Today we continue with the topic of 'The Fear of God,' summarizing the work by Arnold L. Frank. Last time we discussed the fear of the ungodly (non-Christian), and the fear of the godly (the Christian). The ungodly have a fear of God in three areas: a fear that seeks to supplement the completed work of Christ, the fear of the 'almost Christian,' and the fear of the terrified. Among the godly, there sometimes exists the fear that questions God's wisdom, the fear that questions God's mercy, and the fear that shrinks back from God. All of these, including those on the part of the godly, are ungodly fears! What then, constitutes a godly fear of God?
In chapter 4 of his book, Frank begins to discuss what he calls a 'Provisionally Godly Fear.' This fear of God is provisional, because by nature it is temporary. It is also godly, because of its author and what it produces. It is brought about by the Spirit of God, who works to some degree in the hearts of all men, but especially in the godly, and in the latter, unto a specific end-conviction of sin. (Jn. 16:8) Some, however, like Felix, become convicted by the gospel, but say they want to hear more at a more 'convenient time.' (Acts 24:22-27) For Felix, that time never came!
Once those who see their need for Christ by the Spirit and the law of God and put their faith in Jesus, they move from 'Provisionally Godly Fear,' to 'Perpetually Godly Fear.' In other words, there comes a time in a person when 'the Spirit ceases to be the 'spirit of bondage again to fear (Rom. 8:15a), and becomes the 'Spirit of adoption,' (Rom. 8:15b).' This marks a transition from a godly, temporary fear, to life long, godly fear among the godly. The turning point is one's conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ, and was so aptly conveyed in what is probably the most famous hymn in the English speaking world:
T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
-John Newton, Amazing Grace
Next time we will examine this 'Perpetually Godly Fear' in more detail.