Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Reverence for Jesus is the Fear of Jehovah

originally posted 6/6/2015

The following is a reworking of an excerpt of another blogpost.

Repeatedly in the Old there is a reference to the "fear of the LORD" the one true Almighty God (i.e. Jehovah/Yahweh). For example, Ps. 19:9; 34:11; 111:10; Prov. 1:7, 29; 2:5; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:26-27; 15:16, 33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17; Isa. 11:2-3; 33:6.

The most famous being Prov. 1:7

The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge; [But] the foolish despise wisdom and instruction. (ASV)
Given Old Testament monotheism, no one is worthy or deserving of this kind of fear and reverence other than Almighty God. Yet, in the New Testament we find that very reverence and fear that belongs to Almighty God alone being directed towards Jesus Christ/Messiah. How could this be other than that Jesus is Almighty God either in the Trinitarian sense or the Sabellian/Modalistic sense.

The following are some of the passages where Jesus is being reverence or feared in this way. Or where Christians are encouraged to reverence/fear Jesus in this way.

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1 Pet. 3:14-15 COMPARE WITH Isa. 8:12-14;

 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,- 1 Pet. 3:14-15
 12 "Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.- Isa. 8:12-14

The author of 1 Peter seems to apply an Old Testament passage to Christ. Instead of fearing and being troubled by those who might persecute Christians on account of their righteousness (1 Pet. 3:14), Christians ought to fear and sanctify Christ (verse 15). Fearing YHWH in the Old Testament is either replaced or fulfilled or now shared with honoring the Lord Jesus since Peter is quoting Isa. 8:12-14. Notice what Isa. 8:13 specifically states, "But the LORD [i.e. Jehovah/Yahweh] of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."This parallels exactly what Peter states in 1 Pet. 3:15, "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy..."

Interestingly, Isa. 8:14 also refers to a "a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling" and that passage is applied by the same author of 1 Peter to Jesus in the previous chapter (1 Pet. 2:7-8).
To repeat, we are commanded to sanctify (i.e. regard and treat as holy) Christ in the same way as (and in fulfillment of) Isa. 8:13. This corresponds to John 5:23 which states that we are to honor the Son just as we honor the Father. It therefore, makes most sense to conclude that Jesus is Jehovah and/or possesses the nature of Jehovah.

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2 Cor. 5:11; Eph. 5:21; Col. 3:22ff. COMPARE WITH Prov. 1:7; Ps. 34:11 and many other Old Testament passages
In 2 Cor. 5:11 the phrase "the fear of the Lord" is evidently used to refer to Jesus. Yet, that same phrase is repeatedly used of Jehovah in the Old Testament many, many times.

Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.- Ps. 34:11

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.- Prov. 1:7

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
11    Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.- 2 Cor. 5:11 [verse 10 makes it clear that the "Lord" here is Christ]

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and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.- Eph. 5:21 NASB

 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.- Eph. 5:21 ESV

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22 Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.- Col. 3:22-24 ESV

The objection might be raised that Paul's admonition Col. 3:22-24 seems to parallel his admonition in Eph. 6:5-6

5    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,- Eph. 6:5-6
A Unitarian might say that Paul is obviously not advocating obedience and fear toward human masters exactly in the same way one would obey and fear Christ. Therefore, neither is Paul advocating obedience and fear toward Christ in exactly the same way toward Almighty God. However, the other passages actually do make direct application of Old Testament passages regarding Jehovah to Jesus in many areas (see my blogpost Identifying Jesus with Yahweh/Jehovah). And so the comparison is not comparable.
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 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?- 1 Cor. 10:22 ESV
For a fuller elaboration, see my blog The "Cup and Table of the Lord" As Evidence for Christ's Full Deity

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Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.'- Luke 20:13 [KJV and ASV have "reverence" for "respect"; cf. Matt. 21:37; Mark 12:6]
Obviously, in this parable the owner (representing God the Father) expects the tenants to respect/reverence/fear his son (representing Jesus) in the same way they ought to himself. One shouldn't squeeze out more Trinitarian theology than is actually there. At the very least this parable is in agreement with John 5:23.

 Other possible, but less likely, relevant passages include Acts 9:31; 19:17; Heb. 13:6

 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.- Acts 9:31

It's not impossible that the phrase "fear of the Lord" here refers to Jesus. If it does, then it parallels the corresponding Old Testament phrase.

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 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.- Acts 19:17

It's not impossible for Luke to be connecting the "fear [that] fell upon them" Jesus and the Old Testament "fear of Jehovah." However, the connection is not certain.

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So we can confidently say,
    "The Lord is my helper;
        I will not fear;
    what can man do to me?"- Heb. 13:6
 Fearing Jehovah entails not fearing anyone else. IF the "Lord" in Heb. 13:6 refers to Christ, then this is another Old Testament passage referring to Jehovah that's applied to Jesus (Ps. 118:7).

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