Godly Fear: The Christian’s Fear Is Beyond Reverence Alone…

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil.”

Ask yourselves, which is the correct interpretation?

Matthew 10:28 “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.”

Matthew 10:28 “And [REVERENCE NOT THEM] which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather [REVERENCE HIM] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Hopefully, most will understand that the former (i.e., …FEAR…) is the correct contextual understanding, and the latter (using …REVERENCE…), is not.

There is indeed an absolutely healthy fear of God, even for His quickened people, that goes beyond the often watered-down “reverence only” viewpoint. First consider a sampling of the many passages at issue:

2 Corinthians 7:1 “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.”

Psalm 2:11 “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish [from] the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed [are] all they that put their trust in him.”

Job 28:28 “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that [is] wisdom; and to depart from evil [is] understanding.

Psalm 19:7-11The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired [are they] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: [and] in keeping of them [there is] great reward.

Ephesians 5:15-21See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord [is]. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Psalm 111:9-10He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend [is] his name. 10 The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do [his commandments]: his praise endureth for ever.

Proverbs 1:7-30, “The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge: [but] fools despise wisdom and instruction…25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; 27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. 28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof…”

Proverb 2:1-5 “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, [and] apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, [and] liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as [for] hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.”

Jude 1:20-25 “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22 And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling [them] out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. 24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present [you] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, [be] glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”

Psalm 36:1 “…The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, [that there is] no fear of God before his eyes.

Proverbs 9:9-10 “Give [instruction] to a wise [man], and he will be yet wiser: teach a just [man], and he will increase in learning. 10 The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy [is] understanding.”

Proverbs 10:27The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.”

Mark 5:33-34 “But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. 34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”

Proverbs 14:25-27A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful [witness] speaketh lies. 26 In the fear of the LORD [is] strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. 27 The fear of the LORD [is] a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.”

Proverbs 15:16, 32-33Better [is] little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith… 32 He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. 33 The fear of the LORD [is] the instruction of wisdom; and before honour [is] humility.”

Philippians 2:12-16 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

Proverbs 16:6 “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD [men] depart from evil.

Proverbs 19:23The fear of the LORD [tendeth] to life: and [he that hath it] shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.”

Proverbs 22:4By humility [and] the fear of the LORD [are] riches, and honour, and life.”

Proverbs 23:17-18 “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but [be thou] in the fear of the LORD all the day long. 18 For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.”

Let me say first, that in the ultimate sense, “The Fear of the Lord” is a reference (quite often at least) to Christ Himself, when spiritually discerned. However, this truth does not negate the reality that (a) a very real, very healthy, practical/experimental fear of the Lord is in view [beyond mere “reverence” (as men use the term in our day and age) — though there is nothing “mere” about true, God-wrought divine reverence], and (b) it is something that should be desired, cultivated, and prayed for (all the more) by every true Christian. Understand, however, that no one should be talking in terms of a slavish fear, a legalistic fear, a mere moralistic fear, but rather the infinite fear due a Thrice Holy (utterly omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent) almighty, most high God!

Yes, it is a loving fear, a reverential fear, but it is also a no nonsense, sobering, grave fear. It is a fear based upon the understanding that though we are saved, though we are born from above, we ought never to sin against God (though, after the flesh, after the motions of sin, but never after the inner/inward man, we do just that).

Though reverence is incorporated into this fear, reverence does not exclude it (seeing that it is never apart from true godly fear). We understood this reality, even in our earlier understanding of the term, before men started to water it down. Consider:

Webster 1828 Dictionary: Reverence: 1) Fear mingled with respect and esteem; veneration.

Webster 1913 Dictionary: Reverence: 1) To regard or treat with reverence; 2) to regard with respect and affection mingled with fear; to venerate.

Fear: Phobos, G5401, Greek for 1. fear, dread, terror; in a subjective sense, feelings of fear, fears; in an objective sense, that which strikes terror, or more correctly, a terror to (or for); 2. reverence, respect (for authority, rank, dignity).

Fear: Yir’â, H3374, Hebrew for 1. fear, terror; 2. a terror = object of terror; 3. fear of God, reverence, piety.

Note: (1) The Septuagint text also often uses Phobos/G5401 to translate Yir’â/H3374. (2) The early translators (Geneva, AV/KJV, etc.) knew very well the term reverence (seeing that it dates back to the late 13th century, i.e., the late 1200’s) but specifically chose to translate these words as fear in light of the primary renderings of both Hebrew and Greek words at issue. (3) Most every major translation in the English language, including modern ones, uses fear, not reverence as their word choice (though, again, reverence is fine when you understand that it is rightly defined as ‘fear mixed with respect and affection’ — affection, as it pertains to God). (4) Non-English translations likewise use their equivalent of the word fear (not reverence). SOme examples include: temor in Spanish;  timor in Latin and Italian; crainte in French; and furcht in German.

Seeing that we are indeed, actually, to fear God, we must ask: Why? Because (if we are truly born from above) we can lose our salvation? Because God will stop loving us? Because we can end up in Hell after all? Of course not! All such “reasons” would be utterly foolish, utterly nonsensical and unbiblical.

However, we as Christians have very serious, very substantive reasons to fear God. If we as Christians walk rebelliously, slothfully, wantonly, we should have much to fear. We should fear the temporal loss of that felt sense of communion with Him. We should fear the chastisement (not punishment) due our errant ways. We should fear the removal of certain experimental blessings (e.g., resulting in us becoming more slothful in prayer, reading, fellowship where possible, etc.). We should fear dishonouring his name. We should fear causing our brthren to stumble. We should fear being the cause of others to blaspheme.

This is a fear that should drive us to, not from, Christ. This is a fear that should cause us to be more thankful, to be more circumspect, to be more watchful/prayerful/vigilant. This is a fear that should make us wary of possible temptations, possible traps and snares. This is a fear that should cause us to provoke one another unto manifest uprightness and sobriety. This is a fear that should ever accompany the working out of our own salvation. This is a fear that should cause us to pray for, and warn, others knowing that “…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad. 11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” [2 Corinthians 5:9-11].    

Far to many professing Christians want a Lord that isn’t really a Lord, a King that really isn’t King, a Master that really isn’t a Master — because they have no real desire to be a servant, a subject, or a slave. They want all of the real and supposed liberty associated with salvation but they want none of the bond-servitude associated with it. The Apostles knew better, seeing themselves as bondservants, as slaves of the Lord their God, even of Christ Jesus the Lord.  They believed upon Him, loved Him, worshipped Him, adored Him, revered Him, but also feared Him, obeyed Him, and served Him. Would to God I, and all who believe upon His name, would have a heart that abounds more, and more, and more, in all such things. We know, due to our being in this body of death, our working out of all such things is like a few grains of sand on a vast seashore compared to the perfect holiness and righteousness found in the Lord Jesus. However, that doesn’t mean we should not pray for, strive for, and encourage each other unto massive growth in all such virtues and graces.

Finally, there are blessings, rich blessings in fearing the Lord…. the Bible makes this clear beyond dispute. Consider the following in closing:

Psalm 22:23-25 “Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. 24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. 25 My praise [shall be] of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.

Psalm 25:12-15 “What man [is] he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way [that] he shall choose. 13 His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. 14 The secret of the LORD [is] with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant. 15 Mine eyes [are] ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.”

Psalm 33:18-21 “Behold, the eye of the LORD [is] upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; 19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he [is] our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name…”

Psalm 34:1-14 “…I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise [shall] continually [be] in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear [thereof], and be glad. 3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. 4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard [him], and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. 8 O taste and see that the LORD [is] good: blessed [is] the man [that] trusteth in him. 9 O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for [there is] no want to them that fear him. 10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good [thing]. 11 Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.12 What man [is he that] desireth life, [and] loveth [many] days, that he may see good? 13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. 14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Psalm 85:7-10 “Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. 8 I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. 9 Surely his salvation [is] nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed [each other].

Psalm 31:19[Oh] how great [is] thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; [which] thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!”

There are many other verses like this; hopefully, however, the above will suffice.

To God be the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

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