I was recently reading Luke 12:4-7 and was struck by an aspect of our relationship with God that we maybe don’t talk about enough… fearing God. This doesn’t seem to be spoken of much in Christian circles, as more often than not, people tend to focus on the “God” of love always being there for us and providing for us. However, this passage takes a different approach. Luke bluntly says, “don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” This sort of teaching about God can sound unfamiliar and foreign to many church congregations today.
However, we must remember that although God is merciful, gracious and loving… clearly highlighted by Jesus’ sacrifice for us, not to mention continual patience to the Israelites in the Old Testament… God is also to be feared and revered. He is righteous and holy. He hates sin and will punish it… His nature demands it. He will cast into hell those who choose to turn from Him and not to accept Jesus as their savior (John 14:6, Rom 3:24-26, 2 Peter 2:4-22). That last statement sits very uneasy with many people. ‘A loving God will not send people to hell??!!’ However, in thinking that we miss two points:
- In rejecting God on earth, God is simply judging us accordingly… He will send us to a place where we will not be able to enjoy Him at all. So in a way He is granting what we are already wanting. Rom 1:18-25 talks of God’s present-day judgment of ‘giving people up to the lusts of their heart to impurity’. In other words, God is saying if you want to live a life without me, then, no problem… but you must bear the consequences.
- The nature and character of God. He is the creator of all things. He is ruler over all creation. Who are we to say to God He ‘can’t’ do something (Rom 9:14-24)? We must remember our place and take responsibility for our choices/actions.
The fact is God didn’t have to save us, but He did by sending Jesus to die for our sins so that we could be redeemed or made right with God (Rom 3:23-24, Rom 5:9). By trusting in Jesus sacrifice our relationship with God is restored (Rom 5:16-17). This highlights God’s mercy, His desire to see us in union with Him, His desire to save us from His coming wrath and judgment again the world for their rebellion against Him. To fear God is to respect who is He is and trust in Him. To know that He has the power and right to judge us, but also to save us.
But how then do we look at verses like 1 John 4:18? This verse actually says that if we trust in Jesus we can then draw close to God in confidence, without fear, because we know that Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins and taken God’s wrath on His shoulders for us. We mustn’t fear God’s judgment because there is no condemnation for those in Jesus (Roman 8:1). So true! However, we are to fear God with respect to our awe of Him… for who He is, for what He stands and for what He can do. We mustn’t treat God as our personal genie, but as our King, our Lord, our Master. It’s this fear of God coupled with the mercy that He shows us in Christ, that leads us to repentance, that keeps our pride under control
(Romans 11:20-21). This was proven over and over again with the Israelites in the Old Testament… read the first 10 chapters of 1 Samuel just as an example.
This passage in Luke is a reminder to those who haven’t trusted in Jesus that God alone has the power to either save us or cast us into hell. It’s also an encouraging reminder that if we choose to fear God and to turn to Him above all other things, then we can be assured that He will watch over us (Romans 8:28). He will save and adopt us into His family forever (Romans 8:12-15).
By fearing God, repenting and trusting in Jesus, we have nothing to fear when death comes our way, but rather look forward with joyful expectancy to that which lies ahead!