Lately I have been thinking and praying a lot about taking on more active responsibility as a Christian. I’m asking God to help me with the fears of the unknown–you know, those intimidating “what if’s” concerning matters we have little or no experience with? According to Scripture, there is nothing we should ultimately fear except God, and when we are called to take brave steps, we should answer that call. When God called Paul He said, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you…” (Acts 18:9-10 ESV). David also wrote, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6 ESV).
There is however a sense in which we do fear men. The familiar biblical phrase “fear and trembling” is used a number of times by Paul, and in one of those instances it refers to the servant-master relationship. Let’s look at the text below:
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. (Ephesians 6:5-9 ESV)
If viewed independently, the phrase “obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” could be applied in a strictly horizontal relationship. By “horizontal” I mean the relationship pertains only to servant and master. No other parties are involved. God is absent. But Paul clarifies his statement by explaining the present and more important vertical relationship. Don’t fear your master as a “people-pleaser,” says Paul, but fear your master as a bondservant to Christ. Christ is the ultimate focal point for the servant in the servant-master relationship. Servants do not fear their masters to impress “by way of eye service”; servants fear their masters to impress and glorify Christ. We only fear men in authority over us “as unto the Lord.” We do not fear men in and of themselves. We recognize men’s authority, but we only respect and submit to that authority as much as that authority is subject to and inferior to the authority of God’s Word and His glory.