Punishment vs. Discipline

Today while preparing for a Bible study on Ephesians 6:1-9, I reviewed the definitions of “punishment” and “discipline” because a proper understanding of those terms will inform your understanding of verse 4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

pun·ish·ment, n.

A penalty imposed for wrongdoing

dis·ci·pline, n.

Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.

Strong’s Concordance, paideia

the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment) It also includes the training and care of the body

We tend to confuse the ideas of punishment and discipline, so this can create difficulties when we read passages like Hebrews 12:3-11. Keep in mind that “discipline” means “training” as you read these verses.

 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary orfainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

What really struck me as I studied is that verses 3-4 describe Jesus Christ’s taking our punishment for our sins, so we could be disciplined (trained) as children of God (verses 5-11).

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