In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul fears the Lord. But his fear of God connects to his full confidence of salvation. Paul moves forward with unshakable security because his eternal future is secure, while at the same time referencing the motivation and fearful reality of the future judgement of God.
Instead of being opposites, to Paul, confidence and the fear of God are interdependent. In Luke 12, Jesus reminds his “dear friends” to fear God and his judgment in the context of God’s care and provision for his children. How are we to understand this?
In a healthy parent-child relationship, parents who no longer command respect and fear from the child have forfeited the child’s obedience and trust. When a child does not listen to the authoritative voice of their mother when they say, “Don’t run out in the street,” or, “Don’t touch the stove,” it leads to disaster. The fear is protection and blessing to the child.
Instead of getting caught up in debates about how the fear of God is different from other kinds of fear, we should listen to the fear in the Bible. Jesus talked a lot about God’s judgement and hell, describing it in detail. He warned people against the kind of lives and beliefs that lead to going there. When a healthy fear keeps us from destruction, it is a blessing.
I have observed people I know living immoral lifestyles that will eventually lead to ruin and pain if they do not change their ways. I am looking for a Spirit-led opportunity to build a loving relationship with them, the kind where I can speak a warning into their lives that makes a difference. I think that understanding is where Paul is coming from in 2 Corinthians 5. He has an intimate, loving, child-like, secure relationship with his Father God. So, he both wants to please God and fears what will happen if he strays from the path that keeps him safe and blessed.
Search your heart. Is there an area you have not surrendered to God or where you are outside of God’s standards? Do you fear God’s judgment in that area? Listen to your fear or lack of it, and let it lead you to a change in what you value and respect.
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