Church Speak - Part 6 - Fear God

Fear God.  Really?

The final sentence of the introduction that opens Scripture's richest collection of Wisdom Literature (Proverbs) reads . . .

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)
Both Matthew (the disciple) and Luke (the doctor) penned accounts of Jesus exhorting the crowd of listeners to fear God.  (See Matthew 10 and Luke 12.)  The Old Testament Jews, in Hebrew tongue, expressed the importance of yirah (fear) of God.  The New Testament Christian writers, with Greek pen, upheld the value of the phobos (fear) of God.

Many answer-seekers ask how the Scripture can, without contradiction, express both the fear of God and the declaration that "God is love" (see 1 John 4).

A good place to begin in search of clarification is the Song of Moses, found in Deuteronomy 32.  Within the great Hebrew leader's lyrics we read . . .

Is this the way you repay the Lord,
    you foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator,
    who made you and formed you?
Deuteronomy 32:6 (NIV)
That is the first direct reference to God as Father in the Scripture.  The Bible (Old and New Testaments) presents God as a righteous and loving father.  

One seeking to understand the fear of God finds help in connecting the word fear and the image of God as Father (a loving one - remember).  

Merrill Unger, in his dictionary of the Bible, identifies different concepts of fear.  He rightly identifies the fear of God as a filial kind of love.  Filial, remember, is a word pertaining to a son or daughter.  Unger explains that the filial kind of love, "has its spring in love, and prompts to care not to offend God and to endeavor in all things to please him."

A believer's love for God, as a son or daughter of the Father, drives him/her to long, seek, and quest to please God.  Believers long to bring a smile to the Creator's face.

I know of not one parent who has not heard their child say, "Daddy (or Mommy), watch me!"  Kids enjoy seeing their mom's and dad's joy at seeing them dance, flip, dive, climb, play, etc.

Believers enjoy knowing that their Father takes joy in seeing them live to glorify Him.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:8 (NIV)
You can express your fear of God through . . .
worshiping, singing, dancing, seeing others as He sees them, forgiving others, taking your sin seriously, repenting of that sin, not treating grace cheaply (research Dietrich Bonhoeffer's repulsion to "cheap grace"), obeying His commands, serving others, using your money wisely, minding your own business (see 1 Thessalonians 4), sharing, seeking to please Him (not Man), . . . and ways nearly endless.
God your Father loves you.  As His child, seek to please Him; then you will know the fear of God and your search for wisdom and knowledge will be off to a good start.

(Be sure to check back next week to read about why Christians talk so much about blood.)


Unger, Merrill F. Unger's Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody, 1977.

Church Speak - Part 5 - Church

When I look to my left - out of one of my office windows - I see the sign that reads Rabbit Creek Church.  The first two words on the sign identify our location.  We gather in the Rabbit Creek Community.  (I do, occasionally, see rabbits on the property; but the creek is well hidden.)  What about the third word?  What does it identify?

The New Testament Gospel of Matthew contains the two recordings of Jesus speaking the word church or, more specifically, ekklesia.  In both chapters 16 and 18, Matthew records Jesus' use of the term which He used in reference to people.  

R. T. France wrote . . .
When Jesus speaks of "building his church," the foundation rock and the verb "build" are the solid images on which the metaphor relies, but the word "church" does not contribute to the physical imagery.  The Greek term ekklesia never denotes a physical structure in the NT, but always a community of people.  (p. 623)
While the word church has come to be used primarily in reference to a structure that holds people, the most accurate usage refers to the reverse of that.  A church is a gathered people who are built on the structured foundation of Jesus Christ. 

The word ekklesia is a combination of two Greek words each meaning "out" and "called."  The ekklesia (the church), therefore, consists of those who are called out by Jesus to follow Him. 

We have no plans to lengthen the name and, therefore, also no plans to widen the size of our location's sign.  So passers-by and "drivers-in" may still think the last of the three words on our sign refers to the building.  I hope, however, that when they enter our building, they experience church as the church welcomes them to join them in this God-given, Jesus-honoring, and Spirit-led journey. 

"Here is the building.  Here is the steeple.  Open the building and here is the church."


France, R.T. The Gospel of Matthew - The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.

Church Speak - Part 4 - Sanctification

What would moly be without it?  

Remove it and the cow loses its halo. 
It precedes a variety of words - crickets to mackerel to smoke. 
Robin, of Batman fame, might possibly hold the record for usage as well as creativity with its use. 


That word is closely connected to our Church Speak Word of the week.  In church, you may have heard the word sanctification.  The word is the noun form of a verb meaning "to set apart as holy."  The second definition provided by Webster's reads, "to make free from sin." 

When trying to understand the meaning of the word sanctification, one begins with the principle that the end result is to set something apart as holy, which includes making one free from sin.  From there, one does well to grasp these truths:

1.  Sanctification is received, not earned.

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV) 
2.  Sanctification was accomplished at the cross.
In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.
Hebrews 2:10 (NIV)
3.  Sanctification begins with belief. 
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV)
4.  Sanctification prepares people for eternity with Christ.
26 . . . But [Christ] has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Hebrews 9:26b - 28 (NIV)
5.  Sanctification enlarges the family of faith (the Church).
Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
Hebrews 2:11 (NIV)


Church Speak - Part 3 - Faith

The writer of Hebrews (the New Testament book) penned a clear definition of faith.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

I prefer that to Webster's verbiage:  "unquestioning belief, specifically in God."

I wonder when and why Webster (or whoever actually chooses what Webster's says) chose to include the word "unquestioning."  Since my faith journey began, my questions for and about God have never ceased. 

- Yes, Abram journeyed to a land he did not know, but not without asking questions.
- Yes, Moses led God's people out of captivity; but "unquestioning" certainly is not a word associated with him.
- I lose count of the question marks at the end of Job's sentences.
- Peter, John, Philip, Mary, Martha, Paul - they all asked questions.

So, if faith is not unquestioning belief, what is it?  Hebrews holds the answer.

Faith is Confidence
The word translated here as "confidence" in the Greek is derived from two words meaning "to set" and "under."  That means confidence (and, therefore, faith) is the foundation that sits under (upholds) belief.  A Christian builds his or her life on the foundation of belief - faith. 

Faith is Assurance
The writer does more in the verse than repeating himself through the use of synonyms.  "Assurance" is related to confidence yet they are not identical twins.  Assurance enhances confidence.  Assurance reinforces the walls built upon the foundation.  My faith grows as I continually trust that "what [I] do not see" is nevertheless a reality.  Alexander Purdy wrote:

unseen realities have independent and objective validity, and that [a person's] transient life in the shadowland can be redeemed from unreality only by holding fast to such revelations of the eternal. 
(p. 720)

Faith is confidence and assurance.  It guides the one who holds it through the shadowland in which we live.  We live in the shadows with faith that what we hope for and what we do not yet see will indeed be just as God promised.  Faith dares to believe the words of Paul . . .
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)



Purdy, Alexander. The Interpreter’s Bible. Ed. George Arthur Buttrick. Vol. 11. New York: Abingdon, 1955