By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: What is chastisement, what is the purpose of chastisement, and what should be our attitude toward chastisement?
Reply: The Hebrew verb form yasar is the principle word rendered “chasten, chastise” in the Old Testament. The New Testament Greek verb is paideuo and the Greek noun is paideid which according to Arndt and Gingrich, means “upbringing, instruction, discipline, correction” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 608). The basic meaning of chastisement is “the learning or teaching of a lesson…. The lesson may be learned in three different ways: through the experience of suffering (Jer. 10:24), through the acceptance of verbal instruction (Psa. 16:7), and through observing a given situation (Jer. 2:30)” (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, p. 113). In the New Testament chastisement is mostly that of God upon His own people. It is divine discipline (1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 12:5-11). As human fathers chasten their sons (Heb. 12:7; 10a), the New Testament teaches that God chastens His people for their own spiritual good. He fulfills the role of a Father and the infliction is administered in love. It is a maturing process that results from instruction, training, and suffering.
We cannot say that all of our trials are inflicted upon us by God. Some of our suffering, sickness and sorrow are self-inflicted. They result from our disobedience of God’s laws, either in the realm. of the natural or the spiritual, or both. However, there are inflictions that come from God that we may be improved. We should not, though, be so concerned about the source of our suffering or chastisement as we should our attitude toward it. How we receive our chastisement should be the main point of our concern.
Having considered the definitions; and sources of chastisement, a brief textual study of Hebrews 12:5-13 will be helpful. It is the longest single passage in the New Testament dealing with chastisement. Apparently some of those whom the author of the Hebrew letter was addressing were not gladly bearing their persecutions. “My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art reproved of him” (v. 5). It is this writer’s belief that persecution is the context of this passage (see w. 2,3). The Hebrews had forgotten their former encouragement. They should have considered (as we should also consider) that any parent who will not chastise a child does not love the child as he should. A parent that is permissive or lax is not respected. A wise and loving parent will not hold correction from the child (Prov. 3:12; 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13; 29:15-17; Eph. 6:4). “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is not a proverb of Scripture but the principle is there. When tribulation comes upon us and distress rills our hearts, it is quite easy for us to pity ourselves and even take sides against God. The Christian is cautioned against despising the Lord’s chastenings. We must remember that He loves us and it is for our good. We, as the Hebrew readers, are not to be discouraged and disheartened by what may seem to be a heavy burden.
Our question centers upon how God chastens His children. We focus upon verse six. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. ” Chastisement in various forms is found in several other books of the Bible (Job. 5:17; Psa. 94:12; Prov. 3:12; Rev. 3:19).
We are admonished to endure when we are chastised (v. 7). “It is for chastening that ye endure.” The footnote (ASV) is “endure unto chastening.” To help us endure trials, we must have faith and look to the end result. It is said even of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame…” (Heb. 12:2). One writer expressed it this way: “Faith not only looks beneath the surface of things and sees the sweet orange beneath the bitter rind, but it looks beyond the present and anticipates the blessed sequel” (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, p. 941).
The Hebrew author continues by saying, “But if ye are without chastening, whereof all have been made partakers, then ye are bastards, and not sons” (v. 8). From the standpoint of human reasoning, we would ask, “If we are God’s children, why are we chastised?” But our readers are told that they could not be true sons without chastisement. They would be considered illegitimate, which is not what they wanted to be.
Surely our respect for God should be greater than that for our earthly parents who chasten their children. “Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?” (v. 9). Verse ten states that God’s chastening is for profit-“that we may be partakers of his holiness. ” The end result is further seen in verse eleven. “All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.” Correction from the hand of God makes one righteous. It is unpleasant for the moment, but the result is our maturity. Christians should look to chastisement or discipline as a source of encouragement (v. 12).
Looking at chastisement from the aspect of teaching or instruction, two passages come to our attention. The first is Titus 2:11,12. Paul mentions that the grace of God instructs or teaches. “Teaching” in this passage is the same root word that is translated “chastise.” It is the Greek verb paideuo which literally means to discipline through the acceptance of verbal inspiration. As the father is to nurture his children (Eph. 6:4), so God’s chastening of His children nurtures them step by step toward fulfilling what He wants them to be. The second is 2 Timothy 3:16,17. The three words in this passage are correlated to chastening. The Scriptures teach and “reprove.” Also, they convict one of error, directing him on the right path. They “correct,” changing us to what God wants us to be. Without correction, we could easily go astray. They instruct – ” instruction which is in righteousness.” The word “instruction” here is the Greek noun paideia. So, chastening is instruction or discipline-it educates and trains us.
Chastisement when administered as punishment, may be so severe as to result in physical death (Acts 5:11) and the fear of God is impressed upon all the saints. Whether our chastisement is suffering (physical or emotional), or instruction and training, in either case or both, it results in our final reward if we faithfully trust, obey, and serve God.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 4, pp. 100-101
February 21, 1985