Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, Deuteronomy 10:12NKJ
Question 104 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What are the duties required in the first commandment?” It gives the answer, “The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honouring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in any thing he is offended; and walking humbly with him.” Last week we considered how we are to worship and glorify God in accordance with His nature. This week we look at the important duty of fearing God.
Perhaps no title better summarizes what a sincere Christian is or ought to be than the phrase “God-fearing man.” Thus, Calvin taught that in the church “true fear of Almighty God” distinguishes the sincere believer from the hypocrite (Calvin’s Commentaries). Scripture repeatedly testifies how God Himself looks for and accepts the fear of Him in His people. The one thing God looked for in His people when He spoke to them on Mt. Sinai was fear. They were not to be terrified of Him, yet at the same time, God wanted them to fear Him in the sense of reverence, so that they would not sin: Exod. 20:20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”
The one thing God tested Abraham for was to see if he feared Him: Gen. 22:12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Similarly, the one quality that God twice used to describe Job’s blamelessness and uprightness was that He feared God. Here we notice that to fear God is to turn away from evil: Job 1:8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (see also Job 2:3).
In one of the most famous Messianic passages, the Messiah is twice known by the fear of the Lord. Jesus “delights” in the fear of the Lord, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the fear of the Lord who rests upon Him: Isa. 11:1-3 There shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 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 of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD. And in fact, when Jesus came, His prayer life was marked by fear: Heb. 5:7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.
The one quality that God declares makes the worship of His New Testament Church acceptable to Him is fear. Here two different words for “fear” are in the text. Thus we could paraphrase that to worship (serve) God acceptably, we must do so with fear and fear: Heb. 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. As we have seen in the Book of Acts, when Luke wanted to show the faithfulness of the early church, he calls attention to their fear: Acts 2:42-43 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles; Acts 9:31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
Thus, very clearly the Bible commends to us the fear of the Lord, from all three persons of the Trinity, as the mark of a faithful church and as the quality that makes our worship or service acceptable to God. Pray that God would increase our reverent fear of Him!