So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
One of the silliest notions of men I’ve ever heard is that God is revealed to us as a God of love in the New Testament therefore He is no longer to be feared as He was in the Old. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding about the character of God when a person makes such a statement. “For I am the Lord, I do not change”. (Mal 3:6) God is perfect and always has been; thus He NEVER changes! If God is love NOW (1 Jn 4:8, 16), then He’s always been love; likewise, if He was a God to be feared and respected then, He must also be feared NOW.
In our text today, this great fear experienced in and outside of the church was a response to God’s fatal judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira who had lied regarding the price they had received for the land they sold–an amount they had promised to fully give to God. (Ac 5:1-11) This fear was of great benefit to the early church, as the fear of the Lord has always been. In Pr 1:7 & 9:10, we are taught that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. If the path to wisdom begins here, men cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without it. This doctrine is not an unhealthy one for society. It is an absolute necessity! In Ps 111:10, it is linked with obedience to God’s commands. If it were more prevalent in our land, we would not have the moral decay we’ve seen rapidly increasing in the last 50 years! After the lengthy quest for wisdom that we read of in the book of Ecclesiastes, the author ends by stating that it is the fear of God and obedience to His commands that sums up man’s responsibility in light of God’s coming judgment. (Ecc 12:13-14)
Our main text makes it clear that this fear of the Lord is not simply an old covenant doctrine. We find it right in the middle of the establishment of the early church! Perhaps the end of any argument regarding the present need for a proper fear of God is found in Lk 12:4-5 as the Son of God says, “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” Jesus Christ clearly taught the fear of the Lord!
Perhaps some will quote verses like 1 Jn 4:17-18 and claim that the fear of God is reserved for those outside of Christ: “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” The context of this verse is that we have no fear in the day of judgment, for we are justified by the blood of the Lamb! If we are in Christ, we will indeed be presented “faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy”! (Jd 24) However, other passages clearly reveal that the fear of God is presently expected even of believers. 2 Co 7:1 reads: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Eph 5:21 also instructs us to submit “to one another in the fear of God.”
Finally, we understand that a proper fear and respect of God is necessary for us to be faithful witnesses as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear“. (1 Pet 3:15) Most of us are familiar with 2 Cor 5:20 which describes the church as ambassadors for Christ that plead with men to be reconciled with God, but guess what we find to be our motivation as we consider the reality of His judgment? “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2 Cor 5:10-11) May we recover this needful doctrine in our day. The fear of the Lord is not an outdated concept. It is an absolute necessity for men who will stand justified before a holy God!