love--not smiting in wrath!
"Whom the Lord loves, He chastens." Hebrews 12:6
The Father's wise and loving discipline is in view here.
It is of first importance that we learn to
draw a sharp
distinction between Divine punishment and
chastisement. The distinction is very
simple, yet is
it often lost sight of. God's people can never by any
possibility be punished for their sins, for God has
already punished them at the Cross. The Lord Jesus,
our Blessed Substitute, suffered the full penalty of all
our guilt, hence it is written "The blood of Jesus Christ
cleanses us from all sin." Neither the justice nor the
love of God, will permit Him to again exact payment
of what Christ discharged to the full. The difference
between punishment and chastisement lies not in the
nature of the sufferings of the afflicted. There is a
threefold distinction between the two.
First, the character in which God acts. In the
former God acts as Judge--in the latter as Father.
Sentence of punishment is the act of a judge--a
penal sentence passed on those charged with guilt.
Punishment can never fall upon the child of God in
this judicial sense, because his guilt was all transferred
to Christ, "Who His own self bore our sins in His own
body on the tree."
But while the believer's sins cannot be punished, while
the Christian cannot be condemned (Romans 8:3)--yet
he may be chastised. The Christian occupies an entirely
different position from the non-Christian: he is a member
of the Family of God. The relationship which now exists
between him and God is that of parent and child; and as
a son he must be disciplined for wrongdoing. Folly is
bound up in the hearts of all God's children, and the
rod is necessary to rebuke, to subdue, to humble.
The second distinction between Divine punishment and
Divine chastisement lies in the recipients of each. The
objects of the former are His enemies. The subjects of the
latter are His children. As the Judge of all the earth, God
will yet take vengeance on all His foes. As the Father of
His family, God maintains discipline over all His children.
The one is judicial--the other parental.
A third distinction is seen in the design of each. The
one is retributive--the other remedial. The one flows from
His anger--the other from His love. Divine punishment is
never sent for the good of unrepentant sinners--but for
the honoring of God's law and the vindicating of His
government. But Divine chastisement is sent for the
well-being of His children: "God disciplines us for our
good, that we may share in His holiness." (Heb. 12:10)
When the believer is smarting under the rod let him not
say--'God is now punishing me for my sins.' That can never
be! That is most dishonoring to the blood of Christ. God
is correcting you in love--not smiting in wrath!
Chastisement proceeds from God's goodness and faithfulness,
and is one of the greatest blessings for which we have to thank
Him. Chastisement evidences our Divine sonship. It is designed
for our good, to promote our highest interests. Look beyond
the rod--to the all-wise hand which wields it!
Some of the saintliest of God's people, some of the most
obedient of His children--have been and are the greatest
sufferers. Oftentimes, God's chastenings are corrective.
They are sent to empty us of self-sufficiency and self-
righteousness. They are given to discover to us hidden
transgressions, and to teach us the plague of our own
hearts. Or again, chastisements are sent to strengthen
our faith, to raise us to higher levels of experience, to
bring us into a condition of usefulness. Still again, Divine
chastisement is sent as a preventative--to keep under
pride, to save us from being unduly elated over success
in God's service.
Remember, your afflictions are among the "all things"
which work together for good. Learn, then, to look
upon trials as proofs of God's love--purging, pruning,
and purifying you.