A French officer was punishing one of his men for being afraid in battle. Marshal Foch witnessed the act and said, “None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear” (Wa. 655). Fear is natural and normal. There is good fear and there is bad fear. Even bad fear keeps us on our toes. It floors me to read, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The person that fears is not made perfect in love” (I John 4:18). I have faced death several times and fear always crept up on me. I just was not perfect enough. The words that came to my mind were the words of the Psalmist, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all that follow his precepts have good understanding” (Psalms 111:10). “Blessed is the person that fears the Lord and finds great delight in his commands” (Psalms 112:1). To David, fear was a blessing because it led him to a better understanding.
Paul had a similar experience with fear. “Since, then, we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade men” (II Corinthians 5:11). That was the reason why he worked out his salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). That is precisely why I am writing these messages. There is a danger of being so perfect, that we no longer fear, not even God. We become so self-confident that we take our salvation for granted and expect to sail into heaven on the wings of grace. Let us not be too hasty and take to heart the words of the “One” who is our Savior. The disciples, too, were afraid and stood up and spoke up for Jesus. It was to His messengers that He said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Therefore, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:28-33).
There is not doubt what Christ expects of those that were sent out to preach. The subject matter was and still is “Jesus” and no one and nothing else. Luke adds another reason to what Matthew quoted why we must fear God. “And everyone that speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Luke 11:10). Matthew recorded the same argument when Jesus was being accused of driving out demons with the head of demons (Matthew 12:22-37). In this argument; Jesus, as a person, could be attacked but not against the redemptive work He was sent to do; because, without His redemptive work, initiated by God, there was and is no salvation. God is Spirit (John 4:24) and the birth of Christ was of the Spirit (Luke 1:35) and so was His mission (Luke 4:17-21); therefore, blasphemy was an unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit. It is an insult to the Spirit of Grace for which there is no sacrifice (Hebrews 10:26-31).
There is more reason why it is wise to fear the Lord God. Paul used two catchy statements regarding this reason to fear. “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:12-25). He then goes on to tell us that in Christ, the law of the Spirit can set us free from the law of sin and death. The law or the Ten Commandments were not intended to save us but to keep us from committing crimes against life itself. Marriage was intended for reproducing life and not for sexual pleasure. That is why Paul could never endorse remarriage because of adultery. “Marriage should be honorable by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). Did Paul not write, “Christ is the end of the law so that there be righteousness for everyone that believes?” Yes, but to whom and about whom is the Apostle concerned with? It is with people that want to be saved without Christ and by their law (Romans 10-12). They wanted to Judaize Christians based on traditions and rituals and not based on the Ten Commandments (Galatians 2:11-21). Christ came to uphold the law but not the traditions of the elders (Matthew 5:17-20; Mark 7). The Jews argued that Moses gave them permission to divorce and stop honoring parents (Matthew 19:1-9; Mark 7:10-13). Indeed, Moses had yielded to their stubborn demands and it will be Moses that will accuse them of violating God’s demands (John 5:45-47). When they plotted to kill Jesus, they were breaking Moses’ law (John 7:19). It was also Moses that predicted the coming of the Christ who would help them to keep the Law of God (Deuteronomy 18:18; John 5:46-47).
How do we apply fear? Adam feared God and that is why he was spared from living in sin forever. He was not allowed to eat from the tree of life and live forever apart from God (Genesis 3:22-24). Abraham feared God and He got his son back (Genesis 22:12). Joseph did not take revenge on his brothers because he feared God (Genesis 42:18). Pharaoh did not fear God and destroyed his own nation (Exodus 4-14). Jethro counseled Moses to select leaders that feared God (Exodus 18:21). Moses begged the people to fear the Lord (Deuteronomy 5:29). David and Solomon were great kings while they feared the Lord (II Samuel 23:3). The Prophet Malachi 4:2 had this reminder, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” One of our sons has two cows and one had a calf. We stop and watch it explore and play carefree. When we come to close, it is afraid and runs to its mother for protection. It does what we should be doing. Fear can drive us back to God and into the arms of Christ, our Savior. It can lead us to become a better person.