Ephesians 4:7-16; Fear of God revisited, part 2.
length: 66:57 - taught on Aug, 17 2021
Tuesday August 17, 2021
The fear of God is not drawing away from the unknown, but a search for intimacy with Him, while being small, insignificant, and humble.
We have returned to the subject of fearing the Lord for a brief time. I have been deeply influenced by the multiple passages where God tells His people not to fear Him, while in so many other passages God tells them to fear Him.
The situation in Luk 9; Mat 17; Mar 9. Of the many lessons that can be learned from this incident, the one that involves our topic is the fear in the hearts of the disciples that the writers reveal. It wasn’t fear of the demon they failed to cast out, but a fear of drawing closer to the Messiah who was proving more and more difficult to understand. I would offer that this same situation happens for every believer who is in the process of coming to know God. In our early days of Christianity, we don’t know enough about Him to challenge our preconceived notions. As more of the scripture is learned over time, we begin to see in God, the Trinity, things that challenge, and frankly, scare us. The goodness, gentleness, grace, mercy, compassion, and love of our Lord reaches out to us as He bids us not to pull away, but to come closer and ask, and seek, and knock. This will not happen once, but many times throughout our walk with the Lord. Never think that you know all of Him.
A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy in his chapter on the faithfulness of God, writes about how all the attributes of God are one. He says, “I think it might be demonstrated that almost every heresy that has afflicted the church through the years has arisen from believing about God things that are not true. To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology; and yet we are all constantly tempted to do just that.” He then gives several examples, after which he follows, “We can hold a correct view of truth only by daring to believe everything God has said about Himself. It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself when he seeks to edit out of God’s self-revelation such features as he in his ignorance deems objectionable. Blindness in part must surely fall upon any of us presumptuous enough to attempt such a thing. And it is wholly uncalled for. We need not fear to let the truth stand as it is written. There is no conflict among the divine attributes. God’s being is unitary. He cannot divide Himself and act at a given time from one of His attributes while the rest remain inactive. All that God is must accord with all that God does. Justice must be present in mercy, and love in judgment. And so with all divine attributes.”
And, when someone comes into your hearing telling you that he has the ultimate secrets about God, be careful. There are many glory seekers professing to know the Divine. We have three protections: the word of God literally and simply interpreted by sound hermeneutics, that we will eventually know false teachers by their fruit, and prayer.
The disciples’ fear of asking Jesus to clarify an incredible statement, perhaps “the” incredible statement of history, shows that they were very uneasy to approach in Him what was very hard to understand.
Tozer again, speaking of God’s goodness: “The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.
But sin made us timid and self-conscious, as well it might. Years of rebellion against God have bred in us a fear that cannot be overcome in a day. The captured rebel does not enter willingly the presence of the king he has so long fought unsuccessfully to overthrow. . . . The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid - that is the paradox of faith”
Their fear of drawing themselves into a deeper knowledge of Jesus prevented them from entering into a more intimate knowledge of Him.
How many Christians throughout the history of the church have feared knowing more about God when they are confronted by truths that challenge their preconceived notions, go against the foundations of their culture, challenge their pride, etc. On several occasions I’ve had to opportunity to show someone something in the Bible, and they were too afraid to look.
“A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring.”
[Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism]
(In Greek Mythology, the Pierian Spring was the fountain of knowledge that inspired those who drank from it.)
At one time in His ministry, the disciples feared having a more intimate knowledge of Jesus due to the intimidation of His greatness, which they found beyond their own understanding.
This occurred right after three disciples witnessed His transfiguration, when the other nine could not heal a man’s demon possessed son. Some have called this the descent from the mountain of glory to the spirit of need.
And it came about on the next day, that when they had come down from the mountain, a great multitude met Him. 38 And behold, a man from the multitude shouted out, saying, "Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only boy, 39 and behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth, and as it mauls him, it scarcely leaves him [Luke is a physician]. 40 "And I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not." 41 And Jesus answered and said, "O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you, and put up with you? Bring your son here." 42 And while he was still approaching, the demon dashed him to the ground, and threw him into a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
To properly interpret Jesus’ words we must remember that there is a multitude (vs. 37) which would refer to a large gathering. The disciples at the bottom of the mount had become known to the people, for they themselves had performed many miracles by the power given to them by Christ. We can easily picture the crowd looking on in intense curiosity as to why these nine disciples of Christ could not cast out the demon, which miracle they had performed prior (MAT 10:8). The boy was in incredible suffering while one disciple after another (likely) attempted the feat. We can imagine some of the religious leaders as well as commoners mocking them to some extent and thereby questioning the power of Jesus.
Christ shows frustration with the “unbelieving and perverse generation.” In Matthew’s account, the disciples were not unbelieving. The disciples had “littleness of faith.”
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" 20 And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.
We must not have “little faith” in an “unbelieving generation.” We’re not in competition with the world, we’re delivered from it.
A little faith will distinguish a man from the unbelieving world. The disciples had a little faith and they distinguished themselves from the rest of the generation who rejected Jesus as Messiah. But they were not of the world; they were of Him. He is not of a “little faith” while the world is not of any faith at all. We cannot serve two masters. We are to have a lot of faith, faith to move mountains, which was a well-known idiom, still is, for faith to do anything God wills of us.
Don’t fool yourself. If your faith is little, knowing that is the beginning of increasing it. Pride in an idea of faith that we do not possess will only make us fools, and impotent spiritually, as the disciples were when faced with this demon, that apparently was not like the others they had cast out prior to this.
Note that Jesus expected them to have the power, through faith and prayer, to free the boy of this demon.
Faith brings courage. Fear (wrong type) brings ignorance of God and isolation from God.
God is far bigger than our problems because He is far bigger than our world. The disciples thought small, “What’s the procedure, how can I do it differently,” etc. when Jesus thought big, “The work will be done through faith in the Almighty God who has power over all evil, and prayer to Him.”
Mark’s account shows us that prayer was needed.
"Why could we not cast it out?" 29 And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."
This is why we look at the harmony of the Gospels. [MAT 17:21 adds fasting to the solution, but that verse is not in many manuscripts and looks suspiciously like a scribal addition]
The disciples’ problem was their littleness of faith and lack of prayer.
Why did the disciples overlook prayer? We can imagine many reasons they might have, but this scripture is written for us to ask ourselves why we fail to pray. The reason they neglected prayer is not at issue. The reason why we do is. If we could interview each disciple today and ask them why they didn’t think of prayer, we would probably receive several different answers. We cannot pinpoint the reason why they didn’t pray in that instance.
God is asking us in His scripture, “Why do you neglect to pray to Me when things are hard and confusing and beyond your power to overcome?”