Should Christians expect chastisement from God? This can be a confusing topic. As Christians, we are counted as righteous before God through the blood of Jesus. Our sins are paid in full and we are forgiven. There is also a scripture in Isaiah 53 stating that Jesus bore our chastisement. Here is an excerpt:
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus endured the chastisement of God on our behalf. What about scripture that indicates a reasonable expectation of chastisement for a Christian, such as that in Hebrews 12? Here is an excerpt:
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
There is also this scripture in Revelation 3 addressing the church of the Laodiceans:
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
We might also think about this teaching of Jesus in Luke 12 regarding faithful and unfaithful servants:
45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
First, what does it mean to be a Christian? Of course, we believe in Jesus. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is sat down on the right hand of God. We believe that through faith in Jesus, we are passed from judgment into life eternal.
We are also given this understanding: through Jesus, we are joint heirs and adopted sons of God. If we are to be sons, should we not expect some chastisement? It would seem so. However, God is a good Father. As sons through faith in Jesus, we are not His enemies. He loves us, and so He will correct us. His correction can be difficult, but it is not unjust or unbearable.
Jesus bore that which was unbearable, and He helps us bear all things including the chastisement we endure as sons of God.
What sort of chastisement should a Christian expect?
Consider how a just man would chastise his children. We should have some idea of what good parenting looks like. If we who are faulty can correct our children in a just and effective manner, how much more can God?
When we are new babes in Christ, we learn of His undying love. We are forgiven, we approach God in awe, and we want to learn what faith in Jesus means. As we learn to move about, we stumble and fall. God picks us up, time and time again in love. We also experience some corrections.
As we continue to learn and grow, God expects more from us, therefore the chastening can increase if we were to go astray, but He also knows our hearts and He knows what we need. If we are trying sincerely and trust in Him, then our correction could be minimal. However, the further our hearts turn away from Him, the more severe the correction may need to be.
There is much we could think about. In any case, I believe that chastening is part of the Christian life; however, we know that the Lord does not chastise us as enemies but as sons. He is loving, merciful, and wise. He knows us individually and He knows precisely what we need.
Sometimes we feel a soft conviction in our heart. Sometimes we feel great shame and sorrow. Sometimes we have an ongoing struggle, but we admit our fault and trust in Jesus to forgive and help us overcome, therefore we have faith instead of shame and sorrow. Sometimes the Lord removes things from us, and this can include small comforts or a large-scale overturn of our world.
How do we receive the chastisement of God?
Sometimes God sends a brother to rebuke us and help us along and sometimes He speaks to us directly in spirit. Sometimes God sends an enemy.
It all depends on what we need according to our spiritual maturity, the time we are living in, and the purposes of God for each individual and for the world at large.
For those who are given much and have much required of them: Do not lay your burdens on others.
Though we all inherit eternal life, we do not inherit equal portions. God expects more from some, so He will correct some more thoroughly than He would another. This is one of many reasons why we are instructed to correct each other in the spirit of meekness.
We should protect those who are frail in the faith and encourage growth as much as is possible while remembering that Jesus is merciful, and we all bring forth differing amounts of fruit. We do not always know what state of growth another is in or how far God intends to take them.
A little good fruit is pleasing to the Lord, and we should not squash it. “A bruised reed shall he not break, and a smoking flax shall he not quench.” We should dare not offend the little ones who believe in Him. We should dare not beat out fellow servants. We should live in peace and patience, lest that which we were entrusted with is given to another.
The variables pertaining to chastisement for a Christian are vast because we are individuals and Jesus is not a judicial system but our personal Lord and Savior.
In any case, we know this: God is just and merciful. Those whom He loves as sons receive what is good for them. Sometimes what we need is difficult and painful emotionally or physically, but all things work for our ultimate good: resurrection from the dead and an everlasting inheritance.
Chastisement can feel like a form of suffering, but sometimes we suffer for other reasons. Sometimes we suffer for the name sake of Jesus, not because of some wrong we have done. Such suffering helps us to grow, brings glory to God, and is an honor given to us rather than a form of correction or punishment. In the next article, I want to talk more about suffering apart from that which we endure through chastisement.