This article is about Christian parental discipline of children.

Source: Faith in Focus, 1996. 2 pages.

The Use of the Rod in Chastening Children

As a student of the Reformed Teach­ers Training College, I have had the privilege of reading many Christian books, and listening to many Christian audio and videotapes. Among the many excel­lent books and tapes, one audiotape stood out as a real treasure. I hope that by sharing an outline of it here, you will discover the wonderful truth of God's Word, and be able to apply it to your situation.

There are few things which constitute a more powerful testimony to the reality and beauty of true religion than a well ordered Christian home. We as Chris­tians should be very concerned that our homes are focused on God, and are a good witness. This review is of one tape sermon in a series on the family (by A. N. Martin), and deals specifically with The Use of the Rod in Chastening Children.

The Biblical starting point for this ser­mon is found in Hebrews 12:1-13 and Ephesians 6:4. Martin in a previous ser­mon, has identified the rod as predomi­nant in Scripture. He defines the rod as "some form of corporal punishment Scripturally and wisely administered". In this sermon Martin lays down the regu­lating principles that govern corporal punishment. These are the principles that parents and teachers have to apply to specific situations. The framework is firstly, the context of corporal punish­ment, and secondly, the manner of corporal punishment.

Context of Corporal Punishment🔗

Christian Chastisement🔗

The authority of God must be the fundamental reason for administering discipline. Why are we to discipline?  Because God commands it. If we love God we must obey Him (Matthew 28:20), in self-conscious action. Parents' and teach­ers' authority is not based on ability, but it is God ordained. This does not dimin­ish when children grow in age, size, knowledge or wisdom. Our discipline must be reflective of God's discipline. He has defined the goal of discipline "that we may be partakers of His holiness (Hebrews 12:10; Romans 9)".

The subjugation of the child's will must be the conscious goal of Christian discipline. We aim to subjugate the child's will with the rod to obey constituted authority – blessing is found in this obedience. We are not to break the will of the child by use of the rod, but teach that the breaking of God's will leads to destruc­tion. God created man to have an aver­sion to pain. Pain is the result of our disobedience to Him – a scarred con­science, a scarred life and hell. God uses man's aversion to pain to teach him obedience.

Genuine love for the child must be the conscious motive. Martin defines love as the intelligent principled affection which seeks the good of the object even at personal cost (Hebrews 12:6; Psalm 89:30 - ­33). If discipline is not in love it becomes revolting tyranny – an escape from ten­sion. This love for the child must be demonstrated always in the family rela­tionship, not just in discipline – otherwise your child will question your love. If the rod is used outside of this ordained context it will harden the heart of the child.

Martin claims that those who profess to love the child too much to spank, have a love that is unprincipled carnal senti­mentality. In this case you are cooperat­ing with the devil for the destruction of your child (Proverbs 13:24; 1 Samuel 3:12-14). Martin does not shy away from the truth at all. He is God's servant even at per­sonal cost.

The Manner of Christian Discipline🔗

Christian discipline must be reason­able (as opposed to irrational). Chris­tians are to be concerned with the state of the child, and the circumstances in which the child sinned when they punish the child. God is reasonable with man, showing compassion, knowing our frailty (Psalm 103:13, 14) – we need to imitate Him in this as in all things. We need to ask God for wisdom to deal with each individual situation.

Christians should discipline with suffi­cient firmness to enforce the lesson. God used degrees of punishment: (1 Corinthians 11:30) weakness, sickness, and death. Our Christian discipline should be suffi­ciently severe so the act is not repeated and sufficiently firm to bring the child's will into sweet submission (i.e. Jonah).

Discipline must be administered with unrelenting consistency. God will con­tinue to rebuke us until we join Him in glory. The rod is to be parents' travelling companion through life (Proverbs 13:24), and parents need to be united in consist­ency. It was once said "it is the certainty and not the severity of the punishment that is effective".

Punishments need to be proportion­ate to the sin. The rod needs to be administered consistently, but in propor­tion to the offence (Luke 12:47, 48). We need to consider the understanding of the child to do this, and also the magni­tude of deviation from God's Word.

Discipline cannot be fully effective in the life of a Christian family unless it is prayerfully administered (Jeremiah 17:5). He who uses the means without prayer ex­pecting the means to be effectual, is guilty of presumption. He who prays with­out using the means is tempting God. He who uses the means and prays for a blessing on the means and looks in faith toward God, he is a true consistent Christian.

As Christian parents and teachers, we are to nurture our children by chastening them in the Lord. Our children ought to be believing monuments of the wholesomeness of the rod of correction applied within Biblical perspectives – to the end that we should show the virtues of God.

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