Ephesians 6:4: Parental Discipline

The main parental responsibilities of instruction, love and discipline can be assigned to the ways in which we mediate Christ’s mediatorship as prophet, priest and king. We have looked at our parental responsibilities as prophets and priests, but now we need to turn to the matter of authority and discipline. In saying the word discipline we all have certain pictures in our mind, most people think about spanking or corporal punishment. That certainly is a part of it but not the whole. As we consider our role as God’s representatives in the home and ensuring that His rule is the rule of our homes we must remember that God disciplines us in two ways. We will call these proactive discipline and reactive discipline, one is positive and preventative; the other is negative and restorative. We derive these two categories of discipline by meditating on what the author of Hebrews says about enduring the trial of persecution in Heb. 12:5-11,

‘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? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 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 is important to recognize in the way in which this quote from Prov. 3:11-12 is applied is that the people who are being written to have done nothing wrong to merit punishment. They are being invited to view an unmerited hardship, in this instance persecution as from the hands of a loving Father for their good. He is helping these persecuted saints to see that our Father has two of doing discipline. On the one hand there is a reactive discipline where in response to particular sins He chastens us. But then there is another form which we are to attribute to any painful providences that we receive from the Father’s hand. God, because of His love for us, and because of our sinfulness which is replaced by good character through trouble and trial, proactively allows situations that call for perseverance to produce good character. This means that when God parents us, His discipline in our lives takes two forms. On the one hand He reactively chastens us for specific sin; but then He also proactively refines us for general sinfulness and the production of holiness. As a loving and holy Father He employs proactive and reactive discipline and we should do not less. For our final look at Ephesians 6:4, we will be dealing with the controversial matter of discipline, ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’