Christians are, from time to time confronted with the notion that a loving God will (or should not) permit evil to come into their lives by so-called (as they see it) punishment or discipline. According to them this is not congruent with a good and loving God.
There can be various reasons for this misrepresentation of God's character. It can suit the accuser to adopt such a stance because then he or she can argue against accepting or even acknowledging God. Once you think you have dismissed God in this way, you may reason that it gives you licence to lead any kind of life you want. This kind of misrepresentation is used to justify the lifestyle of the accuser. It may also be that the nature of love is totally misunderstood. The accuser may be of the opinion that love is only equitted with "the good things in life." Love is equal to hedonism and anything that curtails hedonism cannot be love.
Contrary to this the fact is that, according to Scripture, God is not only love, He justice and rithteousness as well. Divine justice and righteousness is of course, something one would do well to avoid. Terefore the misconception that to deny it is to avoid it.
The Bible is clear that one lives eiher under the Old covenant of jusitce or the New covenant of grace.
The Old covenant of justice was a means to re-establish the intended relationship with God. But it was a two-edged sword. If faithfully and perfectly kept, it resulted in numerous blessings. However, it was also a yoke and a curse, for if not adequately kept you suffered dire consequences. Christ is the New covenant of grace and He absolved the Old covenant as a means of re-establishing the intended relationship with God. The New covenant is available to every person, the only requirement being that you must consciously choose to live under it. (You must make a choice in favour of Jesus - was it not Jesus Himself that said: "Those who are not for us, are against us"?)
The fact that Christ absolved the Old covenant as a means of re-establishing the intended relationship with God, does not mean that the Decalogue was also voided. All ten the Commandments are also mentioned in the New Testament.
(For the sake of brevity, because this is on a blog, only verse references are given - first the Old and then the New Testament. Commandments are numbered 1 - 10)
1. Ex. 20:3 - Mat. 4:6; 1 Cor. 8:6
2. Ex. 20:4 - 6 - 1 Joh. 5:21; Acts. 19:29
3. Ex. 20:7 - 1 Tim. 6:1
4. Ex. 20:8 - 11 - Mark. 2:27,28; Heb. 4:4,10
5. Ex. 20:12 - Matt. 19:19
6. Ex 20:13 - Matt. 19:18; Rom 13:9
7. Ex. 20:14 - Matt. 19:18; Rom. 13:9
8. Ex 20:15 - Matt. 19:18; Rom. 13:9
9. Ex 20:16 - Matt. 19:18; Rom. 13:9
10. Ex 20:17 Rom. 7:7
The web pages
set out the major differences between the two covenants.
This should adequately indicate that the Decalogue is still in force and that if you choose to live under it, you can expect justice to be done.
If one chooses to live by justice, one should at least inquire as to what Divine justice is and why it is meted out. Firstly, Divine justice (punishment ) is not revenge, but a form of love. The best metaphor to explain it is the loving parent metaphor. Although the child does not understand the necessity of justice (punishment) following a rule transgression, and even hates the punishment and the parent who applies it, the parents act so out of love. The aim of punishment is preventing re-occurance of the same behaviour. According to the Old covenant, the preventative measure can be applied in various degrees, up until permanent prevention, (death). God hates sin and will punish to prevent its re-occurance in a person's life, up until such time as the person decides not to sin anymore.
We all know hou impossible that is and if we choose to live under the covenant of justice, we can expect to be continually punished. Under the Old covenant, good works do count, for that is service to God, but unfortunately, they are not sufficient to evade punishment.
Luckely we can choose to reject the Old covenant in favour of the New. When we accept Christ (the New covenant of grace) as our salvation, God's punishment immediately falls away.
God has already punished Christ for our sins, punishing us will mean dubble punishment and void the sacrefice which Christ has made. The action which is viewed by the non-christian as punishment then becomes a disciplinary action for the christian. The aim of discipline is to build character. God is more interested in our character than our comfort and wishes us to become more Christ-like as we grow in faith.
Setting rules is setting discipline. Punishment is looking back at what you have done, discipline is looking forward to what you can become. Disciplinary action is goading you in the right direction. You cannot become what God wishes you to become if there are no rules - how then will you know how to live?
The principle is an easy one to live by - the more you endeavour to become Christ-like, the less disciplinary action you will have to deal with.
To conclude, yes God does punish and yes God does discipline out of love. What you receive is your choice, so ong as you are happy with it.