Luke 12:4-7 says, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
At first glance this passage seems to be nothing more than a contradiction. See it? Jesus tells us both to fear God and to not fear God. So what are we to do? Do we fear God? Or do we not fear God? That is the question, and interestingly enough that is also the answer.
Usually we don’t know things very well when we only delve in with a first glance, such is the case with this text in Luke. Luke is not seeking to portray Jesus as a schizophrenic wacko calling us to fear God (12:4-5) and not fear God (12:6-7). Rather Luke is seeking to portray what we so often experience in our Christian lives: a paradox.
We must fear God. After all, God is greater than Satan. Satan can only kill you, that’s all he can do. Sure a statement like that is strange, but for the Christian it is not death to die. The end of our physical lives is not the end of us. We are immortal beings with souls that will live forever either in hell or in heaven. Satan can only kill us physically, we are not to fear him. We are to fear God who can not only kill the body but then send the soul into hell as well. God is supremely more powerful than Satan and this passage shows that. Therefore the Christian life is to be a life where we fear God, worshiping Him in awe, treating Him with reverence and with the utmost of respect. He is God and there is no one like Him and there is no god but Him.
Fearing God like this, leads us to a kind of ‘not fear’ as well. When we recognize God’s supreme majesty a right fear and reverence ought to rise in our hearts, and once that reverent fear rises in us it produces a right view of God. A right view God is that God is not only transcendent and majestic but that He is near and immanent as well. God tells us as much here in this text. He knows us and counts as more valuable the many sparrows.
This intimate knowing coupled with majestic power produces a ‘fearful rest’ in the heart of all believers. There is no god but God. That God, the only God, knows me better than I know myself, and has still chosen to draw me to Himself through His Son. Therefore I will worship Him with a white-hot, delighted, fearful reverence.
These are not oxy-morons when described in relation to the Christian life – it is a beautiful paradox. We fear God and love Him.