Along with signs and wonders the disciples walked daily in the fear of God. Members of the church had seen a demonstration of what it means to lie to the Holy Spirit. Frequent signs and wonders imposed an awesome reverence for God on the entire church. This fear “came upon every soul” (Acts 2:43). The word came is in the imperfect tense and denotes a continual, abiding, long-lasting, on-going sense of awe.
Supernatural signs put the fear of the Lord not only on the New Testament Church, but also on those outside the Church. One commentary states, “the non-Christian population felt a certain apprehension over against a group in whose midst supernatural events were taking place.”
Luke refers to the fear of the Lord in the New Testament Church many times throughout Acts.
Acts 5:11 “And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.”
Acts 9:31 “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
Acts 19:17 “And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.”
Fear can be healthy depending on the subject and the motivation for it. Fear keeps people from getting too close to the cliff’s edge. It keeps them from sticking their hands in hot fire. It keeps them from becoming reckless. The fear of God brings positive benefits.
Proverbs 14:26-27 “In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.”
Psalm 34:9 “Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!”
The fear of God is an awesome reverence and respect toward God, knowing He is totally righteous and full of mercy and truth; He compensates and rewards the obedient in faith; and He judges, chastens, and punishes the disobedient in faith.
A person’s fears become dominant in their life. The heart that fears the Lord is submitted to Him. The fear of the Lord shapes a God-centered way of life that acknowledges Him in all ways. A person who is aware of the presence of God and has a holy fear of Him allows no room for compromise or neutrality with sin and evil conduct.
Proverbs 8:13 “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.”
A healthy fear keeps Christians from being self-assertive, proud, and boastful. It continually reminds them that they will give an account to God for their actions and words. Because of the fear of the Lord, they treat their fellow man decently. It restrains them from giving in to their base nature and keeps them from going to extremes.
Solomon was known as the wisest man on earth. At the end of his life his conclusion was: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). That summarized it for Solomon because he knew, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:14). In the end, every secret thing will be judged by a righteous God.
Believers need to be sure they fear God, not someone or something else. For instance, the Bible says not to fear false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:22), or the face of man (Proverbs 29:25), or man-made religion (Isaiah 29:13). Many who lead people astray using fear as one of their tools. They appeal to people’s fears while pushing false doctrine, or they use fear of violence to dominate others’ lives.
Proverbs 29:25 “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.”
All such fear is man-centered and self-centered, motivated by self-preservation and self-defence. The fear of the Lord is God-centered and motivated by true knowledge of Him, true love for Him, and commitment to do His will.
In a believer’s desire to see the blessing of God and to see the promise of God fulfilled in their life, they must not be at the center of their own life, goals, and desires. When the focus of a Christian’s faith and prayers is “God bless me, and give to me, and meet my needs, and be nice to me, me, me, me,” then their primary concern is not for God’s honour and glory but for their own benefit. To a degree they are not living in the fear of the Lord!
That does not mean God God does not want to bless them. It means that only those who fear the Lord and put Him first experience His real blessing. So, the local church needs to maintain essential teachings on the healthy fear of God.
As Spirit-filled believers, we claim to want to rediscover the life and pattern of the New Testament Church and so see awesome signs and wonders. But I am concerned that the absence of one of its most essential characteristics – the fear of God – will keep us from experiencing awesome signs and wonders. We know the comfort of the Holy Spirit. We have learned to have liberty in the prescience of the Lord. We have experienced the moving of the Holy Spirit and the joy He gives, but too often our motivation is to get whatever we can from the Lord when are in His presence. This is a deficient attitude. It produces a careless lifestyle. Some, in the past, have called it “sloppy agape”.
The fear of the Lord should impact every aspect of a person’s life. An ever-increasing wisdom will provide new insight into handling life’s difficulties. And, most of all, relationships with others will be conducted from God’s point of view.
Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
When the entire local Christian community is guided by the fear of the Lord, people will be transformed and will show forth the love and glory of God. This in itself will be another awesome sign. All onlookers will see a demonstration of God’s nature in practical everyday living, and when Christian love one another, the world will believe.