CH Mackintosh on 'The Father's Discipline'
The term 'House of God' in 1 Peter 4:17 refers to the Church in its place of responsibility in this world. God judges His house now. He will judge the world by and by. Holiness becomes the house of God, and He must judge everything contrary thereto. A father rules and orders his house because it is his house and because he will have everything in his house agreeable to his tastes and suited to his dignity. Thus our God deals with us. It is not a question of the salvation of our soul or of the eternal security of the believer; all that is settled. But God disciplines His children and judges His house. It is aprecious privilege to stand connected to God in this world, but it is a most solemn responsibility also.
1 John 5:16-17 refers to the case of a brother suffering under the chastening hand of God in government. Compare James 5:15. It might be for sin that was not unto the death of the body. In such case one may be led to pray for the sufferer and receive an answer from God in his restoration to health. But the sin may be of such nature that one could not possibly take it up in intercession at all, in which case the discipline must take its course and run on to the death of the body. Compare also 1 Corinthians 11:30.
We have repeatedly referred to 1 Corinthians 11:29-32. It teaches that God will assuredly chasten those who unworthily partake of the Lord's Supper. The passage applies to Christians now as well as in the early days of the Church. We are called to judge ourselves as we approach the Table of the Lord, else God will have to judge us in the way of prsent discipline, which may take the form of bodily sickness or even death itself. But, blessed be His name, He does this now so we may not be judged with the world by and by. It is truly blessed to hear the words, 'No condemnation' amid the judicial dealings of 1 Corinthians 11, just as distinctly as amid the evangelic teachings of Romans 8.
You have solid reason, dear friend, to doubt the soundnesss of the teaching to which you refer, on 1 Corinthians 11:30: 'For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep.' These persons had failed to judge themselves, failed to discern the Lord's body in the broken bread. They had eaten in an unworthy manner, though they were true Christians. Hence God, in His goverment of His house, had to chasten them by bodily sickness even unto death, so that they might not be condemned with the world. How could any intelligent person teach that 'the discipline here is not connected to those weak and sickly ones?' We say it was ver closely connected with them! No doubt others were called to learn and take warning from the discipline exercised upon those erring members, but surely no father would think of chastening a good child for the sin of a bad one.
It would be avery grave mistake indeed to say 'that all the trials and sufferings of Christians are punishments for some particular sin.' Very often those things are sent as a preventive and to draw the heart nearer to Christ. Who would presume to say that the sickness of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2 was a punishment for some particular sin? The apostle expressly tells us that 'for the work of Christ, he was nigh unto death.' Were Timothy's frequent infirmities sent as a punishment for some particular sin?
We do not like the term 'punishment' as applied to the dealings of our loving Father. There is nothing penal, in the strict sense of the word, even in His wise and faithful correction. Christ our blessed Substitute exhausted on our behalf all that was penal. God chastens His children to make them partakers of His holiness, as we learn in Hebrews 12. Moreover, the Father judges His house as we read in 1 Peter 4:17. So in 1 Corinthians 11 we are told that many of the Corinthians were visited with bodily sickness and death because of their disorderly conduct at the Lord's table. But this we are told was so they might 'not be condemned with the world.'
In James 5, we read, 'Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.' The 'if' shows that the sickness might not have been sent on account of any particular sin.
In 1 John 5 we read, 'If any man see his brother sin a sin that is not unto death, he shall ask and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death, I do not say he shall pray for it.' For example Ananias and Sapphira and the Corinthians! There may, in any given ease, be certain flagrant features attatching to some sin committed, causing those who look at things in the light of God's presence to feel instinctively that they could not possibly pray for restoration. We have to do with the goverment of God which is a very serious matter indeed. And it is one of the enactments of that government that 'whatsoever a man' (no matter who) 'soweth, that shall he reap.' But it is the Christian's happy privilege to view the actings of divine government through the atmosphere of divine grace.
Your case is painfully interesting. We are persuaded that if there be simple faith in waiting upon God, he will heal and restore. He is the healer and answerer of prayer. We recommend you to retire from all creature confidences and cast yourself simply upon the living God. You have been looking to human cisterns. We also judge you have been overanxious to get well. Seek grace to lie passive in your Father's hands and know no will but His. When once your heart can say, 'Thy will be done,' the great moral end of discipline is reached. We pray that you may reap a harvest of blessing from all the painful exercise through which you are now passing. May God comfort you, dear friend.
Hebrews 12:7 teaches us to leave ourselves wholly in God's hands, whatever be the character or measure of the chastening. It helps to this end to bear in mind that God is dealing with us as sons. There is nothing penal in chastening. All is in perfect love, unerring wisdom and infallible faithfulness, and the purpose of God in it all is to make us partakers of His holiness. Hence, it would be a serious mistake for us to seek in any wise to take ourselves out of our Father's hand. We should rather desire that the chastening might produce the proper result and that God might be fully glorified thereby. Restless efforts to get out of trial prove we are not walking with God and that we do not see His hand or His end in the matter. Moreover, we shall find that all such efforts only increase our trouble while they rob us of the sweet consciousness that all we are passing through comes direct from the hand of our loving Father.
(CH Mackintosh, The Father's Discipline in Short Papers on Scriptural Subjects, Ontario, Canada, Believer's Bookshelf, 1995 p.409-411)