Why the Rod is Righteous
by Robert Deffinbaugh, Community Bible Chapel , Richardson, Texas
Lesson 16: Wisdom and Child-Rearing, Part III, See the original article at this link at the Bible.org as well as additional articles by the author. Visit the Community Bible Chapel website for online audio sermons by Pastor Deffenbaugh
From my vast experience I could easily write a book on the subject of corporal punishment. It would be entitled: Spankings I Remember. There is one particular incident from my youth that is still fresh in my mind’s eye. My father asked me to walk up to the county road and get the mail. I responded that I would be delighted to drive those 200 yards or so. After all, I reminded him, it was my old ‘36 Ford pickup that I would be driving. True enough, my father agreed, but it was his gas I would be consuming. I walked out the back door only to see that pickup sitting, unused. What a shame. Convinced that my dad was unreasonable, and hoping that tired engine would come to life before my father made it out of the house, I got in and started grinding away at the starter. The engine came to life about the same time my dad did. Well, it was too late, I reasoned; what was done was done. I might as well make a run for it, hoping the truck was quicker than dad–a futile thought.
Unfortunately for both dad and myself, I ran over his foot with a half-flat front tire. That certainly added to his zeal. With amazing agility dad grabbed hold of the truck; and since the truck had no door on the driver’s side, dad and I were eyeball to eyeball, me in the driver’s seat and him on the running board. Now I know that some Bible teachers make much of the rod, the instrument, by which discipline is administered, as well as carefully specifying the place it is to be applied. But there was a stick laying in the road which my dad was able to reach down and pick up, and I was still sitting on the spot where it would best be applied. The long and short of it was that one good blow brought me to my senses and that old truck to a halt. You may have guessed that I walked to bring in the mail.
As a commentary on my father’s use of the paddle, there is not one time I can recall about which I am not now able to smile. The only member of our family who had a continuing difference with my father about the paddle was Prince, the family’s collie. I believe that dog suffered as much during our sessions with the rod as we did.
No book of the Bible has as much to say about “the rod” as the Book of Proverbs. And few books written in recent years would agree with what Proverbs teaches. An article in the Journal of Psychology and Theology of several years ago probably expresses the viewpoint of most Americans. The author concluded that moderate spanking had minimal value, if any, and more frequent and severe spanking was definitely viewed as damaging to the child. Here are several of the reasons the author cited in support of his position: 1
1.A child’s bottom is in close proximity to his sexual organs. Thus a spanking may result in sexual stimulation. (Sigmund Freud’s fingerprints are all over this objection). 2.The child may so enjoy the making up which follows a spanking that he will seek the spanking. 3.Since it is assumed that spanking is a form of parental revenge, it is feared that the child will learn to handle his frustrations like his parents do–by striking out. In the words of the article, when we spank our children we give them, “a taste of the jungle.” 2 4.A woman once suffered from an anal fistula which she associated with spanking and toilet training. Therefore no one should spank their children for fear that this might be their experience. 5.The possibility of getting a spanking keeps the child from having a relaxed attitude toward life. He is always fearful of the spanking which might occur. 6.Some children who are spanked still misbehave. Therefore, spanking must not work.
I am not shocked to read these kinds of statements when they are written by non-Christians, by people who do not view the Bible as authoritative. But this article was written by a man who received a doctoral degree in theology from one of the most renowned seminaries in the United States. Furthermore, he is teaching in a Christian liberal arts college. 3 In attempting to integrate psychology with theology, the former clearly won out, as we can see from this statement by Dr. Ruble:
Should children be spanked? Answered from a biblical viewpoint, there seems to be no clear teaching that they should. Conversely, there is no explicit prohibition against spanking. Answered from a psychological perspective, there are differences of opinion among psychologists. However, the negative features associated with spanking children seem to suggest that they should not be spanked severely or frequently, if at all.
All psychologists would tend to emphasize positive rather than negative contingencies in controlling children’s behavior. Spanking is an aversive stimulus and therefore not as desirable as positive reward in behavioral control. When aversive dimensions must be applied, non-violent ones are preferable to violent ones. 4
In a later article, in response to the criticism of another Christian psychologist, 5 Dr. Ruble writes:
The Bible nowhere teaches that all children should be spanked if they are to develop properly. Instead, children need firm and patient guidance. They need happy, well-adjusted, integrated Christian parents who resist the impulse to strike out when frustrated by the child’s behavior. They need innovative parents with a vast repertoire of creative responses to the child. They need above all to realize the powerful impact of example. 6
This demonstrates to me that even evangelical, Bible-believing Christians are struggling with the matter of spanking their children. Not only are some Christians questioning its validity today, but governmental agencies are quite clearly moving in the direction of banning its use, not only in public schools but in the home. While my first intention was simply to assume that Christians agreed we must spank our children and to discuss only the “how’s” and “when’s,” I now find it necessary to spend this entire lesson exploring the biblical reasons “why” Christian parents should spank their children.
It is from the Scriptures that we must derive the principles which should govern the discipline of our children, and by which we must judge the contributions of every other field of study. The Bible clearly claims to be an adequate and authoritative guide for all spiritual matters, and in particular for the matter of correction and discipline.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
If it is the Scriptures which adequately equip us for every good work, and for correction in particular, then let us look to the book which has the most to say on the subject of spanking, the Book of Proverbs.
What is the Rod?
Before I begin to enumerate the biblical reasons for using the rod, let me agree with Dr. Ruble in one particular area, though not to the degree that he carries it. 7 I agree with him that the expression “the rod” may at times be used more broadly than just as a reference to corporal punishment. The term “rod” is used, for example for God’s divine chastisement of men (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14; Isa. 10:5). In these instances we understand the term “rod” to be used metaphorically or symbolically for divine discipline. This does not mean (as Dr. Ruble seems to conclude) that the term “rod” in Proverbs never refers to a spanking. In nearly every instance in Proverbs the “rod” could just as well be translated “spanking.” I do fear, however, that some parents have concluded that there is only one means of correction–the rod.
I believe thinking of discipline only in terms of the “rod” is incorrect for several reasons. In the first place, some children are less affected by the rod than others. Some children seem to have a “cast iron bottom,” with a very high threshold for pain. The paddle does not speak as loudly to such individuals. Secondly, other forms of punishment may be taken more seriously. For example, a 16-year old son would probably far rather have a spanking than to have the car keys taken away for a week. If discipline is intended to get a child’s attention, forms other than spanking may be more effective. Furthermore, certain forms of discipline may be more appropriate and meaningful than others. To go back to the 16-year old son for a moment, if he were caught driving recklessly, removing his privilege of driving would provide a more natural and meaningful lesson. To fail to use the car properly results in losing the privilege of driving. Let us not be limited to only one means of correction.
I have a friend who had an interesting means of differentiating between offenses, while using a paddle to deal with a variety of types of misconduct. He had a very long paddle, with reference marks up and down the length of the handle. For very serious disobedience, he grasped the paddle at the very end, giving the board a very long and painful swing. For lesser sins he would “choke up” like a baseball player attempting a short hit.
This is one solution, but I think we dare not attempt to use the paddle for every offense our children commit. When Proverbs urges parents not to spare the rod, it is, in the broadest terms, instructing us of the need to correct, to discipline, our children. One of the ways of correcting our children which Proverbs advocates is the rod. Correction–yes. The paddle–perhaps. Discipline–always. The rod–sometimes.
Why is the Rod Required?
Much of modern-day psychology seems to look on the rod as a relic of the past. It is a punitive, even primitive, means of controlling the behavior of children which is now obsolete by virtue of man’s greater knowledge of human behavior. Simply put, we have evolved beyond such primitive means of controlling our children. To the modern mind the rod really is a “taste of the jungle.” Why is it then that the Book of Proverbs speaks so much of the rod, instructing parents to make use of it in child-rearing? A number of reasons can be found in Proverbs and elsewhere in the Bible.
1. THE ROD IS REQUIRED IN THE BIBLE BECAUSE WE ARE NOT INCLINED TO USE IT. Proverbs assumes the sinfulness of the parent as well as that of the child. Proverbs commands parents to use the rod for correction simply because we would not otherwise be inclined to do so. There are a number of reasons why this is true.
Some parents fail to use the rod because of their own upbringing. Some grew up in homes where they were not spanked. The tendency in most cases is for us to raise our children the way we were brought up (cf. Prov. 4:3-4).We must always evaluate our past experience in the light of the Scriptures. We should, of course, retain that which is godly and good, but we must also recognize those elements of our childhood training which were wrong.
Worse by far is the parent who grew up in a home where the “rod” was an implement in the hand of an angry parent who could not or would not distinguish between discipline and child abuse. Unfortunately, there are people who use the Bible to justify their cruelty to their children. Child abuse is never sanctioned in Proverbs.
The difference between the Book of Proverbs and psychologists like Dr. Ruble is that Proverbs assumes that most parents are inclined not to discipline at all. In that case the parent must be encouraged to use the rod. Some psychologists, on the other hand, assume that those who use the “rod” are “striking out” against their children. Spanking is viewed as a form of parental aggression, a resorting to primitive tendencies. Therefore, psychology tends to prohibit spanking, assuming that those who use the rod do so in a wrong way or for wrong reasons. That is over generalization. Just because some parents abuse their children with a rod does not mean that the rod is categorically bad. While sinfulness can incline some parents to abuse their children by beating them, Proverbs assumes that sinfulness most often takes the form of avoiding the correction and discipline of our children.
Most of our reasons for resisting the rod do not go back to our parents. I believe one of the principle reasons why we fail to discipline our children is because we are sluggards. Let’s face it, children never disobey us when it is convenient to discipline them. Sometimes it is in the middle of a Dallas Cowboy’s football game. Who wants to get up and spank a child when it is third down with one yard to go on the opponent’s two yard line? Then again, who is anxious to spank their child in the aisle of a supermarket, when it seems that every eye is on us? If I were to be totally honest I would have to admit that the major reason why I don’t spank as much as I should is because I am too lazy to put forth to the effort to do something I don’t really enjoy.
Another reason many parents do not spank their children is due to misdirected sympathy. There is nothing more heart-rending than the wailing of a child during a spanking. In fact the wailing often starts before the paddling begins. The child is desperately attempting to soften or shorten the blows by his pathetic sobs and tears. In order to give the parent courage and diligence at such times Proverbs tells us:
Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you beat him with the rod, he will not die (23:13).
Taken in its usual sense this proverb assures faint-hearted parents that their child is not really ready for the intensive care unit at the hospital–it only sounds that way. In spite of such appearances, we are counseled, keep it up.
Yet another reason for parental avoidance of the rod is due to various misconceptions of love, forgiveness, and forbearance. In our culture it is considered inconceivable that love can be expressed by the rod. Love is viewed as never punishing, never bringing pain, only dealing with the child in very positive ways. Proverbs has a very different view of love:
He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently (13:24).
Do we love our children? Then we will be diligent to chasten them when required. Do we hate our children? Then we will avoid using the rod. Love seeks the best interest of the child, which is sometimes served by inflicting pain by means of the rod.
We may try to sanctify permissive parenting by using this kind of Scripture:
A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression (19:11).
In this text and others, such as our Lord’s instruction to “turn the other cheek” (Matt. 5:39), we are taught not to retaliate against those who offend us. course, is true. We ought not seek revenge:
Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you (20:22).
But while we ought not seek revenge, neither do we dare overlook sin in the lives of our children, or in the lives of other saints (cf. Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-8; Gal. 6:1).
Finally, I believe that some parents refrain from using the rod because they have been taught never to discipline in anger. While anger should never control our discipline, it may be a means of motivating it. I am personally convinced that being angry should not keep a parent from doing his duty with regard to the rod. Since this is an important issue I will spend a considerable amount of time on it in the next lesson. Suffice it for now to say that being angry should not keep us from disciplining our children.
2. THE ROD IS REQUIRED TO RESTRAIN THE SIN OF THE CHILD. I must confess at the outset that while I believe this principle is assumed by the Book of Proverbs, I am not certain it is clearly taught here. I n Genesis 9 God ordained government and the use of capital punishment. He did this in order to restrain sinful men. The “sword” which government bears (Rom. 13:4) is that of capital punishment. It is given this authority, we are taught, to restrain evil and to reward righteousness (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:14). I believe that parents have this same obligation with regard to their children. While we cannot change their hearts, we can, to some degree, control their behavior, and for this we are held accountable (cf. 1 Sam. 3:13; 1 Tim. 3:4). Just as government bears the sword to restrain sin, the parent holds the rod.
3. THE ROD IS REQUIRED BECAUSE IT DEMONSTRATES THE CHARACTER OF THE CHILD. I have a friend who has helped me appreciate the fact that a person’s character is often demonstrated by his response to correction. Proverbs teaches this truth, and it certainly applies to the child’s response to the rod.
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid (12:1).
A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke (13:1).
A fool rejects his father’s discipline, But he who regards reproof is prudent (15:5).
A child who accepts discipline and responds to it by repentance and right conduct is on the path of the wise. A child who is embittered by correction (even though rightly carried out by the parents) has rejected the way of the wise.
In the light of the rod as a test of a child’s character, let us be careful about using some “positive” means of training our children. Secular psychology tends to avoid nearly every negative form of discipline in favor of those which are considered more positive. Positive reinforcement is important, but not when it excludes necessary negative correction. If I am in the grocery store and I tell my child to put down the box of cereal and he responds, “No!” I have several choices. If I say to the child, “If you put down the cereal, I’ll buy you a candy bar,” that is bribery, not discipline. The obedience of our children is best tested when we instruct them to do something that is undesirable or unpleasant to them, like bending over to get a shot at the doctor’s office. To give a child a dollar and tell him to buy candy is no test of obedience. Let us beware of “positive” discipline which is only bribery by another name. Let us use it only when it is godly and right.
4. THE ROD IS REQUIRED BECAUSE IT IS A TEACHING TOOL.A spanking is not only a test of the child’s character but a tool to teach the child as well.
All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:1-3).
In this passage Moses taught the Israelites a very important principle. Not only were the difficulties along the way a discipline (v. 5) intended to test the character of the people of God (v. 2), they were a lesson intended to teach God’s people that man’s life consists of more than eating bread, that men must also learn to live in complete dependence on God’s word (v. 3). While Job’s trials were a proof of his character (Job 1:8), they were also a lesson in Job’s life to teach him greater dependence on God, especially in times of trouble (Job 38).The Book of Hebrews teaches New Testament Christians the very same lesson (cf. especially chap. 12). The Book of Proverbs agrees with this teaching, for it informs us that parental discipline is divinely appointed for the development of a child’s character.
My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord, or loathe His reproof, For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father, the son in whom he delights (3:11-12).
For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life (6:23).
He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding (15:31-32).
The rod of correction imparts wisdom, But a child left to itself disgraces his mother (29:15, NIV).
It is very important that we distinguish between punishment and correction. Punishment is the process of giving the evil-doer what he deserves. Correction is intended to instruct a man so that he will mature and be more godly. From a divine perspective punishment is for non-believers while chastening is for God’s children. The correction of our children should be modeled after the correction of God’s children (cf. 3:11-12). The correction of our children with the rod, then, is to be instructive, not merely punitive (though this may be true as well).
So far as instruction is concerned the rod is not required to teach the wise, because they will listen to counsel and learn from it.
Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you, Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man, and be will increase his learning (9:8-9).
Some, however, are not teachable with mere words. A child, for example, may not be able to grasp the danger of playing in the street. The rod reinforces the word “no” by teaching young child that when he plays in the street there are painful consequences. It amazes me that some psychologists talk about the cruelty of spanking a child in this light. Is it more cruel to spank a child so he can learn of the danger in this way or to let him suffer the natural consequences of foolishness and perhaps die? You cannot reason with a child at this age. Children are unable to grasp abstractions (like the danger of Mack trucks in the street), but they do understand pain. The rod is an instructive tool for those who cannot yet reason.
The rod is also an instructive tool for those who are old enough to reason, but won’t. For those who will not listen to reason the rod is an alternative teaching tool. Stubborn willfulness is something for which the rod is the remedy. It is intended to change arrogance and pride into humility, and disobedience to obedience.
By using the rod the parent seeks to point out sin in the child’s life and to show him that sin always has a high price. In so doing the child is encouraged to see the dangers of sin and to turn from waywardness to the way of wisdom, beginning with the fear of the Lord.
I have not thought this passage through carefully, but it seems that the role of the rod in bringing stubborn sons to a point of being willing to listen to reason is taught in the Book of Isaiah. In the first chapter we read:
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool” (Isa. 1:18).
Here is a word of warning and exhortation. Israel’s problem is her waywardness. God offers forgiveness, if Israel will only repent. If they heed God’s warning, they will find forgiveness and blessing, but if they do not . . .
“If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isa. 1:19-20).
God seeks to reason with men and to turn them from their sin. If they respond and repent, He will forgive them. If they do not, God will use “the rod” to break their willful spirit and bring them to repentance. The rod is for those who refuse to learn–the easy way.
The rod, then, is like a red warning light on the dash of an automobile–it is a signal that something is wrong which needs to be corrected. The light does not It is in this solve the problem, but it at least makes the individual aware of it. sense, I believe, that we are to understand this verse:
Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts (20:30).
The rod is employed in order to reach the heart of the child and to turn it from evil. By using the rod the parent seeks to teach the child the consequences of sin and the need for accepting God’s solution for sin.
Incidentally, I should point out that even when the rod fails to instruct the one who is chastened, it may still provide instruction for others.
Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd, But reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge (19:25).
5. THE ROD IS REQUIRED BECAUSE OF THE DEVASTATING RESULTS OF REFRAINING FROM ITS USE. There are some proverbs which seem to promise more than we can hope for:
Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, And beatings purge the inmost being (20:30, NIV).
Do not withhold discipline from a child; If you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death (23:13-14, NIV).
A casual look at these Scriptures may incline us to think that the paddle is more effective than the “Four Spiritual Laws.” Such a misconception is due to our failure to understand the terms “soul” and “death” in the sense that the Israelite of ancient times did. The term “soul” was equivalent to our word “life.” Saving a “soul” in those days was saving a life. “Death,” too, had a very specific meaning-one that we are not inclined to consider, but which ha! tremendous impact on the Old Testament saint.
If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. And they shall say to the elders of his city, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear (Deut. 21:18-21).
If the “rod” was given to restrain sin, the “rock” was given to remove it. Parents in ancient times who believed in the authority of God’s word knew all too well that if the rod was not effective, the only recourse was the rock–stoning. There was a tremendous motivation, then, for these parents to be diligent with the rod. While it may have been painful to both parent and child, it was far better than the alternative–stoning a stubborn and rebellious son.
One problem with parents today is that we have lost sight of the devastating consequences of sin which is not dealt with in the life of the child. Let us remember that when Paul wrote, “the wages of sin is death,” he was speaking primarily of spiritual death, not just physical death. While the parents of an undisciplined child suffer the earthly consequences of shame and regret (e.g. 29:15), the eternal consequences of sin are far worse. If the rod impresses a child with his sinfulness and need of salvation, that is a lesson worth the price of pain, and it may prevent a much greater agony, the suffering of eternal damnation.
In this light the rod looks entirely different than some would see it. To say that the rod is cruel and primitive is to fail to see the alternative clearly. Is it cruel to grab a child by the hair? Certainly it is painful. But suppose your child was falling from a high building to certain death. Would you be willing to grab that child by the hair if it were the means of saving his life? Of course you would. So too the rod may appear cruel until the alternatives are considered.
6. THE ROD Is REQUIRED BECAUSE IT IS RIGHTEOUS AND BECAUSE GOD USES THE ROD ON HIS CHILDREN. To be godly is to be God-like. Early in the Book of Proverbs we are taught that human discipline and divine discipline are similar, if not synonymous.
My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord, or loathe His reproof, For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father, the son in whom he delights (3:11-12).
These verses are quite evidently based upon the Old Testament law of God:
“Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son (Deut. 8:5).
If it is the responsibility of earthly fathers to model the role of God as the Father of true believers (a concept we will deal with in the next lesson), then the discipline of the father must be like that of God Himself.
Here is the rub with those who are unbelievers or unbiblical in their thinking. They cannot conceive of spanking as godly because they cannot conceive of God as judging men and condemning them to an eternal hell. If God is only a God of love (as some wish to think), then He would not and could not send any to hell, nor would He inflict pain on men at any time. If parents are to be godly (God-like), then they cannot inflict pain on their children. The primary issue is this: What is God like? Does He inflict pain on men for sin? If He does, then we are only consistent with His character and actions when we inflict pain on our children for their sinful acts.
A careful look at a few biblical passages leaves no doubt about the discipline of God:
“I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men” (2 Sam. 7:14).
“If his [i.e., David’s] sons forsake My law, and do not walk in My judgments, if they violate My statutes, and do not keep My commandments, then I will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.
But I will not break off My loving kindness from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips” (Ps. 89:30-34).
Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hands is My indignation (Isa. 10:5).
In each of these passages, God speaks of using the “rod” of correction on His people. David’s sons, the kings of Judah, would be disciplined by God for their disobedience; yet God said He would remain faithful to His promise to establish for Davit an everlasting throne (2 Sam. 7:12-13). Disobedient Israel would be chastened by God’s “rod” of correction, Assyria (cf. Deut. 28:15-68, esp. v. 64; Isa. 7:17-19; 8:5-8).
In every instance of God’s disciplining of His people, God is seen to be righteous for judging sinners. His discipline is never seen as a flaw in His holy character, but as a manifestation of His holiness.
Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who dost keep covenant and loving kindness, do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before Thee, which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and on all Thy people, from the days of the kings of Assyria to this day. However, Thou art just in all that hast come upon us; for Thou hast dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly (Neh. 9:32-33; cf. Ps. 78; Dan. 9).
Ananias and his wife Sapphira were struck dead for their deception (Acts 5:1-11). God is not merely a disciplinarian in the Old Testament, but also in the New. In Matthew 18:15-20 our Lord laid down a means of imposing discipline on a disobedient believer, and in 1 Corinthians 5:2-5 Paul urged the Corinthian saints to apply this instruction. Later on in 1 Corinthians, Paul explained that some of the saints had become sick and others had died due to their failure to rightly discern the Lord’s body in the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper (11:29-30). Paul personally practiced this kind of discipline (1 Tim. 1:18-20).
If disobedient children of God are disciplined severely in both testaments, we should certainly expect an even worse fate for those who have rejected the salvation God has provided for men in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:12-15).
Especially deserving of damnation are those who have actively afflicted the saints. Note that in the passage cited below God is seen to be righteous in His act of judging sinners.
And the second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died. And the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments” (Rev. 16:4-7).
We can now understand why Proverbs views the rod as righteous and judgment as just. In Proverbs 1 wisdom is completely righteous in seeing justice served by the sinners reaping not only what they wanted, but also what they so richly deserved.
‘Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me, because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be satiated with their own devices. For the waywardness of the naive shall kill them, and the complacency of fools shall destroy them” (1:28-32).
We can draw no other conclusion from the Scriptures than this: Righteousness demands the rod. God’s righteousness necessitates that He judge unbelievers and discipline His own people. God has established kings and earthly authorities to promote righteousness and to punish evildoers (Prov. 20:8; 24:25; 25:5; Rom. 13:1-5). So too parents must reward righteousness in their children and punish them for their evil deeds. If there is one thing that is certain in eternity, and which should be seen in life, it is that sinners will be punished.
Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, But those who are righteous will go free (11:21, NIV).
Society is wrong, my friend–dead wrong! It is not a sin to spank a child. If parents are to be godly they must deal with evil as God does. Just as God has always made provision for the sinner, the parent must teach the child about the way to life. Just as God has disciplined His disobedient children, so must we, for their good and our own. The rod is righteous. Discipline is divine. Spanking can be an act of spirituality. It is not always so, but that is a matter which we will deal with in our next lesson.
My friend, is it possible that you have been slack in using the rod because you do not want to conceive of God as a disciplinarian? Do you wish that God were patronizing rather than punishing sin? Many of us have failed in our child-raising simply because we do not like the model–God. Like it or not, the God of the Bible–Old Testament and New–is a God who deals with sin, whether in the life of a believer or an unbeliever.
You and I have a choice. We may either recognize our sin and accept the forgiveness which God has provided in the person of His Son, or we may suffer the consequences of our sins–eternally. If we choose His salvation, He will continue to chasten us for sin, but only so that we may grow and mature to be more like Him. How would you choose to face God, as a son or as a sinner who has rejected His Son? That is your choice, my friend. I pray that you will choose the way of wisdom, the way of life through the Lord Jesus Christ. He died on the cross of Calvary for your sins. He offers salvation to all who will trust in His work on Calvary. Trust Him today.
1 Richard Ruble, “Should Children Be Spanked?” Journal of Psychology and Theology , July, 1973, pp. 64-65.
2 Here, Ruble quotes Ginnot, p. 181, cited in above article, p. 64.
3 In this article Richard Ruble was said to have received his Master’s degree from Faith Seminary, the Doctor of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, and was then serving as a professor of Bible and Psychology and Chairman of the Division of Biblical Studies at John Brown University.
4 “Should Children Be Spanked?,” p. 66.
5 In a published response to Dr. Ruble’s article, Alan R. McThomas pointed out many flaws in Ruble’s thinking. Mr. McThomas, then in doctoral studies at Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology, offers hope that not all who seek to integrate theology and psychology come out with the wrong conclusions. Cf. Alan R. McThomas, “Reaction,” Journal of Psychology and Theology , July, 1973, pp. 67-69.
6 Richard Ruble, “Should Children Be Spanked? A Reply To McThomas,” Journal of Psychology and Theology , October, 1973, P. 79.
7 Dr. Ruble writes, .” . . the references to striking a child might be considered merely a figure of speech for the idea that children need discipline of which spanking was a prominent example.” (“Should Children Be Spanked?” July, 1973, p. 65.) I have little problem with the statement itself, but in application Dr. Ruble virtually disregards the clear instruction of Proverbs to use the rod. For him, it would seem, classifying the “rod” as a figure of speech opens the door to a world of abuses. The “rod,” even if a figure of speech, symbolizes the kind of discipline Proverbs is speaking about, but it is this kind of discipline which Ruble refuses to consider relevant for today’s parents.