Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Spanking Evangelism

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on April 1, 2009 at 11:08 am

My kids are past the age of spankings.  When they reminisce at the dinner table, they narrate their often embellished accounts of their childhood discipline.  They remember things that I’ve forgotten (that’s not unusual these days).  But I rejoice to tell you that they remember the love expressed in the discipline.  Now, I did not enact every exercise of discipline in the manner that I am about to describe, but I attempted to implement an evangelistic strategy in the discipline of our children.  Today my children acknowledge my evangelistic efforts when they recount their respective criminal histories and recall the judicial proceedings that ensued.  I use forensic terminology intentionally.  In our home, disobedience was a crime against domestic law which required a visit to Daddy’s court.

When I called court into session, the criminals would come and stand before the Judge.  They would give their testimonies, level their charges, accuse and protest.  Judge Dad would quell the tumult to ascertain what happened.  Through a series of questions, I would arraign the defendants and we would all settle on a statement of facts.  Yes, this one provoked that one by doing or saying that, and that one, in turn, responded by doing or saying that.  Those are the facts.  Everyone agreed on what had happened.

The Judge would then identify the crime and press the defendant to take responsibility for his behavior and to confess his guilt.  With guilt now confessed, I would then pronounce the sentence. Usually the punishment was one swat for each infraction.  I tried to own the conscience of the child and get the child to agree that the punishment fit the crime.  There were times when the punishment was either waived or unexpectedly diminished (“Wow Dad, I hardly even felt that!”).  But the norm was one swat per violation.  When the time for execution came, all in the courtroom agreed that justice was being upheld.

The Executioner (me) would compel the criminal to assume the correct posture to insure that the impact of the belt landed on the buttocks where the momentary sting would be safely absorbed.  After the impact, the sting would resonate for a moment and usually trigger tears, both from the physical discomfort and the emotional resolution of finally having the crime paid for.

Then it was time to receive the chastened child back into the domestic society.  Those were tender times.  The little one would climb onto my lap as I consoled him in my embrace until his tears subsided.  I’d ask “What have you learned?”  I would hear fresh acknowledgment of having done wrong, expressions of repentance, and renewed determination not to be disobedient again.  Then it was time for “spanking evangelism.”

I would remind the child that in Daddy’s court, I am required by God to execute justice and righteously punish domestic crimes.  In my court, criminals must bear their guilt and assume their punishment.  The child innately understood that it was right and good that criminals should be punished.  Then I would remind them that their disobedience, however, was also a crime in God’s court.  “Son, when you hit your brother, which of God’s Ten Commandments did you break?”  If he didn’t know, I would tell him and if he knew, I would bring him to acknowledge that he had broken the sixth commandment.  “Son, what punishment do you deserve in God’s court?  What does God do to those who break His Law?”  I can remember seeing my children awaken to gospel realities.  They were taught and understood that God righteously sends lawbreakers to hell.  There, exposed and guilty of their sin, they experienced the realization that they deserved God’s wrath for their sin.  Yes, the awareness of deserving to go to hell is frightening.  As unnerving as it is, it is still necessary that even a young sinner come to terms with the righteous proceedings of the Holy God.  Indeed, the sooner the better.  It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God at any age!

Over the course of the years of corporeal punishment, I repeatedly told my kids that God’s court has something no other court in the world has: the cross of Jesus.  Guilty sinners can either be punished for their sins themselves in an eternal hell, or they can join themselves to Jesus by faith, and receive the benefit of His death and resurrection.  God is just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:26)  God’s wrath is satisfied by Jesus’ death for all who trust in Him.  God forgives the believing sinner and credits Jesus’ own obedience to him.  In union with Jesus, the believing sinner is justified, accepted, and made legally right with God.  We all enter God’s court as guilty sinners.  There are only two places were God’s holy wrath is vented against us in our sin: either in hell or in the cross of Jesus.  I tried to explain those sober gospel truths simply to my children and then I’d ask, “Do you want God to punish you for your sin, or do you want Jesus to take your punishment for you?”  Of course, the best option is to have Jesus assume the punishment!

At that point I would have him pray and express his trust in Jesus.  I’d tell him to speak to Jesus and confess the sin that he committed and specify the law that he had violated.  I’d have him recount the essential facts of Jesus’ substitutionary death and resurrection.  I’d put Scripture promises into his mouth and urge him to ask Jesus to forgive him.  I’d encourage him to thank Jesus for His mercy and to request the Holy Spirit to enable him to stay away from that sin and to teach him to be obedient.  I recall after one such evangelistic effort asking my young son after he had prayed if the Lord had forgiven him.  He said that He did.  I asked “Why?”  My son said, “Because I am very sorry and I don’t want to be bad again.”  I took that opportunity to tell him that we are forgiven, not because we feel bad enough, but because of the full sufficiency of the work of Jesus.  God forgives us because of what Jesus has done for us, not because of our repentance or resolve.  We must believe in Jesus, not in our own repentance.

Once forgiven by the Lord, I would then direct the restored criminal to reconcile with me, his Mom and his siblings.  I would insist that he acknowledge his sin and that he request forgiveness.  He was to offer his repentance and we were to bestow forgiveness.  For him simply to say, “I’m sorry,” was insufficient.  Repentance requires more than making an observation about one’s feelings.  “Do you forgive me for hitting you?”  “Yes, I forgive you.”  I insisted upon a gospel transaction in which the offender offered his repentance and the offended bestowed his forgiveness.  Hugs would bring the matter to a happy resolution and off they’d go, to get into more mischief and inevitably require more “spanking evangelism.”

Yes, “spanking evangelism” takes time and is seldom convenient.  Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death. (Prov 19:18)  Corporeal discipline should be employed early on in the life of the child.  As their capacity to reason and their conscience matures, you should incrementally diminish the use of the rod and increase your appeals to their judgment.  Help them to think through and internalize the principles of biblical obedience, motivated by a love for Jesus.  Pray, instruct, exemplify and discipline in gospel love.  Water the seeds of the gospel that you have planted in your kids through the course of their childhood.  May the Spirit use your parenting to transform your physical children into your spiritual siblings.

Alan Dunn, Pastor
Grace Covenant Baptist Church
Flemington, NJ
  1. I deeply appreciate this because Baptists are often accused of failing to embrace God’s promises regarding children of covenant parents. By demonstrating a godly care and concern for both the physical and spiritual maturity of our children, I believe we reflect accurately the desire to embrace God’s promises towards our children by evangelizing and ‘training them up in the Lord”.

  2. Thank you Pastor Dunn. Very clear, simple, and yet profound ! The implications could go far beyond child rearing.

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