What does it mean to “fear God”?

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By BibleAsk Team


“Fear God” is a phrase deeply rooted in Bible. It encapsulates a profound reverence, awe, and respect towards the divine Being. To explore the depth of this concept, we’ll delve into its significance, implications, and biblical references according to Scriptures.

Understanding Fear in the Biblical Context

Fear, in the context of fearing God, doesn’t solely denote a sense of dread or terror, as one might fear a tyrant or a looming danger. Instead, it encompasses a complex array of concepts, including reverence, awe, respect, and obedience. This fear acknowledges God’s sovereignty, holiness, and authority over all creation.

Scriptural References to Fear God

The Bible is replete with verses that exhort believers to fear God. The Bible uses the word fear at least 300 times in reference to God. To fear God is to regard Him with profound and reverent respect (Exodus 19:10–13; 20:20) and to have proper regard for His will (Proverbs 3:7; Isaiah 11:2, 3; 33:6). Thus, fearing God leads to obedience to His commands (Deuteronomy 8:6). Let’s explore some key passages:

  • Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” This verse highlights the foundational importance of fearing God in acquiring wisdom and understanding.
  • Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Here, fear of the Lord is juxtaposed with foolishness, emphasizing its role in acquiring true knowledge.
  • Psalm 111:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.” This verse emphasizes the linkage between fearing God, obedience to His commandments, and wisdom.
  • Ecclesiastes 12:13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.” This verse encapsulates the essence of human existence—fearing God and obeying His commandments.
  • Luke 12:5: “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” Jesus himself underscores the importance of fearing God, recognizing His ultimate authority and judgment.

Attributes of God That Elicit Fear

The fear of God is not rooted in mere intimidation but is a response to the character and attributes of God as revealed in the Bible. Several attributes contribute to this fear:

  • Holiness: God’s absolute purity and separation from sin evoke reverence and awe.
  • Sovereignty: His supreme authority over all creation instills a sense of reverence and submission.
  • Justice: God’s righteous judgment demands respect and obedience.
  • Omnipotence and Omniscience: His limitless power and knowledge inspire awe and humility.
  • Love and Mercy: Even in His majesty, God’s love and mercy temper fear with hope and gratitude.

Implications of Fearing God

Fearing God has profound implications for one’s life and worldview:

  • Wisdom and Discernment: Fearing God is the foundation of wisdom, guiding one’s choices and decisions.
  • Holiness and Obedience: It motivates holy living and obedience to God’s commandments out of reverence and love.
  • Humility: Recognizing God’s greatness fosters humility and a proper perspective of oneself.
  • Security and Trust: Fearing God provides security in His protection and trustworthiness.
  • Worship and Adoration: It fuels heartfelt worship and adoration, acknowledging God’s worthiness of praise.

Contrast with Unhealthy Fear

While to fear God is commendable, it’s essential to distinguish it from unhealthy fear or dread:

  • Unhealthy Fear: This type of fear is characterized by anxiety, dread, and avoidance, often rooted in a distorted view of God as punitive or distant.
  • Fear of Punishment: Fearing punishment rather than reverencing God’s character leads to a legalistic mindset devoid of genuine relationship.
  • Absence of Love: Unhealthy fear lacks the relational aspect of love and trust, which are integral to the fear of God.

Balancing Fear and Love

While to fear God is vital, it’s complemented by the love of God:

  • Perfect Love Casts Out Fear: 1 John 4:18 states, “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.” God’s perfect love dispels the fear of punishment, fostering intimacy and trust.
  • Reverential Love: The fear of God intertwines with love, manifesting as reverential love—a profound awe and affection for God’s character and actions.

The ultimate example of fear and perfect love working together is found in the life of our Savior. Jesus taught us to fear God, not men—and He confirmed that in every act of His life and death. He taught lovingly but frankly to all and didn’t soften His words especially when people needed to face their sin and repent.

Finally, Jesus demonstrated love beyond human understanding when He sacrificed His life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The supreme expression of divine love is the Father’s gift of His own Son, through whom it becomes possible for us to be “called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Practical Application

To fear God isn’t merely a theoretical concept but has practical implications for everyday life:

  • Relationships: It impacts how one relates to God, oneself, and others, fostering humility, integrity, and compassion.
  • Ethics and Morality: Fearing God guides ethical decision-making, prompting adherence to moral principles grounded in God’s character.
  • Worship and Devotion: It enriches worship, prayer, and spiritual disciplines, deepening one’s intimacy with God.
  • Mission and Service: Fearing God motivates mission and service, driven by love and obedience rather than obligation or fear of punishment.

In conclusion, the phrase “fear God” embodies a multifaceted concept deeply ingrained in Bible. It reflects a reverence, awe, and respect towards the divine being, grounded in an understanding of God’s character, attributes, and authority. The fear of God serves as the foundation of wisdom, guiding one’s life, choices, and worldview. While to fear God involves a recognition of God’s holiness, sovereignty, and justice, it’s complemented by love, trust, and intimacy, fostering a balanced and transformative relationship with the divine.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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