"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."
Recently, in a Bible class, someone raised the question of whether or not the Father punishes His children. I see in Scripture that we are disciplined by the Father, but are discipline and punishment the same thing?
Random House Dictionary defines punishment thus:
1. the act of punishing.
2. the fact of being punished, as for an offense or fault.
3. a penalty inflicted for an offense, fault, etc.
4. severe handling or treatment.
For discipline, more is involved, according to the same source:
1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline.
2. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training: A daily stint at the typewriter is excellent discipline for a writer.
3. punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
4. the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.: the harsh discipline of poverty.
5. behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control: good discipline in an army.
6. a set or system of rules and regulations.
7. Ecclesiastical. the system of government regulating the practice of a church as distinguished from its doctrine.
8. an instrument of punishment, esp. a whip or scourge, used in the practice of self-mortification or as an instrument of chastisement in certain religious communities.
9. a branch of instruction or learning: the disciplines of history and economics.
Although the terms are here used interchangeably, there is in Scripture distinction made. Punishment is seen most graphically displayed in judgment against the wicked, although God also dealt with His people Israel severely for their idolatrous ways throughout the Old Testament. Yet even amid His wrathful pronouncements and harsh measures, there remained covenantal commitment, not given any of the other nations. Only to His chosen people was His holy outrage an expression of zealous love, whereas toward Israel's enemies His judgment was purely punitive.
At the cross the Lord Jesus took upon Himself the complete wrath and judgment of God against the sin of His own, so that we are no longer under condemnation with its fear of punishment. Yes, we experience His discipline (which can certainly feel like punishment, true), but its eventual peaceful fruit of righteousness is unknown to a punished world.