“They have no fear of God at all.”
Romans 3:18 NLT
“Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all.”
Psalms 36:1 NLT
Paul ends his list of Old Testament Scriptural references with a quotation from Psalm 36. He simply points out, as David did so many years before when he wrote this Psalm, that sin and wickedness have a root in a lack of fear of God.
There are many things to be fearful about with God, not the least that one day all humanity will have to stand before Him to give an account of their lives. That alone should be enough to strike fear into even the most defiant person. The second verse of Psalm 36 is, “In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are”. There is this tendency for human beings to deny that God will cause anything bad to happen, even if they accept that He exists. They rationalise or excuse their behaviour by saying that a God of love will never send anyone to hell. The doctrine of Universalism, which has gained popularity in recent years, maintains that everyone will ultimately be saved. This doctrine is based on verses like Acts 3:21, “Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets“. It would perhaps be a nice thought, but the context of Scripture is that salvation and eternal life is only gained through our belief in, and obedience to, Jesus. John 3:36, “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” And so, if there is to be no penalty for wickedness and sin, the Universalists say, how they behave in the end won’t matter. But we pilgrims know that, ultimately, sin has to be judged and dealt with by our righteous God. And for those who are unrepentant, their future will not end well.
But fear doesn’t just mean a negative emotion resulting from an event or situation that will do us harm if carried out. That type of the fear of God only applies to the unbeliever, because one day they will be judged and will experience eternal death somewhere most unpleasant. For a Christian, the fear of God means the respect He is due because of who He is. It is a reverence of Him, supported by such Scriptures as Hebrews 12:28, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe”. That reverential fear should also extend into our behaviour as Christians, because, as His children, we have our responsibilities too. As our natural parents disciplined us, so does our Heavenly Father. Hebrews 12:5-6, “And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child””.
I can just imagine the Apostle Paul shaking his head in disbelief with the realisation that there were those in the Roman church who had “no fear of God at all”. And, according to the verse Paul quoted, it’s all down to sin. Thankfully, his detailed letter contained everything needed to get the errant Roman Christians back on track. Paul’s words are timeless, and apply, with the same weight, today.
Dear Father God. In deep reverence we bow before You today. We worship You, our loving Father. Amen.