A Theology of Discipline
by Greg Williamson (c) 2021

Disciplined Introduction
Discipline in the Bible
Disciplined Truths
Disciplined Examples
Disciplined Bible References
Disciplined Conclusion
Disciplined Sources

You will never be the person you can be if pressure, tension, and discipline are taken out of your life. - James G. Bilkey [ref]


Teenage Crowd Control

Teenagers can be difficult to discipline.

One mother complained that although her three teenage sons did not get along very well, they would never confess or tell on each other when punishment was in order.

A friend asked the woman, "How do you find out which one to punish?"

The clever mother said, "Simple. I send all three to bed without supper. Then the next morning, I ground the one with a black eye." [ref]

It turned out that the guilty brother would actually be disciplined twice -- once by his two other brothers, and then again by his mom!

Webster defines "discipline": as "1 : PUNISHMENT: 2 obsolete : INSTRUCTION; 3 : a field of study: 4 : training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character; 5 a : control gained by enforcing obedience or order  b : orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior  c : SELF-CONTROL; 6 : a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity". And "self-discipline" is defined as "correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement." [ref]

Put simply, "discipline" is "[l]earning that molds character and enforces correct behavior ... To discipline a person or a group means to put them in a state of good order so that they function in the way intended. Discipline, in spite of a popular misconception, is not inherently stern or harsh." [ref]

Laughter adds richness, texture, and color to otherwise ordinary days. It is a gift, a choice, a discipline, and an art. - Tim Hansel [ref]



'Discipline' in Scripture covers a wide range of meaning, for it can connote training (Eph. 6:4), education (Deut. 8:5), reproof (Prov. 9:7), correction (Zeph. 3:2, 7), warning (Is. 8:11), chastening (Prov. 3:11, AV), and punishment (Hos. 10:10). As a concept discipline is in the OT intimately connected with God's covenant with Israel and with his covenant law. Since discipline is located within the context of covenant it is to be understood theocentrically, for all discipline comes ultimately from God, and its goals and means are determined by him.

Discipline has both a corporate and an individual dimension; it can be the discipline of a community (Israel in the OT, the church in the NT) or of an individual believer. In the OT discipline is understood mostly in corporate terms (e.g. Deut. 8:5), though the individual dimension is not lacking (e.g. Prov. 3:11–12). While in the NT the corporate aspect is certainly present (e.g. 1 Cor. 11:27–32), the individual dimension assumes greater prominence, especially in the letter to the Hebrews where it is connected with the suffering that discipleship entails and the holiness that God wills for believers (Heb. 12:3–11). [ref]

Old Testament

In the law
In the book of Deuteronomy discipline is an important sub-theme, as a number of key passages indicate. In [Deut. 4:35–36] it is made clear that God's voice from heaven was not only revelatory ('so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other') but also disciplinary ('to discipline you'). The discipline that God exercises is ethical. Its purpose is that the covenant people might know Yahweh (cf. Jer. 24:7). The discipline of Yahweh is taught through his 'decrees and commands' (Deut. 4:39) which Israel is to 'keep … so that it may go well with you and your children after you'. The 'good life' that God wills for his people will be possible only as they live by the given tôrāh (Deut. 4:40, 'instruction') that is bound up with the covenant God has made with them.

Behind God's covenant with his people, indeed the very ground of it, is his electing love (Deut. 4:37). It is this gracious, unmerited love (Deut. 7:7–11) which provides the motive for the responsive love and obedience (Deut. 7:9) which should characterize the life of Israel (Deut. 7:11).

In the wisdom literature
Discipline is a prominent theme in the book of Proverbs. As in Deuteronomy 8:5 it is set within the father/child relationship, which serves as the main vehicle for the imparting of ethical instruction, though Proverbs 1:8 brings in the mother/child relationship as well. The use of this familial metaphor points to the same metaphor as employed to describe God's relationship to Israel (Deut. 8:5).

Closely connected with discipline in Proverbs is 'rebuke' (tôkahat), a term used thirteen times. In [Prov. 5:12] it is used in apposition to mûsār. In the majority of instances it is employed negatively, to denote the rejection of reproof, but it can be 'life-giving' (Prov. 15:31) and impart wisdom (Prov. 29:15).

Discipline in Proverbs is aimed at the shaping of godly character, character that reflects something of the wisdom and righteousness of God.

[In the Psalms] the emphasis falls on the disciplining of the individual believer, although it is recognized that Yahweh also disciplines the nations (Ps. 94:10). Prayer is made that discipline should be unnecessary (Ps. 6:1; 38:1); yet God's discipline is seen as a blessing (Ps. 94:12), even though it may be severe (Ps. 118:18).

In the prophets
In Hosea God threatens drastic discipline against his unrepentant people. He will bring them down like netted birds and discipline them (Hos. 7:12, NRSV), for they are incorrigibly wayward (Hos. 10:10).

Jeremiah charges Judah with repeatedly refusing Yahweh's correction. As the judgment of exile looms over the nation, all hope that there will be a positive response to correction has vanished. The uniform lament is that the people have refused correction (Jer. 5:3; 7:28; 17:23; 32:33). There is no possibility that judgment can be avoided through genuine repentance. The axe is about to fall. [ref]

We are going to meet unmerciful good people and unmerciful bad people, unmerciful institutions, unmerciful organizations, and we shall have to go through the discipline of being merciful to the merciless. - Oswald Chambers [ref]


New Testament

Various images are used to express the idea of self-discipline. The Christian is an athlete in strict training (2 Tim. 2:5) and a soldier who endures hardship (2 Tim. 2:3). The body is to be kept under strict control (1 Cor. 9:27), for there are fleshly (sarkikos) desires which war against the soul (1 Pet. 2:11). From these the believer must abstain and flee (2 Tim. 2:22). Day by day Christians are to put off their pre-conversion way of life and put on the new self (Eph. 4:22–24).

Self-discipline is the Spirit-enabled discipline of those who know that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). It covers attitudes (Phil. 2:5) and speech (Eph. 4:25, 29) as well as desires.

The discipline of suffering
The letter to the Hebrews sees suffering as God's discipline for his children (Heb. 12:5–11) Even God's Son was not exempt from such suffering, for he learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb. 5:8). 'As the incarnate Son … it was absolutely necessary for him to learn obedience, since his obedience was essential for the offsetting of our disobedience' (P. E. Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 187).

Those who are united to Christ by faith must expect to experience the discipline (paideia) of suffering. When they do, they are not to lose heart (Heb. 12:3), but to take heart (Heb. 12:5), for 'the Lord disciplines those whom he loves' (Heb. 12:6). The discipline of suffering flows from the love of God, is proof that we are his children (Heb. 12:8–10), and is 'for our good, that we may share in his holiness'. To view suffering for the sake of Christ as evidence of God's fatherly work of perfecting us is a needed corrective to the all too common idea that our happiness, as defined by us, is his chief concern. God would have us holy rather than happy.

Disciplinary suffering may be painful but it has a blessed outcome: 'it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it' (Heb. 12:11).

Church discipline
The community of faith exercises discipline over its members. They are members one of another, fellow members of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:25). This body is to be marked by unity (Eph. 4:3), 'orthodoxy' ('one faith', Eph. 4:5) and purity. When believers refuse to be reconciled they deny the unity of the church and thus become subject to discipline by the assembly (Matt. 18:17). When the truth of the gospel is denied church discipline is to be exercised (2 John 7–11; cf. 1 Tim. 1:20). When there is open and scandalous sin it cannot be tolerated; severe action must be taken (1 Cor. 5:1–5) but always with a view to bringing about repentance.

Excommunication is the end of the disciplinary process, not its beginning, and is to be imposed only reluctantly. Galatians 6:1–5 suggests that the first step in the disciplining of an erring brother or sister is personal, private and gentle.

In Revelation God threatens to discipline an entire church very severely (Rev. 3:16), yet even when he is about to do so he calls for repentance (Rev. 3:19), reminding its members that 'those whom I love I rebuke and discipline'. [ref]

Philippians 2:1–5, although it does not address discipline directly, expresses concisely the principle behind the scattered Pauline references to the subject. It is the incentive of love, the sharing of the Spirit, the humble attitude -- that is, the mind of Christ -- which makes it possible to hold another person accountable. Thus the secret power of effective discipline is in its reflexive element. That is, the one who holds another accountable is first accountable to be a loving person. When this is true of a community of believers, isolation of an offender will be a compelling remedial force. Ultimately, then, it is not the power of persuasion or coercion that effects recall, but the power of love emanating from a transformed community. [ref]

Parental Discipline

Family discipline is the "[a]ctive measure parents take in guiding and nurturing the human spirit within their children to live according to biblical standards and, consequently, meet societal standards. It is important to understand that in purpose, focus, attitude, and results, discipline is very different from punishment. When punishing a child, a parent out of hostility and frustration inflicts a penalty for a past misdeed which results in the child feeling fear and guilt. Discipline, on the other hand, is done out of love and concern for the correction, training, and maturity of the child with a focus on future correct deeds that will ultimately make the child feel secure in the parent's love." [ref]

The family constitutes the basic unit of the human community. Within that cell of intimate relationships parents are entrusted with the responsibility of guiding and correcting their children (Dt 6:7; Prv 22:6). The biblical view is essentially pessimistic about the perfectibility of human nature. Hence parents are urged not to leave children at the mercy of their own natural tendencies. Undisciplined children are potential victims of the powerful conditioning exerted by a predominantly pagan culture. To exercise their responsibilities properly, parents must model values, practices, and attitudes to their children, besides teaching them through instruction and correction.

The parents' educational task is best accomplished through positive means such as advice, exhortation, counseling, family devotions, and Christian training in church and Sunday school. But it also may require negative measures such as prohibitions and disciplinary action. When verbal admonitions are not heeded by small children, corporal punishment becomes an effective form of persuasion (Prv 13:24). Physical discipline, however, should be administered on the basis of clearly stated and understood principles. Christian parents must avoid punishing out of anger or personal animosity, and must never cause injury to a child. Physical discipline should be viewed as a last resort intended to obtain maximum educational results with minimum outrage to children (Eph 6:4).

Human fallenness (Gn 3) means that self-centeredness infects even children (cf. Ps 51:5). Somehow children must learn respect for themselves and for others. Left on their own and then battered by a fallen society, they can become rebellious social misfits leaving a trail of heartache in their own lives and in the lives of other people. Love for one's children does not preclude the use of negative disciplinary measures. As distasteful as they may seem to both parents and children, genuine love may require them. A family environment regulated by consistent and loving firmness will enhance the chances for children to mature as responsible and considerate individuals. [ref]

If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction, and it's not so bad. - C. S. Lewis [ref]


The Imagery of Discipline [ref]

Discipline and love are not antithetical: one is a function of the other. - James C. Dobson [ref]



"It should not be thought that God is indulgent or permissive."

[God] is our heavenly Father, not our heavenly Grandfather. Thus, discipline is one of the features of our adoption. In the letter to the Hebrews there is a rather extended discussion of this subject (Heb. 12:5–11). Quoting Proverbs 3:11–12, the writer comments: "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?" (Heb. 12:7) Discipline may not be pleasant at the moment of application, but it is beneficial in the long term. Love is concern and action for the ultimate welfare of another. Therefore, discipline should be thought of as evidence of love rather than of lack of love. It may not always be thought of as a benefit of adoption, but it is a benefit nonetheless. [ref]

"The wrath of God may be seen as the strange work of his love that destroys that which is against love." "Gustav Friedrich Oehler gave a poignant articulation of this mystery: 'The wrath of God is the highest strained energy of the holy will of God, the zeal of His wounded love.' Wrath is not what God is in himself but how God relates to sinners who stubbornly refuse his grace and mercy. Just as a caring mother disciplines her child who refuses to heed her warnings against playing on a busy street, so God reproves and chastises his children who wander into sin against his express will." [ref]

"Wisdom comes with a fear of God."

Scripture makes clear in several places that if we are to gain wisdom, we must begin with a fear of God [Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10; 15:33; see also Job 28:28].

The idea of the fear of the Lord is not an obscure topic in Scripture, for the expressions "fear of God," "fear God," "fear of the Lord," and "fear the Lord" occur 84 times in the Old and New Testaments (in the ESV).

Sometimes Christians explain this "fear of the Lord" as "reverence for God," a somewhat weaker concept than fear. But I am aware of no modern Bible version that translates Psalm 111:10 as "Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," no doubt because the most common sense of the Hebrew word yir'āh in the Old Testament and the Greek word phobos in the New Testament (in verses such as Deut. 2:25; Jonah 1:10; Acts 9:31; 2 Cor. 5:11) is simply "fear." While it is true that the sense "reverence" is appropriate in some contexts, it does not seem to me to fit the passages about wisdom nearly as well.

It is important to affirm clearly that Christians should no longer fear eternal condemnation from God (see 1 John 4:18), for Christ has eternally saved us from final condemnation: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). Still, there are other senses of "the fear of the Lord" that seem appropriate to the Christian life. For example, it is very appropriate for Christians to fear displeasing God or grieving the Holy Spirit (see Eph. 4:30). And it is very appropriate for Christians to fear God's fatherly discipline if they walk in willful disobedience to him (see Heb. 12:5–11). But fear of God's fatherly displeasure and fear of his fatherly discipline are far different from the terror of final judgment, from which we have been freed by Christ's sacrifice for our sin.

A healthy fear of God's displeasure and fear of his fatherly discipline are appropriate to acquiring wisdom. If we establish in our minds, at the beginning of a quest for wisdom, that we deeply want to avoid disobeying God or displeasing him, then we will be much more eager to learn his directions for our lives and to walk in obedience to those good commands.

By contrast, if we have no fear of displeasing God and no fear of his discipline, then we will not be as careful to seek to understand his ways, and we will likely not grow much in wisdom. This is because "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps. 111:10).

Those who have no fear of God can engage in all sorts of horrible sin. At the culmination of nine verses in which Paul talks about the sins of Jews and Gentiles apart from God, he summarizes the problem in the last sentence by saying they have no fear of God [see Rom. 3:10b–18, quoting several passages from the Old Testament].

The Bible's emphasis on a spiritually beneficial fear of God suggests to us that it is important for churches to teach Christians about the value of fearing God. Such teaching would undoubtedly lead to more wisdom in our churches, and that would result in more holiness and purity, and more of God's blessing on our daily lives. [ref]

"Because the guilt of sin has been remitted through Christ's atoning work, the Christian no longer suffers penalties for sin but only disciplines."

Our suffering effects a change in our character (cf. Rom 5:3–4), but it does not make reparation for sin. The debts of our sin have already been fully paid in Jesus Christ. God allows sin to afflict us in order to remind us of how much we owe to Christ and in order to equip us to carry the good news of Christ to the world. [ref]
God's visitation to his people will always imply judgment, for we cannot experience God without being humbled by his glorious majesty and convicted by his infinite purity (cf. Ex 32:34; Ps 17:1–5; Lk 19:44; Rev 2:5). It is indeed a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31; cf. Ex 34:10). The New Testament teaches that for the company of the faithful the guilt of eternal damnation has been canceled because of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary, but the sinner must still be cleansed and purified. As Christians we no longer suffer penalties for sin, but we are still subject to disciplines that keep us on the straight and narrow way. [ref]

Spiritual disciplines are good to the extent that we relate them to Jesus.

[F]aith in Jesus [does not mean there is] no place for disciplines relating to food and drink and for rites and observances. Jesus assumes people will fast, and he talks about baptizing people and about "doing this in remembrance of me." Yet his words about baptism and about this Passover-style celebration show how these observances relate to his having come. Likewise any observance of discipline regarding food and drink and any observance of festivals, months and sabbaths will now relate to his having come. They do not have independent or supplementary significance, as if he were not enough. People who behave as if the observances have such significance as means of spiritual development in their own right, and not insofar as they are an expression of creaturely trust, have abandoned their connection with the head from which the body does grow (Col 2:19). [ref]

"Evangelicals do not disclaim the salutary role of spiritual disciplines, which equip the Christian for battle in the name of Christ."

Faith by itself is sufficient for laying hold of justification, but disciplines of devotion are necessary to help us to live out the implications of our faith in the world. Faithful attendance at worship services, where we hear the Word of God proclaimed; frequent participation in the Lord's Supper, where we receive both pardoning and strengthening grace; the practice of fervent prayer, which involves adoration, petition and intercession; the daily study of God's Word, which gives nourishment to the soul; moderation in eating and drinking, which clears the mind for service; the careful avoidance of entertainment that numbs moral sensitivity; periodic meditation on the law of God -- all of these are important in enabling us to remain true to the vows that we made, either at our baptism or at our confirmation, to uphold the faith once delivered to the saints. Spiritual disciplines do not make reparation for sin, nor do they merit grace, which is always undeserved. What they do is to strengthen faith and enhance our witness as we are guided by the Spirit into the needs of our neighbor. The Holy Spirit alone makes our witness spiritually fruitful, but he does not witness for us. He speaks with us and through us as we speak and pray in obedience to the divine imperative of being a disciple and herald of the Lord Jesus Christ. [ref]

Within recent years there has been a significant increase of interest in growth-inducing activities that are known as spiritual disciplines. These are practices, things we can do, that can draw us closer to God and move us toward greater spiritual maturity. Although the listing of disciplines differ, there is a core that most writers acknowledge. They could be divided into three overlapping groups.
  • Cognitive disciplines focus on how we think and include meditation, listening, reading the Bible, study, prayer, and discernment.
  • Behavioral disciplines are more focused on activity or withdrawal from normal patterns of activity. These disciplines are behaviors and lifestyle patterns that include simple living, frugality, sexual abstinence, fasting, slowing down, observing the Sabbath, periodic solitude, silence, acts of service, sacrifice, and sometimes suffering.
  • Interpersonal disciplines deal with relational issues, or are things done in the presence of other people. Here are the disciplines of confession, repentance, forgiveness, submission, humility, corporate worship, singing, involvement in community, participating in the Eucharist (often known as communion or the Lord's Supper), witnessing, and intercession. Often, these disciplines involve service to others in the form of hospitality, healing, encouraging, caring, mentoring, or giving guidance.
The term discipline implies that these are practices that most often do not come naturally and that need to be sustained and cultivated. Increasingly, the spiritual disciplines are being incorporated into Christian counseling practice, but often the neglect of the disciplines or inconsistent practice can contribute to spiritual problems or lack of growth. [ref]

"Our sexual life needs to be redeemed just as much as every other part of human existence." "We must avoid both a Manichaeism that depreciates the bodily passions and a libertinism that celebrates bodily appetites without realizing that they finally lead to self–destruction unless they are curbed and regulated by a self–discipline made possible only by the continuous assistance of the Holy Spirit. The Christian mandate is not to eradicate our natural impulses but to subdue them and channel them for the glory of God and the service of his kingdom." [ref]

"Sometimes God hides himself from us even when we continue in the life of faith." "On occasion God may withdraw his gracious presence to test us or to discipline us but always with the view to making us stronger. Experience will surely be there at the beginning of faith -- when we embark on our spiritual journey -- but it will more than likely recede as we grow in faith. Even the most godly Christians sometimes have to pass through a dark night of the soul where they have to believe against all reason, sight and understanding." [ref]

"The representatives and heralds of Christ are commissioned not only to proclaim the gospel but also to maintain ecclesiastical discipline."

Sanctification means driving out the world from the Church as well as separating the Church from the world' (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). ... Church discipline was also designated by various Reformers as a hallmark of the church. Luther on occasion referred to the "power of the keys, " the power to absolve from sin and to withhold absolution from sin. John Calvin strongly advocated the practice of church discipline but declined to name it as a sign of the true church. Martin Bucer went beyond Calvin in including discipline with the Word and sacraments as a prime indicator of the church. The disappearance of discipline in Protestant modernity is very much to be deplored, for a church that lacks the capacity to reprove and admonish its wayward members is in danger of losing continuity with the New Testament ecclesia. [ref]

"The church should move against heretical teachers only when they pose a dire threat to the integrity of its message."

Moreover, the defenders of church doctrine must be motivated by love for both the heretics and the truth they deny. The best way to overcome heresy is through open dialogue with our opponents. The truth will defend itself if it is allowed a place in the open forum. On the other hand, when the truth is openly and shamelessly defamed and resisted without any sign of a change of heart or willingness to listen, then the adversary of truth must finally be disciplined, and this may entail excommunication -- the breaking of fellowship with the recalcitrant sinner, no longer recognizing that person as a bona fide member of the church. The ban of excommunication is an indictment not only of the heretic but also of the church for failing to present its case in such a way that people are not only convinced of the truth of its message but also converted by the love and zeal of its messengers. The goal of excommunication is not the isolation and damnation of heretics but their restoration to the fellowship of the church through admission of error, repentance for sin and resolution to reaffirm the faith of the church. [ref]

There is no point in praying for spiritual growth unless we do our best to live disciplined Christian lives. - Nigel McCullough [ref]


Here we touch on but a few of the Bible's many examples of discipline (where some form of "discipline" is used).

God's self-revelation (Deuteronomy 4:36)

The purpose of God's self-revelation to Israel was not merely monotheistic enlightenment (so that you might know …, Dt. 4:35), but ethical discipline. The two are inseparable. The one who will not live as Yahweh requires (Dt. 4:40), does not "know God" as Yahweh (Dt. 4:39; acknowledge in Hb. is simply "and you will know …"). This fundamental connection inspired Jeremiah's profound reflection on "knowing God" as a matter of being committed to the same "kindness, justice and righteousness on earth" as God delights in (Jer. 9:23f.; cf. Jer. 22:13–16). If this was his understanding of what it means to know God, then his vision of a new covenant, in which all God's people would truly know God (Jer. 31:34), must imply more than the devotional or mystical spiritualization of the phrase common in Christian circles. Covenantal (old or new) knowledge of God entails covenantal commitment to justice, just as covenantal love for God entails covenantal love for the neighbor. [ref]

Yahweh's accusation of the wicked (Psalms 50.17)

(Psalms 50:16-22)
At the heart of Yahweh's accusation of the wicked is their hypocrisy. At the root of this hypocrisy is another fundamental misperception of Yahweh himself: you thought I was altogether like you. They, in effect, create God after their own image. They misinterpreted his silence (These things you have done and I kept silent) as license. "If Yahweh tolerates our behavior, even our breach of his laws, then he must condone it," they conclude. The evidence Yahweh sets forth for their hypocrisy lies not in religious sins but in social injustices, spelled out in terms of his covenant instruction. The instructions reflected here echo both the "ten words" of the Decalogue (thief, adulterers, tongue to deceit; cf. Exod. 20:14–16) and the psalms of temple entry (mouth for evil, "tongue to deceit"; cf. Ps. 15:3; 24:4, among others). While Yahweh as heavenly judge may have every right to pronounce the sentence immediately, he offers a warning: Consider this … or I will tear you to pieces. Previously he kept silent, but now he says, I will rebuke you … to your face. [ref]

The discipline of the LORD (Proverbs 3:11-12)

The God who can be trusted to smooth out obstacles and bring one to his appointed goal (Pr. 3:5–6) and to supply one's material needs (Pr. 3:9–10) demonstrates His love by discipline. The warning to the son (cf. Pr. 3:1, 21) is twofold: do not despise ("reject or take lightly") the Lord's discipline, and do not resent ("loathe or abhor") His rebuke (see comments on Pr. 1:23 and cf. Job 5:17; Heb. 12:5–6). Physical punishment and verbal correction are hard to accept but they demonstrate God's loving concern. The same is true of a parent's discipline of his children (cf. Deut. 8:15). Loathing such discipline -- thinking that God disciplines because He enjoys causing pain -- overlooks the benefits that come from such correction. [ref]

Paul's self-discipline (1 Corinthians 9:27)

As Paul develops the metaphor of boxing, he says that rather than box the air, he works like an expert pugilist whose punches count because they hit their mark. In the exercise of his God-given life and commission, Paul is focused through discipline. His images and metaphors are engaging for many. Nevertheless, Paul's final comments on boxing are almost shocking. He reveals that his opponent is himself. Surely this startling revelation is a lesson for the Corinthians, whose attitude leads to the kind of easy, self-indulgent living that merely presumes upon God's grace and does not relate in obedience to God's saving acts. Paul explains that he "blackens the eye of [his] body" lest he be disqualified himself -- a sharp, strong word of warning to the readers about the necessity of devotion and steadfastness. [ref]

Fathers & their children (Ephesians 6:4)

Fathers are addressed because they represent the governmental head of the family on whom rests the responsibility of child discipline. Fathers are not to exasperate (parorgizete, "provoke to anger"; used only here and in Rom. 10:19; cf. Col. 3:21) their children by unreasonable demands, petty rules, or favoritism. Such actions cause children to become discouraged (Col. 3:21). Instead, fathers are to bring them up, that is, rear or nourish (ektrephete, "provide for physical and spiritual needs"; also used in Eph. 5:29) them in the training (paideia, "child discipline," including directing and correcting; cf. "training" in righteousness [2 Tim. 3:16] and God's "discipline" of believers [Heb. 12:8]) and instruction (nouthesia; cf. 1 Cor. 10:11; Titus 3:10) of the Lord. Children are to obey "in the Lord" (Eph. 6:1) and parents are to train and instruct "in the Lord." He is to be the center of their relationships and of their teaching and learning. [ref]

Paul's advice to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:6-7)

1 Timothy 4:7
But since Timothy was to channel God's truth to others, he was to have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales. The godless (bebēlous, "profane") and the worthless go hand in hand (cf. 1 Tim. 1:9; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16) and should be shunned. Instead, Timothy was to devote himself to much more manly pursuits. Paul introduced an athletic image with the words train yourself. The verb here is gymnaze, from which comes the English "gymnasium." But Timothy's training was to be for godliness (cf. 1 Tim. 2:2), not physical fitness. Paul often used athletic analogies to drive home the need for spiritual discipline (cf. esp. 1 Cor. 9:24–27).

1 Timothy 4:8
As valuable as physical fitness (training is gymnasia, "exercise," used only here in the NT) may be (and Paul did not disparage it), spiritual fitness, or godliness, is much more valuable. Physical fitness is profitable only, literally, "for a little." But godliness is profitable for all things, not merely in this present transient life but in the life to come, that is, for eternity. Godliness colors all aspects of temporal and eternal life, bestowing its blessing on all it touches. [ref]

God disciplines his children (Hebrews 12:5-8)

The readers also seemed to have forgotten the encouragement found in Proverbs 3:11–12, which presents divine discipline as an evidence of divine love. Thus they should not lose heart (cf. Heb. 12:3) but should endure hardship (hypomenete, lit., "persevere"; cf. Heb. 12:1–3) as discipline and regard it as an evidence of sonship, that is, that they are being trained for the glory of the many sons (cf. Heb. 2:10 and comments there). All God's children are subject to His discipline, and in the phrase everyone undergoes discipline the writer for the last time used the Greek metochoi ("companions, sharers"), also used in [Hebrews 1:9; 3:1, 14; 6:4]. (Lit., the Gr. reads, "… discipline, of which all have become sharers.") In speaking of those who are not disciplined and are thus illegitimate children, he was probably thinking of Christians whose disloyalty to the faith resulted in their loss of inheritance (i.e., reward) which is acquired by the many sons and daughters. (In the Roman world, an "illegitimate child" had no inheritance rights.) What such Christians undergo, the author had shown, is severe judgment. On the other hand believers who undergo God's "discipline" are being prepared by this educational process (paideia, "discipline," lit., "child-training"; cf. Eph. 6:4) for millennial reward. [ref]

Christ's love, his discipline, and our repentance (Revelation 3:19)

(Revelation 3:19-20)
The nauseating condition of the Laodiceans has not quenched the love of Christ for them; his scathing judgments are the expression of an affection that wishes to lead them to repentance (cf. Heb. 12:4–11). The gracious invitation that follows in [Revelation 3:20] is given, not to the church as a whole, as though Christ was outside the church (which would require, 'If the church will hear my voice … I will go in and eat with them, and they with me'), but to each individual within it, conveying the offer of the risen Lord to share with any who will open the door of fellowship in even the commonest activities of life. [ref]

Keep your heart open to the correction of the Lord and be ready to receive His chastisement regardless of who holds the whip. - A. W. Tozer [ref]



chasten/ chastened/ chastening (in NASB) occur 10 times in 10 verses: Job 33:19; Psalms 6:1; 38:1; 39:11; 73:14; 94:12; Isaiah 26:16; 53:5; Jeremiah 2:30; 30:11

chastise/ chastised/ chastisement (in NASB) occur 9 times in 8 verses: Deuteronomy 21:18; 22:18; Job 34:31; Jeremiah 31:18; Hosea 5:2; 7:12; 10:10; Habakkuk 3:9

correct/ corrects/ correcting (in NASB) occur 9 times in 9 verses: 2 Samuel 7:14; Proverbs 3:12; 9:7; 29:17; Jeremiah 2:19; 10:24; 46:28; Habakkuk 1:12; 2 Timothy 2:25

discipline/ disciplined/ disciplines/ disciplining (in NASB) occur 50 times in 43 verses: Deuteronomy 4:36; 8:5; 11:2; Judges 8:16; 1 Kings 12:11, 14; 2 Chronicles 10:11, 14; Job 5:17; Psalms 50:17; 118:18; Proverbs 3:11; 6:23; 7:22; 12:1; 13:1, 18, 24; 15:5, 32; 16:22; 19:18, 20, 27; 22:15; 23:12, 13; Jeremiah 10:8; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 11:32; Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 2:5; 1 Timothy 4:7, 8; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 12:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11; Revelation 3:19

instruct/ instructed/ instructs/ instructing/ instruction/ instructions (in NASB) occur 93 times in 93 verses: Exodus 16:4, 28; 24:12; 32:28; 1 Samuel 12:23; 2 Kings 12:2; 1 Chronicles 15:22; Nehemiah 9:20; Esther 2:10; 9:26, 31; Job 22:22; 27:11; 33:16; 36:10; 38:3; 40:7; 42:4; Psalms 16:7; 25:8, 12; 32:8; 78:1; Proverbs 1:2, 3, 7, 8; 4:1, 2, 13; 5:12, 23; 8:10, 33; 9:9; 10:17; 15:33; 16:23; 21:11; 23:23; 24:32; 29:19; Ecclesiastes 4:13; Song of Solomon 8:2; Isaiah 1:10; 8:11; 28:26; 29:24; 30:9; Jeremiah 31:19; 32:33; 35:13; Daniel 9:22; Micah 3:11; Zephaniah 3:2, 7; Malachi 2:6, 7, 8, 9; Matthew 10:5; 11:1; 21:6; 28:15; Mark 6:8; 16:20; Luke 8:56; 9:21; Acts 15:24; 18:25; 23:22, 30; Romans 2:18; 15:4; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 7:10; 10:11; 11:17; 14:19; Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 2:7; 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 5:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 1 Timothy 1:3, 5; 2:11; 6:17, 18; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:12; Hebrews 6:2

punish/ punished/ punishing/ punishment (in NASB) occur 126 times in 118 verses: Genesis 4:13; 19:15; Exodus 21:20; 32:34; Leviticus 5:17; 18:25; 19:20; 22:16; 26:18, 28; Judges 20:10; 1 Samuel 14:47; 15:2; 28:10; 2 Kings 7:9; 2 Chronicles 6:23; Job 19:29; Psalms 59:5; 81:15; 89:32; 149:7; Proverbs 10:16; 15:10; 21:11; 22:3; Isaiah 10:3, 12; 13:11; 24:21, 22; 26:14, 21; 27:1; 29:6; 30:32; Jeremiah 5:9, 29; 6:6, 15; 8:12; 9:9, 25; 10:15; 11:22, 23; 21:14; 23:12, 34; 25:12, 29; 27:8; 29:32; 30:14, 20; 36:31; 44:13, 29; 46:21, 25; 48:44; 49:8; 50:18, 27, 31; 51:6, 18, 44, 47, 52; Lamentations 4:22; Ezekiel 14:10; 18:19, 20; 21:25, 29; 23:35; 32:27; 35:5; 44:10, 12; Hosea 1:4; 2:13; 4:9, 14; 8:13; 9:7, 9; 12:2; Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6; 3:2, 14; Micah 7:4; Zephaniah 1:8, 9, 12; Zechariah 10:3; 14:19; Matthew 25:46; Luke 23:16, 22; Acts 4:21; 22:5; 26:11; 2 Corinthians 2:6; 6:9; 10:6; Hebrews 10:29; 1 Peter 2:14; 2 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:18; Jude 1:7

reprove/ reproved/ reproves/ reproof (in NASB) occur 44 times in 43 verses: Leviticus 19:17; 1 Chronicles 16:21; Job 5:17; 6:26; 13:10; 20:3; 22:4; 40:2; Psalms 50:8, 21; 105:14; 141:5; Proverbs 1:23, 25, 30; 3:11, 12; 5:12; 9:7, 8; 10:17; 12:1; 13:18; 15:5, 10, 12, 31, 32; 19:25; 29:1, 15; 30:6; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 2:19; Hosea 4:4; Amos 5:10; Habakkuk 2:1; 2 Timothy 3:16; 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:15; Hebrews 12:5; Revelation 3:19

A plant nursery displayed this sign: "The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago. The next best time is today." Ten years of consistent devotion to spiritual disciplines would be ideal. If you haven't done that over the past decade, then next best is a commitment to start your spiritual development today. - The Years Ahead [ref]




A little five-year-old was watching his older brother get disciplined by their father.

After a thorough lecture the dad reminded his elder son that he would now have to live with the consequences of his actions.

A few minutes later little Larry spoke with his dad and made a special request, "Dad, if David has to go live with the consequences, can I have his room?" [ref]

As one source succinctly notes, to "discipline" is "to train by instruction and control (1 Cor. 9:27). The biblical concept of discipline has both a positive side (instruction, knowledge, and training) and a negative aspect (correction, punishment, and reproof). Those who refuse to submit to God's positive discipline by obeying His laws will experience God's negative discipline through His wrath and judgment." [ref] God's discipline -- whether positive or negative -- comes from a loving heavenly Father who is fully commited to our spiritual growth and development -- that is to say, committed to making us more like Jesus in our every thought, word, and deed. In a word, God disciplines us in order to make us holy. And, lest we are ever tempted to forget it: "Holiness does not come from reading a good book. It does not come about by being in a powerful meeting. Holiness comes by the Lord's purging out of us our love for sin and for self. This process takes time." [ref]

[T]he one who holds another accountable is first accountable to be a loving person. - T. E. Schmidt [ref]


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