If we are not to fear God, why does the Bible command us to fear Him?
By Don Ruhl
If you saw lightnings and a thick cloud, and heard thunderings and a loud trumpet, and knew God was present, would you enter the the mountain? (See Exo 19.16).
Many do not understand the fear of God, thinking that fearing God is opposed to loving God. Is fearing God in opposition to loving God, or is this a proverb of ashes?
There are different kinds of fear, some of which are opposed to loving God. The over-generalization occurs when people say that all fear is wrong and unhealthy. Since the Bible does command us to fear God (as we shall see), it is imperative that we understand this topic biblically, instead of following the ideas of man, for if we do, “Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God” (Pro 2.5).
Then consider First John 4.18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
Yet First Peter 2.17 says, “Fear God.” The context of First John 4.7–21 is love. The immediate context of verse 17 is that love that is made perfect will stand boldly in the Judgment, because we are as He is. But what is perfect love? Verse 18 says that perfect love is that which does not fear. Does not fear what? The Day of Judgment. Perfect love will have no fear in the Judgment Day, but will be bold because it has not been guilty of violating the command to love others.
Matthew 10.28 shows that there are times not to fear, and there are times to fear, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Whom should we not fear? Man. Why? He is only able to kill the body, so man is limited. Whom should we fear? God. Why? He is able to destroy both body and soul, thus we fear God, realizing what He can do. Fear describes man’s reaction to an encounter with force and that force here is God.
We should fear God because it is commanded, and this fact alone resolves the issue. Revelation 14.7 shows that the first two words of the eternal gospel are, “Fear God.” Ecclesiastes 12.13, 14 is Solomon’s Holy Spirit-inspired conclusion about what is important in life, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.” Knowledge comes from fearing God according to Proverbs 1.7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Wisdom comes from fearing God, according to Psalm 111.10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Job 28.28 is equally plain, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.” Proverbs 15.33 continues to put the fear of God in proper perspective. “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom.”
We read in the Bible of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, and while that tree no longer exists, there is a spiritual tree from which we can eat, and that spiritual tree of life is the fear of God, “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to avoid the snares of death” (Pro 14.26, 27).
Finally Deuteronomy 10.12 is presented before you in order that you might see that fearing and loving God simultaneously are not contradictory, but in perfect harmony with what we must do as the children of God, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Therefore the conclusion is inescapable: It is a proverb of ashes to conclude that we should not fear God, but as the Scriptures have shown, our spiritual prosperity and our eternal destiny are dependent upon fearing God.