The rod of discipline found in the new Testament
I have discovered a passage in the New Testament in which the term “rod” also appears.
It is in 1. Corinthians 4:21, where it says:
“Which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod [of discipline and correction], or with love and a gentle spirit?”
Paul writes at the beginning of the letter to the Corinthians about the things that are going wrong in this church.
In chapter 4 he points out how some brothers of this church have strayed from the way of Christ and have become inflated, teaching things that go beyond the gospel and boasting about themselves for their clever words. Then he describes his life as an apostle with all its sufferings and hardships and says that the life of the inflated brethren in Corinth should actually be like Paul’s.
So I urge you, be imitators of me (verse 16). In verse 17 we read further, “For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my way of life in Christ [my conduct and my precepts for godly living], just as I teach everywhere in every church. Now some of you have become arrogant and pretentious, as though I were not coming to see you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord is willing, and I will find out not just the talk of these arrogant people, but [evaluate] their [spiritual] power [whether they live up to their own claims]. For the kingdom of God is not based on talk but on power. Which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod [of discipline and correction], or with love and a gentle spirit?
The first thing that struck me is that God obviously makes a very clear distinction in verse 21 between
“using the rod” and
“the way of love and the spirit of gentleness.”
We all know that love is the greatest and most important commandment for us Christians, and it sounds to me like the rod is the opposite of that. Paul sent Timothy to the Corinthians to show them the way of Christ, which is love and gentleness (compare 2 Timothy 2:25).
In verse 19 we read that Paul intends to travel to Corinth personally, not to listen to the talk of the inflated people there, that is, not to discuss with sophisticated words, but by letting the power of God work, for which no intellectual education or eloquence is needed. After all, the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power, that is, the working of the Holy Spirit. And then Paul confronts the Corinthians with a decision. He asks,
“Which do you want? Rod or love?”
At first, you might think Paul is offering the Corinthians two options here, but in my opinion, he is not. Because for born-again Christians, there is only one option, and that is love! Instead, he reminds them of their responsibility and confronts them with the decision,
“Which way do you choose? What you inflated people are doing should be punished with the rod.”
(Note: which is a very worldly view in my eyes). But instead, I will come to you with the power of God.” The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and helps us to repent. Paul does not write,
“I bought a new rod the other day and plan to use it on you.”
Look at what is written in 2. Timothy 2:24-25: “A servant of the Lord should not be contentious, but should be gentle toward everyone, able to teach, patient in bearing wickedness; rebuking with meekness those who are contrary, whether God will not yet give them repentance to the knowledge of the truth.
Here again we find both meekness on the one hand and the repentance of the stubborn on the other.
Now let’s take a look at how we deal with our children today. Just as Paul teaches the Corinthians that they must take responsibility and make choices, so should we raise our children. We need to make a decision on how to raise them and at the same time pass on to them that they too need to learn to make decisions and take responsibility. It is not a sin to do something wrong. And should anyone sin, our wonderful Father in Heaven offers each of His children the following: Jesus has forgiven all our sins! (Colossians 1:14 and Colossians 2:13 and 14, Hebrews 10:14).
How many sins and transgressions has HE forgiven us? All of them! Completely! The accomplished work of the cross is perfect and complete.
We don’t have to do anything more for HIM to forgive us, HE did it all on the cross 2000 years ago!!!! That is his gift to us. Hallelujah! He expects us to be understanding, to confess our sins and to repent, i.e. to turn around and go the right way. I have come to know God in this way: He does not insult us, he does not beat us, he does not punish us. He lovingly takes us in his arms and shows us the right way. If that’s not the perfect example of how we should do it with our children, too! Just as Paul exemplifies to the Corinthians and also to all other Christians as an apostle what the normal life of a Christian looks like, so should we model discipline and obedience to our children. Children learn especially well by example and imitation. Punishment and reward, on the other hand, do not bring the success desired by parents. The truth from the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit make us walk in the way of Christ and do what is right. By our own strength, we are not able to do what Jesus says to us in the Gospel of Matthew:
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” (chapter 5, verse 44).
- If we are to treat our enemies with love and gentleness, why should we not do the same with our own children?
- Do our children deserve worse treatment than our enemies, even though they are not our enemies?
- How would you explain this to your child if you inflict violence on him, but at the same time treat the unkind, quarrelsome neighbor lovingly?
- God has forgiven your child for all his sins, why do you punish him?
- Why should he pay for his faults and sins with you, when Jesus has already paid for everything on the cross? And what image of God do we present to our child when we treat him this way?
A child cannot understand when he is told that God is always good, and then he is beaten. And if we then suggest to him that the beating is God’s will, he no longer understands anything, besides all the pain and suffering that we have caused him. Remember that your children do not belong to you, but you are responsible for their upbringing! If you spank your child, you are responsible for what you do. You cannot blame God or the devil for it. Besides, as wonderful as HE is, Jesus has also forgiven you for all your sins. You don’t have to pay for anything anymore, even if you make mistakes in your upbringing.
How cool is that?