Does God chasten us when we sin?

DOES GOD CHASTEN US WHEN WE SIN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Do my difficult circumstances indicate that God is mad at me? Is God punishing me because of my “unconfessed sin?” Does God still love me? Is God “going to get me” when I sin? Are my difficult circumstances God’s retribution for my sins?

One of the chief differences between religion (Christendom) and grace (Christianity) is the issue of divine punishment inflicted on disobedient Christians. How many times have ministers accused suffering Christians of having unconfessed sins, having backslidden, having apostatized, and so on? How many sincere, God-fearing, Jesus Christ-believing Christians have had sickly children, accidents, financial hardships, miscarriages, divorces, and prolonged illness, and religion has added to their pain by “beating them up” by saying, “You are under God’s punishing hand?” These religionists quote assorted Bible verses about God’s wrath supposedly being poured out on sinful Christians. Sadly, people usually never bother to read the contexts of those verses quoted during such circumstances. Beloved, we need to look at the Bible verses often used to teach that God “chastens” us today, and see what those verses really teach. The pure Holy Bible is our final authority, not a denominational interpretation of it.

Let us examine some of the passages from the New Testament that are used to teach that God chastens believers today. We will see what the Scriptures really say and teach about chastisement in the Dispensation of Grace.

 

1 CORINTHIANS 11:29-32

Those who claim that God chastens believers today using troubling circumstances, cite 1 Corinthians 11:29-32 to justify that belief and teaching. Please read that passage here: “[29] For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. [30] For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. [31] For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. [32] But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

This passage is commonly used to teach that God will cause sickness among, or even kill, believers who habitually live in sin, particularly when they abuse the Lord’s Supper (they assert that God did this to the Corinthians, focusing on verse 32 when it says, “we are chastened of the Lord”). Verse 32 should be considered in light of the whole passage, and should not be isolated.

Certainly, some of the Corinthians were getting drunk and being gluttonous when observing the Lord’s Supper (see verses 21-22). Overeating and drunkenness are known to cause illness and even death. However, please understand that God was not punishing the Corinthians for their bad behavior; the Corinthians simply reaped the results of their sowing to the flesh instead of sowing to the Spirit. God was not causing the Corinthians to get sick and/or to die; He simply let them reap the consequences of their actions. “[7] Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. [8] For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8). The Corinthians preferred drunkenness and gluttony, so God let them exercise free will to pursue it. Although Jesus Christ has taken away the eternal penalty of our sins (hell and the lake of fire), please understand that God will not remove the consequences of our poor judgment. If we choose a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, God will not shield us from the ill effects and poor health such a lifestyle brings. God will not keep us out of prison if we murder someone, commit theft, and so on. Again, the Corinthians were experiencing the natural results of their behavior. It was not God directing sickness and death to trouble them.

Here is where dispensational Bible study is so important. This is why “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is the key to understanding how God deals with us today. Today, God does not bless us on the basis of our works, our performance; moreover, God does not curse on the basis of our works, our performance. This is made abundantly clear in Paul’s epistle to the Romans and in his epistle to the Galatians. Romans 6:14-15: “[14] For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. [15] What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” We are blessed with every spiritual blessing only because of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, not because we confessed our sins, lived a good life, prayed often, gave money to the church, got water baptized, et cetera. Our works are not the issue because God’s Word has already made it abundantly clear that our “good” works are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

 

HEBREWS 12:5-11

Those who claim that God is chastening believers today, will also cite Hebrews 12:5-11. Let us read that passage here: “[5] And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: [6] For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. [7] If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? [8] But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. [9] Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? [10] For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. [11] Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

The book of Hebrews is especially cited regarding chastening in the lives of today’s Christians because it is often assumed that Paul wrote that book (thus, it is supposed, making Hebrews applicable to us). While beyond the scope of this study, there is plenty of Scriptural evidence to indicate that Paul did not write the book of Hebrews. Furthermore, Hebrews 12:5-11 has a context—it quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 (a passage to and about Israel), and from the book’s title, it is overwhelmingly clear that Hebrews is still a Jewish book with a Jewish title. It is the book to the Hebrews, after all, is it not? The book of Hebrews is not actually written to us or about us, the Church the Body of Christ, so we should not try to extract its legalistic teachings and force them on ourselves.

If we study the book of Hebrews, we learn that its contents are future, for it speaks of “the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5). The book of Hebrews is written to people who are anticipating Jesus Christ’s Second Coming (Hebrews 10:25)—we, the Body of Christ, are looking for the Rapture, not the Second Coming! The book of Hebrews is actually written to believing Israel living during the seven-year Tribulation. As per the Mosaic Law, the Old Covenant, if Israel disobeyed God, then she would receive a series of increasingly harsher judgments. The seven-year Tribulation is the conclusion of those judgments, God’s chastening of Israel for her many centuries of pagan idolatry. This is the chastening of which the book of Hebrews speaks; it has nothing to do with God punishing individual believers today, but rather God judging and purging the nation Israel during the seven-year Tribulation, so she can be God’s spotless nation to go into His everlasting earthly kingdom (which will begin with the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ).

 

WHY THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT

One of the cleverest ways the Devil confuses the Body of Christ is to quote Bible verses that have nothing to do with it. If it is in the Bible, it must be true for and us, right? Wrong! We can claim Israel’s legalistic passages in the Bible and still be outside of God’s will because those passages are not God’s will for us. Such deception of being Scriptural but not being dispensational is so subtle that it often goes unsuspected and undetected. It is abundantly clear that God dealt with Israel on the basis of works, and He will do so again. If Israel wanted to be blessed of God, Israel had to do good works by faith (James 2:14-26). When Israel disobeyed God, she received the curses, the judgments, the chastisement. See Deuteronomy chapter 28 and Leviticus chapter 26.

Back in Exodus chapter 19, God offered to make a covenant with Israel. Exodus 19:5-8: “[5] Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: [6] And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. [7] And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. [8] And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.” Israel agreed to enter into that Covenant of Law, and she was under it even during the time of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (Galatians 4:4). Israel entered into a contract whereby she could only be God’s people IF she obeyed Him (refer back to Exodus 19:5); otherwise, Israel would be cursed, and under Satan’s control. God’s judgments on Israel were His attempt to reform her (see Leviticus 26:23), and teach her to do right in His sight, just as a parent would lovingly discipline his or her disobedient child.

Read Deuteronomy 28:1-2,15: “[1] And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: [2] And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. … [15] But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:….” He then lists the curses—sicknesses, wars, famines and other economic hardships, pestilences, and so on. Unfortunately, Israel “enjoyed” more of the curses in her history than the blessings.

The Law proved that sinful man could never measure up to what a holy God wanted. God proved to all the world that our performance will never get us anywhere before Him (Romans 3:19-20). That is why God offers to us His grace—what we do not deserve—in order to give us what we do not deserve, mercy and salvation from our sins. Law and grace are antithetical: they do not mix. To say we are saved by grace but that we must do good to avoid God’s punishment is to mix law and grace, and the whole book of Galatians refutes that combination. You destroy God’s grace when you mix it with law. If we allow even just a little leaven—a little legalism to creep in (see Galatians 5:9), Israel’s performance-based acceptance system—then we will begin to question all of God’s grace to us in Christ, we will begin to undermine the very life that God gave us in Christ. We start fearing God, we forget His love toward us in Christ, we think we have to work to please Him, we begin to doubt if we are even going to heaven, and on and on with the false doctrine Satan wants to use and distract us with.

Unfortunately, there are many inconsistent dispensationalists—people who understand Paul’s special ministry (Paul being our apostle) and the Church the Body of Christ and the Dispensation of Grace being revealed to Paul, but who will go to various other parts of the Bible and apply Israel’s passages to us Gentiles. Frankly, it is complete foolishness! We do not question their sincerity, but we question their theology. To separate Peter from Paul, law from grace, the nation Israel from the Body of Christ, prophecy from mystery, and THEN to combine all of the Bible into one buffet by taking Israel’s verses and making them apply to us, is doubletalk, and one of the silliest things of which I have ever heard. In fact, it is even worse than people who do not even know about Paul’s special ministry. To claim to understand the Bible rightly divided and then combine its various dispensations is being dishonest with God’s Word, and such shoddy Bible handling will undoubtedly cause (and has caused) unanswerable confusion in the lives of millions of Christians.

 

CONCLUSION

If God is punishing Christians for their bad behavior, that means that He is imputing their sins to them, and that means that Jesus Christ did not take care of their sin problem. If God has to punish us for our sins, what is the purpose of having Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Saviour? Does the Bible not say that God is not imputing our trespasses unto us (Romans 4:1-8)? Does the Bible not say that God has forgiven us of all trespasses (Colossians 2:13)? If God were holding sins against a Christian, that person could not actually be a Christian, for even one sin applied to one’s account would keep him or her out of heaven. Do you see what sorts of dangerous ideas creep in when it is not understand that divine chastisement has no place in our Dispensation of Grace? Furthermore, if God were punishing Christians for sins, every Christian would stay sick, stay poor, stay cursed. Everyone sins, even Christians, even the preachers who “beat up” the “sinful” suffering Christians.

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). If we have to do good works in order to maintain fellowship with God, if we have to be good in order to get God to bless us with grace and favor, that is legalism. God chastening Christians with difficult circumstances in the Dispensation of Grace is nothing more than legalism with a different face, a sneaky teaching indeed, another form of works-religion. Again, we do not question the sincerity of the people teaching divine chastisement in the Dispensation of Grace, but, on the authority of the Holy Bible rightly divided, we simply cannot agree with them and will not agree with them. Their teaching is dangerous because it allows legalism to creep into the Christian life and make God’s grace of none effect. These promoters have not learned what God’s grace is all about, and they need to learn how to distinguish between law and grace, works-religion and grace-relationship. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).

Ultimately, to argue that God manipulates our circumstances in order to punish us is to ignore the authority of the completed Holy Bible. We do not need God to speak to us apart from the Bible; there is no such thing as continuing revelation (God has already spoken and His words are written in the Holy Bible, preserved for us in English in the King James Bible). God is not teaching us anything by sending problems our way. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “[16] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” If we want to learn what God has to say—what He wants to teach us (“doctrine”), how He wants to reform our behavior (“reproof”), how He wants to correct our bad thinking (“correction”), and how He wants us to live (“instruction in righteousness”)—we have to go to the Holy Bible (especially the Holy Scripture rightly divided, Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon). We live in a fallen world, and sin’s harmful results are to be expected. Those problems are the context in which we apply sound grace Bible teaching.

 

Also see:

» Must I confess my sins?
» Is grace a “license to sin?” (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» What should I do when I sin? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

14 responses to “Does God chasten us when we sin?

  1. Pingback: Evil Seen and Punished | 333 Words of Grace

  2. Pingback: We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works? | For What Saith the Scriptures?

  3. I have experienced a season [years] of feeling chastened. I was never certain if it came from Satan or God. I have been a Grace believer since about year 2000 and I follow and respect your teaching, as well as other fine grace teachers; but I still don’t fully understand why I had the horrible experience of guilt and shame, thinking God was angry with my past sins.
    Few if any Pastors/teachers have been able to solve my predicament. Over time I have felt the oppression was now over, and I don’t suffer bouts of fear and anxiety anymore. I work daily to spread the Grace message on the internet and the “voices” that had oppressed me during those terrible years have ceased. Can you give me any explanation of what I have been through?
    Marty Nichols

    • Marty, about a month ago, I experienced a bout of double-lung pneumonia and that set me back quite a bit. For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to catch up with emails. Pardon my delay, but better late than never! 🙂

      I’m sorry to hear of your bad experience. I don’t have all the details of what happened to you (I’m not going to ask for them), so I can’t make a full assessment to fully explain. Still, here’s what I’ve experienced in my own life and what I’ve had others tell me about their own similar issue and the solution.

      Our flesh (sin nature) does quite well in “chastening us.” We love to “beat ourselves up” with guilt, even if it’s false guilt (the deceptive heart of Jeremiah 17:9). If we’ve had an upbringing in some strict denomination or religion, the memories of past sermons or homilies can cause us to live in a fog, to live in some manmade fantasy. Perhaps we constantly heard, “God is going to get you if you don’t listen to Him, if you don’t give to Him, if you don’t go to church, if you don’t confess all your sins,” etc. We are then led to believe that the reason why we are sick, or depressed, or poor, etc, is because God is mad with us or getting even with us because of some unconfessed sin (that’s how He dealt with Israel, Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26). Maybe that’s why you “feel” like it was a chastening. Someone might have told you that all your life in some religious circle, that God punishes us when we fail Him in the Christian life. Our flesh always gravitates toward religious duty, and it will naturally “beat us up” if we don’t have our minds in the grace teachings of the Apostle Paul.

      Sometimes, people who have come out of a lifestyle of depravity (drugs, alcohol, etc) and come to Jesus Christ by faith, they are still haunted by their mistakes. God does not shield us from the temporary consequences of our actions (He only shields us from the ETERNAL penalty, hellfire). Thus, we will naturally experience pain or suffering as the result of mistakes. This is not chastening, God directing punishment to them, but them reaping what they have sown (Galatians 6:7). They feel God may be getting even with them for past mistakes. Again, it’s a failure to remember that Israel’s Scriptures don’t apply to us. They are confusing the consequences of their sin versus God JUDGING them for their sin.

      SOLUTION – VERSES TO KEEP IN MIND

      God has “accepted us in the beloved,” Christ (Ephesians 1:6).

      “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).

      Remember Romans 5: “[8] But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. [10] For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. [11] And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

      God settled the sin issue at the cross, Jesus Christ was our “propitiation” (Romans 3:25)–He was the fully-satisfying payment for our sins. God has no controversy with us, His children, for Jesus Christ was punished instead, and Jesus Christ enough.

      Whatever we suffer, it isn’t God doing it, but us experiencing the results of our mistakes and others’ mistakes. Satan will use that to his advantage. Our flesh also loves to feel guilty, that we have a pity party, feeling sorry for ourselves, making ourselves and our failures the issue instead of focusing on Jesus Christ’s SUCCESS AT CALVARY and THE VICTORY HE SECURED FOR US THERE! Notice how “WHO” is the first word of Romans 8:35. Satan uses those dire circumstances (verses 35-39) to distract us from remembering Jesus Christ and the love for us He demonstrated at Calvary. Satan certainly uses the lost world (especially lost relatives, and political and religious leaders) to discourage us. Throughout the Bible, the Devil used people to discourage God’s prophets and apostles. Just look at what happened throughout the book of Acts, how the Jewish religious leaders (the apostles’ brethren) and the Roman government worked together to hinder the Lord’s work, imprisoning and killing apostles and disciples. As long as Satan has us focusing on all of that, we don’t walk in our identity in Christ, and we don’t function as God intended us to function (that’s how Satan hinders God’s work).

      CONCLUSION

      For future reference, notice how Paul experienced severe depression in 2 Corinthians 1:3-10, especially verses 8-10. He was referring to the riot in Ephesus in Acts 19, where he could have been killed by a mob. Satan had distracted him and his ministry co-workers for a time by using those unbelievers, but Paul and the others eventually remembered, TRUST GOD, that He has the power to raise us “from the dead,” speaking of how when we are exhausted, at our wits’ end, wanting to give up because of opposition or problems, God can restore our strength (as someone would recover from a fatal illness). Paul learned not to trust in himself, but in God, who has fully equipped us in Christ to handle all of life’s problems (Philippians 4:11-13). We are strong, NOT in ourselves, but in Christ (2Cor. 3:5).

      No, it was NOT God disciplining you (He corrects us through His Word, and to have Him communicating to us OUTSIDE of His Word through circumstances is to deny the completed revelation of Scripture). If God were really after us for unconfessed sin, none of us would have a moment’s peace; we’ve got plenty of things in our past that we don’t even recognize. It’s good to know that you’ve come out of that experience. I don’t think any of us will ever fully know what happened (whether to you, or to me, or to other Christians), so don’t get too burdened in trying to figure it all out.

      If I had to pinpoint the likely source, however, this would be my conclusion–the flesh ALWAYS works in tandem with Satan’s goal (distract us from Jesus Christ’s finished crossword, where ALL guilt and shame belong). As long as Satan can have us think about denominationalism, fleshly things, human tradition, our failures/guilt/shame, etc; we will forget the doctrine God wants us to remember (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)–it is truly a battlefield of the mind! As long as our flesh keeps bringing up guilt and shame, we are defeated, for our minds have disconnected from the doctrine of Calvary, where ALL guilt and shame are to be sent by faith. What we need to do is “walk in the Spirit,” and when we think like the Holy Spirit has designed us to think (remembering God’s Word to us through Paul, all about our identity in Christ; see 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, for example), we will not fall into the trap of flesh-walking and flesh-thinking (Romans 8:1-15). This is the key to recovering quicker mentally and spiritually the next time we have difficult times.

      Hope that helps!
      in Christ, Shawn

  4. Pingback: Must I maintain my fellowship with God? | For What Saith the Scriptures?

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  6. Shawn,
    I just today (6-12-2015) saw your reply.It is very welcome. I thank God for you and your work. Few, if any, have been able to tackle my questions about this, so I appreciate your contribution very greatly!
    If I didn’t mention before— I have a web site called “Paul, Our Apostle” and there we post many of your articles. It is at:
    http://xcatholic.yuku.com
    May Christ reward you for all you do.

  7. Pingback: Is there “healing in the Atonement?” | For What Saith the Scriptures?

  8. Pingback: I experienced difficult times. Was God chastening me? | For What Saith the Scriptures?

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  12. I just now found these comments again and it reminded me of how much you (Shawn) helped me with your words. I intend to give to your ministry (I haven’t before) because you alone have been able to directly address my questions on this subject. Many thanks and appreciate you very much!

  13. Pingback: Must I confess my sins? | For What Saith the Scriptures?

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