In the last chapter, we have done some exposition of the work of sanctification. The Holy Spirit given to us by God will initiate and carry out a process to sanctify our spirit, soul and body. Making us without spot and blemish in the day of the Lord, suitable to be His Bride. But there is another side of the coin – We are to be disciplined in the process.
We are required to be compliant during this work and be obedient to our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. We will look at this in this chapter.
Sanctification and Discipline
Sanctification is a work reserved solely by God Himself, so that none can claim credit that he or she has done anything by his or her own merit, whether for self or for others.
However, just like anything God would do, He always uses agencies of His making to accomplish the work He intended through relationships and interactions foreordained by Him.
The work of sanctification by the Spirit is entrusted to a process of discipline, imposed or inspired.
By saying imposed, we mean that an external agency, consciously or unconsciously, will be used by God to impose discipline of various kinds to accomplish what God intended for us. However, this right to discipline can be abused or usurped to cause imbalanced and undue consequences in our lives, as in the case of an abused child being mistreated by adults.
By saying inspired, we mean that our own consciousness will be convicted of our improper intentions, desires or actions through the power of the Holy Spirit, we then will be able to repent and relent from unrighteousness and disobedience.
Discipleship and Discipline
As previously discussed, it was God’s intention for Man before the Fall that He would walk with him and impart His wisdom and His nature to Him, transforming him from His Image to His Likeness. This is the pattern after which Jesus walked with His disciples while on earth. After He left, He also commissioned them to do the same as He gave them all authority and power, having enabled them to overcome the Enemy and restoring everything God promised back to those who choose to believe in His Name.
Mt 28:18-20 [NIV]
18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Sadly, somewhere down the road, the great commission was changed into merely making converts, which is far removed from the essence of discipleship. Spiritual life is substituted with religious formula; God’s wisdom is replaced by intellectual education; Kingdom reality is comprised into a mystical and pragmatic end and need; the hope and pursuit of the glory of God is changed into the competition and exaltation of the glory of man; culture of the Family or the Household of God is lost into man-made traditions and religious duties and activities. Darkness yet again veils man’s mind and a life of abundance is stolen and cheated away. Without the Spirit of God, what is man? Are we not the dry bones as mentioned by Ezekiel? (Ezek. 37:1-14)
Yet this kind of spiritual teaching is not as casual as anyone would receive in a normal family. It is very unique tailored for us as a son of God, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. It would be like a king of righteousness and justice training his heir. The prince is to be put into the best hands to be taught of all things concerning ruling his kingdom. Moreover, he is to be after his father’s character, to love righteousness and hate evil, to have mercy and compassion on his subjects. In this light, the Son, Christ Jesus, would teach us about His Father. He calls it to reveal the Father’s name to His disciples. We call this kind of wisdom: Kingly Wisdom. Jesus Christ is the lion of Judah, He will rule His Kingdom with an iron scepter.
Heb 2:11-12 [NIV]
11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”
John 16:25-28 [NIV]
25“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
John 17:26 [NIV]
26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Another line of discipline or teaching would be what the Father teaches us through the Son. We call this kind of wisdom Priestly Wisdom. Out of love unto his Father and His brothers, Jesus sacrificed Himself on a cross as the Lamb of God, thus once for all, He made us blameless and spotless before the Father, thus qualified as priests under Himself, the Mediator of the New Covenant, where Eternal Life and the Glory of God is promised and ministered. We will not expound on this here. Hopefully, we will do so in the coming chapters.
The story of Solomon’s wisdom is very illuminating in this light. Most of us are quite familiar with it. (1 King 3) He asked God wisdom in order to rule His Kingdom with justice and righteousness and God was so pleased that He added all things to him. The same principle was taught by Jesus: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and everything will be added unto you.” (Matt 6:33)
But before this, Solomon was brought up and trained in the court of the House of God under the guidance of the Levitical priesthood who ministered before the Ark of the Lord as well as in the court of the Palace under the guidance of his father and his officials who ministered under the rule of David as the king. During this time, he was also entrusted with the task to build the Temple for the Lord, which is known as Solomon’s Temple. This serves as a type and shadow for the things to come. The substance or reality is in Christ, even for us. (Col 2:17)
Solomon often mentioned this in Proverbs. Let look at a few:
Pro 3:1-12 [NIV]
1My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you prosperity.
3Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
5Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
7Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
11My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
12because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the
son he delights in.
Father’s Discipline to A Son
As we mentioned before, that God created Man to be His sons. He desires to walk with Man and discipline or disciple him into His Likeness, to be just like Him. We are created to bear His Name and share His Glory. It was the constant theme of His message to the people He chose to be His :
Adam was created as a son of God. God put him in the Garden of Eden and gave him charge over everything. He gave him wisdom and understanding to name everything and rule everything. Then He would walk with Him and fellowship with him, teaching him everything till the day Adam fell.
From Abraham to Israelites
God called Abraham out of the Chaldeans in Babylon and promised him a land and a hope that his decedents would become numerous as stars in the sky and many nations on earth. (Gen. 15)
In his old age, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son, Isaac. Isaac was gentle, godly and obedient. In many ways he shadowed our Lord Jesus Christ. However, he was not good at disciplining his twin sons. The first-born, Esau became a ruthless and violent man, indulged himself in hunting games, seldom ever paid attention to things passed unto him from his forefathers,the very things in the heart of God. Later, for a bowl of soup, he was foolish enough to sell his birthright to his young brother Jacob. In the story, Jacob was much a “mother’s boy” when he was young, quiet and ambitious, very discontent with the fact he is inferior in comparison with His brother who was just a bit ahead of him when they came out their mother’s womb. Later, such an ambition, encouraged by his mother, lured him to cheat off the blessing Isaac intended for Esau.
Jacob fled away at the threat of Esau, and got married with Leah and Rachel in the land of his mother. Again, he failed to discipline his sons. They brought constant pain to him. Joseph, his favorite, was even sold into slavery by his own brothers. Only Judah seemed to care of the loss and sorrow of his father. Many years later, Joseph was able to be reunited with his family and the brothers reconciled with one another. And he was elevated to a position second only to Pharaoh in Egypt, thus was able to provide refuge and shelter for his family in a time of famine.
Now after 400 hundred years, Joseph was forgotten and the rulers of Egypt became uneasy with the great increase of the population of the Israelites in the land. They began to enslave them and tried hard to stop this trend. It was at this time Moses was born, only to be raised up in the court of Egypt as a prince. We know well the story. God ordained his path, he then became a shepherd in an alien land only to be called to come back to Egypt and deliver his people out of the cruelty of slavery. After passing over the Red Sea, for 40 years, the Israelites wondered in the wilderness, a generation passed away because they refused to yield to the discipline of God and invoked Him into anger, even Moses himself was excluded from going into the Promised Land as well. Facing their “homeland” at this side of the Jordan, he declared the commands of God to a new generation of Israelites. He touched the essence of the Law or the lesson that God intended to teach to His people during these sorrowful yet meaningful 40 years. Let’s take a look.
Deut 8:1-5 [NIV]
1Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers. 2Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.
From Jesus Christ to Us
Now, it was never God’s intention for His people to be bound by the Law, rather to teach them His heart and His Goodness which is embodied in the Law. Yet as Paul put it, a veil was over their minds till the Spirit is granted, so that they could not understand and gain wisdom. (2 Cor 3)
Now the author of Hebrews (many believe it is Paul as well) explains this very well. We will just quote it here.
Heb 12:1-11 [NIV]
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Self-Discipline and Discipline within God’s Family
Now, the Lord entrusts this discipline to three parties concerning us.
The Holy Spirit
Jesus shared with His disciples before He went to the cross that it’s for their benefit that He should go. For another helper will be sent on His behalf to teach them.
John 14:25-26 [NIV]
25“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 16:7-8 [NIV]
7But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:
John 16:12-16 [NIV]
12“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
16“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
God’s Family or the Body of Christ
When Jesus commissioned Peter and other Apostles to disciple others as He had discipled them, He also entrusted them with the duty and wisdom to bring necessary discipline to those they would relate Him to. Moreover, as we mentioned before, God would grant them spiritual gifts, authority and power to do so. These were given to impart God’s wisdom and life to the members of the body of Christ.
Matt 10:24-25 [NIV]
24“A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!
Eph 4:11-16 [NIV]
11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
It is imperative for us to know, even though we are created by God and He orders our steps, we are still in the position of being able to exercise our freewill. This means we can choose to obey or disobey God. It was God’s intention that the Israelites would learn in their heart to believe and trust Him. Yet they did not and thus provoked Him into anger. A generation wondered in the wilderness for 40 years and died, till God raised up another generation to continue the mission He called them into.
God gives us the ability to exercise self-will, yet it would please and glorify Him when we choose to lay it aside and yield to His will. This is the essence of the life of Jesus in human form. Facing all trials and temptations, He did not sin. He learned obedience by the things He suffered, even to the point of death on the cross.
Heb 2:14-18 [NIV]
14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
We would call this self-discipline. It has to do with the ability God gifted us as man to make right choices and out of our love unto Him to choose to obey Him even when we might not understand everything. This is the essence of the work of faith.
Rom 6:8-14 [NIV]
8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
Rom 8:12-14 [NIV]
12Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
The end of Godly discipline is not that we are showcase of how godly or spiritual we are, or become workers of miracles, signs and wonders. Rather it is that we are truly able to abide in Him and bear much fruit as we mentioned before in the chapter of “Spiritual Life”. ( John 15:5 )
In other words, we can live a life in and by the Spirit, which is the essence of life in the Kingdom of God.
Rom 14:17 [NIV]
17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
This means that we have to consciously identify ourselves with the Lord and hide in Him, being set apart from this world. This, in essence, is holiness.
John 17:14-19 [NIV]
14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
1 Pet 1:13-16 [NIV]
13Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”