Chastisement

Chastisement and scourging—here to be distinguished from the larger theme of suffering—because the Father's correction of His own offspring (Heb. 12:6) are in character far removed from condemnation. It is written that "there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1) and "he that believeth on him is not condemned" (John 3:18), and of such as believe it is also said that he "cometh not into judgment" (John 5:24, R.V.). One who stands in the imputed merit of Christ, as every saved person does, could not come into condemnation; nevertheless, for sin in which a Christian willfully persists there may be chastisement from the Father, who is Himself a perfect disciplinarian. The course ever to be followed by a child of God who has sinned and when he sins is outlined in 1 Corinthians 11:3132, which reads: "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." This order is clear. First, the believer who has sinned may and should make full confession to God, which confession is self-judgment and is an expression outwardly of an inward repentance of heart. If self-judgment is achieved, that divine forgiveness which restores the believer to fellowship with God is granted and right relations to God are restored again. On the other hand, if the believer, having sinned, refuses to confess it in genuine repentance or goes on justifying his sin, he must in God's time and way be brought under the correction of the Father. This judgment or correction by the Father assumes the form of chastisement and to the end that the child of God need not be condemned with the world.

The whole theme of suffering—a theme yet to be considered—extends far beyond but still includes the doctrine of the believer's chastisement. It embraces that which Christ suffered from the Father in which none may share, that which Christ suffered from men in which believers may share, that which the believer suffers as a chastisement from God the Father in which Christ does not share, that which believers suffer from men in which Christ does also share, and that which constitutes Christ's burden for a lost world in which Christians may share.

Chastisement, or discipline as such, may be contemplated under four general divisions, namely:

1. Preventative. Only one example of preventative chastisement has been recorded in the Sacred Text, but such could easily be the experience of any child of God should circumstances demand. Having been caught up into the third heaven, the Apostle Paul was enjoined that he should not tell here on the earth what he had seen and heard, and accordingly, lest he should so transgress, a thorn was given him in the flesh. Though thrice he besought the Lord for its removal, the situation (2 Cor. 12:7-9) was not relieved. This became a preventative chastisement.

2. Corrective. Chastisement which is corrective in motive has been outlined at the beginning of this discussion. It is the Father's correction of His erring child. Both chastisement and scourging are indicated in Hebrews 12:6: "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." The universality of both chastisement and scourging may be explained on the ground of the Father's unwillingness to allow any exceptions among those who deserve to be disciplined. It is certain that the Father does not chasten or scourge believers whether they so require or not. Such an interpretation not only contradicts 1 Corinthians 11:31, which declares that "if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged," but must needs disrupt the whole purpose of chastisement. A difference is evidently to be found between chastisement and scourging. The former is that manner of correction which might be repeated; the latter represents the conquering of the human will which, once achieved, needs hardly to be done again. No anarchy or rebellion can be tolerated in the Father's household. The surrender of one's life to God is both reasonable and required (Rom. 12:1-2). Yielding to God may be accomplished easily if all resistance is avoided, or be made difficult and painful when a long conflict is maintained.

3. Enlarging. The object of chastisement is said to be "unto holiness." So, also, the "fruit of righteousness" becomes the portion of those who are exercised thereby. Christ's word recorded in John 15:2 indicates how discipline may be applied from God to the end that the believer may be more fruitful. He declares of God: "Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." This does not suggest the correction of willful evil; it is all done that more fruit may be borne to the glory of God. It is designed so that a good man may become a better man.

4. Vindicative. Again, but one illustration is found in the Bible of this specific form of chastisement. To Job it was given to demonstrate against the challenge of Satan that he loved God apart from all personal benefits or advantages which He had bestowed. No evil had been recorded against Job till then. In truth, Jehovah three times describes Job as "a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil" (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3). But Satan in converse with Jehovah declared that Job served Jehovah only for selfish motives and that Jehovah was not really loved for His own worthiness. Though Job knew nothing of the issue which had arisen in heaven over him, he nevertheless vindicated Jehovah in three successive tests. The first was in the loss of property and family. His reply under this test was worded: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly" (1:21-22). The second test involved the loss of health and wifely comfort. At this point he said: "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips" (2:10). Similarly Job stood the third test involving faith when, as recorded, he asserted concerning God: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (13:15).

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