Since we now have studied the apparent applications of chastisement and its various synonyms in the text of Hebrews and several other New Testament passages, we should be ready to draw some conclusions concerning the nature of chastening.
Initially, we must come to accept chastening as a fact. Chastening is a common occurrence in the lives of Christians. Chastisement is inevitable, for what son is it that does not experience the chastisement of his father? No life can have value apart from chastisement.
Our afflictions are chastisements. Not every case of suffering is the chastening rod of punishment, but in every case an affliction taken in the proper frame of mind can be turned into a profitable educational experience. In fact, the chastisement comes in many various types and degrees. It can take the form of suffering due to pain of sickness or grief in death. It can be afflicted in the emotional sense. Its displeasure or discomfort ranges in intensity from very slight, in the case of the formal education of the mind, to very severe, for instance the scourging of Christ, a very intense personal affliction. And finally, the fact that chastisement may be from man or from God, either directly or indirectly.
In order to comprehend the nature of chastening we must understand its intended purpose. Chastening is meant for good, and not for harm to the individual. The chastening of the Lord is to correct our faults and consequently convince us of the vanity of the world. It helps to form our spiritual character, making us more righteous; it helps to humble us before God. Chastisement serves to refine and sanctify the soul of man. When a person endures chastisement and is instructed by it, a godly life results. Chastisement promotes our eternal well being, the ultimate purpose of which is to enable us to live spiritually and eternally with God. Chastisement enables us to enjoy the peaceable fruits of righteousness that are promised in Hebrews 12 to all those that are exercised by chastening.
Every Christian has a duty in relation to chastisement before the chastening will be of any significant value to him. First, as was extensively discussed by Milligan, the Christian is not to despise chastisement; on the other hand, he is to accept it, apply it, and thereby benefit from it. Just as important as not despising chastisement is the fact that we are not to faint in the sight of it. When a Christian begins to look at the chastisement of the Lord as something to be feared and dreaded and wilts at every confrontation with chastening, he will not benefit from the chastening and it is evident that he does not comprehend the purpose for its infliction.
There are also positive duties that we have in relation to the chastisement. Most important, we must be in subjection to the Father. Chastisement will not do us any good if we rebel in the face of it. On the contrary we are admonished to be exercised by the chastisement or in other words, built up by it. Just as physical exercise builds up the body, spiritual exercise provided through the acceptance of chastening strengthens and sanctifies the soul.
We as Christians can also take consolation in the fact that chastening is appointed by God, and sent in Fatherly love. God's chastening is not arbitrary, nor is it imputed for the sake of Jehovah, but it is sent down from above with unerring divine foresight, and is meant to be profitable and productive in the life of a devoted and obedient son of God. 2
In conclusion just what is chastisement? I would say that it is the gracious gift of divine guidance, correction, and instruction that causes the highest degree of spiritual development within the willing and obedient child o/ God, which results in the development of a more righteous nature and in the finding of the eternal reward when accepted and applied to the life of an individual.
1. Barclay, HEBREWS, p. 200.
2. PULPIT COMMENTARY.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 21, pp. 6-7
April 2, 1970