Father of correction and love

What does it mean to be rebuked? 

How does God rebuke us? 

Why is it important to understand that God needs to rebuke his Children?

Is there a difference between the rebuke and the wrath of God?

For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.

This New Testament Hebrews passage above originates in the extract below from the book of Proverbs 3:11-12. Rebuke is a much older concept going back to creation: in simple terms Dad rebukes his children when they do wrong things. 

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

The proper discipline of God is his proof of love for us.

Biblical scripture and extra biblical Hebrew and contemporary Christian teaching shows this father child dynamic. This is reflected in humanity and the animal kingdom too. God himself portrays himself as a Father and us his children. More specifically the Bible teaches us that those who have received Jesus as Saviour are His children (John 1:12 and Galatians 3:26). God uses this as a natural law metaphor: because we understand it and see it in family, the world and the broader law system that we live. God repeatedly encourages us that he is a loving father who not only blesses but disciplines his children for their own good. 

In the book of Hebrews (chapter 12) God shows us that those who do not receive God’s discipline are not legitimate children (verse 8), they are not true believers. A loving father carefully watches his son, and when that son defies his instruction and heads for danger, the father disciplines him to keep him safe. While we are not fully in perfection as Paul describes we are on a walk and a war between the flesh and spirit natures. Our Heavenly Father brings chastening back into our lives to direct us closer to holiness. 

Rebuke / chastening can come in many forms, some of the less supernatural ones are what are called the fruits of the flesh. For example; guilt, difficult circumstances, lack of peace, relationship difficulties and disputes, arguing and factions. The chastening of the Lord even includes physical illness and death as we find in 1 Corinthians 11:30 concerning the disrespect of the blood of Christ in the Lord’s supper. When we understand the whole scriptures in context as God’s messeage to humanity, we see that God can do whatever he wants to and he will. Specifically we find that he will even take a person to the edge of death to save them for eternity!

It is vital not to confuse rebuke/chastisement or correction with eternal punishment. As our punishment for sin was paid for by Jesus on the cross Romans 5:9. Obviously the Bible teaches us that we should sin no more and that is the fruit and evidence of a believer and our call 1 John 3:4-12. The text here is talking about sins that lead to spiritual death or evidence of spiritual death. This is a different topic to the rebuke of a father. The wrath of God cascaded down on to Jesus, him being like a sacrificial lamb. On account of this those who are “in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8) are free from the wrath of God. God in his all power chooses not to record our sin. Even though God’s wrath is removed from us, we can still reap in this world consequences of past sins that originally led to death but have since been paid for by Christ. While forgiven we can’t expect that God will necessarily remove the natural consequences even if we repent. These consequences become healed wounds that remain like scars, experience and tools that God can use to help us learn from history and remind us that before our heavenly resurrection we are currently in his dispensation of grace.

New Testament teaching has its theological roots in the many examples of chastening concerning ancient Israel. The Israelites continually disobeyed God's commands throughout their history as humans do today. This is the story of God and humanity. God demonstrated patience with them, sending them seers, prophets and prophetesses. The prophets pleaded with them, and warned them many times. When people fail to see God through the prophets they fall deeper into wrong or false doctrine and come under what Biblical scholars understand as the Ahab and Jezebel syndrome, if they are not influenced by this already. This is an extremely dangerous demonic influence that can live within the body of God’s people, surreptitiously working behind the scenes. Evidence of a person influenced by this in the Bible is hatred toward prophets and seers, a disconnection from sound docritne, false prophecy, desire for status and power and spiritual pride.

However, even when God’s people became embroiled in idolatry and evil practices God’s love brought chastening through plagues and many enemy attacks. His firm love was a steering signalling that ultimately prevented them from permanent destruction. 

We must see chastisement as a huge compliment by God, he rebuked the great ones like Moses and David. The Bible says that God delighted in Moses, David and Solomon for example. Even though these great men were sinful at times, in error, or disobedience God continue to use them, because they had a repentant heart and sought the Lord.

In summary what can we take away from this?

1) When we sin, we must accept and expect that our heavenly Dad will not let us get away with it, because he loves us.

2) The Biblical reality is that some are not the children of God, they are not in real relationship to God. Even if someone professes to know Christ and walks a religious life - that doesn't necessarly mean that they are a legitimate child of God.

3) The Bible teaches us that for those who accept Messiah the sins that lead to eternal punishment have been paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the son and face of the Father.

4) God punishes those he accepts (Hebrews 12). 

Some useful scriptures include: Revelation 3:19, Hebrews 12:5-11, Job 5:17, Psalm 94:12

See last years article on Discipline of God (on: discipline in cycles).

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