Do You Know God-Fearing People Who are Not of The Faith?
One of my first post-college ministry experiences was as a Youth Director in Southern California. I encountered several upright moral people who did not believe in Jesus Christ but who truly “feared God.” I was shocked! They were not only God-fearing but appeared to be moral in nearly every area of life. It was refreshing and yet, if I’m honest, a little disconcerting. How could this be? They were not followers of Christ! And at the same time, many of the Christians I knew seemed to live with less of a moral compass than these God-fearing friends. In the end, I embraced these friends all the while inquiring about their lives. How were they raised? Did they truly look to the God of the Bible? What do they think about Jesus Christ? Their lives motived me to be more obedient in following Jesus Christ and to live holy (Ephesians 1:4)
Is There Any Fear of God in this Place?
In the context of Genesis 20:11 Abraham attempted to keep secret from the king of Gerar, Abimelech, that Sarah was his wife. Abimelech questions him as to why he would lie and Abraham makes a rather profound statement. He says, “surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.”
Abraham acknowledged there can be good, God-fearing people outside of one’s own faith. This is an important lesson for people of all faiths; it is a life-changing moment in the life of a religious person like me, as a follower of Christ, when I meet someone of another faith who is religious and ethical as I think I am! When that happens, I can begin to do as the Prophet Micah, instructs, “Walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). I also have taken the occasion to talk to such God fearing people about our Lord Jesus Christ and how He was, and is, God-in-the-flesh (John 1:14) and that their upright life is a confirmation of the excellence of living such a moral life, as the Bible defines it. By supporting their behavior it affirms the best life for someone to live and it is the moral code of the Bible. In fact, I have been very direct with people and suggest that if they are truly seeking the God of the Bible, they will end up finding Jesus Christ. Please muse over what Jesus said in John 6:37; 44, 45b,
37 “However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.”
44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,…“
45b “…Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me.”
For much of Western history, decent men and women were often referred to as “God-fearing.” It was a compliment. But in our secular age, and even in many evangelical churches, the term is rarely used. In fact, that description is widely considered a foolish anachronism (something belonging to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned). Nevertheless, the concept is morally vital!
The presence of God-fearing people from Torah is startling when we consider those wonderfully brave midwives. After studying the book of Exodus and reading about these women I began to research the types of God-fearing people that are mentioned throughout the Scriptures and especially in the New Testament. I discovered that many people who feared God became followers of Christ.
They have different names but in essence all had a reverential respect and Fear of God Almighty.
As an aside…In my last teaching, I described the fear of the Lord as,
The ever-present awareness of God watching us and seeing us
One of the magnificent names of God is Yahweh Roi—the God who Sees. This name is first mentioned in the Scriptures in Genesis 16:11-14, where we are the object of His constant gracious attention and righteous eyes.
Below are seven titles of God-fearing people found in the New Testament:
• They are called God-fearing Jews (Acts 2:5)
• Worshippers of God (Lydia Acts 16:40)
• Devout men (Acts 2:5)
• God-fearing women and prominent women (Acts 13:50;17:4)
• God-fearing Gentiles (Acts 13:26;17:4,17)
• Proselytes to Judaism, (Acts 13:43)
• A worthy person, or some call him a person of peace (Matthew 10:11)
I additionally reference one of my favorite God-fearing men—Cornelius!
1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” – Acts 10:1-2 NIV
OK, when I get to heaven, I want to meet this guy Cornelius! It is obvious I will be able to recognize him in his centurion uniform and armor☺. At this moment as I am typing this teaching, and re-reading the accounts that transpired in Acts, I am awe-struck! The Spirit of God so moved that He ushered in the mission field of the Gentiles. Peter was shocked that our Sovereign God could and would reach out to those he thought were less likely to respond to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Being steeped in Judaism, it was even harder for him to believe that an unclean Gentile could deserve to know Christ, let alone follow Him in obedience.
What is all this talk about Cyrus?
Cornelius reminds me of Cyrus who was the only gentile king in the Bible said to be “anointed.” Cyrus was a Persian King (559-530 BC) of his vast empire that would allow God’s city, Jerusalem, to be rebuilt. He would set the exiles free without expecting anything in return. Few kings of Israel or of Judah had done as much for God’s people as Cyrus did. By the way, I have so much fun talking to Persians (present day people from Iran) about their great historical King. Their eyes light up when I reference him and how God used him to protect the Jews. They always seem surprised that a common gentile and Christ follower, like myself, would hold such a high respect for one of their kings. When I tell them we have a picture of Cyrus and his wife in our home (the one pictured introducing this article) they are always intrigued which typically leads to further conversations.
Cyrus is one of the reasons people point to President Trump, as a type of Cyrus. Although Trump has not had a history of being a Christian, he has actually done more for Israel, like moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, supporting persecuted Christians around the world by recognizing their plight, and allowing more Christian immigrants to America and other countries than any other so-called Christian President. How refreshing is this!
Sometimes it takes men and women who aren’t professing Christ-followers or Jewish Covenant keepers to accomplish God’s purposes! I don’t think our Lord is as picky as we sometimes are as to whom He uses. Usually they are endowed with the rarest of Christians attributes—COURAGE! Courage is the rarest of all good traits. There are far more kind and honest people than there are courageous people. This reality expands my understanding of God’s Sovereignty as well as fosters a deep humility when I find moral, upright, and God-fearing people who do not align themselves with Christ.
Since leaving the institutional church where I so often interacted with people like me and was so focused on the business of leading a church, my spiritual eyes have been a little clearer in grasping our magnificent Sovereign Yahweh. It has also expanded my understanding of how our Father God is drawing people to himself who are not in the so called mainstream of Christendom. After all, Revelation 7:9 instructs us as to how multitudes of those from all nations will worship the Lamb (Jesus Christ)!
“9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a great roar, ‘Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!’” – Revelation 7:9-10 NLT
Even though the text in Ezra does not literally say Cyrus was “God-fearing,” we know from Ezra 1:1-4 that somehow he had come to recognize the God of creation for from his own mouth he said, “The LORD, the God of heaven…” – Ezra 1:2 NLT. It may be that the prophet Daniel, who according to the Jewish historian Josephus, was Cyrus’ prime minister, led him to this conviction.
What is equally as startling is the fact that Isaiah prophesied and named Cyrus 150 years before he ruled over Persia as we discover in Isaiah 44:28, “When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command, ‘Rebuild Jerusalem’; he will say, ‘Restore the Temple.”
Later historians said that Cyrus read this prophecy and was so moved that he carried it out!
2 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” – Ezra 1:2
So Now What?
First: Ask the Spirit of God to grant you the ability to recognize these wonderful people around you. They are there! If you can recognize them, it is an indication that you are secure in Christ, and you recognize that God uses all kinds of people who, often times, reflect his moral code even if they don’t yet know Christ.
Many times, I have affirmed people’s righteous behavior and identify it as a biblical value or directive. Just recently I authenticated a biblical practice that my staunch atheist friend was living out. He said with a somewhat surprised demeanor, “Really, that is a Biblical command?” You see I think that some people will eventually come to Christ because they will recognize the goodness of God in their lives. Stand back and marvel at the verse below!
“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? – Romans 2:4 NASB
I almost always make a concerted effort to talk to them about Jesus Christ but I also confess that I ought to get more specific about repentance with them☹.
Please remember— the more you know the more you see!
Second: Look up the Scriptures in this article and lead a discussion group
Third: Answer this question honestly: How are you doing in the area of balance with regard to the fear of the Lord and the love of God?
Check the following that applies most to you:
° I pretty much emphasize God’s love exclusively
° I have a tendency to lean toward the fear of God
° I strike a pretty good balance of holding love for God and the fear of God in tandem.
Hey, Thanks for reading this and attempting to integrate these truths into your life!
Pass this teaching on if it makes sense to you.