The fear of the Lord and what God wants us to understand about it

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Fear of the LordThe fear of the Lord

The fear of the Lord is rarly understood  by His people. Besides the grace and love of God, another one of His commonly misunderstood attributes is His justice.  Absolute justice offers no threat to those who are absolutely just, the problem is, who is absolutely just? Those who lack the recognition of their unrighteousness before the righteous judgment of God are just plain blind.

Before considering the fear of the Lord it is necessary to consider the Lord that should be feared.  If we try to discuss the fear of the Lord with those who have little concept of the justice of the Lord we will end up with a simplistic explanation that it just means the “respect of the Lord”.  But practically speaking the fear of the Lord is more than just respect.  Respect is the bare minimum of consideration that we owe toward any person.  Think about it, according to the Word of God, mankind was created in God’s image.  This means that since all people originated from the first man created in God’s image every human bears God’s image. Whenever anyone treats another person with disrespect, the disrespect is aimed at God’s image.  Therefore respect for fellow humans is merely a basic attitude of decency.

The fear of the Lord and His image

There really is no more virtue in respecting God Himself than there is in respecting His image.  Imagine if you were to have a life size cardboard marquee made of yourself for people to remember you by.  If your friends and family get together and draw a bulls eye on your cardboard face and throw darts at it would you feel respected?  Imagine walking through the White House in Washington D.C. and seeing the former president’s portraits defaced by the tourists that walk it’s halls.  Yet disrespect for God’s image abounds.  No, the fear of the Lord isn’t simply respect!  It is our lack of ability to reconcile the grace and love of God with His justice that makes it hard for us to imagine that at the same time we should have a fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord and the need for complete obedience

The same God that told Adam and Eve that the day they disobeyed His command to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil because they would surely die, the same God that did not give them even one chance to remain in the garden after the fall, is the same God that we serve today.  The same God that when king Saul received directions to wait for Samuel and decided to go ahead and offer a sacrifice and as a result was rejected as King with no second chance to correct his error, the same God who slew Ananias and Sapphira for lying about the price of the sale of a piece of Land, is still the same God that we serve today. You can begin to see that there is saftey in the fear of the Lord.

These and many other accounts reveal an aspect of God’s character that deserves more than just “respect”.  According to the wisest man in history it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of knowledge.  In other words it is wise to recognize that God is no one to be mocked or slighted much less disobeyed or ignored! There is an inflexibly with God who lays down His righteous laws and never tolerates one instance of disobedience without meting out the punishment promised for the offense.  God is to be feared!

There are a number of places in the Bible that mention the need of the fear of the Lord and His punishment of evil and of unfaithfulness of Christians.  While most Christians accept the idea that God disciplines His people, the form that this discipline takes is almost completely vague and undefined.  I suggest that the Scriptures reveal and describe this chastising and that this punishment will occur principally in the one thousand year reign of Christ.

The fear of the Lord and relationships

Before the Lord began teaching His disciples through His discourse called the “Sermon on the Mount”, in chapter 5 verse 1, we read that the Lord Jesus seeing the multitude went up onto a mountain and sat down, then His disciples came to Him.  Apparently only the disciples followed Him up the mountain so His discourse was preached mainly to them.  There is no indication that the multitude also accompanied Him.  In verses 21-22 Jesus taught His disciples saying,

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Since the Lord was teaching His disciples when He spoke of one brother being angry with another He was speaking of two Christian brothers in conflict.  One Christian calls his brother Raca, which means, a good-for-nothing fool (no fear of the Lord here).  If a Christian speaks to his brother like this, Jesus taught that he is in danger of hell fire.  The Lord wasn’t  referring to an unsaved person, since an unsaved person will go to hell even if he does not call anyone Raca.  Whenever the Bible talks about works, it speaks to those who are already in relationship with God.  For those who do not belong to God, there is no need to mention works or deeds.  Jesus is speaking of a saved person, a brother, but because he is angry with his brother, he is in danger of hell fire.

Jesus continued in verse 23 saying,

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.”

Jesus was speaking of the principle of fellowship in this passage.  In order to have fellowship with God we must maintain fellowship with our brethren.  The problem is laxity in applying the principle because of a misunderstanding of verse 25.  In verse 25 Jesus warns that we should quickly resolve complaints and conflicts with our brother before he takes the matter to the judge.  Many imagine that Jesus spoke of a spiritual principle concerning fellowship and then left a warning that applied exclusively to the Jewish economy of justice.  While Jesus did speak in terms of a temporal process of justice before men in this age and more specifically within the judicial system existent in Israel in the first century, He was speaking prophetically of what will happen in the judicial economy of His Millennial Kingdom reign.  Things like this will happen in the kingdom age. The kingdom is very strict and no one can participate without a fear of the Lord.  The Lord will rule with a rod of iron! God’s grace reigns today in this age, but in that age, justice will reign, and perfection will be required of those who serve the King.

The fear of the Lord and conflict

This has very serious implications, and Christians need to understand fully what it means for them.  What often happens is that injustices are committed by Christians against one another and many times neither side in the conflict has the humility to recognize his error or his sin.  Since there are times when we are unjustly accused by others many times we assume that no one ever has a legitimate cause against us.  This matter is further complicated by the lack of understanding of how sins committed against others are resolved in God’s kingdom.  Many times there is the attitude that the person wronged should just forgive the offense and nothing further needs to be done.  If this was the case Jesus would not have said anything further.

The amount of words spoken by Christ in the Scriptures is very small compared to those in the whole Bible.  It is a grave mistake to imagine that anything Christ taught has no application in our lives.  These words of warning speak to us also.  For this reason if we become aware of a legitimate complaint that a brother or sister has against us no matter how petty it seems, we should follow His directions for reconciliation.  Otherwise God will treat us as the guilty party and there will be negative consequences.

Christ spoke these words to Christians because they are often guilty of offending and sinning against one another.  The problem is not so much that Christians sin against one another, but that they are either not willing to resolve their sins or don’t know how, or don’t believe that it is necessary to resolve them.  Jesus shows that it is absolutely necessary and shows how these matters can be resolved without punishment.  The objective is always reconciliation.  The problem is that too many times Christians are unwilling to be reconciled to their brothers in Christ.

The fear of the Lord and the need to go through the process to resolve personal conflicts

One principle will never change and that is that no two people in the Church today who are in conflict with each other can serve together in the kingdom.  In the coming kingdom, there will only be love and mercy among those who reign with the Prince of Peace. Only those who have shown love and mercy to one another in this age will be fit to serve in the kingdom of heaven.  This current age is an age of preparation.  If Christians can’t get along in unity and love today, they will be disqualified to reign with Christ in the kingdom of heaven.  If I am in conflict with a Christian brother, and if fail to resolve the matter in reconciliation in this age, then in the future, either both of us will be excluded from the kingdom, or only one of us will be admitted.  It will be impossible for the both of us to make it in. The Christians that reign with Christ in the kingdom will all be in perfect unity on all levels.  In contrast with how He deals with it in this current age, God will tolerate absolutely no carnality in the kingdom age.  It is a mistake to imagine that God will deal with His people in the kingdom age just as He deals with them in the Church age.

So the fear of the Lord helps us recognizes that if anyone has a legitimate grievance against us, or if we cause anyone to stumble, we will be in grave trouble with God unless we quickly resolve the issue.  The Lord says that while you are with your brother on the way you have to be reconciled to him. That means that while the both of you are still alive, before the Lord Jesus comes back, you must be reconciled to each other.  In this age the Lord deals with carnality in the church with a huge amount of patience, but there will be no patience or any type of tolerance for carnality in the Kingdom age. If you die, or if he dies, or if the Lord Jesus returns before reconciliation is reached, it will be too late and the case will have to be taken up in the Kingdom age.  Since it wasn’t taken care of “on the way” meaning in this present age, it will have to be taken care of before the judge.

The judge is the Lord Jesus.  He will deliver you to the officer.  The officer is an angel.  And the angel will throw you into prison.  The prison spoken of here is not only a figurative “mental” or “emotional” prison as some would like to believe, it is a very real and sever place of punishment that any Christian who neglects to be reconciled to his brother while on the way will have to suffer, thuse the real need of the fear of the Lord.

The prison referred to here is equivalent to the hell fire spoken of in verse 22.  While I don’t believe Christ was teaching that born again Christians will be sent to Hell, if they have any unrepentant and un-confessed and thus unforgiven sins, they will suffer the pain of Hell fire (in the Greek “Geenna” which is different from “Lake of Fire”).  Just look at the severity of Christ’s words to His disciples in verse 26:

“Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.”

Where is this place from where the Lord told His disciples that they would by no means get out?  The answer is the prison, the fire.  Christ taught that no one will get out unless the last cent has been paid off!  There is absolutely no leniency here this makes the fear of the Lord such a crucial matter.  In the kingdom age, there will be forgiveness, but only after the guilty party pays the last penny.  All Christians have a choice: either you pay now no matter how difficult it may seem, or you pay later.  The problem is that things have a way of accumulating and in this age there is grace to “skid the rails” whereas in the next age nothing will be facilitated.  We all would do well to solemnly heed Christ’s words and learn to cultivate a healthy fear of the Lord.

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