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Does God punish sin?

Romans 6:23 tells us that the penalty for sin is eternal, spiritual death, but that God offers us freedom from that penalty through Jesus. Because of God's grace and mercy, those who accept God's gift of salvation have already been forgiven of all their sins—past, present, and future. When we place our faith in Jesus by believing that He died for our sins, was buried, and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), all our sins are forgiven, thus saving us from eternal punishment. Romans 8:1 says “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” which means that whenever the Father sees us, He sees us as righteous because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

While we were still sinners, God offered this salvation (Romans 3:23), which means that we don't have to be perfect in order to be saved from the punishment we deserve. Jesus already suffered the punishment for our sins while on the cross (Isaiah 53:5). God will no longer punish us for our sins, but He will discipline us as any loving parent will do (Proverbs 3:11-12).

The difference between discipline and punishment is in the end goal. Punishment seeks to inflict retribution for wrongdoing. Discipline seeks to enact change within a person. Discipline is about rehabilitation, a heart changed for the better, and ultimately fostering an improved life.

For this article, we're going to refer to God's discipline rather than punishment, because, now that we've been saved from eternal punishment for our sins, we are currently in the phase of learning to live life in better ways.

Why must we undergo God's discipline?

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, 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 spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No 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.” —Hebrews 12:7-11

Really let this passage soak in. Discipline by God is actually a great thing. When we sin, or if we continually sin without repentance, God may rightly choose to discipline us, but it will be for our own good. God's discipline is not a burden because His discipline helps us to become more like Jesus, learn perseverance, and mature in our faith.

Imagine a child who has never been disciplined by their parents. What kind of person would they become? If their wrong or hurtful behavior was never corrected, they would probably grow up to be a pretty terrible person. Likewise, if God never disciplined His children, they would continue to indulge in sin, never change, and certainly never become more like Jesus. That kind of life does not lead to true joy or life fulfillment. In fact, James 1:14-15 says that indulging in a sinful life leads to death.

Discipline Leads to Repentance

When God lovingly disciplines us, we can better see how God is shaping us to be more Christlike. God's discipline teaches us which choices are healthy for our hearts and which ones will hurt us. When we indulge in sinful behavior repeatedly or disobey God's commands, we're actively rebelling against God. When a bunch of angels rebelled against God, that plan did not end well (2 Peter 2:4). But God wants better for us than the fate of rebellious angels. Because He loves us, He disciplines in response to our disobedience and rebellion.

When we experience God's discipline, we learn which choices are beneficial and which ones will lead to pain. With God's help, we can repent from painful choices and learn to make beneficial ones instead. As King David said in Psalm 32, discipline causes us to confess our sin, repent, and act in obedience to God. Though discipline can be difficult to endure, it's worth it because obedience to God brings us closer to Christlikeness, strengthens our relationship with God, and matures our faith.

Discipline is Inevitable

Let’s face it: sin is unavoidable. We will all continue to sin while we're alive on earth (Romans 3:23). It would be nice if our sin nature disappeared when we received salvation, but it doesn't work that way. God will never take away our free will—even if it would mean that we'd stop choosing sin.

When we sin, we can come to expect natural consequences for that sin, such as what happens if you get caught cheating on a test. Getting caught, having to confess to your parents, and possibly getting grounded from your phone may all be a part of God's loving discipline to help you think twice before cheating on a test again.

Over time, we can learn to recognize and accept that God's discipline happens for our own good. Sin is a big problem that hurts our relationship with God and others, as well causing other problems that can make life miserable. God's discipline points us in Christ's direction, helping us find the righteous path that leads to joy and fulfillment.

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TL;DR

If you have accepted the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, God has already forgiven you, and you will not be condemned to eternal punishment for your sins (Romans 8:1). Jesus has already suffered the penalty for your sins (Isaiah 53:5). When we sin, however, God lovingly disciplines us for our own personal good. God's discipline shows He loves us and knows what's best for us. God's discipline corrects sinful behavior and helps us become more Christlike and obedient to Him (Hebrews 12:7-11). Discipline may be painful, but without it, we cannot learn to turn from sinful choices or repent, and we won't be able to experience the abundant life that Jesus offers.

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

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