Fathers of Discipline

1.  Biblical Principles

Principle 1:  the church is in a state of disarray (idolatry, immorality) and this is due to a failure of revelation.  “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.”  (Prov 29:18)  “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” (Hos 4:6)  “If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31- 32).

Principle 2: the primordial revelation is that of sonship, it is only the sons of God (a term in scripture restricted to angels and humans) that can recover revelation.  The basic content of revelation is that God is Father (Rom 8:14-16; Gal 4:4-6).

Principle 3: the disarray in the church must mean that the Fatherhood of God is not being revealed and appropriated into godly living e.g. Jer 2:27; Mal 1:6; 2 Cor 6:14- 7:1.

Principle 4: in particular, if sin is abounding then the holiness of God as Father is not being made known (John 17:11; Heb 2:11; 1 Pet 1:14-16).

Principle 5: God reveals his holiness through discipline, “God disciplines us for our good, that we might share in his holiness.” (Heb 12:10).

Principle 6: the gross sin of the church can be traced back to a lack of holy fathers who are imaging, in their own lives and ministry, the holy discipline of God.  This is a lack of apostolic vocation: “I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.  Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers…. What do you prefer?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and with a gentle spirit?” (1 Cor 4:15, 21).

Principle 7: the people possess little insight into the truth that the character of the Father expressed in his children is the purpose of holy discipline and the glory of God (Heb 12:5- 11).  As long as this lack of revelation continues they will continue to run amok as though they were illegitimate sons whose character is of little concern to God.

Principle 8: when those charged with disciplining the flock of God turn to the Lord and execute this task in love there will be a revelation of the true shepherding of Jesus that promises to return the church to its proper glory (Rev 3:19; 12:5;19:15).

2.  Biblical Examples:

1.  The House of Eli

Situation: “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25).  In other words, the nation lacked “seers” (prophets) (1 Sam 9:9; Isa 29:10)) so they sought to see for themselves.  The result was anarchy; as if God was not ruling.

“The word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision/word/prophecy/revelation” (1 Sam 3:1).

Presenting Cause: Eli’s sons were immoral and abused the privileges of the priesthood (1 Sam 2:12- 17).

Foundational Cause: Eli the High priest was not disciplining his sons (1 Sam 2:22-25, 29- 30;3:13), though he had no hesitation in rebuking those who were not close to him (1 Sam 1:13-14).

Spiritual Cause: God was punishing the whole of the house of Israel for its apostasy, this was focused in the house of Eli (1 Sam 2:30-34).  The loss of the ark, of which the wicked priests were guardians, represents he loss of the glory of God (1 Sam 4).

Typologically: Eli is the apostolic ministry, his sons are the pastorate, and the ark is the presence of the glory of God in the church.  Samuel is the renewal of the prophetic voice that calls the apostolic to restore the glory of God in the church.

2.  David and his Sons

The “Succession Narrative” is the name scholars give to 2 Samuel 9- 20 and 1 Kings 1- 2.  This narrative establishes who shall succeed David as the king of Israel.  Embedded in the story, is the episode to do with Amnon and Tamar (2 Sam 13:1-19).  This, rather than David’s adultery and murder of Uriah, is the begging of the troubles of his kingship.  David’s oldest son Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar; although this affair is known to David “he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.” (2 Sam 13:21). In due course, Absalom revenges his sister Tamar, and rebels against David producing chaos in the kingdom.

David fails to enact the law of God because his own feelings take precedence over the law of God and the good of Israel. Although his sons were the natural heirs of the kingdom, David failed to fit them for this duty through his inability to enact the hard task of discipline.  (See also 1 Samuel 14, which recounts the self- imposed exile of Absalom but fails t mention any word from David concerning the guilt of his son.)  Because of David’s weakness in this matter the whole land suffered.

If the three foundational offices of the old covenant are the prophet, priest and king,   the apostolic ministry is closest to the king.  This story of David’s failure and its consequences therefore illustrates the importance of apostolic discipline.  The sons of this ministry cannot know the worth of their inheritance without the rigour of godly discipline.

3.  Application and Conclusion

If those called today to an apostolic vocation would see good order and holiness come to the church of God, they must first submit to the discipline of God upon their lives.  Only then will the powerful works of an apostle be manifested in their ministry (Rom 15:18-19; 2 Cor 12:12).  This order is clear in terms of the death and resurrection of Jesus (cf. the entire messianic pattern in scripture of suffering and exaltation in the O.T., 2 Sam 7:14- 15; Ps 89:26- 35; Isa 52:13- 53:12).  The principle that weakness precedes power (2 Cor 12:1-13:10) will never be revealed as the truth of the Christian life (1 Pet 5:10) unless this direction is received.

Failure to follow in this way will mean that the work of God through those called to be holy fathers will not be established.  If however this word is obeyed, the King shall prosper and his kingdom be established (2 Chron 20:20).

Specific application details concerning the church in Perth may be discussed in person.

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