Coming to grips with God’s discipline of the believer. By Erwin W. Lutzer. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991. 46 pp. Paper, $3.25
Can we always draw a direct connection between specific events and judgment from God for specific sins? Dr. Lutzer answers this question in God’s Discipline, and gives helpful instruction on this often-ignored subject. God’s “retributive” discipline is illustrated in the loss of David’s child for his sin with Bathsheba. This is only a part of the entire discipline program. The Book of job illustrates God’s “educative” discipline. Job’s friends sinned in attributing job’s suffering to God’s retribution for sin. Rather, God was refining and teaching Job. Another form is the “preventative” kind. God gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” to prevent him from becoming proud (2 Cor 12:7), and thus to protect him from self-destruction.
The basis for discipline, Lutzer explains, is sonship. Since faithful believers are to inherit Christ’s kingdom, their chastening results from the loving parental concern of their heavenly Father: “whom the Lord loves He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb 12:6).
Lutzer draws a clear distinction between chastening (for believers) and wrath (for unbelievers), and makes an evangelistic appeal to unbelievers to become shielded from God’s wrath by accepting Christ’s sacrifice for their sins.
In discussing the methods of discipline, the author lists guilt, emotional trauma, Satanic oppression, and physical death with God’s many methods of “retributive” discipline for sin. Sinning believers must either come to an agreement with God about their sin (confession), or their experience of God’s chastening will continue to become more severe. King Saul, for example, experienced a demonic agitator to increase his jealous rage, and Ananias and Sapphira were taken to glory in quick judgment for their defiant, presumptuous, and insulting lie to the Holy Spirit.
The negative aspects of God’s discipline should be sobering to believers who rebel. God is a jealous and holy God. On the other hand, Lutzer points to Christ as our Example of obedience, who “learned obedience through the things that He suffered” (Heb 5:8). As believers grow in Christ, they learn that God’s discipline results in “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:11). As they submit to chastening, however painful, they learn to appreciate the loving correction of their Father.
This booklet should prove helpful to Christian workers as they attempt to give young believers a proper understanding of God’s discipline in their lives.
Mark J. Farstad
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society