Christ Fearing Relationships

Sanctity of Marriage

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March 26, 2017

Ephesians 5:21

Allen Burns

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 Sermon Title: Christ Fearing Relationships Sermon Text: Ephesians 5:21 Memory Verse: Deuteronomy 6:5 MAIN IDEA: Glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by being Christ-fearing in our relationships. God Fearing Relationships     NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The audio message will differ because the manuscript is not followed word for word. Thanks for understanding.      

Introduction: God-Fearing Relationships

A few weeks ago, we were looking at how we are to walk in the Spirit (Eph. 5:15ff). We are to be careful how we walk, not unwisely, but with wisdom. In addition to walking with wisdom, our Christian life is to be Spirit-filled. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus describes the Spirit-filled believer as a person filled with joyful worship, singing and making melody with their heart to the Lord. They are a person who is always thankful in all things. And, a Spirit-filled believer is subject to others in the fear of Christ. Paul expounds further on how the Spirit-filled believer is subject to others in the fear of Christ. He explains what being subject to one another looks like in marriage, the family, and the workplace (Eph. 5:22-6:9). We spent time looking at how husbands and wives are subject to one another in their marriage. Ephesians 5:33 summarizes by saying that the husband is to love their wife as Christ loves the church and the wife is to respect her husband in everything. The intention for this week was to dive into family relationships. However, it seems important to be sure we understand what it means to fear the Lord. All of our relationships to are to be subject to the fear of Christ. It fits for us first to be sure that we fully understand this truth. Since beginning the message on Monday and submitting the outline for the bulletin, the message has evolved. The main idea is slightly different than what is in the bulletin. The main idea has changed from “Glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by being a God-fearing family” to “Glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by being Christ-fearing in our relationships.” We will get into specifics about the child and parent relationship next week. Instead, we are going to only speak on the first point which is in the bulletin which is that we are to be Christ-fearing in our relationships. In developing this point, it becomes clear that it is vitally important for our Christian walk. If we understand the principle of God-fearing relationships, we will know how to be the Spirit-filled Christian who subjects ourselves to others in the fear of Christ. We will know how to relate to our parents, children, coworkers, and friends in a way which is pleasing to God and brings glory to Christ.

What is the Fear of the Lord?

Let’s begin first by understanding “what is the fear of the Lord.” The year I began full-time ministry, I remember reading the Bible and seeing this verse: O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. (Psalms 34:9) Those who fear the Lord shall have no want. What a profound statement! I looked at that verse and was in complete puzzlement. I thought about my wants and found it to legitimate list of wants. I wondered about the relationship of my wants and my not understanding what it means to fear the Lord. I talked about not understanding the fear of God with a friend. Over the weekend, he saw Jerry Bridge’s book, “The Joy of Fearing God” at a bookstore and brought it to me as a gift. The book answered my questions. We have many fears. Some people fear to speak in public. Others have a fear of heights. Perhaps you fear to go to the dentist. Humans have many fears. Fearing the Lord is not like these fears. These fears are like a one-dimensional surface, like a wall. To have a fear of the Lord is to have a reverential awe of Him. We contemplate God’s works, attributes, and character, and we are in awe. We revere His nature. Compared to other fears, fearing God is a gigantic diamond with hundreds of facets, each sparkling with radiant light displaying an aspect of God causing awe. The multi-faceted fear of the Lord diamond bursts forth in a myriad of directions causing reverence, amazement, dread, being awestruck, admiration, astonishment, being spellbound, fascination, being mesmerized, charmed, and finding ourselves enthralled. We may use more words to describe fear of the Lord, but these communicate enough of the concept needed to help our understanding. What is it like to fear the Lord? One facet of the fear of the Lord diamond is to stand on the precise edge of the Grand Canyon and not have words to describe the awesome beauty and grandeur. We stand in fear of falling to our death off the precipice because of the great depth from the top to the bottom. We stand in awe at the colors and shapes of the canyon and the casting of shadows and the reflections of light. We are awestruck by both the fright of falling and the beauty of the ridges. Another facet of the fear of the Lord diamond is to be caught in the middle of a grassy plain with nowhere to run, and a ferocious lion stealthily makes his way toward us. We see His powerful muscles rippling with each step and his eyes intently watching our every move. We freeze in place, unable to move. The lion’s soft furry mane and his beautiful face, attract us, and his overpowering strength and his dangerous claws and teeth terrorize us. What is it like to fear the Lord? Another facet of the fear of the Lord diamond is to stand on the top of a hill on a clear moonless night. Our eyes look up, and we are overwhelmed by the expanse of stars stretching to infinity. Each star appears as a tiny dot, but we know that each one is a gigantic mass of energy blazing with unfathomable intensity and heat. The stars are too numerous to count, and we know there are billions upon billions of them. The expanse of the heavens makes our heart skip with wonder and joy while, at the same time, it makes us feel oh so very small and insignificant. The Lord made the Grand Canyon with all the colors, shadows, and layers and the Lord made it dangerous to stand too close to the edge. The Lord gives birth to the lion cub and gives him his soft furry mane and his thirst for blood. The Lord stretches out the heavens like a curtain, He leads forth the stars, He calls them all by name; and because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing (Is. 40:26). To whom will we liken God? Heaven is His throne, and the earth is His footstool. The host of heavenly angels obey His every command. Which one of us may say we know the mind of the Lord or which one of us serves as His counselor? (Romans 11:34) The prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne, lofty, exalted, and with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above His throne crying out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” As Isaiah saw this vision, the foundations trembled and the temple of God fills with smoke. Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” As we contemplate the glories of all of God’s attributes, we are like Job who says, “Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; and how faint a word we hear of Him!” (Job 26:14). In other words, we know only the fringes of the great fabric of God. Our sin separates us from Him just as the stars in the night sky are far off. We don’t feel their heat nor do we see their grand size. We only hear a whisper and the greatness of God is a mighty deafening shout. We have only spoken a whisper about what it means to fear the Lord. He is all-powerful. He is all-knowing. He is eternal and omnipresent. These are awe-inspiring truths. If you are not a child of God, these truths should strike fear in your heart. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). What is the fear of the Lord? It is to know and understand enough of the attributes and character of God so that His magnificence causes a reverential awe.

How then do we apply the fear of the Lord to relationships?

How then do we apply the fear of the Lord to relationships? The Bible instructs us to be subject to others in the fear of Christ. The basis of our marriage, family, and workplace relationships must be found upon our fear of Christ. We may not understand how to obey this command unless we understand how we are to fear the Lord. In other words, if we do not understand how the fear of the Lord is important to our relationships, we will not fully please God in our marriage, as parents and children, and in our work relationships. Notice how the Scripture repeatedly ties our relationships to the Lord.
  • Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord (5:22)
  • Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves (5:25)
  • Children, obey your parents in the Lord (6:1)
  • Fathers, raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (6:4)
  • Slaves, obey your masters as to Christ (6:5)
  • Masters, do the same unto your Master in heaven (6:9).
If we are to apply all which we have discussed until this point, we would have a very limited understanding of how we are to subject ourselves to one another in the fear of the Lord. The descriptions of God’s almighty power and the works of His sovereign hand inspire one thing, and that is, “obey God’s commands or else!” It is true that we are to obey God because it is a fearful thing to be judged and found guilty of God’s laws. It is true we should obey God who pours out His wrath in the last days upon the disobedient. We need to have an incredible fear of the awesome and mighty justice of God knowing there is no word or act which goes unnoticed before Him. God sees all and knows all because nothing hides from Him. We are to shake in our boots knowing that any time we disobey God He may rightfully and effortlessly send forth a lightning bolt to strike us dead or He may open the ground underneath to swallow us in an abyss. Jesus said we are to fear God who may send our soul to hell. Let’s ask ourselves, what kind of motivation is that? How does that motivate us? Is God’s wrath all there is to the glory of God? Does the trembling and fear of God reflect all of His character and all of His glory? Does our fear of God’s wrath help us relate to other people? Do we believe our amazement of God’s power and wisdom is all that is needed to help us know how to love our wife or raise our children? Is the Christian life comprised of walking in the Spirit in the fear of the Lord, because if we don’t, the mighty hand of God will slap us into oblivion? As a child of God, the truth of God’s almighty power and judgment is right and good, and invokes a fear of Him which helps give a healthy perspective on how we are to live our life. Scripture tells us that being filled with the Spirit is characterized by having a song of melody in our heart and by being thankful in all things. Let’s be honest. Obeying God, or else, does not invoke in us songs of melody in our heart, nor are we thankful to live under a constant threat of punishment. There must be more. There is more. We need to expand our understanding of what it means to fear God. When it comes to Spirit-filled relationships, there is more to fearing God we need to consider. As a child of God, we have the privilege of calling God our Father. The One who governs the stars and gives birth to the lion adopts us as His child. The One who killed the firstborn of the Egyptians is the One who led His people to the Promised Land. The God who calls the stars by name also calls us by name. The God who sends lightning bolts to-and-fro in the heavens is the loving Father who sends His Beloved Son to die on the cross for our sins. The rest of Creation sees only one side, the mighty and fierce side, of the multi-faceted diamond of fearing God. We see much more of the character of God then His power and might. The cross of Jesus Christ grants us access to gaze on the other side of the diamond. The cross of Jesus Christ and His salvation grants us entry so we may walk around the diamond and see more of God. Our fear of God expands into new visions which bring us a greater and more expanded amazement and reverence for His glory. On one side of the diamond, the fear of the justice of God is on display. On the opposite side, we see as Christians, the love of God in full radiance. On one side of the diamond, we see God’s mighty power raising up and setting down nations and kings. On the opposite side, we see God working all things for good for those who are called by His name. To fear God is to have a reverent awe of His nature and character. We are to be awestruck by Him. To only be awestruck by His infinite, eternal power and wisdom is not complete. The indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit gives us eyes to see and ears to hear the infinite beauty of all of God’s attributes and character. We see more completely and more fully, so our fear of God multiplies in dimensions we never knew before Christ. We are like Moses. Moses saw the hand of God’s power and judgment in Egypt. Moses experienced the mighty hand of God. On Mount Sinai, Moses asked God to see His glory. God did not tell Moses that He is eternal, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Instead, God spoke to Moses about the amazing aspect of His character. God proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” (Ex. 34:6-7) The Spirit-filled believer understands that the fear of God encompasses infinite power with servant-minded humility. We understand that the fear of God encompasses perfect justice with perfect love and forgiveness. What gives the Christian a reverent awe of God is that the all-powerful God of the Universe is mindful of us. What makes God so amazing is that He loves us despite our sin. What makes God so amazing is He reaches out to both Jew and Gentile with salvation. We are in awe of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and grace. We are in awe that He loves us even though we are undeserving. It is the character of God’s love and grace which puts a song of melody in our hearts. His unconditional love makes us thankful for all things. Our being completely awestruck with God begins with our vision of His mercy and grace. We love Him because He first loved us. The answer to our question, “How do we apply the fear of Christ in our relationships” is answered in the next question.

What is the fear of Christ?

What is the fear of Christ? Let’s take our fear of God to yet another dimension. Ephesians 5:21 says, be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. It is very interesting for Paul to use the phrase, in the fear of Christ. It is very typical for the Scripture to say, “the fear of the Lord.” God tells Job, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28). The Psalms and Proverbs frequently speak of the fear of the Lord. Isaiah speaks of the fear of the Lord (Is. 11:2-3; 33:6). Luke writes that the early church grew in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:3). This is the only Scripture reference specifically speaking of the fear of Christ. Paul uses the names of Christ very specifically. When speaking about the person, he uses the name of Jesus. When speaking about our need to obey, Paul uses the title, Lord. When speaking about salvation, Paul uses the title of Christ. Paul seldom strays from his convention in how he refers to Jesus Christ our Lord. Our fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom and instruction, is guided by our fear of God the Son. We must first remember we are to fear God the Son just as we fear God the Father. God the Son is the Creator of all things. Jesus is all-powerful and all-knowing. When God dwelt with man, Immanuel, God with us, He inspired awe. Jesus spoke with authority; He had power over the demons, He cleansed the temple with a whip, He commanded the waves and the wind to be still, His disciples asked, “what manner of man is this?” God the Son is Lord over the stars of the Universe. God the Son rides a white horse on the Day of the Lord and brings judgment upon the earth. God the Son is every bit as fierce, mighty, and powerful as God the Father. The Lord God is One. There is none beside Jesus. The Almighty God of the Universe chose to relate to us through God the Son. Paul’s telling us to be subject to one another in the fear of Christ intentionally suggests the attributes of God which are relational. God the Son left His throne to walk among us. Christ washes the feet of the disciples. Christ shows mercy upon the sinners. The glory of God’s love, forgiveness, and mercy find their revelation in Christ. Grace and peace are ours in Christ. We are chosen and adopted in Christ. God gives to us all the blessings of heaven in Christ. The love of God is poured out into our hearts in Christ. God chooses to relate to us as His sons and daughters through the person of Jesus Christ. We see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We are to be in reverential awe of Christ in how He subjects Himself to us. His dying for us should inspire more amazement and wonder than looking at the stars in the sky.


How are we to apply our fear of Christ to our relationships? We do this by following His example. As we stand awestruck by Christ, we are to be moved by His example and seek to imitate Him. In other words, our example of subjecting one another in the fear of Christ is clearly demonstrated by Christ. Jesus, although equal with God in every way, did not demand of us. He relates to us as a man, not as God. Jesus does not flaunt His intellectual superiority so that we feel inferior. Jesus does not lord His authority over us, but He is our servant. We look upon the throne of God and we see a man who calls us His friend and brother. Are we greater than Christ? If Christ relates to us on our level, shouldn’t we relate to one another as He relates to us? In other words, before we say a word to someone or before we do an act, we need to allow the way Jesus relates to us inform our thinking. Subjecting to one another in the fear of Christ is to humble ourselves before others in the same way Christ humbles Himself to us. We are to forgive others as Christ forgive us. We are to show mercy and grace in the same way Christ show us mercy and grace. There are times we know more than others, but we are not to treat them as inferior just as Christ who knows everything patiently taught His disciples. There are times we have more power and strength than others, but we are not to overpower them or boss them as master just as Christ lovingly treated His disciples by being their servant. As a child, we are to obey our parents because God commands our obedience and He is worthy of our obedience. As a parent, in our fear of Christ, we are to love and care for our children as Christ loves and cares for us. As employees and employers, we are to subject ourselves to one another with the example of Christ the servant and Christ, the master. Christ is to be Lord over our relationships. We are to fear the Lord for His mighty power and strength. We are to fear the Lord for He is just. We are to fear the Lord because He commands every molecule in the Universe. Our Lord is without equal in power and wisdom. We are to fear the Lord because He uses His almighty power and wisdom for our good. We are to fall on our knees and worship the God who is gloriously merciful and forgiving. Because He is loving, we are to be loving. Glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by being Christ-fearing in our relationships.