555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

426. Is It Right to "Fear" God?




The word "fear," as used in the Bible, has two distinct meanings—fear in the sense of dread or fright, and fear in the sense of reverence and sincere obedience. It is not easy to determine which meaning is intended for the two Hebrew words most used have both meanings. In the New Testament the Greek word used has more generally the sense of fright or dread. The whole message of the Bible is that what God most earnestly desires from mankind is their love. But sin keeps them from loving him, so he reveals to them, through conscience, and through the law, the fearful results of sin. This awakens a fear which drives them to him for pardon and safety. A man who is living in sin, when his conscience is aroused, is afraid of the power and the justice of God. After he is pardoned he feels a reverence for God and the beginnings of love for him. As he progresses in the Christian life all fear of God, in the sense of terror, is removed. John speaks of the "perfect love which casteth out fear." (I John 4:18.) Throughout the Christian life reverence abides, but love grows more and more dominant. The won derful word is "friendship." God wants us to be friends of his, as Abraham and Moses were, to serve him because we love him, to be glad in the gifts his love bestows. Christ would like to lead us all to the place where he can say to us as he said to his disciples: "Henceforth, I call you not servants, but I have called you friend." (John 15:15.)