Tread the Heights of Holiness in the Fear of God
Dr. Varughese Philip
got faith in God but nobody got fear of God! This is a
characteristic of the present generation. How can one know it? Crises and
challenges tempt people to lose their fear and devotion in God. Indeed both faith in God and fear of God are
integral parts of Christian life.
Christians are called to lead a life in the fear of God; “perfecting
holiness in the fear of God,” (2 Cor. 7:1). Let’s examine what is fear of God
What is fear of God
One would wonder what fear of God really is. There are clearly two types of fear manifest in people’s life namely, slavish and filial. Slavish fear is that emotion which arises in a master-slave relationship. A slave fears the master solely on the reason for insecurity of self. Slavish fear causes a slave to do the will of his master for fear of being punished. Self love gives rise to fear when it deprives something good, or when evil may fall on a person. If the fear leads to repentance, it is good, but filial fear is something very different.
Filial fear is “a holy inclination of the heart, generated and caused by God in the heart of His children, out of reverence of God, they take careful pains, take efforts not to displease God, and earnestly endeavour to please Him in all things.” Filial fear comes out of the father- son relationship. This holy inclination will turn out to be the privilege of the children of God that they would share the very ‘Holiness of God’, thereby they become partakers of the divine nature of God. In this context we need to understand the aspect of the holiness of God.
What is the holiness of God?
Holiness is the distinctive nature and character of God and the word ‘holiness’ denotes ‘being set apart.’ Because God is Holy, God wants His children to be distinct and definite from the rest of the world. God wants his people to view themselves unique, because of the covenantal relationship. “Neither just an external matter, nor does it only consists in abstaining from evil and in doing good, rather the seat of holiness is the heart.” Holiness separates the soul from the world, as a result denies the self, rejoices in love to God, and manifests devotional commitment to the church. Holiness is rooted in God, and the God given ethical purity and moral perfection. Apart from God, holiness has no meaning and it is bound to God’s Holiness as well. There are three requisites for holiness: holiness must proceed from the holy principle (faith), holiness belongs to a good rule with which the disposition of the heart and one’s deed must agree, and holiness belongs to a holy objective and evil objectives lead to ungodliness.
How can we live in the fear of God and grow in holiness? What are the essentials for fearing God? In the history of Judah, King Josiah stands out as the best example of how one feared God, feared the judgment of God, gave importance to God’s Word, and showed how one can get rid of evil from the land, (2 Kings 22:11-23:3).
King Josiah was the great grandson of Hezekiah; he acquired the throne at the age of eight though he was brought up in a very poor background.
First of all his family background was not so desirable that his grandfather Manasseh did more evil (2 Chr. 33:9), and failed to uproot harmful spiritual practices and the damage done was irreparable. Father Amon was worse (2 Chr. 33:22-23). Josiah became semi-orphan, and his counsellors were wicked. He came to the throne in a very difficult time in the history of Judea. Apostasy was deeply rooted in society. Second, his educational background was influenced by the gentile ideologies. Third, his social background was in the context influenced by idolatry, immorality, and unspiritual practices. The land of Judea was filled with idols and idol worshipers.
However, his spiritual background was good; his Mother Jedidah was “beloved of Jehovah.” She taught him to walk in the ways of the Lord. As a result, he did what was pleasing to God, he walked in the ways of God, and he had a tender heart toward God (2 Kings 22:19). He loved God whole heartedly and served Him with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with the Law of Moses (2Kings 23:25). He feared the judgment of God and subsequently got rid of all the evil which was sown by his father and grandfather. Now let us examine the elements reflected in the Fear of God in Josiah’s life.
1. Josiah conformed himself to the word of God (2kings 22:11-13)
Hilkiah, who was the High priest during the time of Josiah, found the scroll of Scripture among the ruins found in the temple. He said, “I have found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord,” v.8. His secretary Shaphan read it for King Josiah; most probably it was the Pentateuch or the book of Deuteronomy. Those were the writings God gave to His people as the Scripture for faith and practice. As a response to the reading of the Scriptures the king expressed his obedience to the Word of God immediately.
• His Heart Believed v. 13(b). He believed that it was the Revelation of God. He was determined to clean up the temple and repair its walls and restore its original splendour and its purpose even before he received the Word. But when he received the Word, he felt the dire need to respond to the revelation for the restoration as his responsibility. The urgency was very well evident in his prayer as he cried out, “Great is the wrath of God kindled against us.”
• His Heart was Broken, vv 11, 19. When the king heard the word of the book of Law, he tore his robes, wept in God’s presence, and humbled before the Lord. It was a clear sign of repentance. He was concerned about the Promised Land, People of God, and Parental sins.
• His Heart was Burdened, v.13. He ordered the priest and other officials to inquire of the Lord about what was written in the Book and how far the forefathers had deviated from the Word, and what God expected from His people to do. He feared God’s anger which may come up on him, on God’s people and on all Judah.
The Word of God bears the stamp of Holiness and the Word will lead to Repentance and Regeneration. There is inherent power lies in the Inspired Word. The prayer of Jesus is very significant here, He prayed, “sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth (Jn 17:17). God’s Word of truth is the separating force, and whatever God has to say would be absolutely true and its ultimate goal would be holiness. The Word of God has the transforming power. God demands us to fear the Word and set ourselves apart to God through obedience to the written Word.
Dilution of the Word opens the door for the devil to intrude into the believer’s life and would defile the character, bring deviation from conviction, and would contaminate the conscience. Today, the dilution is taking place as we see in the Gospels of the New Testament, where Pharisees added tradition to the Scripture, Sadducees liberalized the Scripture, and Rabbis promoted non-sacrificial humanism. Thereby, turning away from truth can lead to a Lying Spirit (1 Tim 4:1). Lying Spirit dilutes, distorts, and deviates oneself from the truth. That is the reason for many, creed is not important, but deed is important. Therefore, propagation of lies and various prohibitions lead to un-holiness (1Tim 4:3). It produces a ritualistic spirituality and not intrinsic spirituality that is essential for holiness.
The Bible says that, towards the end of the age there will arise seducing spirit and doctrine of the devil (1Tim 4:1), and there will be widespread tendency to run away from truth. People will embrace religious teaching and secular philosophies. False teachings inspired by demons promote secular humanism, occult practices, and propagation of lies. All these invade the church through various forms, and if the church fails to conform to the Inspired Word of God, do’s and don’ts empower the lying spirit to corrupt the church at large. Today’s apologists and polemists focus on externals is a futile attempt to achieve holiness. There are many in this generation who become members of the church without a regeneration experience just by following rituals, rules, and reformation. The inspired Word of God works with the Holy Spirit to produce regeneration, and without regeneration, reformation will not lead to holiness. Inspired Word has the power to generate holiness in believers.
2. Concern for the Glory of God (2Kings 22:14-20)
Josiah was concerned about the Glory of God. Glory is the Heaviness (attribute of God), Holiness and the Honour of God. He was convinced that his forefathers did not obey the commandments which were given to them, and moreover they promoted idolatry and as a result the glory of God departed from the Temple and the Territory of Judah. He realized the need for further illumination and in-depth understanding of the Scripture. He ordered the high priest and other officials to inquire of the Lord concerning the spiritual condition of Judea.
• Counsel: Huldah, the prophetess gave counsel to the king. Though there were other prophets like Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:2) and Zephaniah (Zeph 1:2), they approached Huldah for counselling because of their confidence in her.
• Conviction: Huldah warned of the imminent dangers that were about to fall on Judea as a result of God’s wrath on the land. Huldah convinced them that the glory of God departed from the Temple, Territory, and Tribe due to worship of Molek, Chomesh, and Asthoreth. It resulted in pagan practices, installation of pornographic images , and perverted relations in the temple (2kings 23:4-7).The idolatry indicates the ‘futile mind of the people who exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being’ (Rom.1:23).
• Comfort: vv.19, 20.Huldah, the prophetess informed the messengers of the king that God will send disaster upon Judea, however Josiah will be spared, and he will not see the disaster that will befall. God honoured Josiah’s concern for the Temple of God, Truth of God, and the Things of God. The Holy Spirit illuminated the heart of Huldah to convince, counsel, and comfort Josiah.
Illumination of the Holy Spirit enhances holiness in believers. Holy Spirit plays a significant role in conviction (Jn 16:8-11), counsel (Jn 14:26), and comfort (Jn 14:16, 26, 16:7). New Testament believers have the privilege of having the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies the believers (2 Thess. 2:13). The Spirit within believers has the power to override the flesh, refine the conscience, and establish communion with God. Jesus prayed, “I have given them the glory that you gave me,” (Jn 17:22). It indicates that the presence of the Holy Spirit brings the indwelling presence of God’s glory (Jn 17: 22). We must be aware that grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit block the sanctification process in a believer.
Furthermore, participation in the Body of Christ produces sanctification. Spiritual worship, instruction from the Word, and the exercise of church discipline that deals with immorality and false doctrines enhance sanctification. Nevertheless, an individual believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor.6:19) and any form of idols is a hindrance to enhance the holiness of God.
3. Commitment to the Covenant (1Kings 23:1-3)
Josiah was concerned about the covenant made with God. Renewal of the covenant was made by Old Testament saints on various occasions. It was a familiar event in Jewish history. Josiah was concerned about the future of the people of God, though it was not going to affect him personally. He had committed to renew the covenant for the blessings of the forthcoming generation and he took initiative to transform the upcoming generation.
• Josiah Summoned the General Assembly v.1.People of all walks of life were called to assemble before the king, elders, magistrates, representatives, priests, prophets, and ordinary people, made the general assembly of all.
• Josiah himself had read the Scripture v.2.Josiah personally read the Scripture, probably Deuteronomy 27:15-28:68. As a mark of reverence, he stood while the Scripture was read.
• Josiah had set an Example v.3. He renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord in order to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees wholeheartedly. He declared his commitment to the covenant and renewed it. Every emotion, thoughts, decisions, and deeds involved in the renewed dedication. “All the people joined themselves to the covenant (23:3). As we move on to the New Testament, we see the covenant Christ made through his blood.
Jesus Christ made a New Covenant by his blood, for the people to become holy. The highest form of holiness is seen on the Cross. God’s holiness requires that anything unclean must die, and thus Christ was slain vicariously. He suffered on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins. His forgiveness, faithfulness and forsakenness of Father on the Cross were to fulfil God’s ultimate purpose to make everyone holy. Identification with the Cross strengthens holiness in a believer. The blood of Christ purges out the effect of dead work from the conscience, (Heb 9:13-14).
The blood covenant will not permit any compromise. Half-hearted commitment cannot be called the real commitment and it will never be reconciled with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Commitment to the Cross requires full surrender, and the denial of the self implies conformity to the will of God by being set- apart for His purpose, thereby sharing in His life of holiness. Christ’s sacrifice was His commitment to the mission of the Cross, that all human beings might be sanctified by the truth. Therefore, there is a need for wholehearted commitment for the generation, which is very essential to set examples before our generation.
short, Conformity to the Word of God, Concern for the glory of God, and
Commitment to the covenant for growing in holiness were the mark of King Josiah’s
spirituality. Josiah feared God and was afraid of the judgment, and with a
broken heart he accepted the Word. He as a man of humility inquired about the
root of evil that caused judgment. He was committed to renewing the covenant.
New Testament believers should give importance to the Inspired Word, and should
understand its in-depth meaning through the Illumination of the Holy Spirit,
and identify with the Cross through self denial and sacrifice to grow in