When was the last time that you were seriously afraid? Your heart raced. Your mind began to play tricks on you. You were certain that the unthinkable was going to happen. Perhaps your great fear isn’t found in a group of wandering microbes, but all of us struggle with fears and anxieties. Perhaps we fear change, being forgotten, being alone, spiders, ticks, perhaps even failure!
But what Jesus wants us to know, and dare I say, what the entirety of the Bible tries to make clear is that God is not far from us, nor has He abandoned us. The Bible teaches that God is always with us, guiding us, and will not and cannot abandon His people. Ever. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” (Isa. 41:10 ESV).
In Matthew 10:26-33 Jesus is continuing His discourse towards the Apostles of the dangers which await their titanic mission. And the theme in particular is that of fear. A constant call to courage, to fear not the whelps who will attempt to dismantle you. The first mention of fear is found in v. 26, where Christ tells the Apostles, “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (ESV) The parallel passage found in Luke 12, prefaces these exact words with this glorious revelation: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1 ESV) The immediate context in view is that of hypocrisy. The Pharisees then, and the religious and areligious pretenders today, need to know that one day their fraudulent lives will be revealed to all, especially the Judge of the quick and the dead, Christ the Lord. On that Day, flattery will be of no use and we will be found functionally naked as Adam and Eve literally did before the judgment of God in Genesis.
The entirety of Matthew’s Gospel wants us to place our fear where it properly belongs, at the throne of God. Our hearts cannot quiver before the hearts of men, religions, governments, etc., and not quiver more so at God. Jesus gives us the sufficient reason in v. 28, “fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (ESV). The One who must be feared is not Satan, but the Author of Life, who will on that Day gather Satan and his angels, and the ungodly who have rejected Christ in this life, and cast them into the outer darkness, the Lake of fire, where they will be tormented without ceasing for eternity. God alone can destroy the soul, and this suffering and punishment is what we deserve by nature and by our choices.
Notice that it is Jesus who brings into the forefront the doctrine or teaching on hell, Jesus speaks of hell more than anyone else in the whole Bible! This momentary existence we call life, will have eternal consequences, whether it be for glory or regret. The Bible makes clear that there is no hope for salvation after death. The author of Hebrews writes, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” (Heb. 9:27 ESV) Jesus in Matt. 26:46 describes Himself as the judge to separate all of humanity for eternal life or eternal punishment. But Christ did not come to gloat over our helplessness, but to save us when we were most pitiable.
Christ came to save us from the very real and upcoming wrath of God against sin. And yet the Christian’s fear of God is not that of dread, but of reverent awe. Such fear is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). We cannot speak of God appropriately until we recognize Him as Creator, and ourselves as His creation, and live accordingly, by His Word.
Are you living in the fear of the Lord? Are you trusting that for the sake of Christ, that if you’ve repented and believed that you are drawn close to His side? In Christ alone can you find hope, forgiveness, joy, peace. But you must live as obedient servants forsaking the fear of all else, and living in the freedom that our triune God alone is worthy of our obedience and adoration.
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