Vol. VIII — No. 49 December 10, 1967
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
In Christ Jesus, who would have us so live that we may stand in the day of judgment, Fellow Redeemed:
The greatest certainty in life is death. With death comes also the certainty of judgment. With each passing day and with each passing moment the moment of death and judgment come closer. They are inevitable. They are final. They are decisive, for that moment determines our weal or woe, damnation or salvation, for all eternity. Each person is able to recall or look forward to great moments in his life. But the greatest moment in the lives of all of us and of every person that lives on earth, regardless of whether he realizes it or not, is the moment of death and judgment. It is a matter of common sense that we prepare ourselves for that unknown, but inevitable moment.
King Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, The Preacher. In this little book Solomon views life from the prospective of death and judgment. What is happiness and what is the best way to live in view of the inevitable conclusion of life with death and judgment? These are the questions that Solomon seeks to answer. Let us realize that he had lived in a sense and with an intensity and in a manner that is beyond our reach. Solomon knew wisdom, for he was the wisest man of his day. He knew power, for he was king of the most powerful nation on earth in those days. He knew wealth and luxury, for he was a very wealthy man. He knew fame and honor, for foreigners traveled from afar for an audience with him. What men dream of when they think of living—that Solomon had personally experienced.
What was his reaction to all of life lived to the full? He begins his exhortations as The Preacher with these words: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Earthly wisdom, power and might, wealth and luxury, honor and fame—all have a way of turning sour. And not a one can remove the inevitableness of death and judgment. In the final chapter of his book Solomon repeats his evaluation of all that so many long for and hope to experience: “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.”
It’s a sour note that Solomon strikes. Is there no happiness in living? Is there no way of life that will make welcome the day of death and judgment whenever it comes? In the last two verses of his book Solomon discloses the formula for a full life: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” And why is that the only permanently satisfying formula for living? “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
Let us consider this morning—
The basic ingredient in the formula for that life which shall be able to stand the test of judgment is the fear of the Lord. The psalmist exclaims, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm lll:l0. Invert that saying and you discover that there can be no true wisdom, despite years and years of learning and schooling at college and university, without the fear of the Lord. For the fear of the Lord is basic to wisdom in the sight of God. Solomon gives a brief definition of the fear of the Lord when he writes, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Proverbs 8:12. The fear of the Lord is antagonistic towards, repells, keeps one from evil in every form. On the other hand the fear of the Lord motivates to obedience, yea the obedience of faith. After Abraham had successfully passed the test of not withholding from his God his only son, Isaac, the child of the promise and the key to the hope of salvation for all mankind, God passed this judgment upon Abraham: “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” Genesis 22:l2.
These passages begin to give us the flavor of this ingredient in the formula of life. The fear of God is a reverence of His majesty. It is the knowledge and acceptance of the fact that we are but creatures of the Creator, that we are finite while He is infinite, that we are small but He is great, that we are limited in ability but that with Him all things are possible. The fear of the Lord is a certain, definite deference to His authority. It’s an acknowledgment that He has the right and has in fact established the rules of conduct for man here upon this earth. The fear of God acknowledges Him as the Supreme Lawgiver. It acknowledges Him also as Judge and Jury and Executioner. And so that fear of God is a certain dread of His wrath. The fear of God keeps alive within us the innate knowledge that there is coming a day of reckoning, the day of judgment, when every secret of man, every skeleton in the closet of his life, shall be exposed for all to see and shall be weighed and judged according to the Lord’s standard. The love of God in Christ has tempered the fear of God by making us realize that our God does love us with an overwhelming love. So it is that the fear of God becomes primarily for the child of God the fear that God might depart with His grace so that only His wrath remains. Oh, what a great and powerful concept and force is not the fear of God!
But how rare is the fear of God today! Atheistic communism has declared God non-existent and so has made all morality and all human relations relative. The state has been declared God. Thus what serves the state is good and noble, be that lying, cheating, covenant-breaking, adultery, theft, murder. What harms the state is bad, even if it be honesty, faithfulness, nobility of purpose, kindness, love, faith, hope, trust.
But let us not waste much time decrying the evils of atheistic communism. Let us rather perceive the perils in the midst of our so-called “Christian” nation. Many profess God formally, yet deny Him when it comes to living. What is the new morality, what is situation ethics but atheism in new form, yea in “Christian” form? We are told that there are no longer any standards set by God for right and wrong. Man determines what is right and wrong in each case. Sinful, selfish, self-seeking man is to use the yardstick of love for his neighbor to determine the morality of his actions. So it is that violence and war are condemned in Vietnam, but the same people preach and promote violence and civic disorder here at home. So it is that the death of civilians in Vietnam is condemned as premeditated murder on the part of the government, while liberalizing the abortion laws and so legalizing the murder of the unborn is heralded as love and mercy. So it is that pre-marital and extra-marital sex relations are condoned, if they serve to give expression to love and concern for all involved. So it is that obedience to governmental authorities is condemned as lovelessness and breeding civic disobedience and violence in the streets and causing the destruction of property are heralded as strides forward in the conquest of love. So it is that the fear of God has departed from society and has become unknown to so many who stand in socalled “Christian” pulpits and claim to proclaim the will of the Lord. In the day of judgment these works of our day will be exposed for what they truly are—rebellion against the Lord our God!
Would you like to live so that you can stand in the moment when judgment knocks at your door? Then fear God! Turn a deaf ear to the propaganda of hell proclaimed today in the name of Christ! Take a stand against the forces of evil in society and within the churches! Swim against the tide of corruption that threatens to inundate the whole of our society! Teach your children the commandments of your God. Teach them to realize that their God sees all and knows all that they think or say or do. Teach them to realize that one day God shall bring their every secret work into the light of public inspection and evaluation according to His law and will. In so doing you will be teaching your children and training yourself to live day by day so as to be ready always to die and meet the Judge of all flesh.
The basic ingredient in the formula for life is the fear of God. Put into practice that means—
When we hear this exhortation as part of the formula of that life which we are to lead in view of the certainty of death and judgment, we may think that it reduces the whole of life to good works and salvation thereby. We tend to think that way because we have come under the influence of our times, which have practically discarded the first table of the law. The very first commandment to have no other God is a commandment to fear, love and trust in the Lord God.
Who is that God that is to be feared, loved and trusted? He is not a vague, undefined, amorphous God who tells man, “You just think of Me as you like, you call Me what you want to, you worship Me as you see fit and I will be completely and perfectly satisfied.” Not at all! The God who gave the very first commandment did not leave Himself unknown. Gradually through the ages He revealed Himself as One God, yet One who is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He revealed Himself as the One who from all eternity had fashioned a plan for the rescue of mankind. He made known His plan to Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to David and to the prophets. He revealed Himself as the One who was faithful to all His promises, for in the fulness of time, when the stage of history was set, He did perform the miracle of the ages—the sending of His Son to become man and dwell among the children of men. God’s Son did become man. As He lived, He was about His Father’s business—the business of saving fallen mankind. Through words and works He drew men and women and children unto Himself, so that they recognized Him as the Son of God and the promised Messiah, the Savior from sin, death and damnation. He revealed Himself as the Mediator between God and man, the final Revelation of God, and the ultimate Judge of all flesh. He revealed Himself as the One who holds the destiny of nations and of individuals in His hands. Without Christ, no God—only hand-made or mind-made idols. Without Christ, no hope—only the wrath of God abiding and waiting to claim its victims.
The New Testament completes the revelation of God in Christ and so adds to the first commandment a demand for faith in Christ, for without Him all is atheism and immorality. The very first commandment demands acceptance of the invitation, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” And that is the basic ingredient of the life that will stand the test of judgment.
It is of utmost importance that we ever keep in mind our aim and purpose as a group of Christians gathered together. We want to teach ourselves and our children and as many others as we can reach the one formula for living that will pass victoriously through death and judgment—a life in Christ. Whatever we oppose in the church, we oppose because God in His Word tells us that it is harmful to our lives in Christ. Whatever we promote in this church, we promote because it is helpful to maintain our life in Christ. Our Sunday School lessons?, our hours of worship, all our instruction periods have but one purpose: to hold up Christ before the eyes of our people so that we will live in Him.
He know not when our last hour will come. But we do know that if by the grace of God we are preserved in faith in Christ to that hour we shall hear those most wonderful words: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To live without Christ is to invite upon oneself those most dreadful of all words: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
O Lord, abide in us, and lead us to abide in Thee! Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.