὁ δέ] sc. πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας παιδεύει.

ἐπὶ τὸ συμφέρον] with a view to that which is salutary (our infallible welfare).

εἰς τὸ μεταλαβεῖν τῆς ἁγιότητος αὐτοῦ] in order that we may be made partakers of His holiness, may become ever more free from sin, and in moral purity ever more like God Himself.

[117] Riehm’s objection to this (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 762, Obs.), that in such case κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς must have been placed before πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας, is entirely without weight. Just the proposing of πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας was, if these words were to be referred to both members of the sentence, the most appropriate order; because κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς and ἐπὶ τὸ συμφέρον then as contrasts stood in so much the more immediate opposition to each other in the two halves of the sentence.

Hebrews 12:10. οἱ μὲν γὰρ.… The reasonableness of the appeal of Hebrews 12:9 is further illustrated by a comparison of the character and end in the earthly and heavenly fathers’ discipline respectively. The earthly fathers exercised discipline for a few days in accordance with what commended itself to their judgment as proper; a judgment which could not be infallible and must sometimes have hindered rather than helped true growth; but the heavenly Father uses discipline with a view to our profit that we may partake of his holiness. Two notes of imperfection characterise the discipline of the fathers of our flesh. (1) It is πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας, “for a few days,” i.e., during the brief period of youth. It must cease when manhood is attained, whether or not it has attained its end. (2) It is κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς, subject to misconception both of the end to be reached and the means by which it can be attained. In contrast to this second feature the discipline of the Father of our spirit is without fail ἐπὶ τὸ συμφέρον, “for our advantage,” which is defined in εἰς τὸ μεταλαβεῖν τῆς ἁγιότητος αὐτοῦ, “that we may partake of His holiness,” in which the contrast to the incomplete.

10. after their own pleasure] Rather, “as seemed good to them.” He is contrasting the brief authority of parents, and their liability to error, and even to caprice, with the pure love and eternal justice of God.

Hebrews 12:10. Πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας) for a few days, of which our life consists in the flesh. Those days are not only denoted, during which the discipline lasts, but those [viz. all the days of the present life] to which the fruit of discipline appertains. The εἰς corresponds to this πρὸς at the end of the verse: comp. ch. Hebrews 9:13-14. In like manner Paul joins these prepositions, Ephesians 4:12, where see note.—κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς, as they themselves thought fit) Such is indeed the case. Our fathers of the flesh commit great faults in respect of discipline, both in indulgence and in severity; nor do they so much chastise, as think that they chastise us. But the Father of our spirits altogether chastens us for our advantage: αὐτοῖς, to themselves, includes an antithesis to those who are chastened by the fathers of the flesh. So δοκοῦν and δοκεῖν, in the following verse, correspond.—εἰς τὸ μεταλαβεῖν τῆς ἁγιότητος αὐτοῦ, that we may become partakers of His holiness) ἁγιωσύνη, sanctimony: ἁγιασμὸς, sanctification: Hebrews 12:14; but ἁγιότης, sanctity or holiness.[74] The holiness of GOD: i.e. GOD, who is holy, whom men do not attain to unless they be sanctified; and they who attain to Him, shall obtain the enjoyment of the spiritual life for ever. [It is a religious obligation to pursue this Holiness with filial reverence; and yet we are not allowed to come near to it.—V. g.] An abstract appellation, as ἡ μεγαλωσὺνη, Majesty, Hebrews 1:3; ἡ δόξα αὐτοῦ, His glory, Jude, Hebrews 12:24; ἡ μεγαλοπρεπὴς δόξα, the excellent glory, 2 Peter 1:17. And this expression, ἵνα γένησθε θείας κοινωνοὶ φὺσεως, that you become partakers of the Divine nature, i.e. of GOD, 2 Peter 1:4, accords in a singular manner with the passage before us.

[74] See note, Romans 1:4, on this distinction.

Verse 10. - For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. The afortiori argument is thus continued. The discipline of our earthly fathers was "for a few days," i.e. during our childhood only, since which we have been left to ourselves; and even then not necessarily for our greatest advantage; it was only as seemed good to them (κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς); it might be injudicious, or even capricious. But our heavenly Father's discipline we may trust to be always good for us, and with a definite final purpose. Though there is here no distinctly expressed antithesis to the "few days" of ordinary parental chastisement, yet one is implied in the last clause; for if God's purpose in chastening us is to make us partakers of his own holiness, we may conclude that the discipline will be continued till the end be attained; and thus also a further reason is implied why Christians should not "faint" under even lifelong trials. Hebrews 12:10Much difficulty and confusion have attached to the interpretation of this verse, growing out of: (a) the relations of the several clauses; (b) the meaning of for a few days, and how much is covered by it. The difficulties have been aggravated by the determination of commentators to treat the verse by itself, confining the relation of its clauses within its own limits, attempting to throw them into pairs, in which attempt none of them have succeeded, and entirely overlooking relations to the preceding verse.

For a few days (πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας)

This clause is directly related to be in subjection to the father of spirits and live, and points a contrast. On the one hand, subjection to the Father of spirits, the source of all life, has an eternal significance. Subjection to his fatherly discipline means, not only the everlasting life of the future, but present life, eternal in quality, developed even while the discipline is in progress. Subjection to the Father of spirits and life go together. On the other hand, the discipline of the human father is brief in duration, and its significance is confined to the present life. In other words, the offset to for a few days is in Hebrews 12:9. To read for a few days into the two latter clauses of the verse which describes the heavenly discipline, and to say that both the chastening of the earthly and of the heavenly father are of brief duration, is to introduce abruptly into a sharp contrast between the two disciplines a point of resemblance. The dominant idea in πρὸς is not mere duration, but duration as related to significance: that is to say, "for a few days" means, during just that space of time in which the chastisement had force and meaning. See, for instances, Luke 8:13; John 5:35; 1 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 7:8. The few days can scarcely refer to the whole lifetime, since, even from the ancient point of view of the continuance of parental authority, parental discipline is not applied throughout the lifetime. It signifies rather the brief period of childhood and youth.

After their own pleasure (κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς)

Better, as seemed good to them. The αὐτοῖς has a slightly emphatic force, as contrasted with a higher intelligence. The thought links itself with παιδευτὰς in Hebrews 12:9, and is explained by as seemed good to them, and is placed in contrast with subjection to the Father of spirits. The human parents were shortsighted, fallible, sometimes moved by passion rather than by sound judgment, and, therefore, often mistaken in their disciplinary methods. What seemed good to them was not always best for us. No such possibility of error attaches to the Father of spirits.

But he for our profit (ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὸ συμφέρον)

The contrast is with what is implied in as seemed good to them. The human parent may not have dealt with us to our profit. Συμφέρειν means to bring together: to collect or contribute in order to help: hence, to help or be profitable. Often impersonally, συμφέρει it is expedient, as Matthew 5:29; Matthew 18:6; John 11:50. The neuter participle, as here, advantage, profit, 1 Corinthians 12:7; 2 Corinthians 12:1. There is a backward reference to live, Hebrews 12:9, the result of subjection to the Father of spirits; and this is expanded and defined in the final clause, namely:

That we might be partakers of his holiness (εἰς το μεταλαβεῖν τῆς ἁγιότητος αὐτοῦ)

Lit. unto the partaking of his holiness. Ἑις marks the final purpose of chastening. Holiness is life. Shall we not be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For, in contrast with the temporary, faultful chastening of the human parent, which, at best, prepares for work and success in time and in worldly things, his chastening results in holiness and eternal life.

Hebrews 12:10 Interlinear
Hebrews 12:10 Parallel Texts

Hebrews 12:10 NIV
Hebrews 12:10 NLT
Hebrews 12:10 ESV
Hebrews 12:10 NASB
Hebrews 12:10 KJV

Hebrews 12:10 Bible Apps
Hebrews 12:10 Parallel
Hebrews 12:10 Biblia Paralela
Hebrews 12:10 Chinese Bible
Hebrews 12:10 French Bible
Hebrews 12:10 German Bible

Bible Hub

Hebrews 12:9
Top of Page
Top of Page