MUCH MORE SUBJECT OURSELVES TO THE FATHER OF SPIRITS (Hebrews 12:7-9)
Elsewhere the writer had pointed out that we have to do with God. Sometimes the writer speaks of the living God as the one into whose hands it is terrible to fall as a wicked and unbelieving man, (Heb. 10:31) and that our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:19). However, here in this section of Hebrews 12 the writer is speaking of God as He is our Father for Christ’s sake, and of the peculiar relationship in which He stands to us His children, His sons of adoption. He “deals with us as sons!” The heavenly Father bears Himself (prospheretai) towards, treats us as sons, and not as bastards. We are dealt with as real sons who will be brought to glory (Heb. 2:10).
The writer notices the attitude which we have to our natural fathers. We give them reverence. We gave them this reverence when they corrected us. We subjected ourselves under their correcting words and rod (Heb. 12:9). This was our habitual attitude toward our earthly fathers. These were not fathers of the “spirit”. They were not our creator and former in the lowest part of the earth. That is the exclusive prerogative of our heavenly Father. He is the author not merely of our spiritual being, but He is the author of all which have spirit: angels, devils, and men, whether good or evil. This is thus contrasted with the limited power of the earthly father. He is the infinite God, mighty in word and in deed, Who created the spirit of men in the beginning out of nothing. Thus Moses addresses God in Numbers 16:22, “. . . O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?” In Numbers 27:16 Moses prays that a man be placed over all the congregation after his death. Says he, “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation . . . that the congregation be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” Only the God of the spirits can choose such a man, and prepare him for the exalted task to be a shepherd in Israel. To this Father of spirits we are to subject ourselves; He can mold our very soul and spirit and the intents and thoughts of our heart. (Heb. 4:12) And there is not a spirit of any creature which is not manifest in His sight.
With this Father we have to do. And to him we are to subject ourselves. We are to submit to the chastisement of Jehovah God, our mighty and faithful Father, who never chastises us for his pleasure. God is no sadistic God. He does it for our profit, our spiritual benefit and growth. The fruit and result of such subjection to the Father of spirits is that “we live”, that is, that we consciously enjoy eternal life. Then we are blessed with inward happiness and peace in the midst of all the trials and temptations of life. That is the victorious life of hope. Such is our profit for which God sends His chastisements; it makes no difference in which form these come: persecution for Christ’s sake, and being evilly spoken of by all men for Christ’s sake.
It is a good rhetorical question: shall we not much more submit ourselves to the Father of spirits, and live?
Only thus will we really become “partakers of His holiness.” Our spiritual growth is very necessary. This does not mean merely some cultural development, a coming to an intellectual maturity. This is dealing with the man of God, who must be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. But the essence of this is that we be holy as God is holy. (I Peter 1:16) For this being holy as God is holy is directly connected with our calling God our Father, who without respect of persons judges every man according to his works. We must become partakers of the divine nature. We must be sons who are the perfect image-bearers of our heavenly Father. (II Peter 1:3, 4) The very holy mind and will of God must become our mind and will. We must learn to say from the heart; thy will be done. Then we are partakers of His holiness. And to arrive at that state and condition of life we need the corrections of the Father of spirits that we may live.
To achieve this holiness in us His sons, the Father of spirits makes us to be “exercised” in afflictions and chastisements. God makes us run the race in His gymnasium. He makes us spiritual athletes, who must contend for the faith with all forms of opposition and difficulties. And when we have been fully exercised (gegumnasmenois) then we finally have the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” This righteousness is the same as the “partaking of holiness.” It is practical righteousness, which is more abundant than the righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes. (Matt. 5:20) It is the righteousness in which the very jot and tittle of the law is fulfilled. It is the righteous demand of the law fulfilled in us. This righteousness, thus perfected in us, has a fruit: it is peaceable. Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall off end them. (Psalm 119:165) The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:18)
THE CALL TO VIGOROUS ACTION IN THE CHURCH (Hebrews 12:12, 13)
Discipline is necessary, painful and salutary for the sons of the Father of spirits! It is for their very life. In view of this, there is a certain battle-cry which is uttered in the text. It is a call to action. There must be no more “feeble hands” and “weak (paralytic) knees.” This is figurative language, borrowed from the Old Testament Scriptures. It is the prophet Isaiah who calls for courage and strength on the part of the church of his day. At that time it seemed that the power of Assyria would destroy Judah and that God’s promises would utterly fail. But God would perform His wonders; the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for the inhabitants of it, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as a rose. God will do great things in Christ. The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped by the wonder of God’s power. And, therefore, the hands of the weak shall be strengthened, and feeble knees shall be made to stand. And that is true also of the Hebrew Christians.
Now the church must not be despondent about the hardships connected with the calling in Christ who came to fulfill these promises concerning the blossoming of the desert. They must be active; their hands must be strong. They must rise to the need of the hour. And their knees must not be weak. They must take a stand and endure. And they must insist that the entire congregation stand strong in the faith. “Those that be turned out of the way” must refer to those who are in danger of slipping from the faith in Christ and returning to the Old Testament types and shadows. That would not be faith which believes to the saving of the soul, but would be a falling back unto perdition. (Heb. 10:39) And such must not be the case. Therefore the hands of the congregation and its leaders must not be slack. They must have good “oversight” over each other; the leaders in the church, too, must have careful inspection of the flock and of their faith in Christ.
If there be those, who are turned out of the way, they must be “healed”. This healing is really that they come under and remain under the power of the Gospel, the healing of Christ. He is the tree of life which has leaves for the healing of the nations. (Rev. 22:2) This is the healing which Christ portrayed in his miracles of healing; they proved that he had power to forgive sins. (Mark 2:5-10) The latter was the real healing from the power of guilt and sin. And this is the healing which we need. And that is what the writer is referring to. The saints must not stumble into destruction, but must be healed and set in the right course of the Gospel in Christ.
This calls for action, for strong hands, and also for knees which are not wobbly. Then the church shall prosper and be in good health. (II John 2) For the law of commandments has no healing ordinance. The law perfected nothing, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw nigh to God. That is healing. Such is the power of grace in Christ Jesus our Lord.
THE NECESSITY OF PURSUING PEACE AND SANCTIFICATION (Hebrews 12:14-17)
Shall the church really have strong hands and knees, prepared for sustained action and battle against unbelief, then she must pursue “peace.” The text speaks of “peace with all.” The “all” here contextually seems to refer to all the congregation, the saints in the Lord. Not one must be overlooked or neglected in the pursuit of peace. Basically, this peace which must be pursued is nothing less than the profound peace of the Cross, which Christ calls “my peace.” (John 14:27-31) It is a peace which is always rooted in, and is the fruit of atonement. It refers to the new relationship of the redeemed to God, His person, His counsel, His commandments, His providential dealings. The Bible says that Christ is our peace. (Eph. 2:14; Gal. 3:28; Col. 1:20, 22) And this is the peace which Christ came to preach to those who are far and those who are near. (Eph. 2:17) When. we seek peace with all, we do all which is in our power to walk in this finished work of Christ from thankfulness of a living faith. This is no superficial and very wicked humanistic trying to get along with one’s neighbor, but it is the profound reality of “keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3) This means basically that we keep each other in the law of Christ, faith which works by love. (Gal. 5:6) Basically, pursuing peace with all is to have the peace together which is ours by justification by faith. The book of Hebrews does not speak of justification; however, it is implied in this peace, being basic to it. And in this profound “peace” we are to strive for the unity of the Spirit.
Besides, the church is to pursue “sanctification.” This sanctification is not to be limited to the subjective putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new man, but refers to the basic sanctification of which the book of Hebrews repeatedly speaks. In Hebrews 9:13 we read of a sanctifying of the flesh by the blood of an heifer, which is but a faint picture of the blood of Christ as it purges the conscience from the dead works of the outward observances to the worship of the living God. For we are sanctified by the “will” of God through the offering of Jesus Christ once and for all at the end of the ages. (Heb. 10:10) The sanctification which we are to seek is the real putting away of all sin in the power of the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ. It also means that we are more and more conformed to the image of God, from glory unto glory. Our entire life must be consecrated on the altar of Christ.
And this we must pursue as in the hunt. It is an asking, knocking, seeking in prayerful, supplication for this grace. Only thus do we run the race and become partaker of God’s holiness.