As we seek to understand the will of God through reading and obeying the Word of God we learn that we are to be filled with the Spirit. When we walk in the Spirit, and are under His control, following His lead, we will worship Him as He desires to be worshipped. But this is only the beginning. We also see that a Spirit filled life is a life of thanksgiving and submission. We have studied both of these characteristics of the Spirit filled life in some detail over the last few weeks and so today I want to focus our time on the very last phrase in our text.
If we are learning to Be Imitators of God by walking in love (Eph 5:1-7), walking in light (Eph 5:8-14), and walking in wisdom (Eph 5:15-21) then we are learning how to be led by and filled with the Spirit. This then works its way out in the way we think, talk, and live. If we are Spirit filled then we are completely submissive to the Spirit of God. In humility, we walk in obedience to the Word.
This means that we are learning more and more to understand the will of God. As we are filled with the Spirit we will worship, give thanks, and submit to God ordained authority in all areas of life. A believer, especially walking in the Spirit, will be gentle, thankful, and humble. A brash, harsh, critical, and proud person who claims to be a Christian really must take the time to think about the fruit that their life is producing because Jesus Himself told us that we would know a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).
So if we are Spirit-filled, what is another evidence for us to examine? “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.” (Eph. 5:20-21) It is this last phrase – we worship, give thanks, and submit out in the fear of God. This is a very much misunderstood phrase. Too often it is brushed aside as pastors and teachers and theologians tell us that we are not to fear God as if we are to be afraid of Him. No. God is loving and gentle and speaks in a still small voice. We must be reverent they tell us and we must have a holy awe when we think about God, but surely the Bible does not intend to instruct us to be afraid of God.
Wait just a minute. That explanation makes no sense whatsoever. There is ample evidence in the Scriptures to show us how we should think of God and respond to Him. The record must be set straight. Does the Bible teach us that God is to be feared?
For starters, what is the first thing that anyone says in the Bible any time an angel or even the Lord Himself appears to or speaks to a person? The glory of God is such that even if it is a created being, such as an angel, we learn that anyone and anything created by God and living before Him in perfection demands awe and fear. What do the angels say? What does Christ say? Over and over we read, “Do not be afraid.” This is an angel’s introduction! All throughout Scripture whenever an angel appears to men the first words out of his mouth are “Fear not.”
If the Bible did not mean “fear” when it talks about the fear of God then why are all these angels and others telling us all the time that we do not need to be afraid? Why do Roman guards standing at Jesus’ tomb fall over and faint, becoming as if they had died when angels appear? Why would John while being given the Revelation of Jesus Christ fall down and even worship an angel until told to stand and stop it? Why, after Moses had seen the glory of God pass by, did he have to wear a veil over his face? He had seen the glory of God and his face shone – it glowed reflecting God’s glory and it scared people so badly that he put a veil over his face.
So should we fear God? The answer is yes. He is a God to be feared. Fear here is not terror, but it is fear. It is knowing who and what He is and who and what we are and when we compare the two we should be afraid. He is perfect in holiness, we are sinful. He is glorious, we are fallen. He is God, we are but men. When we truly understand who God is we are fools or worse if we do not fear Him.
Fearing God motivates us to worship Him in His greatness. It also motivates us to refrain from sin. Before God we are like grasshoppers. As the Psalmist asks, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” This kind of fear leads to worship, and praise, and obedience. Fearing God means that we understand the great differences between us and Him. Only a fool thinks he can mock God.
What have you been told about the fear of God? Have teachers made it sound as though the fear of God is not really fear, but that we can approach God boldly no matter what we have done or how we have lived? Now think about what the Bible tells us about God. Think about who God is. Do you fear Him?
Tomorrow we will study a few specific texts that tell us what the fear of God looks like as we live our lives. Until then, may we see God for who He is and fear Him as we should.
- Life Application Study Bible and Bible Gateway
- The Fear of God