Fear vs. Afraid

One of the teachings of mine that got me a “chew out” session in Vancouver, and probably even led to my later being labeled a “blasphemer”, was one I called “Fear vs. Afraid”. The premise of the teaching was that we must fear God, but we need not be afraid of God since we are "friends of God". 

Merriam Webster gives one definition of fear as profound reverence and awe especially toward God.” Afraid is defined as “filled with fear or apprehension.” The "fear" in this second definition being defined as, “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”  

Language is imperfect so our word "fear" in English can have somewhat opposite meanings. After giving this teaching, and apparently after someone misunderstood the concept, they then "reported me"  for teaching falsely and I was "called on the carpet". I attempted to explain this teaching to Bruce Leonard, who considered himself the "ruling elder" of Vancouver and Portland, but it fell on deaf ears. I found myself accused of being a false teacher. The push back I got on my statements; as the pendulum swung to the maximum possible position away from what I had actually said in the teaching; is  I was telling people they should not respect God. I actually said quite the opposite in my teaching. 

What I did say was to give the example of Abraham being a friend of God and not one who cowered in his presence, afraid he would be killed by God. I used part of  the letter James wrote to the twelve tribes when he states,

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.”

Moses too was able to speak to God "face to face". Since God is invisible this could only be presumed it was a representation of God, but who can really say. It is clear Moses held  favor with God as a friend allowing him to speak to face to face this way, without being afraid. When Moses returned from the mountain, with the ten commandments in hand, the people began to cower at the presence of God and were afraid of God. Moses immediately tells them not to be afraid of God so they can learn to respect his ways and not sin. Fear and afraid are polar opposites. Respectful fear causes one to embrace and respect God. Being afraid, on the other hand, drives one away from God.

In the letter Paul wrote to the Romans he stated

“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

Abraham had faith and it counted as righteousness. If we have faith, just like Abraham, it also counts to us as the same righteousness. Should we expect any less from God?

We are saved by grace, through faith, and not by anything we can possibly do for ourselves, same as Abraham. It is strictly having a complete trust in God. To trust in God is to fear (respect, revere) God. Being afraid and cowering indicates there is no trust in God and we must then turn and run away from God. Abraham, through his faith, not born out of his own works, became a “friend” of God.

In a letter to the Twelve Tribes, the Hebrew people, Paul wrote, 

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Paul understood the concept of fear vs. afraid. Fear, or respect, causes one to draw near to God out of reverence and trust. The one who is afraid of God, runs away from God instead and has no faith that God can save him. If Noah had cowered, and been afraid of God, he would not have built an ark and displayed his faith. He would have been  afraid the ark would not float, or the flood would overwhelm him. He revered the word of God and followed God's instructions.

David wrote in the Psalms,

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. 

God is a God of mercy. We need not cower and be afraid of God. We can come boldly to the throne of grace and ask for mercy at any time since we have a propitiation, a perpetual sacrifice. If we have proper faith, like those in the list in Hebrews; Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, and many more, we too can boldly come to God, without being afraid, knowing there is no condemnation placed on us. Knowing this, we can have an even greater reverence, or fear of God, without being afraid of God's wrath.

One of the teachings the ABC has is if one has a “soul sin” the only manner of forgiveness by God is to go to an elder and ask for anointing with oil. Having been an elder in the ABC, I found there were individuals that week after week after week had a “soul sin” and needed anointing over and over and over again. Really? That's just not possible. It was almost feeling, at times, like the next step beyond this would be to open a “confessional booth”. 

And what exactly is a “soul sin”? The only reference to this is Old Testament, primarily in Ezekiel, where it states the soul that sins will die. The old covenant was destroyed when we received the propitiation. Those who teach the propitiation is of no effect without human intervention are like the foolish Galatians who returned to following the law again and began arguing over circumcision. Paul wrote to them and said,

 "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

The ABC will quote the scripture in James that says,

 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

The ABC loves Greek words, so this word “sick” is the Greek word astheneo. This is no common sickness, and certainly does not refer to a "soul sin". It does not even directly refer to any sort of sin at all since it says, almost as an afterthought, "and if he have committed sin". IF! That's a big two letter word. 

I can give one prime example for the use of this type of anointing. In the ABC there was once a man named Horace who was a brilliant mathematician. When I first met him he was in his late eighties and had just finished contract work with NASA helping design the lunar rover. In a way, he was instrumental in helping put a man on the moon. A little later in life this man succumbed to some form of dementia after a stroke. He became, in this demented state, an "atheist" and recanted any belief in God. A meeting was  held to determine if this man was now a “blasphemer” and whether he had “lost his salvation”. There was no definitive outcome from the meeting but privately my father felt he had lost his salvation. Personally I felt this man was just weak, feeble, astheneo and worthy of God's grace and mercy. This is a time when the elders should have gone, anointed this person with oil, and IF this person had “sinned”, it would  be forgiven. This piece of scripture in James is not talking about a “soul sin”. No one need ask an elder to act as their high priest for forgiveness, counting the propitiation for sins of no effect.  This, in itself, Paul said, is tantamount to falling from grace. 

This doctrine is in place as a dependency measure. If one cannot find forgiveness without the services of an elder of the ABC, they are then captive and dependent on the ABC for mercy and grace, rather than be devoted to God and His mercy. 

Though some will disagree with me, we can be a friend of God just like Abraham. We don’t have to cower and be afraid of God like the Israelite people at Mt. Sinai. If we are less than perfect, there is no condemnation on us. We can boldly step up to the throne of grace at any time, without an elder, and, as a friend of God, ask for mercy and it will be granted. We have Jesus as our high priest now, not any man. 

If someone feels only Abraham had something special, it was written to the Galatians, 

 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

And if that is not defined enough, the gospel of John reads;

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

                                                         Jesus at the Last Supper


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