As Christian believers who have been justified by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, is it right that we should fear God? In one sense, of course, the answer must be ‘no’. John assures us that
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1)
However, in another sense, the answer is ‘yes’! The psalmist wrote, Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him.(2) Furthermore we are told in an early report about the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria that living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.(3)
That tension between two opposite ideas is captured in the record of the Israelites at Sinai where they were not to be afraid but were, certainly, to fear their God:
Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’ (4)
Fear is a state of alarm, anxiety and concern about possible danger or pain. But it can also mean respect, awe and reverence. As we have seen, the Bible mentions both types of fear. The first type is negative and will drag us down. The oth er is a reverential awe of our great God, acknowledging his power, glory and all other attributes.
The fear of the Lord is a positive thing that will keep us from doing wrong. In fact, it is said of those who are condemned for their foolish behaviour that, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”(5) and, according to Proverbs, To fear the LORD is to hate evil.(6)
The Christian writer, AW Tozer, put it like this:
‘The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid – that is the paradox of faith.’(7)
Samuel, one of the great spokesmen for God, put the fear of the Lord at the top of good and right things to pursue:
I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.(8)
So this reverential fear for God will cause us to faithfully seek out the right ways and to meditate on what God has done for us.
The fear of the Lord brings with it humility, repentance and a sense of trembling.(9) But why? When we recognise the greatness of our creator God we realise how small we really are. When we think of God’s holiness we are struck by our own sinfulness and when we read and meditate on what God tells us in the Bible we ought to have a sense of trembling. One writer put it like this:
‘It would be insane to think we can just stroll up to the Creator of the universe and have a cavalier spirit. We are blind if we think we can do that without trembling.’(10)
Furthermore, considering the Lord as the one before whom we will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ brings a sobering sense of fear – that we should order our lives in such a way as to be confident as we make it our goal to please him.(11)
So the Bible teaches us that the fear of the Lord is our duty;(12) it brings a right understanding of our relationship to God.(13) It encourages us to turn away from unrighteous behaviour and it brings wisdom.(14) It teaches us the reason we should be good employees(15) and why we should serve God faithfully.(16) Some of these themes will be looked at in the coming months, God willing.
References: (1) 1 John 4:18 (2) Ps. 128:1 (3) Acts 9:31 (4) Ex. 20:20 (5) Rom. 3:18, quoting Ps. 36:1 (6) Prov. 8:13 (7) Tozer, AW, 1996, The Knowledge of the Holy, OM Publishing (8) 1 Sam. 12:23b-24 (9) See Is. 66:2 (10) John Piper, https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-does-it-mean-for-thechristian-to-fear-god/ (11) 2 Cor. 5:9 in the context of verses 1-11 (12) See Eccles. 12:13 (13) Luke
12:4-5 (14) Prov. 9:10 (15) Col. 3:22 (16) Josh. 24:14
David Webster, Liverpool, England
Bible quotations from the NIV (2011)