Hebrews 12:3-11 by Pastor Dan Walker
Hebrews 12 describes how God the Father disciplines His children. From this passage, we learn the basic principles of disciplining our children to walk in God's ways.
Duration:28 mins 56 secs

Today, we’re continuing in our message series called Biblical Parenting. We’re looking at God’s Word to learn how to raise our children for the Lord. And if your children are already raised with children of their own, God wants to use grandmothers and grandfathers to help their children wisely parent their grandchildren. In fact, these principles will help you counsel any parent. However, they really work by far the best with parents who are believers.

Today, my message is entitled “Disciplining Children.” Now, as we get started with this topic, let’s review what the goal of biblical parenting is.

Matthew 28:19-20a (ESV)  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

The goal of biblical parenting is to make your children disciples of Jesus. Following belief in Jesus and baptism, discipling is done by teaching children to obey God’s Word. Teaching obedience to God and His Word begins with teaching obedience to God’s authority in a child’s life, their parents.

Colossians 3:20 (ESV)  Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Teaching obedience in children has two main aspects. The first aspect is to teach the children what God’s Word says and to set the boundaries of obedience. Last Sunday, we talking about setting boundaries with the illustration of parenting within the funnel. You can listen to last week’s message on our website. Obedience to the boundaries of God’s Word must then be enforced with godly discipline.

Proverbs 13:24 (ESV)  Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Parental discipline is given in love with the purpose of training or discipling the child in God’s ways. This verse in Proverbs says that if you do not discipline your child, you hate him. True parental love is diligent in discipling your children. Obviously the methods of discipline will vary both by the age of the child and by the type of disobedience.

In the pre-teen years, the goal of discipline is to teach obedience by controlling behavior and attitudes. In the teens years, the goal of discipline is to teach honoring of parental authority. We’ll talk more about this and we go on in this message. 

This morning we are going to focus on a passage in Hebrews 12. The main application of this passage is to learn how God, the Father, disciplines us as His children. However, clearly, the parenting principles that God uses are the same principles that we should use as human parents with our children.

God, the Father is our example

The passage begins by having us look at the relationship of God, the Father with Jesus, His Son.

Hebrews 12:3 (ESV)  Consider him [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Jesus, God’s son, endured suffering from sinners, which this passage recognizes as God, the Father’s training.

Hebrews 5:8 (ESV) Although he [Jesus] was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

Of course, Jesus did nothing wrong, yet he willingly accepted suffering in obedience to His Father to carry out His mission. The rest of this passage carries on the theme of God, the Father disciplining believers, as His children. We are going to use these Scriptures to learn how to discipline our children in the same way.

Parents must discipline their children

Hebrews 12:5 (ESV)  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

Fifty years ago, it was common knowledge that children must be disciplined. Today, not so much. There is increasing teaching that parents must simply encourage and affirm whatever a child wants to do. God disciplines and reproves his children. We have an obligation, as do our children, to not disregard His discipline or to try to distance ourselves from Him to avoid it. Parental discipline is not easy, either for the parent or the child, but it is an expression of a parent’s love for their child.

Discipline reflects a parent’s love

Hebrews 12:6 (ESV)  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

We must remember that discipline is not merely punishment for wrongs committed. Discipline is training, it is discipling in God’s ways to ultimate train the heart of a child. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that the Lord disciplines His children because He loves them. In fact, every child of God will be chastised by their Father, to help them grow and mature.

What is discipline? Discipline or chastisement is a painful experience that teaches the child to avoid doing what they had done wrong in the future. The goal of God’s discipline and parental discipline is to see the heart of the child changed by God.


Let’s think about the practical application of discipline, that works at any age. First of all, you show your child his disobedience from God’s Word. They must understand that they have disobeyed not only their parents, but God as well. Secondly, give the child an opportunity to repent and ask for forgiveness, both from you and God. Thirdly, administer the discipline. We’ll talk more about the specifics shortly. Finally, assure the child that you love them and are disciplining them in obedience to God’s Word with their good in mind. So, discipline always should involve a good amount of teaching and should always be done in love.

Discipline trains children

Hebrews 12:7 (ESV)  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Clearly, this verse teaches that discipline is God’s way of training his children and is the way that every godly parent should train their children as well. Discipline is what causes a child to mature and become a fully committed disciple of Jesus. Discipline administered by godly parents with prayer can change a child’s heart, causing them to be obedient, both to their parents and to God.

Poor parenting lacks discipline

Hebrews 12:8 (ESV)  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.   

Parents don’t normally discipline children that are not their own. A child without discipline lacks a godly parent and will suffer for it. Why do some parents not discipline their children? Some parents were not disciplined as children and so follow their own parent’s lack of discipline example. Other parents may have experienced ungodly parenting, with punishment done in anger or even abusively. So they want to distance themselves from all discipline. Yet others, cannot bear the thought of bringing any pain into their children’s lives and think it best to fulfill every wish and desire of their children. The bottom line, according to God’s Word is that parenting without discipline will lead to disaster for the children. Parenting without discipline does not show love for their children, even though it may seem easier.

Children respect parents who discipline

Hebrews 12:9 (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?  

When parental discipline is administered according to godly principles, the children will respect the parents. On the other hand, undisciplined children will not respect their parents. The lack of boundaries in their lives will lead to all kinds of problems. Children will respect parents who discipline according to God’s Word, with a view to training their children as followers of Jesus.


When does discipline begin? It begins when a child can understand an instruction and choose whether to obey or disobey. By the time a child is around 18 months, they will often begin to exhibit willful defiance. A firm No and perhaps a quick swat to their behind is appropriate discipline. As the child grows, that form of discipline will become ineffective. The Bible speaks many times of disciplining a child with a rod, which is not just a figure of speech. A light flexible dowel rod will cause a painful sting without causing any harm.

Today’s concept that all forms of spanking are child abuse is not biblical and not true. Physical discipline should be reserved for overt rebellion and disobedience. Other forms of discipline include withholding of various privileges. Positive discipline involves rewarding right behavior should not be ignored.

Last week, we spoke of the illustration of parenting within a funnel. The early parts of the pre-teen years will involve the most physical discipline. As the child grows into the later pre-teen years, the amount of physical discipline should greatly decrease.

Discipline’s purpose is the child’s good

Hebrews 12:10 (ESV)  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

Earthly parents discipline their children as it seems best to them. Not all discipline according to the principles of God’s Word. Some discipline for their own benefit, rather than the child’s good. God, on the other hand, disciplines His children for their own good, so that they will become like Him. As parents, we are to discipline our children for their good, that they might become more like Jesus. If we, as parents are following Jesus, then our discipline is most effective as we train our children to follow us as we follow Jesus. Even though the purpose of discipline is for the child’s good …

Discipline is painful

Hebrews 12:11a (ESV)  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant …

For those who think any discipline that is painful is wrong, this verse teaches that both God’s discipline and godly parental discipline is painful for the moment. Of course, that’s why discipline is required. The pain of discipline causes the child to reconsider his actions, the next time he has the choice. Pain-free discipline will not accomplish God’s purpose in the child’s life.

Discipline trains children for success

Hebrews 12:11b (ESV)  … but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

The result of painful discipline is growing the fruit of righteous behavior in the child’s actions and heart. The pain of discipline trains children to walk in God’s ways. Of course, a godly parent will also praise and encourage their children when they walk in righteousness and obedience. The combination of painful discipline with positive encouragement follows the way that God, our heavenly Father deals with His children.


Discipline in the teens years is different than pre-teen discipline. I believe that physical punishment is no longer effective by the time a child is a teenager. In the teen years, discipline moves from the forced obedience of the pre-teen years to more and more teaching from God’s Word. When something is done that is wrong and needs correction, the parent appeals to God’s Word in order for the teen to recognize and repent of their sinful behavior.

The issue in the teens years is not just obedience to parents, but honoring parents. Although physical punishment is not advisable in the teen years, discipline regarding loss of privileges, extra work or even financial cost are effective. Generally, the discipline should relate to the area that is being taught. For example, irresponsible driving behavior would be disciplined by loss of driving privileges. An accident that results in increased insurance premiums would be disciplined by having to pay for the increased insurance premiums. In the teen years, it is important to allow the teen to experience the consequences of poor or sinful decisions, in order to learn to be careful to not repeat their mistakes. The purpose of discipline is for the teen’s good.


Today, we’ve looked at the topic of discipling children. God the Father gives us the best example of godly parenting in how He disciplines His children. We learn that discipline reflects a parent’s love for his children. The purpose of discipline is not merely punishing bad behavior, but to train our children in righteousness. Training in righteousness is both eliminating bad behavior and encouraging good behavior. As behavior comes from the heart, in essence, godly discipline is the training of a child’s heart. Good discipline for sinful behavior must be painful, but the end result is for the child’s good. Godly discipline trains a child for success in life as they follow God’s plan and purpose.