The Fear of God and Our Conduct

In our recent articles we have been dealing with the great scriptural theme of the fear of God. We have stressed throughout the great importance of fearing God. The fear of God is the very heart of true religion. Repeatedly scripture characterizes the true people of God as those who fear God. The reason why there is so little true religion in our day is that there is so little sense of the fear of God even among those who profess themselves to be Christians. In our last article we stressed that the fear of God is placed in the heart by God Himself. It is not something that is found in the heart of the natural man. It is placed in the heart of man through the operation of His grace and Holy Spirit as a fruit and benefit of God’s covenant of grace. God places His fear in our hearts in harmony with our moral rational nature. This is explained in Philippians 2:12, 13 where we are told to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God Who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” That God works His fear in our hearts is therefore in perfect harmony with the fact that He in His Word exhorts us to fear Him. Scripture is full of exhortations that tell us to fear God. Over and over did Moses the servant of the Lord-exhort Israel in his last discourse recorded in the book of Deuteronomy to fear the Lord and to keep His commandments. “Oh, that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children forever.”Deuteronomy 5:29 So does the Lord plead with His people. In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon comes to the final conclusion: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 

That God exhorts us to fear Him surely means that the fear of God is something practical. It is something that involves our everyday conduct in the whole of our life. The one predominant motive that must characterize the whole. of the life of the child of God is the motive of the fear of God. Faithful adherence to doctrine is indeed of utmost importance. However, this is only of value when sound doctrine has the fruit of producing the fear of God in the heart of a man. This surely ought to be the case according to what we have said already about what it means to fear God. The fear of God is produced by a profound spiritual understanding of who and what God is. Sound doctrine all ultimately has to do with who and what God is. The knowledge of God’s sovereign majesty, infinite greatness, majesty, and glory and of His perfect holiness and righteousness can produce no other reaction in the heart of the regenerated child of God than the reaction of fear and trembling. The more the Christian knows the true doctrine of God, and that in’ a true spiritual sense, the greater becomes his reason to fear God. All of this must come to manifestation in the daily life of the child of God. 

The fear of God must be the one motive that governs and controls all of our life in every sphere. That fear of God causes us to hate evil and strive against it with all our heart and strength and positively to love the right and strive with all our might toward the holiness and perfection of God. The god-fearing man knows that God is perfectly holy and true and righteous, so holy that He loves only the good and hates the evil. The god-fearing man knows that God is everywhere present and that He knows all things, even the thoughts and intents of man’s heart. The god-fearing man knows that God in perfect justice is the awful judge of the wicked, the consuming fire in His holiness to the ungodly but the rewarder of the righteous. The god-fearing man knows that God requires absolute perfection and holiness, perfect obedience to His law, and a life that is lived only for His glory to perform His will. The god-fearing man cares not what men require, nor what men see or know. For man is by nature evil and therefore he will always reward and exalt the wicked and persecute and debase the righteous. The only thing that matters is what God requires of us, what He knows and sees not only of our outward actions but also of all our thoughts and desires. The god-fearing man knows that God always rewards the righteous with everlasting favor and blessing and the wicked with His terrible just condemnation and eternal destruction. For all this there is a compulsion in the heart of the child of God to fear the Lord his God. This drives the child of God to his knees with fear and trembling to plead with the Lord to work His own fear in his heart. 

There is only one motive that can drive the child of God to keep God’s commandments and to walk in a proper way of sanctification and that is the motive of the fear of God. Unless the fear of God is in the heart of man he will not keep the law of God. The apostle Paul emphasizes this inRomans 3. There he vividly describes the great wickedness of the natural man. “There is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way. They are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace have they not known.” Romans 3:10-13. Then the conclusion of this whole matter comes in verse 18. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Heathen, ungodly men through the ages have sought to legislate morality and ethics without God and without His fear. They have seen the outward advantages of right living and morality and the chaos that is caused by wickedness and immorality. But in all of this they can only be a complete failure. Nothing can motivate a man to right living except a profound sense of the fear of God. All the reason for the corruption and wickedness among men is that there is no fear of God before their eyes. Also the child of God is motivated to walk in the way of righteousness in his life only if he truly has the fear of God in his heart and this dominates and controls the whole of his life. It is for this reason that God would teach us His fear and that we must teach our children to fear God. Evil comes into the church of God also when the great sense of the fear of God becomes less. Unholy living, worldliness, secularism, and materialism have their roots in a dying sense of the fear of God in the church.

How urgent it is that we are known above all as a God fearing people. Only then shall it be well with us and shall we be blessed. The constant refrain of the Psalmist is, “Blessed is the man who fears Jehovah, walking ever in His ways.” Above all things, in the bringing up of our children we must nurture them in the fear of the Lord. It is only the people who manifest a profound sense of the fear of the Lord in all of their conduct that will be truly God-glorifying. 

All of this has tremendous implications for all areas of our life. It is therefore not at all surprising that scripture speaks specifically of the fear of God with regard to virtually every area of our life. We are told directly to fear God in our homes, in our relationships as husbands and wives. We are told to nurture our children in the fear of God. The employee is told to obey his employer, not as a men-pleaser but because of the fear of God. The fear of God is said to be the beginning of all wisdom. The fear of God is the one motive that drives the child of God to chaste living. It is because he fears God that he does not use his body for immorality as the world does. But in the fear of God he knows that his body is the temple of the Lord and is to be kept pure. It is with fear and trembling that the people of God go up to the house of the Lord to worship Him. In our future articles we shall consider the implications of fearing God for some of these areas of our life.