J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) on fearing God rather than men

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“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him, which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28

“Luke records a similar saying of Jesus: “But I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear. Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him.” There are those who tell us that fear ought to be banished from religion; we ought, it is said, no more to hold before men’s eyes the fear of hell; fear, it is said, is an ignoble thing. Those who speak in this way certainly have no right to appeal to Jesus; for Jesus certainly did employ, and insistently, the motive of fear. If you eschew altogether that motive in religion, you are in striking contradiction to Jesus. Here, as at many other points, a choice must be made between the real Jesus and much that falsely bears His name today. But which is right? Is Jesus right, or are those right who put out of their minds the fear of hell? Is fear altogether an ignoble thing? Is a man necessarily degraded by being afraid?”

“I think, my friends, that it depends altogether upon that of which one is afraid. The words of our text, with the solemn inculcation of fear, are also a ringing denunciation of fear: the “Fear him” is balanced by “Fear not.” The fear of God is here made a way of overcoming the fear of man. And the heroic centuries of Christian history have provided abundant testimony to its efficaciousness. With the fear of God before their eyes, the heroes of the faith have boldly stood before kings and governors and said, ‘Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me, Amen’.”

– J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), God Transcendent

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