Hebrews 12:1-16 • God’s Work of Discipline


The Greek word for disciple came to be used in ancient Greece to describe the relationship between an apprentice learning a trade from his master. The expansion of this concept was taken to its pinnacle by Judaism in the time of Christ. In order to become a rabbi, a disciple left his home, moved in with his teacher, served him personally, and treated him as the absolute authority. The disciple was not only expected to learn everything the rabbi knew, but to become like him in character and attitude. In return, the rabbi provided food, lodging, and saw his teaching transmitted to future generations through the disciple. Think about this relationship as you study how God’s discipline is intended for our benefit.

Read verses 1-2

Q: What does the reference to “so great a cloud of witnesses” refer to?

A: All the examples illustrating faith in the previous chapter of Hebrews. They are not merely examples to us, but since they continue to actually live in the presence of God, their earthly example effectively becomes a testimony by which our own faith is measured. They are therefore “witnesses” to the quality of OUR faithfulness.

Q: What is significant about the author’s phrase “let us also lay aside”?

A: It’s encouraging us to put into practice the example of faithfulness of all these noted role models. A common behavior shared by all of them is that they made the choice to lay aside anything interfering with their ability to be faithful to God and God alone. They set aside earthly circumstances in favor of focusing on His will. So should we, in the same manner, choose to lay aside all distraction and sin.

Q: Is it enough to “run...the race”? Although we know we can do nothing apart from God, what is OUR responsibility in this relationship?

A: We must “run with endurance”. It takes effort and patience and persistence on our part—endurance. It’s more than just casual participation.

Q: How is it indicated here that God will help us to “run with endurance”?

A: “...fixing our eyes on Jesus...” To finish a race, one must focus on the end goal, in this case “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” who is the most involved in our successfully achieving this pursuit.

Q: How did Christ Himself provide to us an example of these very things?

A: He “endured the cross”. He saw beyond the temporary suffering to “the joy set before Him”. In other words, He was fixed on the goal rather than the temporary circumstances. “Despising the shame” means that He did not allow the temporal difficulties to overwhelm His faith that God would bring about all things for His good in the end.

Application: Do you seek “endurance” or “escape”? Have you considered what God is trying to accomplish through even the most difficult of circumstances, that there’s a greater purpose?

Read verse 3

Q: An Olympic race event as we envision it today does not have obstacles in the paths of the runners. Where are many of the obstacles that challenge us in this life?

A: Sinners, or those who would like us to fix our eyes on something other than Jesus. (A good example are the people that mocked Jesus on the cross trying to get Him to see that His current circumstances were in no way showing God’s work in His life — but how wrong they turned out to be!)

Q: How did Christ serve as an example to show how to deal with this?

A: He “endured such hostility”. Just as Christ saw past the current circumstances to “the joy set before Him” (v.2), so should we endure, fixed on the goal so that in the process of enduring these temporary, present circumstances we “will not grow weary and lose heart”.

Application: Have you considered that the world’s hostility towards us personally and our faith in general is to be overcome in Christ? That it CAN be overcome?

Read verses 4-8

Q: Within the context of the author’s example of an enduring a sporting event, what is the meaning of resisting “to the point of shedding blood”?

A: Athletes have been known to endure to the point of actually bleeding or shedding blood. The author is pointing out that the readers’ personal race has been far from that level of difficulty to this point, but that this is the kind of commitment it may take to strive “against sin” and be successful. That’s how important it is to “lay aside...the sin which so easily entangles us.” (v.1)

Q: What is the author’s point about the true source of discipline?

A: It is from God, acting as the Father that cares how His children live and behave.

Q: How does the author extend this teaching of discipline to show it’s an indicator of our standing in Christ?

A: Those not so disciplined are characterized as “illegitimate children and not sons”.

Point: You can SAY you’re “running” the race, but only those whose life and behavior is being changed by endurance of and obedience to God’s discipline are actually IN the race.

Application: At what point will you give up if endurance becomes too difficult? Are you committed to seeing it through, even “to the point of shedding blood”? Have you considered that a strong indicator of an improving walk in Christ is one whose behavior and faith is being refined and tested? How does this relate to you and others you know?

Read verses 9-11

Q: What does the author indicate to be the 3 ultimate purposes of God’s discipline in our life?

Q: So what’s another way of looking at discipline according to v.11? How is it further defined to show how it’s used by God?

A: Training. It’s a tool of God’s education process.

Application: If you were to fix your eyes on Christ, knowing that He is training you for eternal life, holiness, and righteousness, would you be able to better endure His discipline? Would you more willingly cast aside sin or any hindrance? How does this apply to you right now?

Read verses 12-16

Q: What are v.12-13 stating within the context of the teaching to this point?

A: It’s a call not to give in to the current circumstances as the world sees them — which has the effect of weakening us — but to get back on God’s course and become strengthened through our commitment to His working.

Q: What are the 3 areas we need to work on?

Overall Application