Our attitude toward the word of God is reflected in our obedience or disobedience. Some consider the commandments of the lord as grievous and burdensome impositions on their lifestyle. Therefore they decide to indulge themselves in the “pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24-25), thus falling from grace. (Gal 5:4)
Long before sin is committed, apostasy begins when one’s attitude toward the word of God deteriorates. Solomon writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. . . ” (Prov. 1:7). Those who have a healthy respect for God and His word lay the foundation on which every relationship in life can be built.
Fear is one of those divisions of scriptural teaching. The Wise Man tells us, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13). But we also are told, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
There are at least two kinds of fear. One is that feeling that extends from stark terror to reverence and can be either good or bad, depending upon the circumstances; and the other is better defined as cowardice, always condemned in the Scriptures.
The primary interest of the Christian, however, is in the command to “fear God.” There is a bad tendency among Christians to either misunderstand or minimize this commandment.
Why Should Anyone Fear God?
Any student of the Bible recognizes the awesome power of God. He is the very creator of life, having formed man from the dust of the ground. Such power, when fully realized is cause for fear. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). God’s omniscience is compelling reason for fear as well. Imagine the power possessed by one who can read every inner thought of a man. God has such power!
God’s righteousness, the fact He never errs in judgment, compared to our frequent errors, is yet another cause for fear. We often use the word “reverence” to describe this feeling, but its basis is in fear of anyone so superior.
Perhaps the most often cited cause for fearing God is the Bible teaching concerning His judgment. The writer of Hebrews, in describing the plight of those willfully sinning after receipt of the truth, says of the future: “But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and bath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongs unto me, I will recompense, said the Lord …. It is a fearful thing to fall unto the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:27-31). Fearful, that is, when anyone stands before God unprepared because they failed to obey the gospel and do the will of God.
That each of us will be held individually accountable (2 Cor. 5:10-11) and that God is “no respecter of persons” (1 Peter 1:17) builds that fear in light of the impossibility of anyone escaping that answering to God. The punishment promised to the wicked is no slap on the wrist for Romans 6:25 says “The wages of sin is death.” God has created a place of punishment called hell, where “the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:44). The very description of that burning place of torment sends an involuntary shudder through the believer. Beyond that, the bottom line of God’s punishment for sin is eternal separation from Him, a situation not even faced by the vilest sinner as he lives in this world today.
Judgment and punishment are sufficient causes for fear but the love of God likewise compels us to fear. Paul describes God’s love by saying, “He that spared not his own son, but delivered him for us all. . .” (Rom. 8:32). God’s own son was the sacrifice for our sins. Imagining a man, much less our creator, offering his only son for savage abuse and tortured death certainly commands reverential fear in the face of such love. On the other hand, to ignore that sacrifice and its purpose is justification for stark terror of His judgment as righteousness is vindicated.
What Fear Accomplishes In The Life Of A Christian
Fear of the Lord brings obedience. We have in Noah an example of this incentive nature of fear. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house. . .” (Heb. 11:7). God has always warned His people. He has threatened punishment and given the opportunity for fear to accomplish obedience in the hearts of those who believe Him.
Fear also serves to keep the obedient holy. In 2 Corinthians 7:1, the Apostle Paul put it this way: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Explained yet another way, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Heb. 4:1).
Knowledge is a by-product of godly fear. The writer of the Psalms said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and Proverbs 8:13 explains, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Summed in these passages are the elements of the true knowledge of God. The beauty of all this is that all we need to do is seek and ask God and he shall open up our understanding. Notice these passages: “Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;” (Prov 2:3-6)
Conclusion: Understanding that respect and reverence for God is the foundation- upon which every other relationship in life is built is fundamental. Truly, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. . . ” (Prov. 1:7 f; Ps 111:10). “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).
One should not look upon the commandments of the Lord as heavy burdens to be borne. Rather, they should be esteemed as the inspired revelation from God which teaches man how to best live on earth in order to enjoy a peaceful life, living life to please God and to serve Him. Life here on earth is to prepare us for the life to come. If we fear God now, we shall keep his commandments and be saved. (Mk 16:16) If we fear not God now, we shall reject his Gospel. Therefore, we shall be cast into a lake of fire which burns both night and day, tormenting all thrown into it (2 Thess 1:7-9 f; Rev 20:10-15). If we fear not God now, we shall come the judgment day! It bears repeating, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). FEAR GOD now and obey HIS WORD, for HIS WORD shall judge us all! (Jn 12:48 f; Rom 2:16)