In Hebrews 12:6-11 we read: “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness, unto them which are exercised thereby.”
God’s chastening may not seem to be a very attractive addition to this list of profitable things, but we may be certain it is a very necessary thing, or it would never have been mentioned in the Bible as one of the evidences of spiritual legitimacy, and one of the means by which the believer may become a partaker of God’s holiness.
By “chastening” is meant instruction, discipline and child training. The word is PAIDEIA, translated “nurture” in Ephesians 6:4; “chastisement” in Hebrews 12:5, 7, 8; and “instruction” in 2 Timothy 3:16. It refers to the sum total of all those things which God allows to come into the lives of His children, and by means if which their spiritual training and development is made possible. Chastening is thus the process by which the teaching of the teacher becomes the learning of the learner. It does not refer exclusively to corrective punishment, though this is included; but to the whole process of child training, including such things as teaching politeness, obedience, kindness, consideration for others, mercy, generosity, honesty, industry, as well as secular and spiritual instruction at school and in the home.
The word “discipline” is derived from the word “disciple,” which means a learner or a follower. Hence those chosen by the Lord to follow Him were called “disciples.” In the Christian sense of the term, a disciple is a person who has come under the tuition, or discipline of the One who said: “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29). Thus the whole of the Christian’s life on earth from its commencement to its conclusion becomes a course of discipline or training.
C. H. Morrison, in “The Ministry of Interruption” has an excellent comment on God’s discipline: “With every separate and individual soul God has his separate and individual dealings. There are touches in the discipline of every man to which nowhere is there any replica. Just as each face is different from all others, and every fingerprint has its own impress; so there is something peculiar and distinctive in the divine handling of every soul — some mark of grace, so personal and private, some chastisement so exquisitely fitting, that in no other life is it repeated.”
Many Christians wrongly imagine that every accident, sickness or loss from which a believer suffers is a punishment from the Lord because of some wrong on his part, but this is not so. If it were so, then every Christian who dies as a result of his last illness dies under the displeasure of God, and the death rate of each Christian, for quite a long time, has been one per person! Job’s” friends” labored under this misapprehension, and were rebuked by the Lord for their folly (Job 42:7, 8). The Christian lives in a body which is subject to disease and decay, and God gives no guarantee of immunity from the ills to which flesh is heir, but promises that He will work “all things together for their good” (Rom. 8:28). Thus the believer can sing:
“Ill that is blest is good,
And unblest good is ill;
And all is right
That seems most wrong,
If it be God’s good will.”
Having defined what is meant by chastening or discipline, let us consider three things: first, the necessity for discipline; second, the purpose of discipline; third, the results of discipline.