Scripturally Supported?

By: Drew

People have asked me about physical discipline in adult relationships and whether this is Scripturally supported or not. There are numerous references to physical chastisement in the Bible, some dealing with children specifically, and others which could be applied to people of any age. Consider the following verses, taken verbatim from the King James Version, and further clarified using the Strong's Concordance (text from Strong's will be italicized).

Training your children

  • Pro 13:24 - He that spareth (restrains, holds back, spares) his rod hateth (as an enemy) his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth (reproves, warns, instructs, disciplines) him betimes (early, promptly).
  • Prov 19:18: "Chasten (to chastise, literally [with blows] or figuratively [with words]; hence to instruct: -bind...) thy son while there is hope (literally a cord, as if for binding), and let not thy soul spare for his crying." I believe this verse indicates that you are tying strong cords of love with your children, and binding your hearts together when you use proper, Godly discipline and instruction.
  • Pro 22:15 - Foolishness (silliness) is bound (tied, knit, joined together) in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
  • Pro 23:13, 14 - Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not die. You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver (snatch away, defend, preserve, deliver) his soul from hell.
  • Prov 29:15: "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame (to be ashamed, disappointed)."

Clearly, these verses are dealing with children.

Training God's children

Consider the following verses:

  • 2 Sam 7:14b - If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes (a blow, sore, stroke, wound) of the children of men.
  • Job 5:17 - Behold, happy (blessed) is the man whom God correcteth (chasten, convince, correct, rebuke): therefore despise (abhor, despise, disdain, reject) not thou the chastening (correction, discipline, doctrine, instruction, rebuke) of the Almighty:
  • Psa 23:4 - Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod ([literally] a stick for punishing, writing, fighting, ruling, walking, etc) and thy staff (support [abstractly], that is, [figuratively] sustenance or [concretely] a walking stick) they comfort (by implication, to be sorry, that is, [in a favorable sense] to pity, console or rue; or [unfavorably] to avenge) me.
  • Psalms 66:11 - Thou broughtest (lead, put) us into the net (stronghold, snare); thou laidst (appoint, bring, put) affliction (pressure, that is, figuratively distress) upon our loins (properly the waist or small of the back)
  • Psa 89:31-32 - If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression (rebellion, sin) with the rod, and their iniquity (perversity, fault, punishment) with stripes.
  • Pro 3:11, 12 - My son (in the widest sense [of literal and figurative relationship, including grandson, subject, nation, etc]), despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary (distressed, grieved) of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth, he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth (be pleased with).
  • Pro 10:13b - a rod is for the back (by analogy the middle, body) of him that is void (lacking, without, have need) of understanding (the heart; also used [figuratively] very widely for the feelings, the will and even the intellect).
  • Pro 20:30 - The blueness (properly bound [with stripes], that is, a weal [or black and blue mark itself]) of a wound cleanseth away (properly a scouring, that is, soap or perfumery for the bath, figuratively a detergent, purifies) evil: so do stripes (blows [as in 2 Chron 2:10 of the flail]) the inward parts of the belly.
  • Pro 26:3 - A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the fool's (stupid or silly) back.
  • Prov 29:15: "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." Notice this verse does not state, "The rod and reproof give wisdom only to children..."
  • Isa 10:26 - And the LORD of Hosts shall stir up a scourge (a lash [literally or figuratively], a whip) for him according to the slaughter (same Hebrew word used in Proverbs 20:30 for "stripes") of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt.
  • Isa 11:4 - But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity, for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
  • Matt 10:17 - But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge (flog [literally or figuratively], scourge) you in their synagogues;
  • Luke 18:33 - And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
  • John 2:15 - And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
  • Rom 13:1-5 - Let every soul be subject (to subordinate, to obey, submit self) unto the higher powers (delegated influence, authority, right, strength). For there is no power but of (except from) God: the powers that be are ordained (arranged in an orderly manner, assigned) of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth (opposes) the power resisteth the ordinance (arrangement, institution) of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation (condemnation, judgment). For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil (intrinsically worthless, subjectively depraved or objectively injurious). Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister (attendant, specifically a Christian teacher and pastor [technically a deacon], servant) of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword (judicial punishment) in vain (idly, without reason [or effect]): for he is the minister of God, a revenger (carrying justice out, that is, a punisher) to execute wrath ([by analogy] violent passion [ire, or justifiable abhorrence], by implication punishment) upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
  • Heb 12:5-7 - And you have forgotten the exhortation (imploration, comfort, consolation) which speaks unto you as unto children, My son, (used very widely of immediate, remote or figurative kinship) despise not the chastening (tutorage, education or training; by implication disciplinary correction) of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked (admonished, convicted, reproved) of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth (to train up a child, that is, educate, or [by implication] discipline [by punishment], instruct, teach), and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth (delights in). If you endure (stay under, undergo, take patiently) chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father does not chasten?
  • Heb 12:11 - Now no chastening for the present (time being) seemeth to be joyous (cheerfulness, calm delight), but grievous (sadness, sorrow, grief): nevertheless afterward (eventually, at the last) it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness (equity of character or act; specifically [Christian] justification) unto them which are exercised (trained) thereby.
  • Rev 3:19 - As many as I love (be a friend to [fond of], that is, have affection for), I rebuke and chasten: be zealous (have warmth of feeling, covet earnestly) therefore, and repent.

Either/Or

Without question, these verses can be applied to discipline of children, but clearly, they can also be applied to the discipline of adults. No ages are mentioned in most of these verses. Some of the verses which did mention "children" were talking about "God's children", of which all age groups are included. In many of the verses, God was speaking, in general terms, to the nation of Israel, warning them to return to the right path. These verses were directed at adults, yet the threat of physically disciplining these adult listeners was still used.

Did you notice? There are more verses which could be interpreted as relating to the discipline of adults, or interpreted as relating to the discipline of either adults or children, than there were verses which specifically related to the discipline of children?

Do these verses unequivocally state that God would literally cut a switch or grab His belt and physically turn each person over His knee? Of course not. However, while these verses do not command the physical discipline of adults, they do not condemn it either.

A loving God

Let's look again at Hebrews 12: 6, which reads, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Chasteneth is the Greek word paideuo, which according to Strong's Concordance, means "to train up a child, that is, educate, or (by implication) discipline (by punishment): - chasten (-ise), instruct, learn, teach". Scourgeth is the Greek word mastigoo, meaning to flog (literally or figuratively): - scourge.

Flogging brings to mind the bloody beatings by Roman soldiers. Historical records show that many prisoners, who were condemned to die by crucifixion, died during the scourging, before even making it to the cross. No, I am absolutely not suggesting a disobedient wife (or child) should be scourged or bloodied. I just find it interesting that this word, with its unpleasant, and even violent, connotations, is the very word chosen to indicate how a loving God choosed to discipline "every son whom He receives."

I will not get bogged down in the specifics of "how" discipline was carried out during Bible times, "what implements" were used, or "how" God disciplines people today. My point for this article is that in both Old Testament and New Testament, we find Scriptures which indicate that adults can be, and often were, physically disciplined. We find numerous Scriptures that indicate a loving God chooses to use physical discipline on those He loves.

God does not sin; God is holy and righteous. God is not abusive; God is love.

Yet, the Holy, loving God "chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth". God also delegates authority to people to rule over and discipline other people. See Gen 3:16d, Exod 18:25, Rom 13:1-5, Eph 5:22, Col 3:18, Heb 13:17, James 4:7, 1 Peter 2:13-14, among other verses.

A striking reminder

Let's look more closely at another example of the physical discipline of adults. Many think of Jesus as a weak, sad looking fellow. He has been depicted as such by artists around the world for thousands of years.

I could be wrong, but personally, I think Jesus was "a man's man". Remember, Jesus was a carpenter. In those days, nail guns, circular saws, chainsaws, and belt sanders were not available. To be a successful carpenter, you needed to be patient and strong. You chopped down a tree with your axe, cut it to a manageable length by hand, then carried it by hand or beast to the work area, cut it to finished length by hand, hand shaped it, and hand nailed it. I think Jesus was physically strong, with rough, calloused hands.

With that in mind, let's look in Mark 11. Here, Jesus is heading to Jerusalem for His final days. In Mark 11:11, He walks through the temple and "looked round about upon all things", then He went to Bethany for the night. While Jesus was in the temple, He saw that the people had forgotten the significance of what the temple represented. They had become callous to the importance of the building. They had become indifferent, even cold to the presence of Almighty God who was worshipped there. The merchants had taken up space for business within the temple proper, carrying on commerce and haggling over profits on holy ground. Some scholars suggest they were also taking unfair advantage of customers, engaging in corrupt business practices. Scholars also suggest that people were taking shortcuts around town by wandering through the courtyard, as if the temple was just another building or some obstacle to be crossed through as quickly as possible. It is doubtful behaviour like this would have been permitted in the days of Moses or Joshua. Frankly, as some might say, "they were cruising for a bruising".

At some point after walking through the Temple and reviewing what was happening there, Jesus sits down and makes a scourge (per Strong's, the Greek word is phragellion, and means "a whip, that is, Roman lash as a public punishment"). Notice Jesus was not out of control, nor did He throw a fit in fury about what He saw in the temple; He simply looked around, then calmly left for Bethany, and made His whip. The next day (per verse 12) Jesus enters the temple again, and begins cleaning house.

Now, consider John 2:15. Jesus goes into the temple, driving out the moneychangers. Can't you imagine a greedy merchant, ticked off at Jesus, going to the temple guards, demanding that they stop Him? I can imagine the guards looking at Jesus, looking at his whip, and then looking back at the merchant, and saying, "Hey pal, I'd like to see YOU go try to stop him!"

A strong rebuke

Jesus may well have been angry, with a righteous anger for His Father's house. John 2:17 says, And his disciples remembered that it was written, the zeal (heat, ardor, indignation) of thine house hath eaten me up." However, I do not believe it is a sin to be angry at sin. Eph 4:26 says, Be ye angry (to provoke or enrage, become exasperated), and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:" Luke 17:3 says, "Take heed (be cautious about) to yourselves: If thy brother trespass (offend, sin) against thee, rebuke (censure or admonish, straitly charge) him, and if he repent, forgive him." I believe Jesus was provoked by what He saw in the Temple, yet He did not lose self control. He "took heed", and "rebuked them" strongly, but with more than just idle words. He was consistent in His message to treat the house of God with due respect. He could have just ignored what was happening; after all, in a few days, He would be crucified... he probably had plenty of other things on His mind. However, He took the time to make a clear statement. He acted in a way dramatic enough to have the incident recorded in all four of the Gospels (Matt 21:12,13; Mark 11:11,15,16; Luke 19:45,46; John 2:13-17 ).

My understanding of His message is as follows: If you see sin, get angry about the sin, but love the sinner. Do not let yourself be prideful, thinking that you would never sin that way. It's acceptable to get fired up about things which God declares as evil, whether disobedience, dishonesty or other unacceptable choices, but it's not acceptable to hold a grudge. Be willing to be the "minister of God for good, a revenger to execute wrath" and bear the sword (paddle?) of judicial punishment, but remember He is the ultimate Judge, and sees the true intent of your heart.

The Bible indicates that Jesus never sinned. If physical discipline of one adult by another adult was a sin, then Jesus would not have done this. Jesus had the authority to discipline. I believe, in like fashion, the husband has authority, and even the responsibility to discipline his wife and children.

Some point out that Jesus never disciplined His disciples, or any other adult. Again, I refer you to the temple clearing, as pointed out above. Jesus was also never married, so should we not marry? Jesus never fathered a child. As far as we know, Jesus also never disciplined a child, so should that end? Just because the Scripture does not record Jesus doing a specific thing, does not mean that thing was not covered or approved elsewhere in Scripture. The Bible is a complete document and should be viewed in to-to. Furthermore, John 21:25 tells us, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen."

A solemn responsibility

Discipline must be carried out with self-control, and in love, rather than a mindset of revenge, anger, or self-righteousness. It should be carried out with the solemn consideration that she is a daughter of the King of the Universe. Discipline should be given with the understanding that you are a joint heir with her in Christ, saved by God's grace and unmerited favor. You should be mindful that God has placed you in an accountable role of authority over your family. God has delegated power and responsibility to you. It is important to remember you also are under God's authority, and as she will stand before Holy God to give account, so will you.

The mantle of authority and rod of discipline must be carried with humility, prayer and serious consideration of the inherent responsibility. Our ideas of obedience, discipline, and even love, can be drastically out of line with God's ideals. Isa 55:9 reads, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Is CDD the be-all, end-all, the medicinal balm for marital bliss, the holy grail for all hurting marriages, the savior of all sinking relationships? Is it commanded in Holy Scripture that a husband must physically discipline his wife? I answer "no" to both questions. However, I do believe it is an acceptable tool, and well within the Scriptural rights and responsibilities of the husband to decide whether it is right for their marriage, and if it is right for their marriage, to so implement it.