What does Hebrews 12:9 mean?
ESV: Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
NIV: 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 spirits and live!
NASB: Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?
CSB: Furthermore, we had human fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live?
NLT: Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?
KJV: Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
NKJV: Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?
Verse Commentary:
In this passage, the writer of Hebrews has pointed out that even the great heroes of the faith experienced varying forms of hardship (Hebrews 11:35–38). Jesus Himself was persecuted (Hebrews 2:10; 12:3), despite being sinless (Hebrews 4:15). And yet, Jesus interpreted His experiences as God preparing future joys (Hebrews 12:2). This means that hardship and suffering are not necessarily punishments, or evidence of God's abandonment. On the contrary, loving parents take an active role in "training" their children (Hebrews 12:5–6). When God disciplines, correct, or challenges us, His purpose is to make us more like Him. That's an act of love. In the prior verse, the writer explored the opposite idea: what would it mean if we experienced no discipline at all? Wouldn't that suggest that we're not being treated as sons and daughters by God, implying that we're not really His?

Here, that same idea is explored further. In human parent-child relationships, we look back on parental discipline with respect. We recognize that fathers and mothers correct their children, train them, and challenge them, all for the purpose of guiding their growth. That discipline is rarely appreciated at the time, a point the writer will acknowledge in later verses (Hebrews 12:11). However, once we see the end purpose of that correction, we actually come to appreciate it! If it's possible for a child to respect the discipline of an earthly parent, we should be able to respect the discipline that comes from our Heavenly Father.
Verse Context:
Hebrews 12:3–17 builds from a description of heroes of the faith, culminating in Jesus Christ. Those who came before were loved by God and honored by God, and yet they suffered hardships in this world. In this passage, the writer makes it clear that suffering is often God's way of building us up and training us, not necessarily a sign of His displeasure. Christians who respond to trials by seeking God, in faith, can avoid the fate of less-faithful men, like Esau.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 11 explained the victories of some of the Old Testament's greatest heroes. It also explained their sufferings and persecution. This chapter uses those examples as a ''cloud of witnesses'' to prove that God does not abandon us when we suffer. In many cases, He uses those experiences to ''train'' us, as if we were athletes, to make us stronger. In other cases, it's the same kind of discipline that a child receives from a loving father. Unlike the old covenant, which rightly inspired fear and dread, the new covenant offers us peace. As with any other matter of truth or falsehood, we should cling to what's true, so that we can be part of ''a kingdom that cannot be shaken.''
Chapter Context:
Hebrews chapter 12 builds on the example of the heroes of the faith mentioned in chapter 11. The main point of this lesson is that these figures endured suffering and hardship, yet held to their faith in God, which allowed them to achieve victory. Chapter 12, in particular, points out that earthly hardship is not a sign of God's displeasure, or abandonment. Rather, it's part of living in a fallen, godless world. And, in many cases, it's a form of ''training'' the Lord uses to mold us into more powerful instruments. This, as with other passages in Hebrews, leads into another explanation of why we should take these ideas seriously, and sets up a few final practical lessons in chapter 13.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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