Flowing from my attempts at replying the comments I received in respect of my post on “to love or to fear” (To love or to fear? – http://wp.me/p3sAZg-2w ) I decided to write this post as it would enable me throw much more light on the subject.
Now the essence of the said post was actually centred on the side of God’s personality that requires that we fear Him. Much of the time we hear of His love so much so that some teachers no longer even mention His other side.
I do concede that in sharing the gospel we mostly focus on God’s love and tender mercies and kindness. Indeed I do as well. This is the nicest way to win a convert over. However it would be unfair to ourselves to not familiarise ourselves with God as He is in the course of our relationships with Him and our daily walk, not as we wish or want to believe that He is.
For a convert to mature in Christ he first starts off on the milk of the Word (“desire the sincere milk of the word that he may grow thereby”). However if he must mature he has to move up to the real business of the Kingdom which involves the deep mysteries of the word. He therefore cannot remain on the level of “God is love” only.
The comments on the above post were geared towards reverencing God and continual reliance on His grace rather than fearing Him. However I am only partly agreeable to this view. This is because the scriptures speak differently.
Yes, we love God. God is love. We reverence Him. We are in awe of Him. We are friends with Him. He is Father, Lover, Rock, Saviour, Redeemer, Friend, Healer, everything. But what does His word say in addition to this?
I refer to Hebrews 12:28-29 which provides that we should fear and revere God because He is a “consuming fire”. Yes “reverence” is used. “Fear” is also used. (The entire chapter is to be read for an even clearer description of His might and the accompanying fear).
It must be noted that the fear of God is not to be regarded as being the same kind of fear as of terror or evil. Indeed 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that He has not given us a spirit of fear but of love and a sound mind. We are not to be terrified of God so as to withdraw from Him. No. We are not to fear Him that He is wicked. No. We are not to fear Him because He is harsh and always expects us to fall short. No! God loves beyond any level or heights in which our large imaginations can quantify love. He died for us while we were sinners! That is beyond the height of love!
But we must fear Him in addition to our love for Him, our reverence of Him and our awe of Him.
I refer again to Romans 11:22 where we are informed by Paul of the severity of God alongside His loving nature and goodness. He tells us that we should be mindful of the severity of God. And also that we will continue in His goodness if we continue to serve and obey Him. It is a balance that according to Paul must be noted.
It is necessary to point these out because having a one-sided knowledge of God will only prevent us from being fully grounded Christians and leave us prone to unnecessary failings. This is one reason Paul urged us to study that we may rightly divide the word of truth and need not be ashamed.
Now God is gracious and full of mercy, slow to anger and ever ready to forgive. He has provided so much grace for us to overcome sin. However Paul asked in Romans 6 if we will continue to sin so that grace may abound. And he answered strongly and in the negative. God forbid! Grace is very much available to us. But is the abundance of grace therefore a licence to sin? No! Will God forgive us when we sin and repent? Yes. Do we continue in deliberate and wilful sin because we believe He will always forgive? No! This is where Romans 11:22 comes in. He can cut anyone off at anytime and without apology! The entire Romans 11 is very useful here. Hebrews 12 also explains clearly.
The same Romans 6 encourages us to do away with sin and live in victory and dominion over sin, and tells us in conclusion that the wages of sin is death but the wages of righteousness is eternal life in Christ.
We can see that the view that God is love and we are therefore not to think of Him in terms of fear must be very very warily held.
Still on whether we are simply to love and hold God in awe and reverence alone I refer again to Matthew 10:28.
In the words of Jesus Christ –
“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.”
The word “fear” is clearly used. Indeed Jesus tells us that the only person we ought to fear is God. This means we are to fear Him in addition to everything else we feel for and towards Him.
So yes, God is Most Merciful. Yet He is also to be feared. Scriptures abound with the demand to fear God. Indeed it is a demand from God that we fear Him.
Let us examine the following scriptures for clarity and emphasis.
Deutoronomy 4:10; 6:2; 8:6; 10:12 & 20; 13:4; 14:23; 28:58.
1 Samuel 12:14. 2 Samuel 23:3. 2 Kings 17:39. 1 Chronicles 16:25. Nehemiah 5:9 & 15. Job 1:8; 2:3. Psalms 89:7; 76:11; 96:4. Proverbs 2:5. Ecclesiastes 3:14; 5:7; 8:12 & 13; 12:13. Isaiah 50:10.
All these scriptures allude to the fear of God in clear language. In clear and direct words. In many instances from the mouth of God Himself. God despises people who do not fear Him.
Indeed King Solomon summed up the entire duty of man as to “fear God and keep His commandments”.
So yes, we will be chummy with God. We will love Him with our entire essence. We will reverence Him as our Sovereign King and Father.
We will marvel at His creations. We will bow in awe of His greatness. We will bow in awe of His infinite unfathomable love. We will continually be in wonder of Him and why He loves us so much.
And we will also fear Him for His awesome power. And for who He is. And for His fierce anger and hatred for sin and disobedience. And for the fact that no one can stay His hand when He chooses to destroy. And for the greatness of His nature (the mountains and the seas tremble before Him, none can enter His presence without being summoned, no man can see Him and live, His actual voice will shake us to our entire essence). I refer to Exodus where His presence descended before the Israelites at Mount Sinai and they were all terrified.
We will hate what He hates and love what He loves.
We will hate sin out of love for Him, out of reverence for Him, and out of fear of Him.
We will remember that as loving as He is He is also capable of getting angry. And we know that His anger is terrible.
We will remember king Sennacherib. Ananias and Sapphira and Esau and many others who tasted His fierce wrath.
We will know our God. And we will do exploits.
And our God will bless us as always and more!