We were members of a relatively small and somewhat new church of about fifty people, and served there the whole eight months we attended until we made the decision to leave. My wife and I were unofficial youth pastors to a group of young people (about twelve to fifteen in number) ranging in age from 14 to 23, with most of them being around seventeen. The Lord-guided opportunity to feed these kids the Word of God every week was something we loved, took seriously and did faithfully. On many days, I wish we could still, in good conscience, be there doing it. I knew before we began the journey with them from the Holy Spirit telling me in my spirit, that they needed a strong foundation. That’s where He took us for quite a while before moving forward. We would seek Him through prayer, listening, studying and receiving certain timely insight and revelation. Not all of these young people are born-again, to be sure, but they paid attention (most of them), seemed genuinely interested and, as time went on, asked relevant questions and we got to develop relationships with some of them, even having them over to our home on a couple of occasions.
However, there were two young men who quietly yet surreptitiously managed to distract more than one in the class, including both my wife and me. The first once or twice we overlooked it in favor of the Word and what the Spirit had to say at the moment, but then made the choice to address the matter with them both after our time together one following Sunday. One of them is the pastor’s son and the other (a couple of years younger) the son of a good, soundly-Christian couple. The boys seemed to take it well and we had hoped that our kind, yet stern approach would nip this behavior in the bud. Over the next month it happened again and we addressed it…again. A couple of weeks after that we spoke to their parents about it. It still didn’t stop. Finally, we brought it up again after church with the parents and the boys. The older one, the pastor’s son, was kind of solemn; at least for appearances’ sake. The other boy who is usually humble and polite at all other times, however, began to get visibly frustrated and angry, even though he tried to restrain it when his father spoke to him about it in our presence. After only a few minutes, though, the young man walked away– almost defiantly– out of the hallway where we were gathered and into the place where we worship. He walked straight over to the far wall and, as he walked along it, slapped and banged his hand on the wall. His mother tried to appease him and tell him to calm down, while we and some who were left in the church (including pastor, his wife, the worship leader and his family) were bewildered and caught off guard by this behavior.
As we all went instinctively towards him to find out what was wrong with the situation, our pastor put his arm around him as he stood beside him and across from us. My wife tried to explain to him why the young man was reacting this way- because of his continual behavior issues- and the pastor (who we know well and get along well with) replied, “This is church, not school. No rules, only love” or something almost verbatim. I, for the moment, was purposefully silent because I didn’t want my emotions and flesh to take over. I could feel them building. The worship leader came over attentively to try to convey love, understanding and restoration to all involved, and I appreciated his sincere and appropriate effort. At some point very shortly thereafter I heard the pastor say the words, “No discipline.” I was calmly incredulous! I reiterated in a questioning tone, “No discipline?” I spoke kindly, respectfully yet firmly to the man whose authority I was under and said, “We’re not talking about rules. We’re talking about behavior, conduct, integrity and character.” After a few more brief exchanges by others including the boys, someone prayed as we all agreed to do, and my wife and I went home.
After arriving at our house, talking and praying a good bit over the next few days, my wife didn’t want to go back. After all, she might be a little hypersensitive to the lack of respect and the unforeseen outburst since she’s a teacher by profession. She and her colleagues get this lack of respect, to one degree or another, on an unfortunately frequent basis at school. She, rightly so, expected better at church. I, on the other hand, wanted to return if only for the ministry we had been given and entrusted with, for the sake of all the other young people, and to at least share one more teaching the Father had put on my heart. And I did.
After what turned out to be my (and our) last Sunday there—the Sunday after the incident—and after continued examination of ourselves, the situation and probably not enough prayer, we decided we wouldn’t be returning. It wasn’t out of emotions, bad relations, bitterness or anything like that, though. My earnest and biblical assessment of it all forced me to ask this question: “If we are to be under this man’s authority, yet he embraces “love” and dismisses discipline, and doesn’t understand, teach or model this dual doctrine (love and discipline) as taught all throughout scripture, especially in Proverbs and in Hebrews 12 and by the Father Himself, then we can’t remain. The line of authority and headship vertically is God, over the pastor, over us, in perfect alignment. But the pastor, in passively ignoring or misappropriating the doctrine has moved himself to the left or to the right, and has created a misalignment. And so we departed. We didn’t want to but couldn’t, in good conscience, continue to be led and fed by and place ourselves under the authority of someone who didn’t believe, and so act, in accordance with a fundamentally, biblically-sound thread of doctrine and teaching, no matter how good our relationship was otherwise. It was even our friend (our pastor) who texted me, alluding to Amos 3:3 in the midst of this, although that did not play a factor in our decision. Rather, we just thought of it as him revealing his heart. There is no ill will or animosity, just an important enough difference—not of opinion—but of belief and ideology, to separate from one another. We love them and pray the Lord will take the veil off his understanding, as we all our growing and maturing until Jesus’ return.
And so, as a result, I perceived the Spirit of God leading me to take the very appropriate step to seek Him and to study further and extensively on the issues of Love and of Discipline. What follows are my results, solely from God’s Word. There was no eisegesis involved. That is when, I have learned, “a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text” in order to prove or validate their own personal beliefs, understanding or agenda. Let’s dive in! (A note: the numbers in parentheses are the Strong’s references to either the Hebrew or Greek so that we know for certain what the meanings of these words are in their original languages.)
Hebrews 12: 5-11 tells us this, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline (3809) of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved (1651) by Him. For the Lord disciplines (3811) the one He loves, and chastises (3146) every son whom He receives (3858). It is for discipline (3809) that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons (5207). For what son is there whom his father does not discipline (3811)? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate (3541) children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected (1788) them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined (3811) us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines (3811) us for our good, that we may share His holiness (41). For the moment, all discipline (3809) seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Job 5: 17 “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves, therefore despise not the discipline (4148) of the Almighty.”
Psalm 94: 12-13 “Blessed is the man whom You discipline, O Lord, and whom You teach out of Your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked.”
Proverbs 3: 11-12 “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline (4148) or be weary of His reproof (8433b), for the Lord reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Proverbs 12: 1 “Whoever loves discipline (4148) loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof (8433b) is stupid (1198).”
*** PROVERBS 13: 24 *** “Whoever spares the rod (7626) hates (8130) his son, but he who loves (157) him is diligent to discipline him.”
Proverbs 23: 13-14 “Do not withhold discipline (4148) from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with a rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”
Proverbs 29: 17 “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest…he will give delight (4524 or 4574) to your heart.”
Proverbs 13: 1 “A wise son hears his father’s discipline (4148), but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke (1606).
Proverbs 6: 23 “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs (8433b) of discipline (4148) are the way of life (2425b).”
2 Timothy 3: 16 “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching (1319), for reproof (1649a), for correction (1882) and for training (3809) in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
THE VERY WORDS OF JESUS CHRIST, OUR LORD…
Revelation 3: 19 “Those whom I love (5368), I reprove (1651) and discipline (3811), so be zealous and repent.”
All the relevant, pertinent and Spirit-chosen terms the Bible uses– which are forms of or related to what is known as scriptural DISCIPLINE in both the Old and New Testaments—are defined this way:
DISCIPLINE (3809), NT= to chasten or instruct
REPROVE (1651), NT= to convict, expose, fault, rebuke
ILLEGITIMATE (3541) NT= bastard, base-born (of low birth or origin), born out of lawful wedlock, shameful, not lawfully recognized (this word is not a form of discipline, BUT is important because the verse it is taken from uses it to tell us that if the Lord does not love us, He will not discipline us and we are considered as unlawful, unrecognized, lowly born children)
HOLINESS (41), NT= ultimate purpose for discipline
RIGHTEOUSNESS (1343), NT= meeting the demands of God’s law, being acceptable to God in every way, justification/ being made right with God
DISCIPLINE (4148), NT= correction, instruction
REPROOF (8433B), NT= rebuke (to scold in a sharp way), to express disapproval of, to reprimand
REPROVE (3198), NT= to disciple, to reason, to rebuke
STUPID (1198), OT= brutish (like an animal, savage), foolish, senseless, unwise, silly, ridiculous
ROD (2626), OT= staff, stick, scepter (weapon or instrument of bodily punishment) borne by someone in authority
HATES (8130), OT= to have great animosity (hostility, strong-dislike) or ill-will against a person, one who is against God, dislikes all manner of good
LOVES (157), OT= love for a son, family in particular, for discipline and knowledge
DELIGHT (4574), OT= delicacy, to take or give great pleasure in, dainty (meaning delicious and choice- of special excellence)
REPENT (3340), NT= turning from one’s sin, having/ making a change of mind, bear fruit or evidence in doing so, do it voluntarily (no coercion)
REGARDING THE LORD’S WORDS…
LOVE/ phileo (5368), NT= kiss, love, strong desire to act and express affection to, chasten
REPROVE (1651), NT= convict, expose, fault, rebuke, to express disapproval of, not to be silent
DISCIPLINE (3811), NT= chasten, scourge, to punish as to correct, to restrain or subdue
Now I’d like to stay on the same subject, but alter our course so as to show you something that the Father–in His perfect love for us– has designed and created in order for us to not have to experience DISCIPLINE. But because none of us have followed or obeyed, the love that is expressed in discipline that is necessary for and leads to holiness is a tool He uses to communicate to us.
Notice below that the words in capital letters are emphasized that way to show you where the words in the verses relate directly to limits and boundaries.
[Boundaries in Nature/ Creation] In Job 38: 8-11, the Lord says to him concerning nature, “or who SHUT IN THE SEA with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its GARMENTS and thick darkness its SWADDLING BAND, and prescribed LIMITS for it and set BARS AND DOORS, and said, ‘THUS FAR SHALL YOU COME AND NO FARTHER, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?’”
[Boundaries in the Spiritual Realm] John 10: 1-2 describes an enclosure like this, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the SHEEPFOLD by the DOOR but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the DOOR is the shepherd of the sheep.”
[Boundaries in the Physical Realm] Genesis 1: 9-10 tells us, “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be GATHERED TOGETHER into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the waters that were GATHERED TOGETHER He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.”
[Protective Boundaries] Revelation 21: 10-14 puts specific measurements and details in place to ensure our safety, “And He carried me off in the Spirit to a great high mountain, and showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like almost rare jewels, like jasper, clear as crystal. It had A GREAT, HIGH WALL, WITH TWELVE GATES and at the gates TWELVE ANGELS, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the WALL of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
[Specific and Corporate Boundaries] Revelation 12: 15-17 gives these details, “And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. THE CITY LIES FOURSQUARE; its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 STADIA. ITS LENGTH AND WIDTH AND HEIGHT ARE EQUAL. HE ALSO MEASURED ITS WALL, 144 CUBITS by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement.”
[Romantic Boundaries] Song of Solomon 8: 4 warns, “Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you, DO NOT STIR UP OR AWAKEN LOVE UNTIL THE APPROPRIATE TIME.”
[Eternal Boundaries] Luke 16: 26 declares, “And besides all this, between us and you A GREAT CHASM HAS BEEN SET IN PLACE, so that THOSE WHO WANT TO GO FROM HERE TO YOU CANNOT, NOR CAN ANYONE CROSS OVER FROM THERE TO US.”
[Permanent, Relational, Heavenly Boundaries] Matthew 25: 10-12 stipulates, “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins WHO WERE READY WENT IN WITH HIM to the wedding banquet, and THE DOOR WAS SHUT.’ Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord’ they said, ‘OPEN THE DOORS FOR US!’ But He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’”
[Financial Boundaries] Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be DEVOTED TO THE ONE and DESPISE THE OTHER. You cannot serve God and money.”
In His omniscience, holiness, love, justice and authority, Almighty God knows boundaries, limits and restrictions are necessary and beneficial for a host of reasons. As listed in the previous scripture references, some are geographical, some are interpersonal, some are romantic and sexual, some are for physical protection and sovereignty, and many are spiritual. But all are necessary, good and proper. As we saw back in Genesis 3, the very first fruits of the free, human race were given limits and they, with their wayward proclivities, could not contain themselves or muster enough self-control (or trust!) to remain within their proper positions. So the need for discipline in all its forms is healthy, nurturing, loving and beneficial (profitable, valuable, advantageous, rewarding, gainful). Discipline is at its core, and should be seen as, fundamental to our well-being. The foolish despise and reject it, while the wise receive, embrace and heed it.
So since the Lord has connected discipline to limits and boundaries, what is His motive? What is the intention of the Father’s heart towards His creation, towards His children (humanity) and towards His sons and daughters (those who have been saved and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ the Messiah, those who will inherit eternal life)? It is His love! Yes, even judgment as nations encounter on earth for their sins, is a grand form of discipline and, therefore, love. Consider these words from Ezekiel 18: 29-32 which get straight to the point, “Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are My ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? Therefore, I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,’ declares the Lord God. ‘Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.’”
All forms of discipline have embedded in them the implicit aim of getting us to change course from where we are (off course and away from the Lord) to where we should be (back to the waiting, loving, forgiving, merciful arms of our heavenly Father and Creator). Almighty God will employ whatever means are requisite, whether subtle or harsh, in order to save us—in a temporal situation/ circumstance or, especially, in a manner which has eternity and the salvation of our souls in view! This is why Hebrews 12: 6 relates, in essence, that not to exercise discipline is actually unloving. In other words, if I don’t love you, I don’t care about you or what happens to you, so I’ll let you do whatever you want; it’s tantamount to apathy. Conversely, the Lord Jesus Christ will allow inconvenient, bothersome, difficult and even painful experiences to find their way into our lives in order to bring us into, or keep us within, the safe, secure and nurturing boundaries of the sheepfold. Adding an extremely personal touch and exclamation point to this lesson is His willingness and obedience to the Father’s plan of redemption through His own sacrifice for us. John 15:13 exclaims, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” This, the Savior did.
Hebrews 12: 4 emphasizes, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” as Jesus Christ did for you. But what are the purposes and benefits of discipline to which we are to submit ourselves? What is the Father doing in us in order to bring about the “peaceable fruit of righteousness”?
CHASTENING = scolding sharply (Hebrews 12:6)
INSTRUCTION = teaching (Ephesians 6:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11, Proverbs 10:17)
CONVICTION = outward declaration of or inner sensitivity to sin, guilt, defilement (John 15:7-8, 1 Corinthians 5:12)
EXPOSITION = writing or speaking in a way that illuminates or explains (Ephesians 5:11-13, John 3:1-20)
REBUKING = scolding sharply, reprimanding (Proverbs 13:1)
LEARNING = acquiring of knowledge (Proverbs 1:2-5)
CORRECTION = action taken to reverse a mistake or a fault (2 Timothy 3:16)
REPRIMANDING = rebuking severely or formally (1 Timothy 5:20, Proverbs 29:15, 17:10, Matthew 16:23)
REPROOF = expressing disapproval of something said or done (Job 5:17, Proverbs 3:11-12, Revelation 3:19, 12:1)
REASONING = thinking logically, drawing conclusions, analyzing, explaining (Isaiah 1:18-20, James 3:13-18, emphasis on 17)
TRAINING = guiding the mental, spiritual, moral development of; instruction (2 Timothy 3:16)
TEACHING = holding discourse, instilling doctrine, expounding upon something, to present and explain systematically and in detail, to elucidate or clarify something (Colossians 3:16, Acts 15:1-2, Hebrews 8:10)
And what does the Word of God tell us about itself in 2 Timothy 3:16, which was referred to more than once above? “ALL SCRIPTURE is breathed out by God and is profitable for TEACHING, for REPROOF, for CORRECTION, and for TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.” This seems to suggest that, in one sense, the whole of God’s Word is about love/ discipline. Unfortunately, we equate discipline with punishment or restriction and so we view it as negative. Rather, discipline is a good thing, a necessary thing and an extremely loving thing. We need to change our perspective. Casting off discipline in the names of love and grace is neither, nor is it biblical or godly.
Since delving into all of this and being taught by Holy Spirit, the Word of God gives these seemingly harsh ways of instilling discipline into a brother or sister (Christian) which are actually very apt and biblical manners exhorted by the first century church, spearheaded by Paul himself. Our culture now, even in many local church bodies, has gone soft and weak, being deceived in our minds into thinking that we need to tolerate (accept, put up with) virtually any speech or behavior, especially that which runs counter to Truth. Has the pendulum of the Lord Jesus’ ways swung to the left or to the right? No. He and His ways are perfect and complete. They do not need to change. “He is the same yesterday, today and forever.” So it is man and his thoughts and ways that have migrated from east to west and from north to south. We don’t need to walk on eggshells in fear of offending someone, especially those in the church—though we do want and need to be loving and gracious in our hearts toward others. Remember, the Father says love is the motivation for discipline, correction, teaching, rebuking, etc. and these are the tools that bring us back to Him. To not say anything is, really, to be unloving because it shows we are not doing anything to keep another from stumbling and making huge mistakes. Take into very thoughtful consideration these examples that the Apostle Paul uses to teach the church.
The Lord JESUS Himself says in Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a gentile and a tax collector.” Can you imagine any church today actually obeying and employing even the first, let alone all, of these four Christ-commanded lessons? If we did, and with the right motive, our churches would be healthy and deep and strong, instead of ill and shallow and weak.
The three-time missionary Paul exhorts us in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother (Christian) if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. PURGE THE EVIL PERSON FROM AMONG YOU.” Pretty straight and to the point. He doesn’t mince words. It sounds quite unloving, though. Is the apostle being excessively harsh? No. He is writing under the direct, unfiltered influence of Holy Spirit. But we must consider the context, of course. Verses 1-2 tell us that not only were some Corinthian believers committing sexual immorality (red flag for any disciple!), but it was “of a kind that is not even tolerated among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? LET HIM WHO HAS DONE THIS BE REMOVED FROM AMONG YOU.” So you see that excessive sin is dealt with promptly and effectively. 1 Peter 1: 14-16, James 1:27 and Ephesians 5:27 all deal with the theme of holiness. We bear the name of Christ, and we are His ambassadors and priests. Such behavior is intolerable.
Our brother Paul a few verses earlier again rebukes in 1 Corinthians 5: 3-5, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, WITH THE POWER OF THE LORD JESUS, YOU ARE TO DELIVER THIS MAN TO SATAN, FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF HIS FLESH, SO THAT HIS SPIRIT MAY BE SAVED in the day of the Lord.” Again and emphatically, discipline for the sake of redemption, restoration and regeneration. The motive is love.
Paul writes this letter to Titus (1:7-9), leaving him instructions on how to further establish the church in Crete. He issues these specific instructions. “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain. But hospitable, a lover of good, SELF-CONTROLLED, upright, HOLY, and DISCIPLINED. He must hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught, SO THAT HE MAY BE ABLE TO GIVE INSTRUCTION in sound doctrine and also TO REBUKE THOSE WHO CONTRADICT IT.” The apostle is giving counsel to his younger brother in the Lord as to how to set up and properly preside over a new and budding church on the island belonging to present-day Greece. Notice the familiar attributes of being self-controlled (personal discipline), being able to give instruction (another form of discipline that we mentioned earlier) and being able to rebuke (yet another of the types of discipline we covered previously). These are all given and carried out with the love and consistency of the Father’s words and examples from Genesis 3 all the way through Revelation 3.
I want to leave you with a couple of well-chosen phrases that capture the essence of our reasons for covering this together…“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” And… “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” UNTIL NEXT TIME, GOD BLESS YOU AND THANKS!