Posted by: William | January 28, 2008

Fear of the Lord

Continuing in Thomas Watson’s The Great Gain of Godliness, I’m pretty naturally thinking about holiness; the nature of our holiness, the need for our holiness, the benefits of our holiness, and the dangers of neglecting holiness. Today, Watson speaks about our holiness in terms of the fear of God. This is something we in the church almost never talk about. If we do talk about it, it’s not for very long and I’m willing to bet that not very many connect well with it. I admit that reading this chapter, I didn’t really connect very well with it. Even as the chapter draws to a close, I still didn’t fully have my fingers around what it means to fear the Lord. Maybe it’s a more profound topic than I give credit for. I suppose a profound God would call for a profound reaction.

Maybe we don’t talk about it because we don’t understand it; maybe we don’t talk about it because it’s uncomfortable to think of God in a way that isn’t fuzzy and at our beckon call. Regardless of why, the point remains that fear of the Lord is of very high importance. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (proverbs 9:10), God’s mercy is for those who fear him (Luke 1:50), although not necessarily directly connected in this instance, fear of God is placed in close proximity to strength and encouragement from the Holy Spirit, as well as growth in numbers (Acts 9:31). If a sinner does not fear God’s judgments, how can he repent and be saved?  If a man does not believe that he can be judged by God, how can he be expected to continue to cling to the cross? He risks sinking in wonton behavior, clinging only to his profession, which cannot save him.

So what does it mean to fear the Lord, I ask. I agree with Watson’s explanation saying, “God is so great that the Christian is afraid of displeasing him, and so good that he is afraid of losing him.” Then later he expounds further saying, “A child may have assurance of his father’s love, yet a fear of offending him.” We can see that this fear is not an unholy fear of condemnation, but an affectionate fear in light of the intensely massive nature of God and the completely undeserved kind disposition for us by God in Jesus Christ.

For us in the church today, where there is little difference between those inside the church and those outside the church, Watson’s words are shrill.

“The fear of God is a great cleanser… In the effect of it; it cleanses the heart and life. As a spring works out the mud, so it purges out the love of sin. The heart is the temple of God, and fear sweeps and cleanses this temple that it may not be defiled.”

If we wish to live lively and joyous lives in Christ, we must begin to take God in his word with the utmost seriousness. If we do this, we find that there are no circumstances in which sin is acceptable and under all circumstances we will find sin bitter to us and our lives with God. If we wish to see our sin put to death, we had better fear the Lord.

Jesus, I pray that you would set in me and your church a great humility, especially to see how undeserved your favor is. Lord I pray that you would inspire in us a holy fear of you. A fear as a child fears his earthly father, yet knows of his love. Jesus, I pray that by your holy spirit you would sanctify our hearts and lives; give us the strength to plant our feet firmly in you, to follow you, to trust you, to love like you, and most of all to glorify you, in all ways and at all times.



  1. what a great article, it is time for the body of Christ to fear the Lord ,if we did then we would know more power , more love and more santcification within the church, We too often forget that He is a holy God.
    Yes He is Abba Father, but always remember He is the Lord God Almighty –Ruth

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