Monday, May 24, 2010

Fear and Honor

The Lord asks through His prophet Malachi, "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?" (Malachi 1:6 ESV).  God has the right to expect honor from us as children honor their parents.  He also has the right to expect fear from us as a servants fear or respect their masters.  Calvin writes, "he who would duly worship him will try to show himself both an obedient son to him and a dutiful servant."  He goes on to tell us that even if there were no hell, we should still dread offending God even more gravely than we dread death. 

Now John wrote in a letter, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18 NKJV).  How do we as Christians reconcile this?  We are told to fear the Lord, but we are told by John that there is no fear in love.  Calvin responds, "For [John] is speaking of the dread arising from unbelief, far different from believers' fear.  For the wicked fear God not because they are afraid of incurring his displeasure, if only they could do so with impunity; but because they know him to be armed with the power to take vengeance, they shake with fright on hearing his wrath."  Once again Calvin tells us that believers fear offending God, not the punishment they may receive "as if it hung over their necks." 

For many years there have been those who have tickled men's ears with a "feel good" gospel message.  They tell those listening that their lives will be carefree.  God will make them prosper here on earth - whether that is financially or with a long life or in some other way.  God never promises us an easy life on earth.  He promises to be with us at all times and we are never apart from His love, but that does not mean that believing in God will cause us to win the lottery.  Calvin writes, "For faith does not certainly promise itself either length of years or honor or riches in this life, since the Lord willed that none of these things be appointed for us... However many things fail us that have to do with the maintenance of this life, God will never fail.  Rather, the chief assurance of faith rests in the expectation of the life to come, which has been placed beyond doubt through the Word of God" (emphasis added).  God will take care of us and He will not fail.  We need to think beyond our earthly lives and fleshly ideas of success.  God has promised His elect salvation.

"For in God faith seeks life: a life that is not found in commandments or declarations of penalties, but in the promise of mercy, and only in a freely given promise.  For a conditional promise that sends is back to our own works does not promise life unless we discern its presence in ourselves."  God not only promises salvation for His elect, but it is a freely given promise.  No strings attached.  It is ours and there is nothing we must do to earn it (which is a good thing).  We should recognize that this promise of mercy given to us by God is the proper goal of our faith.  We should also recognize that God is both the Judge of our wicked deeds, but also the giver of love, kindness, and mercy to us.  Calvin makes two final points about God's promise of grace to us, "first, that faith does not stand firm until a man attains to the freely given promise; second, that it does not reconcile us to God at all unless it joins us to Christ."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.2.31-3.2.34

No comments:

Post a Comment

Presbyterian Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf