“for whom [the] Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)
In this chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Holy Spirit encourages the children of God to receive with joy the discipline of their Heavenly Father in order to grow in Grace, and He warns the false Christians who refuse the reproof and the discipline of God. The children of God understand this passage as an encouragement for them in their times of tribulation, knowing that all their days on earth are a walk in a desert where they always need the discipline of their Father in order to avoid falling in the traps of the enemy, while the children of the devil understand this passage as a heavy commandment to bear difficulties as we have no other choice than bearing the punishment and the judgment of God on our sins (which is a false opinion about God in relation with His children in Christ who are justified of all their sins). In brief, the false Christians who in fact are children of the devil see the discipline of God as a judgment or a punishment on their sins (condemnation) as they are still under the wrath of God and they experience that wrath every day, while the children of God see the discipline of God as a loving reproof from their beloved Father in order that they may not be condemned with the world as Paul explains: “But being judged, we are disciplined of [the] Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:32)
In the context of the Bible, discipline is almost a synonym of education or instruction, and it means the training that parents use to put an order and good principles in the lives of their children. To discipline their children, parents use many methods, like instructions and warnings with words and with practical examples, and in some very particular cases they may need to use extreme methods like punishments, as by grounding the child, or striking him not with any intention to kill him, but with the intention of making him live: “Folly is bound in the heart of a child; the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15); “Withhold not correction from the child; for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die: thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from Sheol.” (Proverbs 23:13-14) When a child needs correction, he should be corrected. Leaving him without correction is not love, but it is hatred (cf. Proverbs 13:24), because the child who is not corrected will continue in the bad way until he ruins himself and others. I know modern psychologists will get offended when they read these advices in the Book of Proverbs, but that’s not an issue for us, because God knows better than our psychologists. Let those psychologists observe the bad results of their theories, as children today have no respect for their parents anymore, and all the modern methods are not being able to correct them into the right path. God’s Wisdom is higher than human wisdom, and He knows why correction is needed for a child. A godly person will know how and when to use this extreme method with godliness and wisdom and compassion, not with ungodly anger and revengefully, aiming to save the child from his ruin and not aiming to hurt him. And the child who is disciplined in this godly way will grow up and respect his loving parents.
So discipline is not for the purpose of making a child “pay for it”. When a father disciplines his child, he does not aim to make the child pay the price of his error, but to make the child understand the seriousness of his error and turn from it. A father does not treat his child as he would treat an enemy: the enemy is punished for his offense (even sometimes killed), but a child is corrected so that he may not be like an enemy in his behavior and may not be treated later as an enemy would be treated. This is the way our Heavenly Father does: He disciplines His children so that they may not continue in any sinful way, but that they may continue to walk in the way of repentance in which they are by faith, while His wrath and punishment are on those who are His enemies. The purpose of His discipline is not to make His children repent that first repentance by which they turn from the world to God (as if they have not repented yet and as if they are still in the world), but He keeps their steps from going astray by making them continue in the way of righteousness, confessing their sins and turning from them by God’s Grace (which is daily walk in repentance). Those who are justified by faith in Christ will not be condemned with the world, because their names are written in the Book of life (cf. Revelation 20:15 and 21:27), but they are always kept in discipline by their loving Father so that they may grow in sanctification and that they may not go in the ways of the world and be lost and condemned with the world. God not only justifies and cleanses the ungodly by faith, but those whom He receives as children by faith He also accompanies them every day, making their steps firm and established in the way of righteousness so that they may grow in sanctification (cf. Psalm 37:23, 40:2, Psalm 119:133, Proverbs 4:11-12, etc.) The Lord Jesus described this discipline in John 15 as a pruning or purging (loving discipline on a daily basis — cf. John 15:2) and not as a cutting or a taking away (condemnation). Suffering comes and cuts or takes away the false Christians that are described as unfruitful branches in John 15, while those same sufferings are salvific for the true Christians that are described as the fruitful branches, in the sense that those sufferings are used by God to purge them in order to grow in sanctification, and we know that sanctification is included in Salvation (all those who are justified by God are predestined to become conformed to the image of Christ — cf. Romans 8:29). In the parable of the sower (cf. Matthew 13:20-21), we learn that sufferings (affliction or persecutions) will make the false Christians (those who fell on the rocky places) fall away, while John 15:2 explains that those same sufferings will make the true Christians (those that fell on the good soil — cf. Matthew 13:23) be more fruitful. The sufferings in this life make the unbelievers and the false Christians curse God and accuse God of being unloving and fall away from the Faith in which they posed to be, while the same sufferings are a part of the plan of God for His children, and they are given to them as a gift in order that they may grow in Grace just as it was given to them to believe: “because to you has been given, as regards Christ, not only the believing on him but the suffering for him also” (Philippians 1:29). A regenerated heart receives those sufferings by faith and grows through them in victory, while an unregenerated heart uses those sufferings as justifications for his hatred of God. Those who are born of God have victory through those sufferings, as Paul explains: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? According as it is written, For thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we have been reckoned as sheep for slaughter. But in all these things we more than conquer through him that has loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which [is] in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) Nor height, nor depth… nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ, but ALL will work together to make us more than victorious through Him who has loved us, i.e. to make us be conformed to the image of Christ as we have seen. All things work together for this good purpose of Christlikeness in those who love God, who are called according to His purpose: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) The discipline of God in our lives makes us be in obedience to God’s Will, and thus all things work together for good to us, while those who disobey God will have even the “good” things working against them, as they walk in the way of unrighteousness that leads to destruction. The unbelievers keep being under the wrath of God, but God keeps leading them to repentance with His kindness and patience (cf. Romans 2:4); they will not be treated as children and they will not have their part in our Father’s discipline before they repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
How long are true believers disciplined by God? “For all the day have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.” (Psalm 73:14) All the days of their lives. It is not only those who walk in a certain sin that are disciplined, but “[the] Lord… scourges every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6) God disciplines all His children, so if we are not disciplined and we continue in sin, then we are not truly His children: “But if ye are without chastening, of which all have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” (Hebrews 12:8) Those who are born of God do not live in sin (cf. 1 John 3:9), “for if ye live according to flesh, ye are about to die; but if, by the Spirit, ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13). Those who live according to the flesh, without God’s paternal discipline, are not children of God, and they will die. The children of God are disciplined by God so that they may not die in their sins, but endure to the end; perseverance is worked in us by God through the tribulations by which He disciplines us every day so that we may never continue in sin: “And not only [that], but we also boast in tribulations, knowing that tribulation works endurance; and endurance, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). None of us is perfect, so we all need the discipline of God so that we may grow in righteousness and we may not continue in sin and die: “For they [our fathers in flesh] indeed chastened for a few days, as seemed good to them; but he for profit, in order to the partaking of his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10) God’s continuous discipline for His children makes them able to fight sin until death or martyrdom, as they learn to hate sin more and more: “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, wrestling against sin. And ye have quite forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: My son, despise not [the] chastening of [the] Lord, nor faint [when] reproved by him” (Hebrews 12:4-5). And even if the children by adoption in Christ were sinless and perfect like the Lord Jesus (which is impossible for us as long as we live in this flesh), they would still need to suffer to learn obedience experimentally, being separate from the sin that is in the world, just as it happened with the Son by Nature: “though he were Son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered“ (Hebrews 5:8). All those who are Christ’s are not only given the gift to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him: “because to you has been given, as regards Christ, not only the believing on him but the suffering for him also” (Philippians 1:29). If we are truly the disciples of Jesus Christ, then what happened to Him will surely happen to us, as the Lord said: “Remember the word which I said unto you, The bondman is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my word, they will keep also yours.” (John 15:20) Yes, “all indeed who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) We should rejoice as we are disciplined by God every day through those sufferings, for “he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1). All sufferings in our lives are a part of the sanctifying work of God in us, and “through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) God is making us become conformed to the image of the Son through our tribulations and sufferings, so we should rejoice for that: “Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into various temptations, knowing that the proving of your faith works endurance. But let endurance have [its] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
So all those of us who are truly God’s children and who are walking in this wilderness until we reach our heavenly house by Christ’s Grace, let us keep in the depth of our hearts the sweet words of our Father:
“And thou shalt remember all the way which Jehovah thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or not. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with the manna, which thou hadst not known, and which thy fathers knew not; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by everything that goeth out of the mouth of Jehovah doth man live. Thy clothing grew not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years. And know in thy heart that, as a man chasteneth his son, so Jehovah thy God chasteneth thee“ (Deuteronomy 8:2-5).
Yes, oh how blessed we are that the Lord disciplines us. “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law” (Psalm 94:12).
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ