Does God scourge us? 7 reasons to say “No!”

flogging_smMuch of what we believe about discipline in the church is informed by the old covenant.

For instance, if you think God’s discipline entails punishment in any shape or form, you’re living in the past. You haven’t seen the cross (Is 53:5).

Think about it. If the cross was the once and final solution for sin that Hebrews says it is, then you would not expect to find any scriptures in the new covenant linking sin with divine punishment. And indeed, there are none – except this one:

For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives. (Heb 12:6, NASB)

This may be a badly mangled New Testament quote of an Old Testament proverb. It’s like reading Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech in Chinese and finding the last line says, “Thank God almighty, no one is free at all!” It’s jarring, it’s wrong, and it runs against the context.

Am I saying the Bible is wrong? No, we don’t have to go that far.

As I explain elsewhere, my best guess is the problem was introduced during translation. I am convinced that the author of Hebrews had a profound revelation of God with-no-whip. The picture he gives us is of a good God sitting on a throne of grace offering us grace and mercy in our time of need (Heb 4:16).

And when we go astray – what happens then? Does God come charging after us with a whip? No, he deals with us gently (Heb 5:2) as a loving father deals with his sons (Heb 12:8). The suggestion that God metaphorically rips shreds off us with a flagellum is jarring. It doesn’t fit.

To help you settle this in your own mind, I want to give you…

7 reasons why God never scourges his children

1. In the Bible, the word for scourge (mastigoō) appears in 7 times in 7 verses. In every verse apart from Hebrews 12:6 it is associated with unjust punishment inflicted upon the just – either Jesus (Matt 20:19, Mark 10:34, Luke 18:33, John 19:1) or those who follow him (Matt 10:7, 23:34). Given this context, to say that a God scourges his sons implies that God acts like the unjust, which he doesn’t.

2. The context of Hebrews 12 is being persecuted for the faith (see Hebrews 11). There is something twisted in telling a group of believers facing the threat of scourging that God is the one scourging them. The author writes to encourage them (Heb 12:3,5). Hearing that God is the one persecuting you is not encouraging. It’s discouraging. It doesn’t fit the context.

Jacky's confused3. It make sense. If God scourges us then the hurts of Heb 12:11 are the hurts of his scourging. But the actual hurts being experienced were the hurts of persecution, not sickness or anything you might wrongly accuse God of giving you. Believers have always been persecuted for the gospel and sometimes that persecution takes the form of flogging (see Heb 11:36). To read Heb 12:6 as scourging is like saying, “God is punishing you for believing in him.”

4. In Biblical times, scourging was reserved for slaves and criminals, not sons and citizens. Jesus and Paul were both unjustly scourged. Paul never says, “I was scourged for my good.” Instead, he resisted scourging (Acts 22:25), as should every free man and woman.

5. Hebrews 12 says God disciplines or trains us as a father. I don’t know any father, good or bad, who scourges his kids the way the Romans scourged Jesus. It’s a metaphor that doesn’t work at any level. God doesn’t train us with whips. He nurtures us. The Biblical picture of godly fathering is this: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4, KJV). Scourging is not nurturing.

6. There was one father in the Bible who was famous for using whips and rods, and that was Solomon. We know he used the rod of correction because he tells us in Proverbs (13:24, 22:15, 23:14-15, 29:15). Solomon had old-school views regarding corporal punishment yet even he didn’t whip his sons. He said whips were for horses (Prov 26:3). I’ve had people tell me they won’t respond to God unless he whips them. That’s like saying, “I’m as dumb as a horse.”

7. Jesus met plenty of people in need of correction and discipline. How many of those people did Jesus scourge? How many did he afflict with pain, sickness, trials, or suffering? Zero. If Jesus was ever going to whip someone, he might’ve whipped the Pharisees, but he didn’t. Jesus said the Pharisees belonged to their father the devil (Joh 8:44). If God won’t scourge the devil’s kids, he surely won’t whip his own.

The terrifying God of Hebrews

There are 303 verses in Hebrews and, maybe 99.7% of them were translated into Greek more or less accurately. Why am I so worked up about one solitary verb? Because a whip-toting monster-of-a-god has been created on the basis of that one verb!

God is dangerous enough without us adding to the Bible. For those who reject his grace Hebrews describes him as a “consuming fire” (Heb 12:29), and warns that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).

Am I trying to balance my words by painting God as both loving and terrifying, as though he were double-minded? No – I’m saying that a perfect God cannot coexist with imperfect man and the only way we can relate to him is through his free and perfect grace. Those who try to approach God on their own imperfect merits will find him unaccommodating and consequently terrifying.

The Hebrews of old knew this – they had seen this consuming God at the untouchable Mount Sinai when the old covenant was given. They were terrified and wouldn’t draw near. But we have not returned to Mount Sinai. We have come to Mount Zion and to Jesus the mediator of a new and better covenant (Heb 12:24).

To make sense of Hebrews, you need to understand that it sends two messages to two kinds of people.

(i) For those uncertain about the grace of God, the message is: “See to it that you don’t refuse the one who speaks” (Heb 12:25). Through the book of Hebrews God draws the ungodly to himself, urging them to abandon the sinking ship of self-sufficiency and to enter his rest.

(ii) For those who have already entered, the message is “Draw near – approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 4:14).

But the ungodly won’t come in and the saint won’t draw near if they believe God is waiting for them with a whip of scourging. That is not the gospel and it is not the message of Hebrews.


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78 Comments on Does God scourge us? 7 reasons to say “No!”

  1. Jason Emmanuel // June 18, 2013 at 9:01 am // Reply

    “Jesus met plenty of people in need of correction and discipline. How many of those people did Jesus scourge?” “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” ~Jn 2:15

    Not that I disagree with the main point of the article… though I’m not sure I entirely agree either. I’m new to your site and have really benefited from reading your thoughts on Scripture, just going to have to pray about this one and do some more studying perhaps.
    God bless you brother, Jason

    • Good to meet you Jason. I grew up in a farming town and I can tell you cattle can be hard to move without a sharp whack on their rears. I reckon that’s what the whip of cords was for. There’s no record Jesus ever struck anyone with anything. He’s was more likely to turn the other cheek. But when it comes to clearing the merchants out of the temple, nothing would be more effective than a herd of stampeding oxen.

      • Jason Emmanuel // June 18, 2013 at 10:30 am //

        Good point, I didn’t make the connection with the oxen. The cracking whip probably also served to give the money-changers a scare, along with the stampeding oxen… but you are correct it does not say He actually struck them, only “drove” them out… I love how significant little details can be in Scripture and how we can easily let our imagination inject something into the story that wasn’t there (as I just did).

        Nonetheless, I’m still not entirely sure that God does not use the “rod” to correct His children… I don’t think Solomon was wrong about that being a good means of correction, he had great wisdom… Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd… His rod and staff comfort me.” I think I’ve felt that rod more than a few times since I’ve joined His flock, and although it might not feel good at the moment, it is comforting to know He’s watching out for me and has my best interest in mind. Perhaps my interpretation is off though, I will pray about it. Love your site, God bless!

  2. my observation here has to be, it bothers me to think how people can think that ALMIGHTY GOD,does not have the ability to discipline his children john 18:6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and FELL TO THE GROUND. Joesph prince makes the observation that he simply said [I AM HE],the great I AM, The simple act of saying who he was brought them to there knees,you would certainly think,that someone who could bring people to there knees, with his name could discipline his children easy enough,and the kicker is he waited for them to get up and arrest him.

  3. Marc Abraham // June 18, 2013 at 9:54 am // Reply

    Paul, thank you for taking the time to tackle this one – you are 100% correct, this is very specifically a variant translation from Hebrew. I also believe it to me a mistranslation. Keep in mind that Hebrew didn’t have spacings between letters, and no vowels. The relevant letter sequence is “כאב”. Now, watch this. If you parse it as “כ אב” (ke ab) – you get “like father”. If you parse it “כאב” (kaab) – you get “he spoiled, wasted, marred, ulcerated” in 3rd person singular. In around 3rd century BC a committee of scholars made their choice when translating Hebrew into Greek. Much later groups of scholars translating original Hebrew into modern languages chose a different translation for Prov. 3:12, but still stuck with the Septuagint variant for Hebrews 12:6, even though it’s the same exact verse. And there you have it. This variant translation, and the exact way it’s arrived at, is actually documented in Adam Clarke’s commentary on the verse.

    • Thanks Marc, that’s really interesting. I noted in my last post Adam Clarke’s thoughts on this. He leans towards the scourging interpretation. I respectfully disagree with him.

    • charismike // June 18, 2013 at 1:01 pm // Reply

      Thanks from me too Marc, that is a very enlightening comment.

    • yes, thank you marc,its sounds like you may be well versed in the languages,this can be a great help,please hang around ,and paul I got to thinking about the cattle comparison, were sheep…………man a good scourge could kill a sheep,just sayin,and even though i am a pleasantly plumb sheep,that could tear me up.

  4. I think you are a heck of a good writer. When do you get the time to put all your thoughts down? It has only recently become clear to me that there are several different groups being addressed in the N.T. Greeks, romans, Jews, unbeliers in all categories, men, women even children and slaves. Pretty different messages. Gentiles didn’t even have the Old test. You are helping me to make sense IN CONTEXT.

  5. rev 21:4 says there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain – bc God has none of these things to give.

  6. Thanks Paul, oh I love this, what a work you done on this. Much appreciate, my church for the past two weeks was preaching on this and they silenced the people with fear. So this is so necessary, too many church are preaching from the OT. I love my church and brothers and sisters but hate the preaching man so thank you. I love that picz by the way of one of my favourite funny actors lol.

  7. As per usual, excellent writing and excellent explanations of difficult and controversial passages. Please keep it up, much appreciated.

  8. Colleen G. // June 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm // Reply

    There are some thought provoking studies around the net about the “rod” verses in Proverbs. Just search “gentle parenting the rod verses” for a good collection of articles if anyone is interested in more study on the topic.

  9. I’m not fluent in Greek or Hebrew, but it doesn’t seem a stretch to me that there is a problem in the translation of this verse. As you know, this is a quote taken from Proverbs 3:11,12. The word scourge does not appear there, so something must have happened in the translation from Hebrew to Greek to English. That alone is convincing. Add to that, the basic gospel fact that Jesus took our punishment, our scourging on the cross (Isaiah 53) and it seems clear; the word scourge does not belong in the verse or in our relationship with our loving heavenly Father.

    • Brian Midmore // September 26, 2013 at 4:38 am // Reply

      But it is there. Not in proverbs maybe but it is in Hebrews. Are you saying is that the Holy Spirit when inspiring the author got it wrong?

      • No sir, I’m saying a possible problem with the translation. Such as, possibly a religious minded translator who added the word, thinking it needed to be there.

  10. Dear, The word correction involves rod, in the context of any eastern countries, which is just a flexible wooden stick used for spanking. But as an earthly father it hurts me more than my children, though it can never inflict any serious injuries than a few seconds of pain along with its mental shock. This practice is not because of the conservative way of thinking but used as the last after several oral warnings, only parents are the best source of correction as they know their children. I believe Solomon wrote Proverbs with the inspiration of Holy Spirit.
    I do believe that Jesus took all punishment for All, thus we will not be scourged anymore.

  11. This is how my heavenly Dad deals with me personally:

    “Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4

    He never irritates or provokes me to anger but trains, disciplines and cousels me tenderly.


  12. Hebrews 12:25 is Speaking of obedience of faith. As The Scripture Say, …”that if you confess with your mouth JESUS As LORD, and believe in your heart that GOD Raised HIM From the dead, you shall be Saved; for with the heart man believes resulting in Righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in Salvation…” Romans 10:9-10. And we cannot call on The LORD JESUS CHRIST as our LORD And SAVIOUR, then live apart from HIS Teaching, that being, disobedience to It.The LORD’S Words in Luke 6, “And why do you call me, ‘LORD, LORD,’ and do not do what I Say?…” ( v46 ). HIS Word’s Spoken; The Gospel, Is What Will Judge At The Last Day ( John 12:44-50 ). And this we can only obey By The Power And Strength that GOD Supplies; By Grace through faith. Yes The FATHER Disciplines us, that we may share HIS Holiness ( Hebrews 12:10-11 ). Dying to the flesh cannot be a painless process ( 1 Peter 4:12-19 ). How can it be when we are in a Spiritual battle? ( Ephesians 6:10-20 ). But By Grace through faith we must, By The Power Of The HOLY SPIRIT ( Romans 8:12-14, 1 Peter 1:2, John 3:36, Hebrews 12:14, John 12:24-26, 1 Corinthians 15:34-50, 1 Peter 4:1-2 ).
    No, the Scourging in verse 6 is not literally a whip, but it is felt in the heart and spirit ( Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 66:1-2 ). And this Discipline is by no means painless ( v 11 ). Praise GOD!

  13. Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. [KJV] For ‘chasteneth’, Strongs gives us ‘to train up a child’; ‘to educate’. For ‘scourgeth’ we are given ‘to flog, literally or figuratively’. The thought that came to mind was that as we are educated by the Word of God, and have our mind renewed, we are figuratively ‘cleaned out spiritually’. So I agree with the mistranslation thoughts because of the context. Excellent thought provoking writing again Paul.

  14. We should be sure we are in line with God’s wisdom on this. There are many who are turned off to the gospel because we have presented a Jekyll and Hyde God to them. “He’s wonderful, He’s graceful, He’s loving, and He will tear you up if you miss the mark.” If we’re honest, that’s not an attractive message to the average Joe. I realize that doesn’t represent everyone’s view, but for the sake of all we should get it right on this. 

    Perhaps two types of sons are being discussed in Hebrews 12. Esau and the Mount Sinai, self righteous crowd and the Mount Zion crowd who look to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. In Hebrews 12:22, after having specifically mentioned the Esau crowd, the author seems to switch gears by saying “BUT YOU have come to Mount Zion” (emphasis mine :)). My thought is that perhaps what is being presented in this chapter is two ways of relating to God. The school of chastising, and also, God’s preferred way of looking to Jesus (we are transformed into His image as we behold His glory – 2 Cor. 2:18). The way of chastising will hopefully lead us to realize we can’t do it perfectly, but Jesus already has, so we look to Him. Some sons are relating to God according to the law, but you are His beloved who has received the gift of His righteousness.

  15. Paul, another great article – thank you. You have done a good job of discussing what the verse *doesn’t* mean. However, now I find myself wanting an alternative explanation for what the verse *does* mean. Perhaps in a follow-up post or here in the comments, you could elaborate on what your alternate rendering of the verse and it’s meaning would be? Thanks again.

  16. Amen Alex, has God stated to his earthly Shepherds to feed the sheep, not beat the sheep, how much more he.


  18. The New International Version (and I thought I saw one other) that adds in verse 7, “endure hardship as discipline.” To me, I understood the “chastening of the Lord,” “discipline,” or even “scourging,” to be what life does to us. Because hardships befall us all, I understood the writer of Hebrews to be making it clear that God doesn’t DO mean stuff to us (or make us sick), life does that. Endure it AS discipline. He uses the stuff life throws at us for His good. Within that understanding, I have less of a problem even with the word “scourge.” Life can be pretty cruel. I can see it as strong (maybe even intentionally over the top) language to encompass all that this world has to offer.

  19. Either way, God’s chastening is not pleasant. The context of the scripture here is not discipling, but chastening. In context the scripture is not talking about discipling, but disciplining…

    • Josh, I had to edit your comment because it violated E2R’s comment policy. Please don’t simply cut and paste scripture. We all own Bibles. Tell us what you mean and limit your opinions to the post. Are you saying God does scourge us?

      • With all due respect, this article is a whole bunch of prosperity gospel garbage. Essentially, you would have people believe that by becoming a follower of Jesus everything’s gonna be great? Have you not read the book of Job? Have you not read any of the New Testament? In every single book, suffering is mentioned. And not only for sharing the gospel, but specifically to grow our faith. And we are to count it all as joy, encouraging each other.

      • Hi Susan. Nowhere do I say life will be easy or free from pain. In fact, the opposite is true. Yes, I have read Job, thank you. In fact, I’ve written more about that man than just about any other person in the Bible (check out the Archives).

        My point in the article above is that God doesn’t give us cancer or Covid or kill our kids to teach us things. Rather, he teaches us with his Spirit and through his word. There is enough pain in this world without us needed to import more from heaven. God is good to us, and everything he does is good for us.

      • So then, God is not sovereign? God Himself does not number our days? He does not allow the trouble and adversity that goes on in life, to develop our character? Yes, I came across this article and could not believe my eyes. What a shame you encourage people to believe they will fare better than their Savior, rather than to believe Gods word (Isaiah 45:7, Matthew 10:24).

      • Susan, I’m not sure what you are trying to say, but since you have adopted an argumentative tone I guess you disagree with me when I say God never afflicts us with sickness. All I can say is, look to Jesus. How many people did Jesus give sickness to? Our heavenly Father is a good Father who cares for us, redeems our messes and causes all things – including our pain and suffering – to work together for good.

  20. My logic is that bad things happen to us, and the writer of Hebrews says to endure that AS discipline. He allows it to happen because it will change me into the kind of person he wants me to be. As someone said earlier, “scourge” here is a metaphor (maybe even hyperbole). Maybe this is the literature major in me, but I think it reflects my actual experience, meaning that some of the things I will go through in life are pretty rough. I’m not sure I’ve ever been through something that I would call “scourging,” but what if someone went in and shot all the kids in my daughter’s class? I know there would be a path through it that will change me to be more like God, and I would describe that as scourging. Does that make sense?

    • It makes sense Allen, but don’t you think that the metaphor could lead you to the notion that God scourges us, that he is somehow responsible for your daughter’s death? And can you see that that notion would not draw you closer to your heavenly Father?

      In the case of Hebrews, the actual hardships being endured were persecutions – believers were being persecuted for their faith in God. And sometimes that persecution took the form of actual scourging or flogging (see Heb 11:36). Can you see how messed up it is to imply, “You were scourged for trusting in God your Father and he was the one who scourged you”? Can you see how discouraging that is? My strong view is that Hebrews 12 was written to encourage, not discourage the saints who were being persecuted.

    • AllenW, that makes complete sense in that I understand what you said but I kind of find it a bit hard to swallow everything you said. There was a dreadful case in Nigeria I saw on TV,where by loads of Christrians, young, very young and the elderly, were worshipping in a building and Muslims I think, threw some fire bombs or something through the window I think and they heard them screaming like crazy and they all died. I don’t know man but that just don’t sound right but yea, terrible things can happen to us. If they die, it can not be for their good in this life but guess what happened, Many of the Muslims i heard were dying one by one mysteriously; and not by another hand and they came in fear to the Christians and spoke to them about it and God knows what happened. Yet Many would argue yea, thats why God wanted them to die, they had to save the Muslims but God is greater and bigger than that. I strongly believe that was not it when God said “with long life will I satisfy you and show you my salvation.” God cannot contridict himself. Theres a reason why that happened but I don’t think that was the reason; God is more clever than that. Yes thou, bad things can help us to understand what others are going through. I’ve been screwed alot by the system in the Uk and I discerned that God wanted me to understand the Babylon System, its a mystery Babylon cuz it is full of darkness and it is for the sake of understanding what others go through seeing as one of my gifts are meeting the needs of those through the health care system. I wish I had all the answers.

      Ye get me?

      God bless

      • Yes, FIFI, I think my post comes off as more simplistic than what I actually think. Probably more because I don’t want to write something too long. I guess, first, I would say that there may be no lesson in dying. (Who knows, maybe there is an effect on the person in heaven, having been martyred.) While your example is a horrific way to go, “death is gain” because it is to be with the Lord.
        My understanding is, first, that God doesn’t cause horrible things to happen, so I wouldn’t say wanted those Christians to die. Second, He uses these things to shape us. I don’t see a reason to differentiate between bad things that happen that teach us and other things that don’t teach us anything because their really bad. If we believe all things work together for good, it should be ALL things. I would like to think that if the worst happen that I would try to learn from it.
        Anyway, this is my current operating theory. As far as “scourging” specifically, I don’t buy the idea that God beats his children. I do think that some of us have been through things in our lives that we would read that scripture knowingly and think, “Boy, I know what he means by scourging!”

      • Yes AllenW, I do believe all things work together for our good; but I also believe that there was a specific reason why those Nigerian Believers died that horrible death; yes, good can come out of it but it was never God intention. Paul said something in the bible, having a desire to depart and be with the Lord or staying to benefit the saints. His faith and understaning was such, that the choice was his to make. Oh well, I am forever learning and knowledge is sweet to the soul.

        God bless you

    • Yes it absolutely makes sense.

  21. Hi Paul, I’ve just recently been introduced to your website and it’s been refreshing to read the perspective you have on a lot of seemingly misunderstood theology. I have a question about this one though, what are your thoughts on Ananias and Sapphira? Or the dude that had his stepmother in Corinthians? Both texts seem to be speaking of believers and the discipline that followed their sin, this seems pretty intense and my thought was that it was to put a certain fear among the church. Isn’t this what Paul spoke of in 1 Timothy “that others may also fear?” Just wondering what your take on these passages are. Is there a healthy fear that we as the church are to have?

    • Hi Pete and welcome! To find past posts, I recommend using the search box at the top of this page or the Subject Index. Your question about 1 Tim 5:20 – “Those (elders) who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may fear” – is a good one. I hadn’t thought of it before so I’m inspired to have a go and give you an off-the-cuff response.

      It is inconceivable that Paul is suggesting we use fear as a Big Stick. That’s old covenant-thinking and Paul made it plain that there is no condemnation in the new (Rom 8:1). Love casts out fear. So who are the “others” that need to be afraid? I think he is referring not to “elders” but to “sinning elders.” Note the word for rebuke is elegchō which means expose. Now where in the Bible is fear connected with being exposed? John 3:20-21 “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed (elegchō). But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

      So Jesus is saying there are evildoers who fear being exposed and there are truth-lovers who run into the light. Now a godly elder has nothing to fear. Even when he sins he is still God’s beloved son. Motivated by love he will repent and move on. But a wolf in sheep’s clothing has much to fear. So Paul is not preaching terror-based discipline. He’s saying, “Let’s turn on all the lights and see what happens. Those who love the light will be happy, and those who prefer the darkness will run and hide.”

    • I think your right-on about that Paul , j prince made the observation that it refers to Ananias and Sapphira as a certain MAN. [ But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,and the man in corithians,if you notice it says,[so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. I guess it could hinge on the word [may] be saved,but the greek implies that the mans spirit would be saved. .

    • Ananias and Sapphira were not believers. They lied about giving all they had to the church to get in on their provisions. This is an example of God protecting His children. It should not strike fear in the hearts of believers that they may be struck dead, but rather believers should be comforted by the extent our heavenly Father will go to protect us.

  22. the punishment that brought us peace was on HIM,

    says it all really… the punishment can’t be on us and him! He took it all so we don’t have to!

  23. Rev 2:22.
    I agree many view the Lord’s dealings wrong, but there is plenty of scripture to demonstrate punishment still happens. This verse, written to the church, says those believers who commit adultery with Jezebel will suffer intensely. Elsewhere, Paul says, for this reason many are sick among you and some are fallen asleep. Surely, God didn’t send these sicknesses, but even If stepping out from under His protection yields it, it would still seem a punishment. I think its Hebrews that puts it so well, that If we willfully go on sinning, there is only a fearful expectation of judgment. Surely, many are not well taught concerning how to put away sin, but 2 Cor 10:6 illustrates a good point. Punishing every disobedience once your obedience is made perfect.

  24. Brian Midmore // September 25, 2013 at 8:29 pm // Reply

    I think it is possible to set up Heb 12.6 as a man of straw: ‘Here is THE verse that speaks of God ‘punishing’ us and behold it is a mistranslation of the Hebrew into Greek, and therefore God doesn’t ‘punish’ us’. It is true of course that Prov 3.12 includes the better balance of God’s love for us. Of course punish has pejorative overtones and the bible speaks of God’s discipline. But this discipline may be unpleasant. God is not ‘punishing us for our sins’ but rather disciplining us for our sanctification.

  25. Hi Paul, I have a question about another section of scripture that sort of indicates that God whips people. A few months ago, I was attending a Bible study and we where studying a parable of Jesus in Luke 12:41-48. I walked away wondering why Jesus would be talking about beating people and cutting them into pieces. Everyone seemed to think that if we didn’t do something to make sure we were ready for Jesus’s return, or that if we messed up too bad before He came for us, this is what would happen to us. (He would cut us into pieces and assign us a place with the unbelievers.) In my heart I have come to believe that God is my loving father and that he will protect me no matter what, even when I don’t deserve it. But this parable still confuses me.

    • Hi Lynn,
      I will try and get to this passage in my ongoing series on judgment. I have a post in the pipes called “Are there degrees of judgment?” that touches on this. Short version – no, your loving Father will NEVER cut you to pieces.

      • Pamela Dillon // January 18, 2014 at 8:24 am //

        in your commentary on Hebrew 12:6 you stated the text was translated into Greek. I was under the impression the Hebrews had assimilated and the main language was Greek. The Aramaic translation of that verse reads Whomever The lord Loves He Instructs And Draws Aside His Children with Whom He Is Well Pleased. I like that interpretation.

  26. Something that crossed my mind that I had heard about Jesus’ way of correcting sinners, the Spirit’s way of scourging for instance here: Peter the fisherman.
    In Luke 5 Peter came back from a night fishing with nothing. Jesus in a boat with the fishermen told Peter to put down his net for a catch… and they could hardly pull the net back up for it was breaking. Peter’s reaction: (Luk 5:8) “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
    What a beautiful way to scourge us: only the goodness of God!
    Man, how can we not love Him for that?

  27. Hi Paul. What is your opinion on spanking a child? I’m trying to have a Biblically based understanding of whether children should be spanked (either with a rod, by hand) or not at all under the New Covenant. Thank you!

    • Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them Prov 13:24
      see pastor juda smith at city church in seattle. he’s a great grace preacher and he spanks his kids.
      God does discipline his kids with tearing up their back muscles. i can testify to that, more than a few times in fact. which is how i know for sure it is God’s discipline.
      i don’t have children. i think i wouldn’t even spank them. it seems so cruel. can’t we just explain things to the point where they would see the light and just decide to do the right thing.
      regarding what i did: i’m not going to say, but…
      John 2:24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.
      we put ourselves into someone else’s care or protection when we confide in them versus God. to be on this planet and to be hurting is just part of this life. the problem is hurt people hurt. we look to people for what we should look to God for, and end up getting hurt, then we turn and hurt others, even unknowingly. it’s a vicious cycle.
      God is only ever out to be good to us, protect us and wants the very best for us.
      None of us are just like Christ yet, some of us are just really thick headed about some stuff. we just don’t get it yet and i guess the only way to protect us is to use a physical restraint…

  28. FYI:
    as i understand it, there is debate even among the hebrew scholars about exactly what words are in that old testament passage. i don’t think there is another verse in the new testament with so much difference of opinion.

    …there are two entirely different sentences that are possible from the letters there. one possible sentence sounds like what we read in the old testament. the other possible sentence sounds like our heb 12. it is like seeing “GODISNOWHERE”. one person will read “GOD IS NOWHERE”. another person will read “GOD IS NOW HERE”.

    the septuagint is translated the same way as our heb 12, so they may have just copied from the septuagint. but that would appear to be the case for all of the other quotes in the new testament. anyway, a lot of people don’t think much of the septuagint in terms of it being a quality translation.

  29. Hi Paul, I like your writes and the discussion here. I agree with the idea that God does not scourge us. However, Saul’s blindness in Acts 9 may be a reason to say Jesus hit him, instead of saying it was Paul’s fault, because he was looking at Jesus for too long. And, does not verse 11 of Hebrews 12 imply “painful” chastening? Another verse in Hebrews, which I find relevant for the discussion and really challenging in general, is “and though he was a son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.” (Hebrews 5,8 NKJV). I wonder, whether this verse also features a faulty translation. 1.Peter 4 also points out that suffering for Christ can lead to obedience (Verse 2) and is indeed God’s will (Verse 19). I know I still have wickedness in my heart and I want to allow God to cut that things off, although it hurts.

    • Jesus does not need to chasten you , you are doing a good enough job all on your own.

    • Stefan, In Hebrews 12:8 it says”‘ 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. .Sons here in greek is huios which has two meanings 1) legitimate offspring, 2) Mature sons. In Romans 8:14 Paul says; For all who are constantly being led by the Spirit of God, these are (the Mature sons) of God.. The verse in HEB 5:8 has to do with the Hebrews moving on to maturity provided they repent (change there mindset on how they approach God), this they could do if God permitted 6:3. Unless they repented from there legalism/judaism they could not progress any further. The author of Hebrews tells his audience too look back to the previous chapter of 11 and to all the pain and suffering those who preceded them in the faith. You have heard the expression “No pain no gain”? That is all the author is trying to get accrossed to his audience.This has nothing to do with God punishing us if we get out of line but rather a means to develop spiritual endurance and maturity

  30. This has never made since to me… We died with Christ, He taking upon Himself all our punishment, I would think that if HE was punished for us,(Which he was) why would there need to be any more punishing?? Just a thought I had.. I always wondered (when reading, or hearing this) How and why does HE punish us?? It just doesn’t make since..

  31. As for the topic at hand (Scourging). IMO it is irrelevant too me whether it is in the original or added by translators. Those of us like Andrew Farley who learned the grace message under Bob George are familiar with the connotation of scourging””Inquiring deeply within”as Bob used to say. Scourging and REPROVING accomplish the same goal”of exposing what’s inside. Gods word does the scourging: Heb 4:12 AMP: For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.Sounds like scourging to me. Gods Spirit does the REPROVING:The Greek word elegcho has the root meaning, “to bring something to light; to expose it to light,” and is used to mean “to point something out to someone.”. . Both words have in mind the notion of pinpointing problem areas much like a diagnostic test on your car engine or an MRI on your body. Before we can develop endurance in the faith we have to identify our areas of weakness(heb 12:12-13) and build them up as i do with my personal training clients. God operates in the same way in Hebrews 12

  32. My bible doesn’t use the word “scourge”…it says “for the Lord discipline’s those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child” the next verse it says “as you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who isn’t disciplined by its father?” I think it means exactly what it says and is pretty straightforward….I do think Christians are disciplined and we reap what we sow on earth…we don’t reap spiritually but earthly…the next verse after that says that if God doesn’t discipline us then we are illegitimate and not his children…i use the new living translation..maybe you need a better translation Paul..

    • I think it means what your translation says too (except for the bit about punishing). The Lord does indeed discipline (ie: train) his children but he doesn’t punish/scourge them. Not ever.

      • If we exclude the word “scourging”, then please tell me how God is to deal with Pride, which He says He will “abase”. Paul was Proud and Self-Contained, as was Peter. They were both “scourged”, in order that they would know for certain what an absolute mess they were in themselves. How else is God going to achieve this, without “scourging”. How else is corrupt, sinful nature going to pay attention, unless God lays siege upon an individuals confidence and self-trust. Moses too, was “scourged”, as was David at certain times, and many others. And I can guarantee, despite the pain they encountered, they were glad they were brought to see the reality of themselves. Ask yourself this question “What good is any Self-willed, Self-confident individual to God?” Human nature, the carnal mind, is so unbelievably corrupt, that nothing short of “scourging” will bring it to it’s knees. Of the three enemies the Christian has in this world, the “carnal mind”, the “flesh”, is the most dangerous, because it is so close to us, a constant threat to ourselves and God. “Scourging” teaches this, producing a humility which is appropriate and real. God’s word is His, there are no mistakes in the words used.

      • Jesus said, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Pride goes before a fall, but God is not the one pushing people over. Don’t confuse the wages of sin with the dealings of the Lord.

      • momzilla76 // March 3, 2016 at 6:13 am //

        Aidan- When a person comes to Christ they become a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. The indwelling Holy Spirit begins to teach them the ways of godliness. The new Christian life is not military boot camp where all of our old habits are harshly scrubbed, scoured and brutally worked off of us. It is a family into which we are adopted and like a family where shortcomings are accepted as part of the baby to maturity process, where the Spirit works on us, growing us, reminding us whose we are and what it cost to buy us.
        Just look at Peter. He denied knowing Jesus 3 times out of fear just after brazenly proclaiming that he would die for Jesus! How does Jesus bring Peter to his face in changed repentance? A simple prophetic statement confirmed by a ordinary rooster crow. What changed Paul? A face to face encounter where a simple question was asked. Scourging was not needed for either man. Renew your mind according to the scriptures.

  33. What I am referring to is the “Preparatory Work of the Law”. Saul was a proud, self-righteous Pharisee, until the Spirituality of the Law was applied to him personally. He wouldn’t have been capable of seeing himself in a true light otherwise. Had God not wrought such a “reality check” on him, he would have been useless to God. People are incapable of seeing their own hopeless reality without that work. Romans 7 is an account by Paul of that very work. “Sin revived (he was overcome by the strength of it), and he died (everything that he thought he was in his own estimation, came crashing down around him).” Now he was useful to God, because he himself was dethroned. Some such Work of the Law always precedes conversion, although it varies in it’s intensity and length of time. But in every case, the individual is brought to see themselves as ruined, as “exceedingly sinful”. (Rom 7:13). This work is a very distinct mark of conversion, and is outlined in detail in “Christians’ Great Interest”, a 17th century book by Scottish preacher William Guthrie. Many esteemed Christian authors have referenced this same work, such as Thomas Boston, Richard Baxter and Jonathan Edwards. John Bunyan’s conversion was long and gruelling. John Newton says in his hymn “Amazing Grace” that “twas Grace that caused my heart to fear”, He was indebted to God for having been brought to that place. “Scourging” is a preparatory work of the Law of God, which precedes conversion.

    • momzilla76 // March 4, 2016 at 3:07 am // Reply

      I suggest taking scripture for what it plainly says in it’s full context instead of filtering it through the opinion of a fallible human. Your version of Romans 7 is not what it says if you take it as a whole narrative from about chapter 5 or 6 on to 8. You have been taught the old fashioned tradition that we must be dethroned from our internal thrones and place God/Jesus there before God will be able to anything with us because humans are so self-centered and self willed. It sounds cool but it strokes and feeds the flesh because it tells the flesh that the only way God can use it is only after self abasement. “See look how much I have humbled myself, how much I have improved, how much I have squished myself down for you God!” Me, me, me and I, I, I.
      Jesus, not the Law, is the true cure for when a person has real(not drummed up by theologians) issues with pride. How? Because once you make Jesus the end all, be all and cure for everything Self has no place to stand because nothing the flesh can do or avoid doing has anything to do with our standing before God or usefulness to God. I challenge you to study the scriptures to see how this viewpoint you have picked up actually feeds the flesh and pride instead enthroning Jesus alone in your heart.

  34. Greetings to you in Jesus,

    Hi Paul, thank you for your very powerful insight into the heart of our loving Father. In my heart i find rest in the truth of Gal 2:20. The entrance of His presence into my life has caused me to experience a death of self confidences as well as working to try to get Fathers approval. Instead I now embrace the resurrection of Php 3;3. Where all of my confidence is in Christ Jesus. In this New confidence Heb 12 causes me to look toward Jesus the author and finisher of my faith, who has taken all the punishment for me so that I can be humbled if and when I fail, because the Holy Spirit will then remind me of all that Jesus has said causing me to weep as I understand my total need for His salvation. This then causes me to inhale “so to speak, Titus 2:11-15. which proclaims the grace of God has appeared toward all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world ….. Fathers very expensive grace which was paid for by the blood of His very own son is teaching us, So in my heart Col 3:3 you cannot scourge a dead man, and if you did it would be a waist of time. The grace of our father has humbled me to see the value of the cross.. Because I know that I deserved to be on it, but he took my place, as well as all of my punishment to satisfy all the demands of the law. In agreement with you… If we believe the bread of the word which says that it is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me.. There would be absolutely no reason why Father God would have His son Jesus scourged over again { That being Christ in you the hope of glory } when Jesus proclaimed from the cross that it is finished He sat down at the right hand of God and it was finished… I believe as it is written.. All they that call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved from the wrath of God to come upon all that know not nor are willing to receive the grace of God or the completed work of the cross.. 1Cor 1:18 … So i take up my cross { The cross that he has provided for me In Him } which represents what has already been accomplished, as the grace of God humbles me and teaches me by way of gratification and thanksgiving, to deny myself and follow on to know the Lord as He hides me under the shadow of His wings… So then Paul I am encouraged and I thank you so much for your gift of wisdom, and pray that you are strengthened in the power of His might to continue to stand for the gospel of Jesus ..

    Forever in His Love and service
    Pastor Pat..

  35. proverbs 20:30 blows that wound cleanse away evil, and strokes [for correction] reach to the innermost parts.

  36. Sarah Howell // November 26, 2016 at 7:48 am // Reply

    I think that all of you are ignoring the cultural context of both passages. We don’t know who wrote Hebrews, or who the intended audience was, but we do know that life was much harsher in the Anceint Near East than it is in modern Western countries. As I understand it, in most Ancient Near Eastern societies flogging sons was considered quite acceptable, and the readers would have understood these pssages within that cultural context.

    • Hi Sarah, I suspect Hebrews was written for the Hebrews. Please note that the word for scourge in this passage is the same word that describes the scourging applied to Paul (by the Jews) and Jesus (by the Romans). No father would ever do such a thing to his child in any culture and our heavenly Father certainly does not do it to us. More here.

  37. Surely no one thought God actually whips people with the “cat o’ nine tails”, it is clearly metaphorical.
    However, anyone that seeks the truth is going to become acquainted with the Lords discipline, hearing His “no” goes hand in hand with maturity.
    I’ve had a hell of a time in the last few years, lost my marriage of 15 years, wrestling with being a solo dad with 4 kids, lost almost everything but a run down old house, and recently been physically ill and hospitalized for 7 days, depression has always been at my door waiting for me to let it in. What is the Lords response to me? and emphatic proclamation that none of this is punishment for my sins, but some of it can be linked to choices that I (and others) made. If I had heeded His warnings and received His discipline things may not have got as bad as they did in certain areas, this is indeed a ‘scourging’ of sorts, as it leaves a mark. But the discipline of the Lord does not injure, it sets us free, it brings reality into sharper focus and gives us a chance of walking free of that which the enemy would use to destroy us.

    • momzilla76 // May 20, 2018 at 5:37 am // Reply

      The natural consequences for our stinky choices. Life lessons that are discipline. Discipline originally meant “to teach” not corporal punishment. Some carry the metaphor too far saying that the pain in our life is God whipping us for something we did, even if we are not entirely sure which wrong it was for.

  38. I have had quite a few difficult circumstances in life. I won’t go into them here, but I have wondered if God does scourge. Now in my 60s, I can look back at my life and see I was a very weak and foolish young man. Although I accept Christ as my Savior, I needed a LOT of work. And God did that though the trials I have experienced. I am now wiser and stronger because of them. Lamentations 3:32-33: “Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” So God does cause grief, but not willing. It is for our own good. I know that from experience.

  39. Oh yes He does scourge, and what a blessing to know you are a true son of God!! His discipline is painful and it works ,, thank you Father.

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