“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?” (Hebrews 12:9).
This common-sense observation from Hebrew 12:9 is hardly new. In fact, the importance of loving discipline in the life of a child is a topic that stretches back to the Old Testament book of Proverbs…
“Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24 NLT).
“Discipline your children while they are young enough to learn. If you don’t, you are helping them destroy themselves” (Proverbs 19:18 GNT).
“To discipline a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child” (Proverbs 29:15 NLT).
“If you correct your children, they will bring you peace and happiness” (Proverbs 29:17 CEV).
So if God’s Word promotes loving parental discipline in the life of a child, it should not surprise us when God adopts this approach in the lives of His people as well. For instance, an undisciplined child often reflects poorly upon his or her parents. Just as we respect a parent who properly administers loving discipline in the life of a son or daughter, so we should also respect the God who does so in the lives of His children.
That leads us to this reference to “…the Father of spirits” from this passage. This phrase appears here in Hebrews 12:9 but nowhere else within the New Testament Scriptures. As mentioned previously, the word “spirit” finds its origin in the word “pneuma” in the original language of this passage. A remnant of this word exists today in regard to a pneumatic tire, air tool, or gas. In a larger sense, this word is used to express the idea of a breeze, a gust of wind, an air current, or the act of breathing.
Much like the movement of air through various places, the spirit is also invisible and immaterial. Therefore, the word “spirit” is used to represent the intangible part of every human being that continues following the death of his or her physical body. Once that physical separation takes place, the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “…your spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7-8 NCV).
This passage thus serves to contrast our biological parents (who have disciplined and corrected us on a limited basis), with our heavenly father who always disciplines us with our best interests in mind. The following verse will explore that aspect of God’s discipline in greater detail.