Christianity 201

May 2, 2014

With What Type of Fear Do You Fear God?

James 2 19

According to a … survey by the Barna Group, 78% of Christians believe there is an almighty, sovereign, supreme God. That seems to be a really large number of people and it makes our hearts glad to know that all these people believe in our God. The sad part is, many of these do not believe that God cares about and desires a personal relationship with all His children. Even more tragic is that many of those who believe in God think this is all that is necessary to live eternally with Him. The Word of God tells us that Satan, himself, believes in God. He knows God exists and has defeated him already through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s why Satan and his demons shudder at knowing God exists. The Word of God says that we must believe that He exists and believe He will reward us if we earnestly seek Him. We must be born again by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  (see note at bottom for citation)

After a 15 month term as missionaries in Argentina, Robert and his wife returned to the U.S. to raise funds to return to the mission field. As always you’re encouraged to read the articles we discover here at their source, this one was titled Fearing the Lord (click title to link).

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!  ~ James 2:19

Explanation of the Text: It is not simply a belief that God exists that saves a person. James sarcastically responds saying that if a person believes in the one God, they do well. The verse is a reference to the Jewish Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, in which the Jewish believers to whom Jesus is writing to would have a clear understanding of. It calls belief to the only one God in verse 4 and then calls for obedience to God in verse 5. The same point James has been trying to make throughout the epistle. He takes it further though and compares that type of ‘faith’ to that of the demons, drawing the connection that without the obedience of Deuteronomy 6:5, the point of 6:4 is not worthwhile and is actually the same type of belief that the demons possess.[1]

Indeed, even the demons believe in the existence of Jesus Christ, yet it can be certain that they will not find themselves spending eternity in heaven. These demons have belief in God, in His son, and an understanding of eschatology, and yet they still willingly choose to oppose God (Mathew 8:29-31; Mark 5:7; Luke 4:41; Acts 19:15). In fact, they even have enough sense to shudder!

φρίσσω (phríssō) which is the word found in the Greek text, literally means to tremble in fear.[2] Even the demons have a fear of God, so much so, it causes them to shake or tremble. Obviously this fear is different than the that commanded in Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:13; Psalm 2:11) which refers to having a reverence for God. However, to have the fear that the demons have still requires an acceptance and understanding that He is indeed God, who will judge the world and carry out His will, and thus they will receive God’s judgment. John MacArthur rightly brings this point into perspective when he says, “In that regard, they are much more realistic and sensible than those with false faith who think they will escape God’s judgment by their shallow and superficial faith.”[3]

Examination & Application of the Text: Examine your faith today. Do you have a fear of the Lord? Is it a fear like the demons do, or is it a reverent fear that is found in Proverbs and Psalms. As one who follows Jesus Christ, it is not simply a belief that He exists that saves you, bur a healthy, reverent fear that says, “I worship you Lord. You are my God.” As you seek Him more today, trust in Him, examine yourself and ask, “Do I reverently fear the Lord?”

[1] John F. MacArthur Jr., James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 131.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), Entry #5425

[3] John F. MacArthur Jr., James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 132.


The introduction and graphics concept to today’s post was from the blog Daily Grace, which also had this prayer:

Heavenly Father, we humbly pray that You will prepare our hearts to earnestly seek You and hunger for Your Word. Help us to not just believe You exist, but to know that You are a God who loves us, who provided a way for our sins to be forgiven by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, and who has prepared a place for us to be with Him for eternity. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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