What does the Bible mean when it says we are to fear God?

Hello K,

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Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

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 (Ex. 19:10–13; 20:20) and to have proper regard for His will (Deut. 8:6; Prov. 3:7; Eccl. 12:13; Isa. 11:2, 3; 33:6).

The reverence of God includes in it all the affections of the soul towards Him, which are produced by the Holy Spirit. There may be terror where there is no love- where there is hatred. But this is different from the gracious reprect of God, as the feelings of an affectionate child to his father.

1 John 4:18 says, “perfect love expels all fear.” John is here referring to the negative fear (Rom. 8:15) and not to the desirable “fear of the Lord” that all believers possess (Acts 9:31; 2 Cor. 5:11; 7:1). Fear is the opposite of “confidence” (1 John 4:17), and will have no place in the mind of the Christian.

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 accept 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 (John 3:16), 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).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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