God’s Word for You
Luke 12:4-5 Do not fear
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, August 6, 2018
Fear God, Not People
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you the one you should fear. Fear him who, after he has killed the body, has authority to throw it into hell. Yes, I tell you, he is the one to fear!
Verse 4 is plain but startling: Don’t be afraid of human beings. All a man can do is kill you, but after that, he can’t do anything else. The martyrs we sing about in the liturgy continue to praise God: “The white-robed army of martyrs praises you” (in the Te Deum our hymnal incorrectly prints “…martyrs praise you”). But just as the angels pray to God as they surround his throne (Zechariah 1:12) and are comforted by God (Zechariah 1:13), so also the souls who have been taken to heaven also cry out to God in praise (Revelation 4:9-13), join together in prayers (Revelation 6:9-10) and are answered by the Lord (Revelation 6:11). We will be reunited with our bodies on the Last Day without fail (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Nothing a human being can do can destroy your soul—the soul is immortal.
But there is one who can destroy the soul forever in hell after the body dies. This isn’t a destruction that ends in annihilation, it’s a destruction that continues on forever in agony and torment. The one who can do this isn’t the devil. The devil fears us, and he is terrified of the name of Jesus (1 Peter 5:9). This is why we should still be teaching our children to invoke the name of Jesus when they are afraid or in danger. It may seem quaint or old-fashioned to some, but Luther very rightly teaches in his Large Catechism:
“It helps us to form the habit of commending ourselves each day to God—our soul and body, wife, children, servants, and all that we have—for his protection against every conceivable need. Thus has originated and continued among us the custom of saying grace and returning thanks at meals and saying other prayers for both morning and evening. From the same source came the custom of children who cross themselves when they see or hear anything monstrous or fearful and exclaim, ‘Lord God, save us!’ ‘Help, dear Lord Christ!’ etc. Thus, too, if anyone meets with unexpected good fortune, however trivial, he should say, ‘God be praised and thanked!’ ‘This God has bestowed upon me!’ etc.” (par. 73-74).
This is simply the summary of God’s invitation in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
So if the devil is not the one to fear, then we must realize that the one who truly judges those who are sent to hell is God himself. He created hell as a place of punishment for the fallen angels: “God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). He is also the one who will condemn the unrighteous to hell, as Job showed when he prayed to God, “Do not condemn me” (Job 10:2). David also teaches this when he confesses: “The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:22).
We pray: “May your salvation, O God, protect me” (Psalm 69:29). “Protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7). “Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth” (Psalm 31:5). “Heal me and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved” (Jeremiah 17:14). “Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12), “Forgive my iniquity, though it is great” (Psalm 25:11). “Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me” (Psalm 71:2). God is the one to be feared, but he is also the one who saves; the only one who saves. He sent his Son to remove our burden of guilt, to ease our terrified consciences, and to invite us to trust in him for all we need. Whether your need is small today or something which has overshadowed all of your hope, look to your loving Lord and know that he holds you forever in his righteous right hand. He has given you the gift of your faith. He has given you many other things, perhaps a family and children, or parents who need your support. He will not abandon you and leave you without the means to take care of them or yourself. Trust in him, and remember that he loves you.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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