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"Fear not the one who can kill only the body..."

Devotion for Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Matthew 10:28, “Fear not the one who can kill only the body…”

While we are quick to qualify the understanding of godly fear as reverence and respect toward our Creator, we must also understand a crucial component that Jesus highlights in His teaching on the fear of the LORD as He sent out His disciples for ministry work.

Jesus says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28) The fear of the LORD in Jesus’ teaching here is tied to the fear that we should NOT have in the evil one. The connotation here is not one of just reverence or respect, but of what those in the English Puritan tradition would describe as the holy “dread” of the LORD.

The word dread is an apt term for us to use to fully understand this passage. When you dread an activity, there is a high probability that you will avoid doing that activity. The context of Jesus’ statement is the fear or dread of the rejection, persecution, loss of friends or family, and being offensive to those who reject the Gospel.

Jesus commands us to share His teachings to everyone we know. He says, “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.” (10:27) But if we allow the dread of persecution and tribulation to keep us silent and inactive in the service of the Lord, we have misplaced that fear in the wrong person. If we do not advance the gospel in our daily lives for fear of reprisal, then we actually fear Satan MORE than we fear Jehovah God.

Jesus reminds us that the most that Satan can do to us is kill us bodily. Jesus does not mince words. Our Savior, who willingly went to the cross of excruciating pain and torment, tells us that physical pain and death must never be a detriment to spreading His good news! Jesus, who also endured the shame of the cross and the rejection of His own people, commands us to not allow the fear of being offensive to people as we share the love of Christ. This fear, the fear of being offensive, is probably the most “dreadful” fear that is keeping all of us from reaching God’s calling in our lives.

Jesus calls us to actually fear the One who can cast both body and soul into hell. That, of course, is Jehovah God. This phrase points to the true emphasis and meaning of fearing God in this context. We must fear the wrath of God. No, fearing God does not mean that we should panic or have debilitative anxiety over God. But we must understand the reality of God’s wrath. God’s wrath is rightfully reserved to be poured out against sin – your sin and mine. His holiness demands that we atone for our rejection of His truth. We justly deserve condemnation. Yet, God has bestowed His grace upon us through the Cross of Christ. That truly is the glory of the Cross, that Jesus took the wrath that was reserved for us!

In addition to loving, revering, and solemnly respecting God, fearing the Lord also means that our understanding of God’s wrath should cause us to avoid sin and temptation.Realizing that God has ultimate authority, ultimate power, and ultimate holiness should move us to following His Word and His desires in our lives.Knowing God’s character should motivate us to follow Him rather than the fear and dread of what Satan may do to us when we share God’s love.

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