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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Hebrews 12:4-8

Commentary On Hebrews by Jean Calvin

Hebrews 12:4-8

4. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

4. Nondum ad sanguinem restitistis adversus peccatum certando.

5. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

5. Et obliti estic exhortationis quae vobis tanquam filiis loquitur, Fili mi, ne disciplinam Domini negligas, et ne deficias dum ab eo argueris:

6. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

6. Quem enim diligit Dominus castigat, flegallat omnem filium quem suscipit.

7. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

7. Si disciplinam sustinetis, Deus tanquam filiis offeertur: quis enim est filius quem pater non castiget?

8. But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

8. Quod si disciplinae expertes estis, cujus participes sunt omnes, spurii igitur estis, non filii.

4. Ye have not yet, resisted unto blood, etc. He proceeds farther, for he reminds us, that even when the ungodly persecute us for Christ's sake, we are then contending against sin. Into this contest Christ could not enter, for he was pure and free from all sin; in this respect, however, we are unlike him, for sin always dwells in us, and afflictions serve to subdue and put it to flight.

In the first place we know that all the evils which are in the world, and especially death, proceed from sin; but this is not what the Apostle treats of; he only teaches us, that the persecutions which we endure for the Gospel's sake, are on another account useful to us, even because they are remedies to destroy sin; for in this way God keeps us under the yoke of his discipline, lest our flesh should become wanton; he sometimes also thus checks the impetuous, and sometimes punishes our sins, that we may in future be more cautious. Whether then he applies remedies to our sins, or anticipates us before we sin, he thus exercises us in the conflict with sin, referred to by the Apostle. With this honor indeed the Son of God favors us, that he by no means regards what we suffer for his Gospel as a punishment for sin. It behooves us still to acknowledge what we hear from the Apostle in this place, that we so plead and defend the cause of Christ against the ungodly, that at the same time we are carrying on war with sin, our intestine enemy. Thus God's grace towards us is twofold -- the remedies he applies to heal our vices, he employs for the purpose of defending his gospel.

But let us bear in mind whom he is here addressing, even those who had joyfully suffered the loss of their goods and had endured many reproaches; and yet he charges them with sloth, because they were fainting half way in the contest, and were not going on strenuously to the end. There is therefore no reason for us to ask a discharge from the Lord, whatever service we may have performed; for Christ will have no discharged soldiers, but those who have conquered death itself.

5. And ye have forgotten, etc. I read the words as a question; for he asks, whether they had forgotten, intimating that it was not yet time to forget. But he enters here on the doctrine, that it is useful and needful for us to be disciplined by the cross; and he refers to the testimony of Solomon, which includes two parts; the first is, that we are not to reject the Lord's correction; and in the second the reason is given, because the Lord loves those whom he chastises. But as Solomon thus begins, my |Son|, the Apostle reminds us that we ought to be allured by so sweet and kind a word, as that this exhortation should wholly penetrate into our hearts.

Now Solomon's argument is this: -- If the scourges of God testify his love towards us, it is a shame that they should be regarded with dislike or hatred. For they who bear not to be chastised by God for their own salvation, yea, who reject a proof of his paternal kindness, must be extremely ungrateful.

6. For whom the Lord loveth, etc. This seems not to be a wellfounded reason; for God visits the elect as well as the reprobate indiscriminately, and his scourges manifest his wrath oftener than his love; and so the Scripture speaks, and experience confirms. But yet it is no wonder that when the godly are addressed, the effect of chastisements which they feel, is alone referred to. For however severe and angry a judge God may show himself towards the reprobate, whenever he punishes them; yet he has no other end in view as to the elect, but to promote their salvation; it is a demonstration of his paternal love. Besides, the reprobate, as they know not that they are governed by God's hand, for the most part think that afflictions come by chance. As when a perverse youth, leaving his father's house, wanders far away and becomes exhausted with hunger, cold, and other evils, he indeed suffers a just punishment for his folly, and learns by his sufferings the benefit of being obedient and submissive to his father, but yet he does not acknowledge this as a paternal chastisement; so is the case with the ungodly, who having in a manner removed themselves from God and his family, do not understand that God's hand reaches to them.

Let us then remember that the taste of God's love towards us cannot be had by us under chastisements, except we be fully persuaded that they are fatherly scourges by which he chastises us for our sins. No such thing can occur to the minds of the reprobate, for they are like fugitives. It may also be added, that judgment must begin at God's house; though, then, he may strike aliens and domestics alike, he yet so puts forth his hand as to the latter as to show that they are the objects of his peculiar care. But the previous one is the true solution, even that every one who knows and is persuaded that he is chastised by God, must immediately be led to this thought, that he is chastised because he is loved by God. For when the faithful see that God interposes in their punishment, they perceive a sure pledge of his love, for unless he loved them he would not be solicitous about their salvation. Hence the Apostle concludes that God is offered as a Father to all who endure correction. For they who kick like restive horses, or obstinately resist, do not belong to this class of men. In a word, then, he teaches us that God's corrections are then only paternal, when we obediently submit to him.

7. For what son is he, etc. He reasons from the common practice of men, that it is by no means right or meet that God's children should be exempt from the discipline of the cross; for if no one is to be found among us, at least no prudent man and of a sound judgment, who does not correct his children -- for without discipline they cannot be led to a right conduct -- how much less will God neglect so necessary a remedy, who is the best and the wisest Father?

If any one raises an objection, and says that corrections of this kind cease among men as soon as children arrive at manhood: to this I answer, that as long as we live we are with regard to God no more than children, and that this is the reason why the rod should ever be applied to our backs. Hence the Apostle justly infers, that all who seek exemption from the cross do as it were withdraw themselves from the number of his children.

It hence follows that the benefit of adoption is not valued by us as it ought to be, and that the grace of God is wholly rejected when we seek to withdraw ourselves from his scourges; and this is what all they do who bear not their afflictions with patience. But why does he call those who refuse correction bastards rather than aliens? Even because he was addressing those who were members of the Church, and were on this account the children of God. He therefore intimates that the profession of Christ would be false and deceitful if they withdrew themselves from the discipline of the Father, and that they would thus become bastards, and be no more children.

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