Hebrews 12:8 reads, “But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (NASB). This is a most sobering verse, for it teaches us that if one who “professes to be a child God” never experiences God’s discipline in their lives, then it proves they are “not true sons of God.”

Human parents sometimes fail to discipline their children, but God the Father, who loves His children too much to let them “have their own way,” never fails to give them the discipline they need. We read of this in verses 5-7, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘M son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the LORD, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” After the Lord saves us (through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—see Acts 16:31), we enter into His family. John 1:12 declares, “But as many as received Him (Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” God’s love for us then is even greater than it was before we were saved. We see this in 1st John 3:1, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called the children of God; and such we are.” Because He loves us with a deep and everlasting love, He DISCIPLINES us when we need it.

The word “discipline” means “child training” or “education.” It would include the thought of “correction,” but it also has the thought of “instructing” or “warning.” If the Father sees us veering off into a path of disobedience, He will sometimes sound out a warning first. For example, in 1st Corinthians 6:18 we read, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” The saints in the church at Corinth were surrounded by this kind of immorality and thus God the Father warned them not to have anything to do with this sin (not to read about it, talk about, and surely not to engage in it), but rather to FLEE FROM IT! Perhaps we all know the story of King David and Bathsheba (in 2nd Samuel chapter 11) and how David failed to “flee fornication.” Instead of turning his eyes away from Bathsheba when he saw her bathing, he continued to look at her and eventually he summoned her to his room where they committed adultery. This in turn led to David committing murder against her husband so he could take Bathsheba as his wife. We read at the end of that chapter, “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” In the next chapter we read that the Lord, in His love for David, DISCIPLINED him for his sin. In 2nd Samuel 12:9-11 the Lord told David through Nathan the prophet, “Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife….because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife….’Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun’.” In verse 14 he was also told, “the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” David did repent of his sins and was restored to fellowship with God, yet the “consequences of his sins” remained; in love God still disciplined David in order to teach him the lessons he needed to learn.

As we said at the outset, if one CLAIMS to be a child and a son of God, yet he/she is NEVER DISCIPLINED of God, he was never born into God’s family; he is counted among those who are “illegitimate children and not sons.” God only “disciplines His children” and He does so in this life. He will PUNISH the unbeliever in a future day, as we read in 1st Corinthians 11:32, “But when we are judged, we are DISCIPLINED by the Lord so that WE WILL NOT BE CONDEMNED ALONG WITH THE WORLD.” (292.9) (DO)