Do you fear the LORD? It is for your good always (Deut. 6:25; cf. Prov. 10:27). Fear of the LORD is simply an important and foundational aspect of Christ-likeness. To put it starkly, one cannot truly love the true and living God and not fear Him. Jesus Christ says: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Our “proof” or “evidence” or the fruit of our love for Christ will be in our fearing God and in seeking to do what He teaches us to do (Deut. 8:5-6). Have you ever realized how often the fear of the LORD is taught throughout Scripture? (for just a few places, meditate upon: Psa. 19:9; 34:11; Prov. 1:7; 2:5; 14:27; Isa. 11:2-3; 33:6; Acts 9:31; 2 Cor. 5:11).
Fear of the LORD is most important for us as a congregation to understand. The fear of the LORD is the “beginning of wisdom” (Psa. 111:10; Prov. 1:7) and it is how we are to live and to teach our children (Deut. 6:1-2, 13; Book of Proverbs). Perhaps the greatest weakness of the western church of Jesus Christ in our time is the lack of the fear of the LORD. We rightly seek to emphasize God’s love, but we should remember that there cannot be a true love for God without a Spirit-formed fear of Him. God asks His people: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you…” (Malachi 1:6).
“And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always…” – Deuteronomy 6:25
Our forefather John Calvin defined the fear of the LORD, and how particularly it is an evidence of true godliness: “True piety [godliness] does not consist in a fear which willingly indeed flees God’s judgment, but since it cannot escape is terrified. True piety consists rather in a sincere feeling which loves God as Father as much as it fears and reverences Him as Lord, embraces His righteousness, and dreads offending Him worse than death” (Calvin’s First Catechism, 1537).
The fear of the LORD is a blessing of union with Christ:
ESV Isaiah 11:2-3: And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear…
The fear of the LORD produces healthy congregations in Christ:
ESV Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
The fear of the LORD along with God’s love in Christ is an incentive to serve Him well, and seek to avoid displeasing our Heavenly Father:
ESV 2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
The fear of the LORD is a means through which our holiness is made complete and we are prepared for Heaven:
ESV 2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Summary of the fear of the Lord:
* Fear of the Lord is Christ-Focused, Christ-centered, Gospel-Driven (Isa. 11:2-3): Fear of the Lord brings a proper emphasis on Christ’s Spirit and the benefits of union with Him. Christ the man was enriched with the fullness of the Spirit so that those for whom he loved would also possess these Holy-Spiritual blessings and benefits in union with Him. Jesus redeemed us from lawlessness and sin to purify us and to make us God-fearers by the same Holy Spirit. As Christ feared the LORD, so we learn to fear the LORD in reverence, awe, and obedience to our Father and Majestic Lord. “From His fullness…” (John 1:16).
* Fear of the Lord is a fear of sweetness and delight for God’s children: Because we are God’s children, we do not fear the judgment of God, but we do fear to displease God because we love Him so much (Deut. 8:5-6). Fear of the Lord is not servile (slavish fear and dread), but “voluntary” and “filial” fear of a son. The Bible teaches us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Calvin wrote that this “means that [God] demands only that we become accustomed to honor the Lord’s power, while greatly humbling ourselves…For not only does piety beget reverence toward God, but the very sweetness and delightfulness of grace so fills a man who is cast down in himself with fear, and at the same time with admiration, that he depends upon God, and humbly submits himself to His power” and “…He who would duly worship Him will try to show himself both an obedient son to him and a dutiful servant. Let us have a reverence compounded of honor and fear” (Calvin, Institutes, 3.2.23, 26).
* Fear of the Lord develops a life of repentance and faith: Fear of the LORD makes us live before God humbly and repentantly, seeking to live by faith in reliance upon His grace, knowing the terrible consequences of sin, seeking to be careful, watchful, prayerful as God’s dear children (Deut. 8:1a, 11). True repentance is the life-long, ongoing characteristic of regenerate folks possessed by Christ’s Spirit. Fear of the Lord brings growth in faith. John Calvin wrote: “…Since the fear of the Lord is said to be the beginning, and as it were the way that leads to a right understanding of His will (Psa. 111:10), according as any one desires to increase in faith, so also let him endeavor to advance in the fear of the Lord (Read Psalm 25:14; Calvin, Comm. On Psalm 25:14, pg. 430).
* Fear of the Lord brings freedom to live as you were created to live: Fear of the LORD is our happiness to live before God as we were created to live before sin. Fear of the Lord brings freedom to be free from sinful fears of man and of trials/tribulations. Fear of the LORD reduces and can even completely take away the fear of man that we all possess to some degree (cf. Matt. 22:16). If we live with the fear of God, seeking to please Him, then we will be less apt to live our lives seeking the pleasures and compliments of men. Calvin wrote: “…This [righteous] mind restrains itself from sinning not out of dread of punishment alone, but because it loves and reveres God as Father, it worships and adores Him as Lord. Even if there were no hell, it would shudder at only offending Him” (Calvin, Comm. 1 John, IV.18, 247).
* Fear of the Lord humbly receives and obeys God’s Word: Fear of the LORD causes us to listen carefully to God’s word to us, and to seek to do what He says (Deut. 7:11; John 15:9-11). “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2b). Trembling means to take seriously God’s word to us, being careful not to offend God, or forget what He has so patiently taught us. To God-fearers, nothing is more “sweet or gentle than the word of the Lord”. John Calvin asks: “Why would we tremble [before God’s Word]’?” He explains that there are two kinds of trembling: 1. One by which they who are terrified hate and flee from God; 2. Those who tremble and it affects their hearts, and promotes obedience from the will, and is characteristic of those who truly reverence and fear God (Calvin, Comm. on Isaiah, 413).
* Fear of the Lord establishes and strengthens healthy congregations with comfort: A congregation that is possessed by the love of God and the fear of God can walk with comfort from the Holy Spirit, knowing that no matter what trouble or tribulation may come in the lives of the saints, they are living honestly and faithfully in covenant with their God (Acts 9:31).
What are a sampling of quotable examples of one who truly fears the LORD and one who does not? See if you can tell the difference from the sample quotations below (and you may even hear your own inner-heart-voice if you’re honest, Psa. 139:23-24. Even if you might not have the audacity to say aloud some of the below, note what your heart’s intent is sometimes, and then thank God or repent and go to Christ for forgiveness).
- “I’ve never thought about the fear of the LORD.”
- “Christ has been so good to me; I will live for Him by His grace, and seek to do His commandments.”
- “I am God’s child and I am grateful that He is my Heavenly Father, but He is also my Lord and Master who is a consuming fire and jealous God.”
- “I am God’s child, and all I need to do is to concentrate upon His God’s love for me.”
- “I am justified, that is, declared righteous before Christ, and therefore my only work is to “go back to my justification” or “return to my justification” every day.
- “I know how easily I forget God’s Word and can grow apathetic, particularly in times of prosperity, therefore, I will seek to be more prayerful and watchful by His grace.”
- “Christ has been so good to me; I have no need to worry about how I live.”
- “God has given us His holy, righteous, and good law not as a way of salvation, but as a way a saved person can learn to live for Him, knowing precisely how He wants to me to walk with Him and fear Him always.”
- I have been set free from sin to live on my own terms, knowing God will always forgive me.”
- “I’ve been set free from sin, in order to carefully and eagerly live unto God.”
- “Because of Christ’s great love, and because God is my Father, I daily ask the Holy Spirit for holy aspirations so that I can live to the glory of God my Master!”
Do you truly fear God? Ask the Spirit of Christ to develop this in you as you seek to imitate the Lord Jesus, knowing He has died for you to make you holy. Let us pray as a congregation we will be described as Acts 9:31: “So the church…had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Do you dread offending your Heavenly Father worse than death? Our Lord Jesus Christ lived like this perfectly for us, so that we could sincerely aspire by faith, and in reliance upon His grace and power, live like this for Him.
Prayer of John Calvin: “Grant, Almighty God, that as you have been pleased to adopt us as your people for this end, that we may be ingrafted as it were into the body of your Son, and be made conformable to our head,–O grant, that through our whole life we may strive to seal in our hearts the faith of our election, that we may be the more stimulated to render you true obedience, and that your glory may also be made known through us; and those whom you have chosen together with us may we labor to bring together, that we may unanimously celebrate you as the Author of our salvation, and so ascribe to you the glory of your goodness, that having cast away and renounced all confidence in our own virtue, we may be led to Christ only as the fountain of your election, in whom also is set before us the certainty of our salvation through your gospel, until we shall at length be gathered into that eternal glory which He has procured for us by His own blood. Amen.”
In Christ’s love,