The Mystery of Chastening
The word used for chastening, and words akin to it in the Scriptures, comes from a Greek word, paideuo. There are different translations of this word in the English Bible, an examination of which helps us to appreciate the meaning of the word and the true significance of Divine chastening.
In 2 Timothy 3:16, we read that the Scriptures have been given us of God, and that they are profitable for instruction in righteousness. Here our word is rendered into the English by the thought, instruction. When the Lord Jesus stood before Pilate, he, Pilate, sought to appease the Jews by offering to chastise Jesus (Luke 23:22), to chastise Him by scourging. Chastisement may be a painful experience. Another derivation from the Greek word is schoolmaster (Gal. 3:24). If we group these three references together we learn that chastening which may cause us suffering, becomes the Divine Schoolmaster instructing us in the paths of righteousness. Most of us know what Laban meant when he said, “I have learned by experience,” (Genesis 30:27).
It is interesting to know that the modern words, pediatrician and pedagogue, are closely allied with the Greek word we are studying, paideuo. We are familiar with these English words and with what they mean. The Pediatrician is the child specialist; he cares for the body of the child. In the Pedagogue we see one who trains the mind of the child. Conjoining the functions of both we learn what chastening really is; it is child-training. Our heavenly Father is the Divine Pediatrician; He is the Divine Pedagogue.
Chastening may be viewed under a fourfold nature or character: 1) Punitive; 2) Preventative; 3) Provocative; 4) Extreme.
PUNITIVE CHASTENING is that which a saint must experience when a course of determined evil is followed; it is sent by God upon the believer that he might learn the error of his ways. King David experienced many sad days, and in his Psalms he teaches us clearly that he knew the Divine hand in punishment. In Psalm 39 he writes, “Remove Thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of Thy hand. When Thou with rebukes dose correct man for iniquity, Thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth,” (vv. 10-11).
PREVENTATIVE CHASTENING coming upon the believer frequently has withheld him from a step, which, if taken, would have plunged him into a path of disobedience, and would have resulted in the forfeiture of fellowship with God. In this same Psalm we read, “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle,… while the wicked is before me,” (v. 1).
Paul’s thorn in the flesh was preventative chastening. He wrote, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure,” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
PROVOCATIVE CHASTENING must be seen in sharp contrast with punitive chastening. In the latter one feels the Divine hand because of definite failure. In provocative chastening God draws one closer to Himself; the heart is made tender, and in the days that follow spiritual fruit is seen, the product of the Divine provocation. This shall be considered later in our paper, but one reference may be made even now. “Every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit,” (John 15:2).
EXTREME CHASTENING is intensely solemn. Quoting again from the parable of the Vine, the Lord spoke a searching word: “Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away,” (v. 2). It is the “sin unto death” of which the apostle John wrote, and which was the bitter experience of the church in Corinth. Paul had to teach the Corinthians that because of the unjudged sin in their midst some had fallen asleep.”
Writing of himself as a servant of the Lord, did Paul fear this, when he penned the words, “But I keep my body under, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others I myself should be a castaway,” (1 Corinthians 9:27) ?
A saint may so blemish the testimony of the assembly of God, and the name of Christ, that he must needs prematurely be taken from earth to heaven. The Lord said: “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it?” (Mark 9:43). Again: “If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men,” (Matthew 5:13).
In the Lord’s letter to Ephesus (Revelation 2), after commending her, He censures her, and follows this with the warning: “Repent, and do the firstworks; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent,” (v. 5). Church history reveals the sad story of Ephesus’ declension.
Today, what once was the city of Ephesus, known as “Light of the world,” is known as Ayasalook. A traveller describes it, “A ruined archway, a Moslem dwelling, and a forbidding castle amid desolate hills. It is now wrapped in the gross darkness of the deadly folds of Mohammedanism.”
As one dwells on this solemn phase of our subject the words of God to Israel are cogent: “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to Walk humbly with thy God. The Lord’s voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it,” (Micah 6:8-9).