“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”
In the New American Commentary David Garland make this thought provoking observation: “It is said that whatever it is that one fears the most that is what one will serve the most.”
What do you fear the most in this life? In what ways can you see yourself serving that fear? Perhaps we could look at it this way: what do you serve to keep your fear at bay? Before I committed my life to Jesus Christ, it was fear of demonic evil that drove me toward salvation. I sought protection from Christ. I believed he had more power than what threatened me. Still do.
Now, if it is true that what we serve most is what we fear most, then it explains why so many people’s worship of God is half-hearted, and why sincere service among those who claim to believe in Jesus is so infrequent and weak. We simply do not fear God.
Failure to fear God may be the backlash from too much teaching on cheap grace. It is also the expected consequence of the widespread assumption: “I can do whatever I want; God won’t care.” We could see this as a relative of atheism. For all practical purposes, regardless of what one professes, without fear (deep respect) there can be no realistic faith in the God who created the universe and will call every person to account for their actions.
Paul always kept the judgment of God before him. He fully expected to be evaluated by Christ at the judgment bar of Christ. I do not believe that the Apostle feared that the verdict would go against him. He had confident faith that he was made right by Christ’s atoning death on the cross and victorious resurrection. However, he fully realized that everyone needs to be persuaded of the truth. The reality is, “It is appointed for everyone once to die, and then comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NLT).
Everyone will be judged and we all desperately need salvation from eternal condemnation. Concern for those who are headed for destruction drove Paul to persuade people by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus. “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6, NLT).
So, what do you serve? Could it be something that helps you suppress your fear? Some people serve addictions to alcohol and/or drugs to escape anxiety/worry, which is a type of fear. People absorb themselves in academics or their careers, distract themselves with entertainment and games, become obsessed with competition or personal projects, all to escape the fear of insignificance, loneliness and death.
“Fear God and you need fear nothing else” (Isaiah 8:13). Add to that, “Fear God and you will worship nothing else.” Fear God and every activity will be an act of worship, every act of service will be for his sake.