“… as to his human nature [he] was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God; by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I was born in 1956 into a Roman Catholic family. Back then, the mass was spoken in Latin and every one of us was supposed to attend mass every week even if we didn’t know what was going on. There were a few positive things I gained from this heritage. The first is that I was taught to revere God. Some how, my parents helped me understand that God is great and God is powerful. Sadly, I was also taught many falsehoods that were more based on superstition than on Biblical truth, but I want to focus on my positive experience — reverence for God.
When I read the above introductory words from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, I understand Paul to be saying, “This is who I am! – My life is based on my relationship with Jesus. – This is the most important fact that I can tell you about me. Please keep this in mind as you read my letter.” Paul is confessing Jesus as his Lord and savior. When I think about Paul, I can’t help thinking of him as a person who revered God. The Complete Word Study Dictionary by Spiros Zodhiates offers these words to help us think about reverence in G2126: “one who receives well, pious. To be cautious, thoughtful, circumspect, to receive well. To be afraid, to be moved or impressed with a natural or religious fear.”
What does it mean “to be moved or impressed with a natural or religious fear?” I remember an experience in recent times in a different denomination when we were discussing fear in a Sunday school class. The pastor’s wife was in attendance and she brought the discussion to a premature end by telling us that we shouldn’t think of fear as being too harsh, it is more like respect. When Paul fell flat on his face in the blinding presence of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, I don’t believe he was filled with respect. Paul was filled with fear!
I have had a taste of this kind of fear from time to time. It is not the fear that God will squish me like a bug for no particular reason. It is not that God is out to get me and I better watch out. It is not that God is getting ready to do me in, because I have not succeeded to eliminate every sin from my flesh. No, it is not like that!
This is a healthy fear in which I see and experience myself in proper relationship to God. When I am humble, when I submit my will to God’s perfect will, when I comprehend that every breath I breathe and every choice I make is given to me by God, then I begin to have healthy fear of God. This is the kind of fear that causes one to tremble. I don’t tremble because of anticipated annihilation, but because I perceive the fact that my life is completely dependant upon God’s Goodness. Fear of lack, fear of the future, and fear of death comes through Satan. The experience of fear that comes through conscious contact with God confirms our relationship to Him. I believe that a person who has no fear of God — no reverence of God, needs to ask God “Why not?” Yes, it is true that God is good. God is kind. God is loving. However God is much more than this. God is also all knowing. He is all powerful and completely sovereign. His commandments are eternal. The life we seek through Him is eternal. This is in contrast to our earthly life, which is fleeting and self-centered until we establish a relationship with Jesus. Paul’s ministry demonstrates what could happen in a person’s life when he or she experiences the fear of God and does not run from it. The reverence that Paul carried in his heart and mind helped spread the Good News of Christ Jesus through the Roman Empire and far beyond.
Lord Jesus, I spend too many hours of the day absorbed in activities that disconnect me from being aware of your presence. I long to live with greater awareness that I can do nothing of eternal value without you. Lord, you are the reason for my existence. Help me be willing to fully accept this fact and to live in healthy fear of your majesty and power. Help me do whatever it is that our Father in Heaven needs me to do to advance the Kingdom of God. Amen.