“The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.” Ps 19:9
I would like to share an article that I saved many years ago. In light of our nightly news, I can’t help but see how relevant this article is because of the times in which we live. We are witnessing an incredible lack of fear and respect for all civil and governing authority. May I be so bold as to add the even children and teens, are some of the greatest offenders. I can’t remember the last time I heard a good old-fashioned sermon on the fear of the Lord. Beware, as a Christian you and I may have to do some soul-searching!
“The comment on Psalm 19:9 in the once popular Scofield Reference Bible is typical of statements that are still too commonly made, “The ‘fear of the Lord’ [is] a phrase of Old Testament piety.”
What does this comment imply? That “the fear of the Lord” is a phrase of Old Testament piety is obviously true and undeniable. But we need to remind ourselves that the fear of God is not confined to the Old Testament alone.
Fear of the Lord in the New Testament
When our Lord in Matthew 10:28 commanded us to fear the God who can destroy both soul and body in hell referring only to Old Testament piety? Was our Lord himself practicing merely Old Testament piety when his prayer in Gethsemane was “heard for his godly fear”—as the Revised Standard Version translates Hebrews 5:7? (The Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich lexicon translates the Greek noun here as “reverent awe and fear.”) Isaiah 11:3 had prophesied that the messianic shoot from the stump of Jesse would “delight in the fear of the Lord.”
Isn’t it the very essence of man’s total depravity in every age, according to the apostle Paul, that “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18, quoting Psalm 36)? The repentant criminal asked the other criminal in amazement at Calvary: “Don’t you fear God?” (Luke 23:40). When our Lord wanted to indicate the character of the unjust judge in a parable, he did so by saying that he “neither feared God nor cared about men” (Luke 18:2).
God’s people, on the other hand, are described in the New Testament as those who are “living in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31). The risen and ascended Christ has poured out his Spirit upon his church, and, as we have seen from Isaiah’s prophecy, the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.
As John Murray wrote in Principles of Conduct (p. 229), “The fear of God is the soul of godliness….
Two Kinds of Fear
If you look at these verses in the New International Version, you will see that the word “reverence” is used in some cases instead of “fear.” And there is good reason for such a translation, because there are two kinds of fear that appear in the Bible.
There is that fear that is not coupled with love and trust, and as a result can lead to terror and despair. The day will come when “the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man” will hide “in caves and among the rocks of the mountains,” and will call to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17).
I am reminded of the title of Jerry Bridges’s excellent book, The Joy of Fearing God. He commented about the proper attitude of the child to the parent: that fearing one’s parents and knowing that they love you are not incompatible.
Yes, praise God, the word of 1 John 4:18 is true: “Perfect love drives out fear.” But it is the dread of eternal torment that love drives out, not reverence and adoration before God’s majesty. In the song of Moses and of the Lamb, we hear, “Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy” (Rev. 15:4).
Such fear is the rich convergence of awe in the presence of the eternal God— with reverence, adoration, honor, worship, confidence, thankfulness, love, and, yes, fear.
“Sometimes it seems—incredible though this is going to sound—that having no fear of God is the root sin of the evangelical church in America today, the root cause of its moral flabbiness and ineffective witness! Although it is certainly too strong to say that there is no fear of God, it does seem that there is too often very little fear of God.” Robert B. Strimple