Eli, the great Old Testament priest, did not discipline his sons, and God took his life. Despite his glorious service for the church, his legacy is severely tarnished. His sons blasphemed the Lord, bullied the men folk, abused the women, and lost the Ark of the Covenant. Eli did not discipline his sons, and they paid dearly for their father’s sin of omission. (1 Samuel 2-3)
David also did not discipline his sons. Sadly, as one opens the first chapter of 1 Kings, one reads:
Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” … (1 Kings 1:5-6)
God had chosen Solomon to be the next king. Nathan and David had submitted themselves to God’s will and proclaimed Solomon to be the prince in waiting. However, Adonijah had a different idea; he preferred to see himself sitting on the throne. Therefore, in rebellion against David, Nathan, and God, he crowned himself and ordered his own coronation parade. What led him to be so brash, bold, self-serving and defiant? The inspired writer of 1 Kings tells us, “His father had never, at any time, displeased him.” Neither with actions, nor with words had David checked the insubordination of his son. Ultimately, Adonijah reaped the same consequences as did Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli. His life was cut short, and his opportunity to worship the Lord came to an end. (1 Kings 2)
Friends, the Bible is clear: Those who are in authority, who withhold loving discipline, terribly harm those whom they serve.
Consider the loving discipline God shows towards his children:
Psalm 119:67–68 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119:71–72 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Hebrews 12:5–6 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Revelation 3:19–20 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me …
Consider the loving discipline God requires of fathers who love their children:
Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.Proverbs 22:15Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Proverbs 23:13–14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.
Proverbs 29:15–17 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. When the wicked increase, transgression increases, but the righteous will look upon their downfall. Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.
Consider the loving discipline God requires of church elders who love their flock:
Titus 1:13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
1 Timothy 5:20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
Matthew 18:15-18 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Titus 3:9-11 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
1 Corinthians 5:5 You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Zechariah 11:17 Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!”
Consider the loving discipline God requires of the godly government who loves its citizens:
One only has to read the Old Testament scriptures to see how God established political leaders to hold court, uphold justice, require restitution, and sometimes use the power of the sword.
Therefore friends, do you love or hate those underneath your authority whom you have been called to serve? Will you bypass correction? Will you forgo confrontation and admonition? Will you spare the rod and spoil the child? Will you cease pastoral discipline? Will you support governmental officials who look the other way? Will you sin against God by continuing to forsake discipline?
And from the other side, will you despise the hand that applies the loving discipline of the Lord? Will you honor those who “spank you” and praise the Lord for such tough and tender compassion?
Yes, the Bible is clear: Those who are in authority, who withhold loving discipline, terribly harm those whom they serve. If there is no discipline, there is no love.