“Fear or Respect?”

“Fear or Respect?”

April 20, 2016

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The word used here for “fear” can include respect as well as to be appropriately afraid.

Should we ever fear God? And how does fear of God fit with the Grace of God? Is there any need to fear someone who is full of grace? If we have appropriate respect for God, is there any possible reason to fear Him? If we have no fear of God, will we be inclined to lose respect for Him?

When we respect someone, we place value on what they know. If we fear someone, we place value on what they can do. We might show respect toward a bully because we do not want them to harm us, but we do not respect them as a person. We like to show respect for good people who have our best interests in mind. We have no need to be afraid that they would do us harm.

Respect for God is connected to our awareness that His requirements are righteous. If we have disregard for His laws, we have reason to expect consequences that are painful. So our respect for His authority is coupled with our fear of His justice. He cannot overlook sin, and when we willfully disobey Him, we can expect to reap the consequences. Appropriate fear will make a difference in our decisions.

When the writer of Proverbs 1:7 pondered his statement, he probably did not understand grace like we do today. Under the Mosaic Law, there was lots of truth but little mention of grace. It is said of Jesus that He was “grace and truth.” So I think it is easier for us to appreciate God today without fear, because we view Him in the life of Jesus Who demonstrated Grace.

With this reality comes the potential for abusing Grace. We can become so comfortable in the Grace of God that we fail to remember that He still does not tolerate sin. If we lose fear of His justice ‒ or to say it another way, if we fail to respect Him ‒ we can anticipate consequences that should make us afraid.

Pastor Bill Ehmann

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