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The Fear of God: A Forgotten Doctrine

Arnold L. Frank

Reviewed by: Carl W. Bogue

Date posted: 07/05/2009

The Fear of God: A Forgotten Doctrine, by Arnold L. Frank. Published by Nordskog Publishing, 2008 (second edition). Paperback, 193 pages; list price $16.95. Reviewed by retired PCA pastor Carl W. Bogue.

The great Turretin profoundly declared that "to distinguish well is to teach well." Dr. Frank, in this much-needed work, exemplifies Turretin's description. Rich in citations from Scripture and the Puritans, the author anchors his thesis and his passion to what he calls a "perpetually godly fear." This is "a new kind of fear," which is a result of "the Spirit of adoption to fear," and which is "a promised consequence of those who are included in the Covenant of Grace" (Jer. 32:38–40).

Various chapters deal soberly with both ungodly and godly fear, with appropriate means to help those troubled with the spirit of bondage and servile fear. There is wonderfully practical counsel.

But what is exalted over and over is the "new kind of fear for a new kind of man," a fear that is God-given and God glorifying: "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me" (Jer. 32:40 KJV). The necessary fruit of the fear of God is loving obedience to God's law in opposition to antinomianism (Deut. 5:29). With a pastor's heart, and as one who has his doctrine straight, the author summarizes the believer's perspective: "The fear of God will never admit to the terror of God's wrath, yet true God-fearers will solemnly respect the chastening hand of God who will not tolerate sin in His children."

Two main areas of application concern worship and preaching. Worship without the fear of God is not possible. The 150 psalms, appropriate for the worship of God, "are redolent with references to the filial kind of fear." It is not unbelievers, but his "friends," who are strongly warned by Jesus about whom they should fear (Luke 12:5). "At the very least , the folksy familiarity, so typical today in many places, seems to be ruled out as having any place in His worship." The spiritual grace of a godly fear of God will be very evident in the worship of God.

The concern about preaching grew out of research over many years, documenting an alarming famine of preaching on the fear of God. A dearth of such belies the preaching of the whole counsel of God. Furthermore, if the thesis of this book is correct, one of the great means of grace for the salvation of sinners is absent from the arsenal of sermons in modern preaching. "'God loves you' cannot arouse a sinner to the fear of God." The fear of God is part of the covenant of grace (Jer. 32:38–41). In a lost and dying world, evangelism without a biblical understanding of the fear of God is ill suited to plead with men to call upon the name of the Lord.

This glorious theme is relentlessly hammered home in all of its multifaceted images until the reader is both exhausted and refreshed at the images of God's awesomeness and grace being worked out in the life of God's elect. This is an inspiring and much-needed book.

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