Not too long after becoming a Christian, I quickly came to understand that I should join a church. Fast forward two weeks, and I’m stepping into a church for the first time as a believer. It was perfect. The music, the preaching and the prayer was exactly how it should be, and I felt right at home. The Lord was so gracious to me to put me in a sound biblical church right out of the gate.
There was a fellowship luncheon right after the service that day, so I stayed and had a wonderful time meeting some of the members and giving my testimony. As I was about to leave, a very generous brother stopped me and handed me a book. He told me that he thought I would find it profitable. The name of that book was “The Holiness of God” by R.C. Sproul.
What a blessing it was to read that book. When you become a Christian you can be so overcome with the presence of God’s love that you can easily overlook God’s power and His holiness. But the fear of the LORD is one of the most important and most loving aspects of God’s character. There are few things that I valued as a new Christian as much as coming to that understanding.
Sproul’s book showcased how different individuals responded when they were faced with God’s glory in the scriptures. You never see them smile, run up to Him and give Him some kind of warm hug to show how much they love Him. You see terror. You see fear. You see people who realize that they have absolutely no business standing before a holy God. Just as Isaiah realized when he was faced with God.
“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the king, the LORD of hosts.”
Isaiah didn’t just see his own sin and how it separated him from God. He saw the sin of the entire world. He knew that everyone was equally incapable of approaching God without being utterly consumed by His glory. Isaiah was lost and without hope.
I’ve come to realize that I too need that fear. It’s not an irrational fear like some people have of spiders, or clowns, or staying out past sundown. It’s not like my fear of seeing how Hollywood plans on botching the remake of Ben-Hur. The fear of the LORD is a fear unlike any other because it is a real, justifiable fear. Yet, it’s not without purpose.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Without the fear of the LORD and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we would have no concept of sin in the first place. Therefore, the fear of God is also the beginning of the gospel. Salvation comes through faith and repentance. And repentance comes from through an understanding of our sin and how it separates us from God.
That’s what the word “holy” means. In one sense it means morally perfect, but in a more literal sense it means separated or set apart from. Earlier in that same chapter of Isaiah, when Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on the throne, he also saw seraphim with six wings a piece and they were crying out “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;” (Isaiah 6:3)
The fact that the word “holy” is repeated three times is quite significant. One of the ways old Hebrew writers would add emphasis to a word would be to repeat the word. For instance, in some parts of the Old Testament, you may see the phrase “finest gold”. Usually, if you look at the original Hebrew, you’ll see that they just repeated the word “gold”. So in the original language, you’d literally read the phrase “finest gold” as “gold gold”, meaning that it’s the “goldiest gold”.
So when you apply that understanding to the word “holy” which, as we said, means morally perfect or set apart, then the meaning is that God is “Perfected in perfectly perfectedness” or that He is “Set apart from those things that were set apart from those things parted from”. God stands alone as a perfect Trinity of Father, Son & Holy Spirit, unique and sovereign over all things.
God created the heavens and the earth. Nothing of the creation can touch or know or understand God on its own. But by His mercy, He has allowed us to know Him through the fear of the LORD, which we receive through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He is with us always, and we know Him and we can understand Him. And from this knowledge of God, we come to faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
The same way that a child who can’t swim is startled away from the edge of a pool by the shout of a strict parent; we have been called out of the darkness of sin into the heavenly light of the gospel. And we have the fear of the LORD to thank for that.
Don’t allow anyone to cover your eyes from that truth. Far too many people will deflect the gospel with the phrase, “My god is a loving god”. Yes, God is loving,.. God is Love (1 John 4:8)! “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
God doesn’t forgive sinners because they feel bad. God doesn’t forgive sinners even because they pray. God only, Only, ONLY forgives sinners because they have repented of their sin, and have put all of their faith in His only begotten Son Jesus Christ! Without Him, you are lost.
Turn from your sins and believe in the name of Christ, and you will be joined with Him forever in the knowledge and the fear of the LORD!