In AWE of God’s Judgment Unleashed

AWE: An overwhelming feeling of reverential respect or admiration mixed with fear or wonder.

Apologetics: a defense of our true faith; our giving answers for why we have true hope in Jesus Christ.

Acts 5:1-14 NLT - But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” 5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6 Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him. 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” “Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.” 9 And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.” 10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened. 12 The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. 14 Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women.

Acts 13:4-12 NLT - So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus. 5 There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant. 6 Afterward they traveled from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing. 9 Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. 10 Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? 11 Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him. 12 When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

Throughout the Bible - especially in the Old Testament, God’s judgment on those who continually defy and abandon Him is an unnerving reality in terms of understanding God’s holy justice. While most judgment we think of today refers to the final judgment seat of Christ, there are still occasions when God inflicts judgment on those He has called to repent. Some Corinthians experienced sickness and even death as God judged them for the divisive and selfish display of “worship” they displayed, culminating in their desecration of the Lord’s Supper. Yet God’s glory is often revealed by His people’s obedience or His judgment upon them. While the purpose for God doing so is a separate lesson, the reality is that when God judges - usually His people deepen their respect for Him and their desire to please Him.

In 1997, I recall being in a special church service in which I had brought a new believer. The minister was speaking with the notes he had prepared when all of the sudden he stopped. It was like he had just gotten slapped in the face as he stood in astonishment. He said that God had just shown him two individuals who had been given time and opportunity to repent of their sexual sins and perversions, but that tonight marked the end of God’s tolerance for their bringing their unrepentant sin into the church. Even though it was warning to only two people, the entire sanctuary was willed with the palpable sense of awe as it was not a manipulative or spiritually-weird pronouncement. Unprompted most of us immediately dropped to our knees and faces before God. Even though none of the prophetic warning applied to me, there was an almost involuntary need to confess, repent, and humble myself before God. Everyone else seemed to feel similarly as there was a holy dread, a deep awareness of the holiness of God we so often trivialize while taking mercy for granted. Awareness of God’s judgment produced a sense of palpable awe in which nobody wanted to have unresolved sin issues in their lives. While eventually the service “lightened up” after a thorough time of soul-searching, the new believer unfortunately discovered one of the two men crumpling up the pornography he’d brought into church with him and stuffing it into a bathroom garbage can before leaving the church in a hurry. The following day it was reported that the police arrested the other man for sex crimes. What is most astonishing is not that God’s judgment still occurs in such instances, but that He extends mercy far more than most of us ever would before He finally acts in holy justice. Yet, in His love for His Church, God may choose to execute judgment to usher in a new season of awe, signs, wonders, repentance, and spiritual hunger among His people. As God proved with Peter in Acts 5 and with Paul in Acts 13, even His divine judgment can prove to be very evangelistic. This aspect of holy awe is what Scripture rightly calls “the fear of the LORD.” The fear of the Lord, while not as popular today, is very necessary.

Proverbs 1:7a ESV - The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…

Psalm 33:8 ESV - Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!