Fear is a Barrier to Faith

Today we look into Luke 12:4-12, focusing on one verse Luke 12:5. The point is that Jesus needed to address the fears of his would-be followers, fears that would prevent them from repenting and believing. Fear of making your faith known, or going public, can be a real barrier to one’s salvation (Proverbs 29:25). Another perk of this lesson is to help believers to talk with lost friends about the fears that they have about following Jesus Christ. Once a person is a follower of Jesus, our love for him casts out fear (1 John 4:17-18). The one fear that should cast out all other fears is the fear of God (Luke 12:5, Hebrews 2:14-15, 9:27).

The Pharisee in Luke 11 acts like a friend in public (even inviting Jesus to dinner) but his hidden agenda is revealed in Luke 11:53-54. They intended to execute Jesus within a couple of months but since the crowds liked Jesus, they had to treat him in a civil manner while in public. Jesus knows about their plots yet is unafraid. They might be able to kill the body, but eternity is not in their hands. So, this situation begs the question, “Do you cower before bullies who can kill you, or cower before God who can not only kill you but throw you into hell?” Don’t be afraid of other human beings!

It appears that “do not fear” is a repeated phrase in the Bible, when people were afraid to publicly profess faith in Jesus (Luke 12:5, 7, see also John 7:13, 9:22, 19:38), and the rest of the Bible (Acts 18:9, Hebrew 13:6, 1 Peter 3:14, Revelation 2:10).

  1. Of what was Christ’s audience afraid (Luke 12:8, 11)?
    1. All they could do is threaten physical harm or make life miserable (Luke 12:11).
    2. People could be put out of the synagogue (John 9:22, 7:13).
    3. Many who came to Christ were disowned by their families, lost employment, or socially snubbed.
  2. How does Jesus address his audience (Luke 12:4)? He calls them his friends which is totally opposite to the hostility of the religious leaders. Don’t fear them, they cannot harm you past the grave.
  3. What would be forfeited if his hearers confessed Christ before men (Luke 12:4)? The worst thing would be their own lives, but even that would be a promotion, to heaven.
  4. What did Jesus command them to do (Luke 12:5, 7)? Here is the command:
    1. Fear – aorist imperative (Luke 12:5).
    2. Do not fear – present imperative (Luke 12:7).
  5. Who has the power to cast anyone into hell (Luke 12:5)? God (not Satan) is the “One” in Luke 12:5.
  6. How does the Bible describe hell? The word “gehanna” is found 12 times in the New Testament, 11 in the Synoptic Gospels, and every time it is from the mouth of Jesus himself. Gehenna is a Greek transliteration of Ben Hinnom (valley of Hinnom), a narrow ravine where Ahaz and Manasseh introduced pagan worship of the fire gods (2 Chronicles 28:3, 33:16, Jeremiah 7:31). People would take their babies and toss them into the red-hot arms of Molech, where the children would scream and cry as their flesh burned. Josiah stopped this abomination (2 Kings 23:10). This location later became a trash dump, like an incinerator for the city. Dead criminals were tossed in, dead animals, trash, it was continually burning, so with smoke rising, Jesus gives the people a visual image of what hell would be like. It is important to note that hell is NOT annihilation (See below).
    1. Matthew 13:42 – furnace, with weeping and gnashing of teeth, a loud expression of grief; wailing in hell will be continual. Who could recognize a friend’s voice in such an environment?
    2. Matthew 25:41 – a place prepared for the devil and his demons.
    3. Matthew 25:46 – eternal punishment, indicating a tormenting process that is accompanied by fear.
    4. Mark 9:48 – where worms don’t die and the fire is not quenched; Not only will fire not give off light, but does not consume the bodies of the unredeemed.
    5. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 – eternal destruction, perhaps physical ruin.
    6. 2 Peter 2:17, Jude 1:13 – black darkness, literally “blackness of darkness.” People might say that will be in hell where their friends are, but it will be so dark, they won’t be able to grope around and find them. Imagine being in a new place, where it’s hot (as hell) and dark with no light at all (like a cave in darkness).
    7. Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 14, 21:8 – the second death, “hurt” indicates the person’s body being injured.
    8. Revelation 19:20, 20:10, 14, 21:8 – a lake of fire and brimstone, a place for unbelievers after the Great White Throne judgment.
  7. How does Jesus encourage them to go public (Luke 12:6-7)? He promised them a Father’s care.
    1. Sparrows are insignificant yet God cares for them, so how much more will the Father care for them?
    2. The word “cent” means a penny. They were sold five for two pennies, so if you bought four, they would throw in one for nothing.
  8. What does it mean to confess Christ before men (Luke 12:8)? The word “confess” is used 27 times in the New Testament, meaning to affirm, declare, admit, acknowledge, or agree. This means to confess openly or state publicly.
  9. What happens to those who don’t confess Jesus before men (Luke 12:9)? A denial in heaven, I never knew you (Matthew 7:21).
  10. Can a person deny Christ yet still be a Christian (Matthew 10:32-33, 2 Timothy 2:12, 1 John 2:23)?
    1. Luke 22:54-62 – Peter’s denials.
    2. Romans 10:9-10 – the relationship between belief and confession.
    3. Titus 1:16 – relationship between belief and by our deeds denying him.
    4. 1 John 2:22 – denying Jesus, lying, antichrist.
  11. Why does Jesus warn against blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:10)? The audience was in danger of committing the unpardonable sin (seeing the miracles of Jesus in the flesh and attributing these works to the enemy, Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:29-30).
  12. What does Christ promise in Luke 12:11-12? Divine assistance when their faith led them into harm’s way.
    1. This is a striking contrast to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, because believers will find that the Holy Spirit actually speaks through them.
    2. The circumstances of the Spirit speaking through believers is not preaching but persecution, in which preparation of an adequate defense would be impossible (Matthew 10:19-20, Luke 21:14-15).
      1. We should not neglect this needed preparation (2 Timothy 2:15).
      2. Luke 12:11-12 address those occasions that you don’t even know they are coming, when you will be taken away and made to give an account for the hope inside of you (1 Peter 3:15).
    3. Jesus’ enemies blasphemed the Holy Spirit while the disciples would be helped by the Holy Spirit.

What About Annihilation?

Many scholars have abandoned this traditional view on hell, which can also lead to Universalism as well. John Stott has four arguments to support his position, and then I have included a response under each point.

  1. The language of eternal punishment speaks of destruction, which normally means extinction.
    1. John 3:16 – perish means to destroy utterly, this is not extinction but ruin and loss, not of being but well-being.
    2. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 – destruction means utter and hopeless ruin, the loss of all that gives worth to existence. So Paul refers to physical separation (God and the lost) more than physical annihilation.
    3. Revelation 2:11 – this hurt will be experienced throughout eternity, the idea of a person’s body being injured.
  2. The imagery of fire is for destruction, not torment (fire burns things up).
    1. Revelation 20:10 – this is sort of point blank in response to points one and two, tormented day and night forever.
    2. Revelation 14:9-11 – torment goes on forever, no rest day and night.
  3. The notion of justice precludes eternal punishment. How can sins committed in time be punished for eternity? Where is the justice? The penalty inflicted ought to be according to the evil done.
    1. The amount of time it takes to commit the crime does not factor into the punishment. If I kill a store owner in two minutes, the judge won’t take that into consideration.
    2. It’s not about the time it takes to commit a crime but the nature of the crime. It’s not about how long we sin, but what sin is.
    3. The nature of sin is an act of rebellion against an infinite and holy God, which brings an eternal penalty. Threatening to kill me is not as serious as a threat to kill the President of the USA.
    4. A crime against the Creator brings a penalty worthy of the sin committed. Humans can never pay the penalty we deserve. We often forget the holiness of God and the true nature of our sin.
  4. The eternal existence of hell would not bring everything fully into a right relationship with God.
    1. Revelation 19:1-6 – God’s judgments are true and righteous, he has avenged the blood of the saints, the smoke rises forever…
    2. Revelation 18:20 – rejoice over the pronounced judgment. God’s righteousness has been revealed in the destruction of his enemies.
    3. God’s wrath is an occasion for God’s glory…
      1. Revelation 19:1 – the outpouring of God’s wrath against sin highlights the mercy shown in saving grace.
      2. Revelation 19:2a – the outpouring of God’s wrath displays his righteousness.
      3. Revelation 19:2b – the outpouring of God’s wrath confirms his love for the saints (or they suffered in vain).
      4. Revelation 19:5 – the outpouring of God’s wrath magnifies the holy fear that is due him.
      5. Revelation 19:6 – the outpouring of God’s wrath proves that the sovereign Lord is Ruler over everything, the Lord reigns. All his enemies will be brought under his authority.

Take Away:

  1. How do you feel about everything done in secret being revealed (Luke 12:2-3)?
  2. Jesus teaches us to fear yet be fearless (Luke 12:4-5).
  3. How can we be assured that we have not committed the unpardonable sin (Luke 12:10)?
  4. What is Jesus teaching about the disciple’s security in the face of opposition (Luke 12:11)?
  5. When have you taken a stand (a risk) for Jesus in a public way? What did you learn?
  6. How can you remind yourself of your importance to God each day this week?
  7. How can we pray for those who suffer due to their relationship with Jesus?
  8. What is a step you can take to better prepare yourself for coming persecution?

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

 

 

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