Living Free of Fear
(c) C. O. Bishop 1/26/2018 THCF 1/28/2018
Hebrews 13:6 [Compare Matthew 10:26-31; Hebrews 2:15; 1st John 4:18; Acts 27:24
“I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
We have been studying through the book of Hebrews, and we are finally in the last chapter: two weeks ago we touched on the sixth verse,” I will not fear what Man shall do unto me.”
In the context, the contrast was against covetousness: the love of money. He said that we should live free of the love of money, because of God’s promise never to forsake us.
This has implications far beyond finance, however: What fears do we cling to, because of what other people, or their actions, may do to us? If my neighbor gossips about me, will it destroy my reputation? If I maintain a godly lifestyle, which necessarily makes me an “outsider” in many or possibly even most venues, am I likely to lose my position at work, or my social status elsewhere, because I “just don’t fit in?” The worst implied in that particular verse is the loss of financial stability. But the admonition goes far beyond that. “So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
What kinds of limitations are imposed upon me because I fear rejection? What limitations do I accept because I fear harassment, or other forms of persecution? In this passage, the word “fear” (Greek verb, “phobeo”), is used, as in many others. The Greek noun, phobos, is used, where a noun is appropriate. Both are accurately translated “fear,” in English; though, in the case of a “fear of God”, the meaning is usually positive, while, in the case of a fear of other things, it is used in a negative sense. Fear is recognized by the Lord, but it is also categorized as being:
- Positive (the fear of the Lord,)
- Perilous (the fear of death,) or
- Prohibited (the fear of man.)
We should look at both positive and negative:
When is it Appropriate to Fear?
Though many of the commands regarding fear are to “fear not”, there are places where the reverse is true. Let’s look at one of them:
26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
In context, here, Jesus had begun by telling His disciples whom to not fear: those who would persecute them, hate them, and put them to death for being His disciples. But he says that they needed to take the long view, so to speak, and consider the last chapter.
He said that the same sort of people who would crucify him and who called him Beelzebub (which literally means “the Lord of the Flies”, but carries the connotation of “the prince of demons”)…that those sort of people would naturally also persecute the disciples. He said that they, his disciples, should not consider themselves to warrant better treatment than He himself had received. And His conclusion was that they (his disciples) should not fear those persecutors.
Bear in mind that the kind of persecution they were to experience was not the “social stigma” type of persecution which we so dread…It was a genuine persecution with potentially deadly intent. And they were commanded to not fear those attackers, but rather, to fear whom?
Jesus said to fear only God—the one who has full authority, both to kill, and to sentence to an eternity in Hell. Some have supposed that this referred to Satan, because of the reference to Hell. But Satan has no authority at all to determine the eternal destiny of a soul. The ultimate Judge, ironically, of both the disciples and their persecutors, will be the Lord Jesus, himself. So, the fear of God is seen as a positive thing, while the fear of man is not.
How about the Fear of Death?
We could guess from the above passage, that, since the disciples were told to not fear those who could only kill the body, they were also commanded to not fear death. In a sense that is so: but back in Hebrews 2:14, 15, we can see that the fear of Death is at least more or less universal, and that God recognizes how we are constantly enslaved due to our fear of death.
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Jesus experienced Death on our behalf, to destroy the power of Satan over our lives. We have been tormented by fear of death and pain our whole lives, and the person responsible is Satan. Clear back in Genesis 3:15, God promised to send a deliverer, the “Seed of the Woman”, who would crush the Serpent’s head. Want to guess when that promise was fulfilled? It was fulfilled at the Cross, when Jesus laid the groundwork for the destruction of the Devil himself. When will it be completed? Revelation 20:10 says that, just before the Great White Throne Judgment, the Devil will finally be cast into the lake of fire. But his power was destroyed at the Cross!
So, is it OK to fear death? In the sense of self-preservation, we are taught to recognize danger, and to make healthy decisions about it. But in the sense of being paralyzed by fear, so that we cannot make a good decision, due to fear, then it has gone too far. The kind of courage we are called to demonstrate is the kind that will obey God in spite of the fear of death. That we can go ahead and do rightly, even though it may cost us dearly.
When we read of those who daily risked their lives to smuggle persecuted Jews out of Europe during the war, we are moved to tears, by their courage. Did they fear death? Certainly! But they knew that unless they acted, risking death themselves, those helpless refugees were doomed to a certain death at the hand of the oppressors.
Yes, it is OK to fear death…but we are not to be enslaved to that fear! It can paralyze us so that we are unable to live for God.
What does the Bible Teach about Fear?
1st John 4:17, 18
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
As believers, we have a certain amount of confidence regarding the coming judgment. We are taught that the World will be judged, but that the judgment for our sins was carried out at the Cross. The more confident we are in this truth, the less fear we have for the future. We gain boldness in Christ as we grow in our knowledge and love of the Savior.
The word for “perfect” here, is translated from the Greek word “teleo”. It means “completed”, or finished, or mature, in some cases. In fact, it is very nearly the same form as is translated “It is finished!” in John 19:30, when Jesus spoke from the Cross, regarding his work of redemption! So, the perfection here, is not a matter of “flawless.”, but of “being completed…fully formed.”
The same Agape love that was bestowed upon us is the Love that allowed Jesus to go to the Cross, and to die on our behalf, tortured to death by His enemies who were supposed to be His friends. Prophetically, He is actually asked “where did you get those wounds in your hands?”, and the reply is given, “in the house of my friends…”
Keep in mind that what Jesus faced was not only the pain of being tortured to death, but the shame of being hung up naked before his enemies, to die, not only in agony, but in ultimate humiliation. And, even more, which is beyond our comprehension, He became Sin for us. He took the place of the sins of the entire Human Race, under the Wrath of God. He became Sin for us, so that we could be made the Righteousness of God in Him. Did he fear the agony of the Cross, and the burden of our sins? Yes! The prayer at Gethsemane reveals that he was entirely human in this regard. Yes, he feared the death of the Cross. But he was not enslaved to that fear. He acted in spite of the fear, and He gave Himself for our redemption.
This is the essence of courage: acknowledging the fear, and then acting in a manner independent of the fear. Soldiers are trained to run toward the battle, not away. Police are trained to evacuate the area of bystanders, but then to move toward the danger, not away. We, too, are told to set aside our natural fears, and go ahead and function as we have been commanded.
Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Gates don’t go anywhere! We are to charge the gates! We are to attack, in prayer, in witnessing, in teaching, preaching, and in giving. The Gates of Hell will not be able to withstand our attack. Wherever the Gospel goes, people are saved. Sometimes only a few, but the Gospel reaches past the Gates of Hell, and snatches sinners from its dominion. But, in doing so, it sometimes costs the lives of the witnesses. But the Church keeps reaching out!
2nd Timothy 1:7 says that “God hath not given us the spirit of Fear, but of Power, and of Love, and of a sound mind.” If it isn’t coming from God, that only leaves two sources: The enemy, or our old Sin nature.
What about the Fear of Man?
Romans 8:31 poses the rhetorical question, “If God be for us, who can be against?” We read that, and verbally we agree, but we aren’t really comfortable with the answer. We still are uncomfortable in our roles as the “outsiders” in this world. We are as “strangers and foreigners”, and we are aware, that we are “no longer of this world.” We are in enemy territory, both figuratively, and literally. It leaves us feeling intimidated, like a goldfish in a pool of piranhas. The big difference is that we are here for a good reason, (not just to be piranha food, like that poor goldfish,) and we already have eternal life… it can’t be taken, and we can’t lose it.
That is why we are exhorted to live free of fear, whether about “what we will eat, or what we shall wear, or where we shall live,” and even regarding “how will others treat us?” Is it possible we will starve? It is possible…highly unlikely, in this country, but possible. Is it possible we will become destitute of all belongings, homeless, and looked upon with contempt by others? Certainly! And God says that those to whom that very thing happened (remember Hebrews chapter 11?) …were the “best of the best!” He says “the World is not worthy of them!” Is it even possible that we might be imprisoned or executed for telling people about Jesus? It has already happened, many times in history, in various places in the World. Could it happen here? Yep. It could! And, we are told in advance that it is a possibility, and that we are not to be paralyzed by fear of such calamity, but to rejoice at the coming reward.
Now: how does that apply to daily life as things are, here, today, in this country? Honestly? It means that we are fearful over things too minor to even be included in the accounts God gave us as to what has already happened to believers down through history.
Paul was told, in Acts 27:24
24 …Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
The context? Paul was a prisoner, in chains, aboard a ship in a terrible storm on the Mediterranean Sea. He, with everyone else, was in danger of death by drowning. If he escaped drowning, he faced possible execution. Some of the people God promised to save along with him were the Roman soldiers conducting him to Caesar, to stand trial. And God told him, “Fear not!”
I don’t know about you, but I have never been in a situation as dire as that one. Paul’s circumstances looked pretty bad, regardless of the storm, but to be battered by a storm at sea, when you are shackled with heavy manacles, so that, even if there was a chance to swim for it, you’d drown, and even if you survived the storm, you were going be taken to face the judgment of a blatantly ungodly emperor… nope, I haven’t faced anything like that.
And, then, to have part of the promise to be that you will get through the storm, and that you will come out with your guards still beside you, and that you will arrive at Caesar’s court. That just doesn’t sound like a logical time to “fear not!” Drowning would probably have sounded pretty good to most people at that point. But Paul had already come to a point of a mature faith, and mature love, where he valued the lives of his companions, and disregarded his own personal comfort and safety, so long as it meant the magnification of the Gospel…which was precisely what he had been told he would do in Rome.
What about Us?
In Matthew 28:20, the Great Commission was given to the eleven apostles. But it is worded in such a way that it becomes the inheritance and the blessing of every believer who has ever been persuaded by the preaching of Christ. It says, “…teaching them (us) to observe ALL things, whatsoever I have commanded YOU.” So, we have the same commission! And, the final reiteration, in Acts 1:8, is that we are to be witnesses to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”
Will we actually do that? Or will we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear? This is a day-by-day decision. Remember, Peter was once paralyzed by fear, and because of it, he denied Christ. But eventually, he overcame his fear, and his life became a shining testimony to the truth of Christ, and… he died as a martyr, many years later. He learned to set aside his fear, and go ahead and function. All we are told to do, on a day-to-day basis, is to set aside our fears, and go ahead and function. In most cases, the things we fear won’t happen anyway…but even if they do, the promises have not changed. He says, and we can read the written record: I will not, I will not ever leave you! I will not, I will not, I will not ever forsake you!” We fear abandonment, as little children, and we have the perfect father, who not only will not abandon us, but will nourish us and protect us. We have eternal life, so that we should have no fear in this life.
We have His written Word, upon which we can feed our New Nature, so as to eliminate our creeping fears, and build a solid, mature faith, resulting in a solid, complete, mature Love…which casts out Fear.
Lord Jesus, soak us in your Word, train up our hearts to trust you in all things. Allow us to walk with you in perfect peace.