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YOUR FEARS ARE NOT WITHOUT A BASIS

(FEAR – THE MISSING ELEMENT #3)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, July 13, 2008
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).


This verse describes the condition of all people before they are converted. It is the high point of the Apostle’s argument, in Romans 3:9-20, showing that this is the condition of all unconverted men and women in the world. The Apostle’s argument for this truth is the climax which flows out from Romans 3:9, where he tells us that God has

“proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin”
      (Romans 3:9).

“Under sin,” that is, man under the complete dominion of sin, slaves to sin in their natural state as human beings. The Apostle goes on, in the following verses in this section, to prove that point. Then his argument rises to its highest crescendo in our text,

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

This condition is so universal that the Apostle makes no room for any exceptions. He tells us that the text applies to each and every member of the human race. That would of course include you, if you are unconverted. God says to you personally,

“There is no fear of God before [your] eyes” (Romans 3:18).

The Greek word “phobos” means “fear” not “awe” as the modern translations put it in Acts 2:43. To me their use of “awe” in place of “fear” in Acts 2:43 is “Scripture twisting.” Why should the same word “phobos” mean “awe” in Acts 2:43, but “fear” in Romans 3:18? I can find no excuse for them giving the now archaic usage of the word “awe” to translate such a clear word “phobos” as anything but “fear.” But I am afraid that the modern translators know very little about real conversion in our day, and I believe this is the reason they wrongly translated “phobos” in Acts 2:43 as “awe.” As we shall see this “twists” the meaning of a clear word in Scripture, at a very critical point, concerning those who heard the preaching of Peter and the other Apostles at Pentecost and directly afterwards. The people felt fear then, and they need to feel fear today as well! 

It is “fear” that people need to feel if they hope to be converted. But no person in an unconverted state feels fear, for our text says of them,

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

But when the Spirit of God comes upon a person, he will feel fear. This is made plain in the account of Pentecost, in Acts 2:43,

“And fear came upon every soul” (Acts 2:43).

What is this fear? For one thing, it is the fear of eternal punishment. When the Spirit of God convicts a man, he makes him think “of judgment” (John 16:8). He begins to feel that

“he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb”
      (Revelation 14:10).

Before, he thought little about Hell. Before, he only thought about “earthly things” (Philippians 3:19). Before, he only thought about doing well in school. Before, he only thought about having a good time. Before, he was only concerned about being successful and making money. Before, he only thought about “things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). Before, there was “no fear of God before [his] eyes” (Romans 3:18).

But now, fear comes upon his soul (Acts 2:43). But now he begins to think of eternity. But now he thinks about the fire in Hell that awaits him. But now he is often reminded of the words of Christ,

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment”
      (Matthew 25:46).

Dr. Nettleton said,

It is no surprising thing that [you] should be under conviction. If what has been said is true, that the sinner is condemned to eternal death, and every moment is in danger of being lost forever, it is not surprising that [you] should be alarmed…And here permit me to ask, are there any [of you] who are listening to my voice, who begin to feel that [you] are condemned, and that not one of [your] sins is [forgiven]? If [you are not in] Christ, let me tell you, your fears are not without foundation [not without a basis]. You are condemned, and O that you might realize it more and more (Asahel Nettleton, D.D., “Causes of Alarm to Awakened Sinners,” Sermons from the Second Great Awakening, International Outreach, 1995, pages 418-419).

Again, do you ever think about going

“into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched” (Mark 9:43)?

Dr. Nettleton said,

Again – do…you begin to fear that you are [damned] to eternal punishment? If [you are not in] Christ, your fears are not without foundation [not without a basis]. It is [the truth]; and O that you might realize it more and more (Nettleton, ibid.).

Again, you will feel the uncertainty, the awful uncertainty, of your life. When the Spirit of God comes upon you, you will see that,

“in a moment [you will] go down to the grave” (Job 21:13).

Did not God say,

“I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee” (Exodus 33:5)?

“For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).

The awful uncertainty of your life, and the fact that you will go down to the grave “in a moment,” will then cause you to feel fearful (Acts 2:43). Dr. Nettleton said,

Again – do…you begin to realize the uncertainty of your life? Do you tremble lest you should be suddenly cut down by the stroke of death, and [rushed off] to a miserable eternity [in Hell]? If [you are not in] Christ, your fears are not without foundation [not without a basis]. You are in such a danger… And O that you might realize it more and more (Nettleton, ibid.).

Again, do you fear that the Spirit of God may stop striving with you? Do you fear that God may leave you alone, and never again prick your conscience, and never cause you to fear? Are you afraid that God will leave you and never make you fearful, and never convict you of your sin? The Bible says this is a real danger. 

“And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3).

Do those words trouble you? Are you afraid that God may leave you the way you are? Are you afraid that you may never be converted? Dr. Nettleton said,

Again – do…you fear that the Spirit of God may [stop striving] with you? Your fears are not without foundation [not without a basis]. There is a great danger that the Spirit will [stop striving with you]. Many who were as anxious as you are, have gone back to stupidity, and have lost their souls…If you resist the Spirit, and turn back to stupidity, there is the greatest reason to fear that you will [sleep] on…[until] you perish [in Hell] (Nettleton, ibid., pp. 419-420).

Again, do you fear that you may never be forgiven of your sins? At your death, will it be said of you,

“He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still” (Revelation 22:11)?

Dr. Nettleton said,

Again – do…you begin to fear that you [will] never be forgiven? Let me tell you, your fears are not without foundation [not without a basis]. It is an awful uncertainty whether your sins will ever be [forgiven]. And O that you might realize it more and more (Nettleton, ibid., p. 419).

I saw the opening gates of hell,
   With endless pains, and sorrows there,
Which none but they that feel can tell,
   While I was hurried to despair.   (Anonymous)
Look down, my soul, on hell’s domains,
   That world of agony and pains!
(John Ryland, 1777).

Again, do you fear that, if you do not come to Christ now, you may never again have the opportunity? Is there any of that fear in you when you read the Scripture that says,

“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found” (Isaiah 55:6)?

Doesn’t this strongly imply there will come a time when Christ cannot be found? When the Spirit of God is gone, perhaps never to return to you, how then will you be able to find Christ Jesus? How will you then be able to come to Him then?  Timothy Dwight, a great evangelist of the Second Great Awakening, said,

Ye sinners, fear the Lord,
   While still ‘tis called to-day:
Soon will the awful voice of death
   Command your souls away.

Soon will the harvest close,
   The summer soon be o’er,
Oh sinners then your injured God
   Will hear your prayers no more.

Then while ‘tis called to-day,
   Oh hear the gospel sound;
Come, sinner, hurry, come away
   While Christ may still be found.
(“The Day of Grace” by Timothy Dwight, 1752-1817;
       altered slightly by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.).

Please stand and sing the last song on your song sheet. Sing out strongly!

There’s a line that is drawn by rejecting our Lord,
   Where the call of His Spirit is lost,
And you hurry along with the pleasure-mad throng,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?
Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost,
   Tho’ you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?
(“Have You Counted the Cost?” by A. J. Hodge, 1923).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 3:9-18.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“If You Linger Too Long” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).