The Bible presents concepts that might seem to contradict themselves. Those who reject God’s Word enjoy quoting what would seem to be confusing and conflicting passages as a basis for man’s hand in the writing of the Scriptures. On the surface, the subject of “fear’ is one of those theological constructs. At times, God seems to challenge mankind that we should not be fearful of anything. At other times, He reminds us that fear is part of our life on this earth and our spiritual walk.
Scripture on the subject of “fear”.
Isaiah 41:10 – fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
2 Timothy 1:7 – for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Romans 8:15 – For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 11:20 – They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.
2 Corinthians 7:11 – For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.
2 Corinthians 5:10-11 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
Acts 9:31 – So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Philippians 2:12 – Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
1 Peter 1:17 – And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
Luke 12:5 – But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
Psalm 56:3-4 – When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?
Psalm 27:1 – The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Philippians 4:6 – do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Proverbs 9:10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
What should we be fearful of?
As you read through the verses above, consider what God is teaching us regarding the source of our fear. There is a clear theological dividing line where fear should be present, to be contrasted with those times and places where fear should not be evident.
As you reflect on the verses above, there are three very distinct types of fear found in the Bible. (1) fear of God as both a believer and (2) unbeliever and, (3) fear of man.
Fear of God in the Unbeliever
The book of Matthew sums up the fear unbelievers should have for a righteous God when the writer states in verse 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Love is, and should be, the primary focus of Godly evangelism as we seek and serve the lost. However, one cannot avoid the reality of Hell when confronted with God’s judgment for the sins of man. Those who reject Christ as both Savior and Lord should be in fear of eternal judgment.
Fear of God in the Believer
Verses such as Proverbs 9:10 speak to the reality that born-again Christians should not only “love God” (Luke 10:27), but also, fear Him. However, for the Biblical Christian, this is a very different “fear” than that called for in the unbeliever. We are blessed by the confidence that the Holy Spirit lives within us, teaching and guiding us in our desire to follow and serve our Lord and Savior. God will discipline His children when we run astray, and, as such, when we sin, we need to be aware that there are consequences. For the believer, this “fear” is more a form of respect and the demonstration of love for our Father, just as a child is disciplined by his earthly father, in order to be trained to follow goodness rather than evil.
Fear of man
Finally, God contrasts the fear we need to exhibit toward Him, (regardless of our relationship with Him), against the fear we feel when dealing with our neighbor. God calls both believers and unbelievers to fear the consequences of following the human crowd vs. following the commands of the Creator.
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