There are a lot of opinions about the discipline of God. Some believe that He discipline’s His children with sickness, disease, pain and suffering. That’s actually a very common idea among many Christians.
Other’s believe that God doesn’t discipline His children at all.
Which one is true?
Well, it might be difficult to come to an honest conclusion unless we start with the finished work of Christ. Because that absolutely must be the foundation of everything. As long as we start with Jesus Christ, we will have a proper perspective with which to examine this topic.
The truth of the matter is, neither opinion is correct in the New Covenant under Grace in Christ. God does discipline His children, however He does not discipline them with sicknesses, diseases or pain and suffering.
Having me just tell you that though, won’t mean anything unless you can see it for yourself in the scriptures; so today we will be taking a look at exactly how God disciplines His children today, and why you don’t need to be afraid of sickness, disease or pain and suffering as a result of it.
So in order to understand this, let’s take a look at what sickness, disease, pain and suffering actually are. And we’re going to do this by looking at Deuteronomy 28 to start with.
Deuteronomy chapter 28 is one of the more famous lists regarding the blessings and the curses of the Old Covenant. If you were obedient, and obeyed all the rules and followed all of the regulations and commandments of God absolutely perfectly, you would be blessed with all of the blessings listed in verses 1 through 14 of Deuteronomy 28.
If however, you failed the keep all of the commandments and rules perfectly – even if you failed in one small point, then not only would you not be blessed, but you would be cursed, and all of the curses listed in verse 15 onward to the end of the chapter would come upon you.
It’s also important to remember that there are no half-measures here… You cannot be partially-blessed, or partially-cursed, or some mixture of the two. You were either blessed or cursed… but never both. (You can read that plainly in the text of what God said as He was describing these things)
This is important to understand regarding our study today on the discipline of God, because those who think that God disciplines His children with sickness, disease and pain and suffering, don’t really stop to consider what these things actually are… they are curses. They are the result of breaking Covenant. Curses are not tools that God uses to make people behave better or to teach people lessons; in-fact, they have a very specific purpose, which God Himself mentions in verses 21 and 22:
“The LORD shall make the pestilence stick to you, until it has consumed you from off the land, where you go to possess it.
The LORD shall smite you with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue you until you perish.”
So what we can plainly see here by God’s own words, is what the real purpose of sickness, disease, pain and suffering is.
It is not to strengthen you. It is not to teach us lessons, or to make us better believers, or to improve our behaviors or performance. Remember that these are curses for breaking the Old Covenant. And as we read here, these things have one singular purpose: To pursue you, and consume you until you perish.
That is God’s own description – not mine. So let that sink in. That is the real purpose of sickness, disease, and pain and suffering. These are curses, and specifically curses of the Law that Jesus Christ has paid completely to free us from (according to Galatians 3:13).
Put simply, God will not use curses designed to destroy, in order to discipline His beloved children who have already been redeemed from those very same curses through Jesus Christ!
So then, the question becomes… how does God discipline His children? First we must establish that God does indeed discipline His children. And for that, we go to Hebrews 12, starting at verse 6:
“For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.”
Now in my estimation, Hebrews 12 is probably one of the most, if not the most misunderstood and abused sections in the book of Hebrews. And it starts here. I’m using an Old English translation, because this is where a lot of the confusion occurs for people.
We see here that God does indeed discipline (or chasten) His beloved. We get into trouble when we assume that we know what this means. Because we tend to associate discipline and chastening with brutal beatings, whippings, screaming… like a bad human parent would do!
Our ideas are made even worse by the second-half of the verse which states that God scourges every son whom He receives! And again, we know that scourging is absolutely awful! Anyone who has seen the Passion of the Christ movie, has seen a fairly good rendition of what a scourging looks like! Do we think that God treats His beloved children like that?
Someone might say, “Well, He treated Jesus like that!”
Yes, it’s true! He did treat Jesus like that! He treated Jesus like that for a very specific purpose – because during the suffering of Jesus, all of your sin and mine was laid upon Him, because He was the ultimate and Final Sacrificial Lamb, to take away the sin of the entire world! (John 1:29, Hebrews 10:12)
So because of what Jesus did, that actually bolsters the point that God will not beat, scourge or whip us today like Jesus, just as Jesus will never endure that again… it’s already done! And, He did it for us!
What then is going on in this verse? In order to understand this, we must understand the target audience, and the original language used here.
It should be no surprise that the book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrew people. And verse 6 here is a quotation from Proverbs 3:12. However, if you examine the original source of Proverbs 3:12, you will notice a very interesting variance:
“For whom the LORD loves he corrects; even as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Very interesting! No mention of chastisement, or scourging in the original source quotation!
So what’s going on here?
Well from a purely Hebrew standpoint it’s a simple mistranslation. Two groups of scholars decided on two different renderings of the exact same verse… the original in the Hebrew language found Proverbs 3:11-12, and the mistranslated quote found in Hebrews 12:5-6.
In simple terms, two completely different sentences can be made from the same string of letters, depending on where the spaces are. And one group of scholars decided one way, and the other decided differently.
Personally, I believe quite strongly that Proverbs 3:11-12 is the proper version… but my opinion doesn’t matter, so how do we come to a proper conclusion? Quite simply: Just look at Jesus!
As we have already addressed, the reason why God will never chastise you today, is because Jesus was already fully chastise in your place with your chastisement (Isaiah 53:5). And add to that, The reason why God will never scourge you, is because He has already scourged Jesus in your place!
Furthermore the idea of God torturing His own children with scourging does not even line up with the nature and character of God that Jesus revealed. Jesus went around healing scourges! Such as in In Mark 5:34, the woman with the blood disease, Jesus said to her “Go in Peace and be healed of your scourge.” Some translations change that word to plague, but the Greek word there is the same word as scourge, used in Hebrews 12:6 – it is also the same word for when Pilate had Jesus scourged in John 19:1. So God the Father would not scourge Jesus in your place and then turn around and scourge you also – there would be no point to it. As I always like to say, there is no reason for two people to pay the same debt twice!
So, as we are coming to the end of our study today, we need to answer one more question. Since we now know that God does discipline (or correct) His children, and we also know that He does not correct with curses such as sickness and disease and pain and suffering, how then does He actually correct us?
To answer that question, we must look at verses 9 and 10, of Hebrews 12:
“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 truly for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”
Verses 9 and 10 are comparing and contrasting they way our earthly fathers correct us versus the way our Heavenly Father corrects us. Notice in verse 9 it says that we have had fathers of our flesh, (in Greek patēr sarx) and this flesh here is speaking of your earthly body. These fathers of our flesh corrected our flesh, they corrected us in our flesh, through fleshly discipline (spanking and what-not). They are fathers of (or according to) our flesh; and that is the part of us they discipline.
Now look at the second-half of verse 9: Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live. You see, God is the Father of spirits, the real you, the part of you that will live forever is not your flesh, but your spirit. This is how God will correct you, in your spirit. So whenever you read your Bible, whenever you hear the genuine Gospel of Christ, the message of His Grace, your belief is changing – God is training you up as His child. He is correcting your spirit, training you from the inside-out. This is how God works. The same way that the priests would clean the inside of the temple first (2nd Chronicles 29:16). Jesus Himself also taught the Pharisees saying “Clean the inside of the cup, and then the outside will also be clean.” (Matthew 23:26). Do you see what God is saying? He is concerned with inner belief transformation, not mere behavior modification. And He does so, in your spirit.
So God does not put disease on your flesh, nor does He mangle or mar your flesh with accidents or disasters. Some people look on natural disasters and become self-righteous claiming that it is God’s judgment upon a sinful world. My friend, you do not know what spirit you are of. Yes God will come as a judge one day, but that day is not today! Now is the time of Grace, now is the time of mercy, now is the time of longsuffering because God wishes that none would perish and that all would come to saving knowledge of the truth. (2nd Peter 3:9)
So, one more time… Fathers of our flesh, correct us according to our flesh, and Our Heavenly Father, the Father of spirits corrects us according to our spirit. Now look at verse 10 of our text:
“For they truly for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”
The Fathers of our flesh, chastened (corrected us, or trained us as a child) after their own pleasure. Whenever they thought it was right to correct us, they did so. It may not always have been right. Earthly fathers can make mistakes – earthly fathers can sometimes discipline for the wrong reasons or even the wrong motives. However look at the next part of the verse: not our Heavenly Father: He trains our spirit, for our profit. Not even for His profit, but ours! And what profit is this that we enjoy? That we might be partakers of His holiness!
Now take notice of the detail here, remember that there are no insignificant details in the Bible. This is not saying that God trains us so that we become more holy by our works or performance! It is saying that He trains us to become partakers of His holiness!
You are not trying to be holy, you are partaking of His holiness. This is what He corrects us regarding, because our natural tendency is to take our eyes off of Jesus, and then we start looking to ourselves, our performance, our behavior. We start looking to the works of our hands and our own strength to save and satisfy us rather than Jesus… then the training comes – what does it sound like? You can see some examples of it in the scriptures: Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt? Or Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful.
His words are always perfect, and He corrects your spirit, and refocuses your eyes onto Him, so that you can receive from Him and be partakers of His holiness. Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t He wonderful?
This is the truth about God’s discipline. It is nothing to be afraid of, but actually something you can honestly rejoice in – because God is treating you as a genuine son – another testimony to the finished work of Jesus Christ.