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Dr. Henry B. Waiters: Fear


Some of the definitions of “fear” are:

Fear is profound reverence and awe, especially toward God.

Fear is the affection of the mind which arises on the conception of approaching danger, Urger’s says.

The fear of God is of several kinds: superstitious, which is the fruit of ignorance; servile, which leads to abstinence from many sins through apprehension of punishment; and filial, which has its spring in love, and prompts to care not to offend God and to endeavor in all things to please him.

It is another term for practical piety, and its absence is characteristic of a wicked and depraved person (Romans 3:18).

Fear is produced in the soul by the Holy Spirit, and great blessing is pronounced upon those who possess this Christian trait: His angels protect them (Psalms 34:7); they are “under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalms 91: 5, 6).

This fear would exist in a pious soul were there no punishment of sin. It dreads God’s displeasure, desires his favor, reveres his holiness, submits cheerfully to his will, is grateful for his benefits, sincerely worships him and conscientiously obeys his commandments.

Fear and love must co-exist in us in order that either passion may be healthy and that we please and rightly serve God. The Old Testament places its emphasis on the fear of God, and the New Testament places its emphasis on the love of God, though there was love in the fear of God’s saints then, as there must be fear in their love now.

When I was 18 years old, 70 years ago, I clearly remember when God called: the Holy Spirit (not human spirit) inspired men, sought first and foremost to instill the “Fear of God” (reverential awe; deep and abiding respect) in all who had ears to hear, believers and unbelievers alike.

They greatly emphasized that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world and they who dwell therein” (Psalms 24:1).

Therefore all should have that deep and abiding respect for God, the sole owner of all there is and His heritage. We were taught: “The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened” (Proverbs 10:27).

That “filial” respect which Unger’s describes as springing from love, and urging one not to offend God but in all things attempt to please Him — and that “servile” respect which leads to abstinence of disrespect because of anticipated punishment — will impact a community in a manner that makes co-existence more desirable, acceptable, God-fearing, peaceful, hopeful, law-abiding and progressive.

These characteristics remind those who are old enough (70 years and above) to remember when one would leave home for a day or longer or go to bed at night — doors were never locked; one could walk the streets or roads at night alone, and never fear being attacked.

Law enforcement required fewer men who were highly respected, and no lawbreaker was foolish enough to run, or even be disrespectful. The number of law enforcement officers, attorneys, the size of criminal accommodations needed in any place, is a clear indication of the level of “filial” or “servile” respect in that place.

It is obvious that Godly fear has departed and love is very close behind it, and both have their prominent place in the Age of Apostasy. “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). “The transgressions of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalms 36:1).

Why has fear departed? It is departed when preachers and teachers cease to teach what God wanted people to hear on this ever-so-important subject of fear: “Come ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalms 34:11);

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13, 14);

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instructions” (Proverbs 1:7).

The prevailing wisdom today is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (1 Corinthians 3:19).

Life’s foundation is the fear of God, showing the necessary and appropriate respect to Him and His heritage, and always willing and ready to acknowledge who He really is and what He requires of us: “But in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts 10:35); “O Fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear Him” (Psalms 34:9).

Fear accepts right standards for good and evil. In the spiritual realm there must be a standard for good and evil; if not, we have no standard.

If good is arbitrary, selected randomly, based on what I think, I like, I want — then what about the person who believes that theft is acceptable, adultery, fornication, drunkness, murder and  idolatry — what about them?

The Bible says that all of these are works of the flesh and are sinful: “And they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galations 5:21; Timothy 3:3). We can never judge right and wrong by what satisfies humanity. The Bible tells us that “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are all sold into sin. We all need a standard outside ourselves for right and wrong if morality is to be anything more than just a word.

That standard exists only in Jesus Christ and the written Word of God. There are far too many who have the mistaken notion that salvation by faith in Christ does not mandate a changed life, and far too many of today’s pastors lack the courage to disagree with them. The Bible says: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Dr. Waiters can be reached at 704-636-3369.

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