Understanding this distinction is critical for the Christian life. Inadvertently overlapping punishment/discipline is not difficult to do. But if we do this we will be prone to legalism and condemnation and fall into a pattern of what John Owen calls “hard thoughts” about God.
So how does God discipline His children? Is this punishment for sin? Can punishment and discipline be distinguished by the cross? These important questions have been tackled by Dr. Alan S. Bandy, the Rowena R. Strickland Professor of New Testament and Greek/Assistant Professor of NT & Greek at Oklahoma Baptist University (2007 Ph.D. from SEBTS). I’d encourage you to read his blog post for details: “The Difference Between God’s Punishment and God’s Discipline” (June 16, 2009)