Here is the second part in the series brought to us by Dr. Culbertson of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte. Read Part 1 here.
The Fear of the Lord
I would like to look briefly at one prominent passage from the Old Testament that provides extensive insight into the calling that God places upon His followers after he delivers them from Egyptian bondage (the exodus). This Scripture is delivered by Moses to the second generation of those who were saved from slavery to Pharaoh. Their parents, in their flagrant rebellion and disobedience (Numbers 11-12) perished in the wilderness wandering. But God still had His people and this second giving of the Law underscores what type of disciples (followers) the Living God desires.
This beautiful passage is from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (10:12-13). Here we discover the attributes of a [Christian] disciple.
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? (ESV*).
These characteristics may be summed up as one who fears the Lord, walks in all His ways, loves Him, serves Him with all of his/her heart, soul, mind and strength and observes His commands and decrees. These five qualities would transform both the believer and the church today if only her people would take them to heart.
Quality 1: To Fear the Lord
I believe the first verb contained in this passage is the most crucial word in the string of verbs here. To fear the Lord should be the driving force of every believer. A. W. Tozer states, The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid–that is the paradox of faith (The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 84). The true follower of Jesus is motivated by the greatness of his God – this is a reverence, regard and respect in the heart for the Lord that is deeply embedded.
What is this fear of the Lord? The greatest resource I have found and one that succinctly explains a Biblical view of the “fear of the Lord” is from the final chapter of John Murray’s classic text on Christian ethics, Principles of Conduct. In this chapter entitled, The Fear of God, Dr. Murray defines the fear of God as awe, reverence, honour and worship (p. 236). He further states, The fear of God is the soul of godliness (p. 229). Applying it personally, he writes, The fear of God in us is that frame of heart and mind which reflects our apprehension of who and what God is, and who and what God is will tolerate nothing less than totality commitment to him.
Dr. Murray also says, The highest reaches of sanctification [becoming Christ-like] are realized only in the fear of God (cf. II Corinthians 7:1), (p. 231). He writes further, But whatever the reason, the eclipse of the fear of God, whether viewed as doctrinal or as attitude, evidences the deterioration of faith in the living God (p. 241).
Dr. Murray breaks down the concept of the fear of God into these helpful categories:
- There is the all pervasive sense of the presence of God (God consciousness and relationship to Him).
- There is the all pervasive sense of our dependence upon him and responsibility to Him.
- There is trust in His promises and providence (faith spawns obedience).
- It is the apprehension of God’s glory that constrains the fear of his name. It is that same glory that commands our totality commitment to him, our totality trust and obedience (p. 242).
To properly revere and fear the Lord as the Almighty, Sovereign, Holy, Creator God of the universe is the first and grandest attitude of the serious follower of Jesus Christ. I might suggest that the fear of the Lord is the starting point for any progress in growth as a disciple and thus I have spent an extraordinary amount of space elaborating upon this obscure and rarely emphasized quality of the heart.
Rod Culbertson is presently Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Dean of Student Development at the Charlotte, North Carolina campus of Reformed Theological Seminary. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina and received the Master of Divinity degree from Columbia International University. He married his wife, Cathy, in 1979 and they have 4 grown children. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America, Rod served at the University of Florida as a campus minister with Reformed University Fellowship for almost 10 years, having begun that work in 1980. In 1990, Rod and Cathy moved their family to Clearwater, Florida where the Lord used them to start a new PCA church, Christ Community Presbyterian. Rod and his family came to Reformed Theological Seminary/Charlotte in 1994. Rod has earned a Doctor of Ministry degree at RTS and teaches courses in Leadership, Pastoral Ministry, Evangelism and Discipleship, among others.