Saturday, January 25, 2014

With fear and trembling

Now let’s tackle the next portion of Philippians 2:12.  Here is the portion as translated by several of the most popular versions.

(ESV, NKJV, NASB, HCSB, NIV, KJV) with fear and trembling

(The Voice Bible) with great fear and trembling

(NLT) obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

(Expanded Bible) with·fear [awe; reverence] and trembling,

What I immediately notice is that there is near universal agreement about this portion of scripture.  Every version talks about us working out our salvation with fear.

Here is the Geek Dictionary entry for the word translated fear. (strongs number 5401, ‘phobos) –

fear, dread, terror
that which strikes terror
reverence for one's husband

Here is the Greek Dictionary entry for the word translated trembling. (strongs number 5156, ‘tromos) –

trembling or quaking with fear
with fear and trembling, used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfil his duty

This topic of the fear of the Lord is of particular interest to me, since in my adult Sunday School class we are listening to the DVD series BASIC from Francis Chan, and the first lesson was about the fear of the Lord.  Francis’ point is that the church has watered down the concept of the fear of the Lord to simply respect but that a proper understanding of God should originate and be rooted in actual fear and trembling, as per Isaiah in Isaiah 6 and John in Rev 1.

Let’s now look at some cross references to see how the scriptures portray this idea.

Psalm 2:11 (ESV) — Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Psalm 119:120 (ESV) — My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.

Isaiah 66:2 (ESV) — All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

Ephesians 6:5 (ESV) — Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

1 Peter 1:17 (ESV) — And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,

Acts 9:31 (ESV) — So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

2 Corinthians 5:11 (ESV) — Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

2 Corinthians 7:1 (ESV) — Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Ephesians 5:21 (ESV) — submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV) — Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus l,et us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

1 Peter 4:17–18 (ESV) — For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

It seems to me that in the majority of passages actual fear is the emotion is being described and it seems that fear is highlighted as a motivator for obedient living and for spreading the gospel.  The clincher for me is the verse in Luke 12:5 when Jesus says the following, “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!”

So what does that look like practically.  I think it goes back to how we view God.  As Christians, we tend to view God through the lens of the suffering Christ of Calvary, which obviously isn’t a wrong way to view God, but it isn’t the whole picture. 

In the book of revelation we have a picture of Christ that would strike fear into the heart of anyone, and as demonstrated in the scriptures above, primarily we are to taught to approach the face of God, with an attitude of fear, reverence and trembling.

Here is an interesting point to end on.  Francis points out in his teaching that fear is the place from where we all need to start as we approach the omnipotent God.  The beauty however is that to the believer, once we approach him the first words out of the Father’s mouth is usually “do not fear”.

No comments: