1 Peter 1:17-21
And if you call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man's work…
Before the word "fear" there are several reasons given for its exercise. We call God Father. He who applies such a name to God must fear if he thinks what this involves on his part. Especially when it is remembered that while He is a Father He is also a Judge strictly righteous and impartial. Succeeding it is another ground. We are redeemed. And our redemption has been effected by the most costly sacrifice — the blood of Christ. Those who believe that cannot but feel a peculiar obligation lying upon them. They must be Christ's in heart and soul and action. And they cannot but fear lest they should belie such a marvellous consecration.
I. THE SPHERE AND OPERATION OF CHRISTIAN FEAR. There are some to whom the importance attached to fear in this place and elsewhere seems in contradiction to the teaching of the Apostle John, who speaks of fear as being cast out by perfect love. But it is to be observed that it is perfect love to which this prerogative is assigned. But with imperfect love fear has an important sphere of action. It affords stimulus to imperfect love and pushes it on to perfection. Those whom the apostle exhorts to fear are the same whom he has exhorted to hope to the end. They are men to whom Christ is precious, who love Him and rejoice in Him with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. Fear existing along with such elements cannot even burden. It balances, sobers, solemnises, deepens, intensifies. But it is often urged that the actions which are stimulated by fear have no moral worth, that fear is but a form of selfishness, and that therefore no fruit produced by it, however well it may look to the eye, can be truly acceptable to God. This has a very specious look. It appears a particularly fine, exalted, spiritual doctrine. And it really is so in its main features. It is true; but it is only a half truth, and half truths are often the most dangerous of errors. What is the other half of the truth? Although fear in itself and by itself cannot produce truly good or spiritually right action, it yet performs a vital function in keeping the soul awake. Fear rings the alarm bell and rouses the conscience. It blows the trumpet of warning. It creates pause and opportunity for all better and nobler things to make themselves heard. It allows a man to become aware of the realities, and when he is once placed in contact with them the best things begin. Everything depends on being made earnest, sensitive, lifted into a sense of the eternal verities. The highest principles, righteousness and love, are often in the best of men forgetful and fickle. They are ensnared, oppressed, and bewildered many a time, and need the keen influence of fear to bring them to themselves again.
II. FEAR IN RELATION TO THE FATHER THAT JUDGETH. Fear is obviously far from being the main feeling towards God as a Father. Confidence and love are especially the feelings called out by the Fatherhood of God. But God says, "If I be a Father, where is My fear?" God claims fear as a Father — reverence, no doubt, mainly — honour, awe in the realising of His infinitude; but something more than these, something else. For God as a Father judgeth. Did He not judge and condemn all sin He could be no true Father. Love must hate sin and show its hatred. Father is no weak, soft, indulgent word. It means love, and because it means love it means right, and undying opposition to evil, The Father judgeth without respect of persons. There is no other Father than the Father who judgeth. If I believe in a Father that judges, that will certainly rouse me up — it will waken my slumbering energies, it will cause me to look well to the state of my heart and life; but the word Father will always keep the thought of judgment from overwhelming me.
III. IN ORDER TO HAVE A TRUE CHRISTIAN FEAR WE MUST PLACE TOGETHER JUDGMENT BY WORKS AND REDEMPTION BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. The thought of judgment to come is essential to the depth and the reality of life. Without this everything is left in chaos. Conscience is not satisfied, nor is reason. But what reason and conscience demand cannot but awaken fear. This fear is deepened and yet transformed by the thought of redemption. Redemption seems at first wholly opposed to judgment by works, far more than even the Fatherhood of God does. For what does the Scripture mean by redemption through the blood of Christ? It means that the Son of God took our place and bore us on His heart in living and dying; it means that the sacrifice of Christ is that moral vindication of law and right, that tribute to the holiness of God which God accepts as sufficient amends and reparation. By faith man falls in with this Divine arrangement, identifies himself with it and is reconciled to God. And this faith that accepts and trusts and frees from condemnation, also works by love. Salvation by faith and judgment by works are therefore no contradiction. It is judgment by faith taken in its flower and fruit. But do we not see how fear awakes in the view of such a wonderful redemption? There is something akin to fear raised in the soul by the sight of sublimity. The wide expanse of the sky filled with sun shine or peopled with worlds raises an awe sublime, but often weighing heavily on the soul. Vast fervent love indeed banishes fear. It is the one thing that does this. And yet such a love as this — so holy, so mysterious, so resolute, so devoted — love coming from such a height, and going down into such depths, cannot but awaken a certain awe. We are overawed by the brilliancy of the light. "We fear the Lord and His goodness." And then when a man thinks of being redeemed by such a sacrifice, when he tries to realise at what a cost redemption has been effected, does not a certain fear come over him lest he should prove miserably unworthy of it all? But let not this fear in view of redemption be deemed inconsistent with the joy and freedom which belong to the gospel. It is precisely the man who has that realising sense of redemption which makes him afraid of not proving worthy of it, who has also joy. These two, fear and joy, grow out of the same root of redemption. The more joy in Christ any man has, the more will he be afraid of not conforming sufficiently to Christ.
(J. Leckie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: