Fear Of Falling?

Fear Of Falling?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

It is commonly cited that human beings are only born with two fears–the fear of loud sounds and the fear of falling. These are called “innate fears” (Chaoran and Quin, nih.gov). An interesting word is found ten times in the New Testament. The word has a range of meanings, including to fall from some point to another, to be blown off course and run aground, to change from better to worse, or become inadequate for some function (BDAG, 308). The word is used three times in Acts 27 in the nautical sense, describing Paul’s ship running aground. It is used two other times in Acts to speak of something falling off, either Peter’s chains (12:7) or the ship’s ropes (27:32). Two times in the epistles, the word is used of flowers falling off (Jas. 1:11; 1 Pet. 1:24). Once, Paul says that God’s word has not, will not, and cannot become inadequate (Rom. 9:6). 

The other two occurrences, Galatians 5:4 and 2 Peter 3:17, speak of a possibility of another type of falling and failing. Paul mentions “falling from grace” and Peter “falling from your own steadfastness.” This is a synonymous idea. 

Paul tells the Galatians that they were free (Gal. 5:1). By faith, they had hope (Gal. 5:5) and they were running well (Gal. 5:7). But they were allowing themselves to be enslaved (Gal. 5:1), under obligation (Gal. 5:3), hindered (Gal. 5:7), and the like. In verse four, Paul says, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” In their case, the temptation was trying to be saved by something other than the sacrifice of Christ. Such an effort led them to fall from grace.

Peter tells his audience to live holy, godly lives (2 Pet. 3:11) anticipating Christ’s return (2 Pet. 3:12). Christ is coming again and this earth and universe will be burned up (2 Pet. 3:10). We look for new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13), seeking to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless (2 Pet. 3:14) and growing in grace and knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18). However, if we are susceptible to those who distort the truth (2 Pet. 3:16), we could be carried away by unprincipled men and “fall from [our] own steadfastness” (2 Pet. 3:17). 

In these two passages, these apostles are trying to instill a healthy fear of falling into these Christians. No, they did not want them cowering in fear and ever uncertain about their spiritual condition. They wanted them to reject false ideas and teachings that would lead them to fall from steadfastness and grace to instability and condemnation (cf. 1 Tim. 3:6). They did not want them blown off spiritual course and shipwreck their faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:19). They did not want them to change from saved to lost (cf. 2 Pet. 2:20). They did not want them disqualified from their spiritual inheritance (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27). 

The fear of falling that is so natural to a child should live inside of us to keep us from venturing beyond the bounds of spiritual safety. It should also drive us deeper into the loving arms of divine protection. Jesus makes a beautiful statement that eliminates fear of falling if it keeps us trusting in God’s guiding hand. Jesus wrote, “And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29). What safer place is there? Let’s stay in His hand and eliminate the fear of falling! 

Neal Pollard

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