God is not the God of fear. Many people believe God is a God of anger, hate, and fear, but He is not. God is full of mercy, forgiveness, and love. He does not want you to be afraid of Him.
The Real Meaning of Fear
Fearing God is always presented in a positive way in the Bible. The true definition of the “fear of the Lord” is not the same fear as seeing a horror movie or experiencing something frightening. A proper translation of the word “fear” should be “reverence.” Thus, fearing the Lord should actually be understood as reverence for the Lord.
Hebrews 12:28-29 points out, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” The writer of Hebrews does not say believers should worship God in fear, but rather with “reverence and awe.”
This does not mean that God is wishy-washy, nor does it mean that people can do whatever they want without being placed under judgment. Before an individual is a believer, they are an enemy of God (Romans 5:10).
Unbelievers should fear God because if they do not accept Christ before they die, they will face eternal separation from God in hell. After an individual is saved, they should not fear God the same way they did prior to being saved.
This does not mean a believer can do whatever they want and engage in sin without fear of punishment from God. Believers obey God out of respect and reverence for who He is. Believers do not act out of fear of punishment, but rather out of respect, awe, and deep gratitude for God.
Understanding the Fear of God
When discussing the fear of God, it can raise questions and concerns among believers and unbelievers alike. It is particularly helpful to utilize Luther’s approach to understanding the fear of God. Within Luther’s understanding, there are two different types of fear, the “servile fear” and the “filial fear.”
Concerning the former, “servile fear” is the type of fear that a servant would have in relation to their master. The latter type of fear, “filial fear” is the fear a child would have of their parent if they disobeyed (R. C. Sprout).
The “filial fear” operates out of the fear of disappointing a loved one (R. C. Sproul), whereas the “servile fear” operates out of fear of punishment. Both of these types of fears can describe the relationship fear should have in relation to God. God does not want us to be afraid of Him, but we must not disrespect Him.
The Fear of God Is the Beginning of Wisdom
The Bible tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). When a person respects and has reverence for the Lord, they will be able to attain true wisdom. Apart from knowing God and respecting Him, a person cannot have true wisdom.
As soon as a person becomes a believer, they enter into a right relationship with God. As the believer respects, obeys, and follows God, they will grow into a mature believer. Along this path and throughout their life, the believer will grow in wisdom — not in fear.
As the believer learns more about God and deepens their relationship with Him, the more they will learn to trust Him with their life and with their future. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
The Fear of God
God is not an angry, malevolent dictator waiting to cause a frenzy in the world. However, God is also not going to let evil prevail or let anyone get away with sin. God is loving, compassionate, and merciful, however, He will also repay harm to those who have hated Him (Deuteronomy 32:5).
God does not hate any person as He wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). He has freely opened the way of salvation for all people. All one must do is place faith in Jesus by believing that He died for their sins, was buried, and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
If a person places faith in Jesus, they do not need to be afraid of God or the future. The Bible tells believers that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). However, those who choose not to accept Christ should fear God.
Jesus warns all people in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Therefore, God is not the God of fear. God is actually the God of love. 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God is the exact representation and manifestation of love. He loves you unconditionally and He will never let you go.
Just as a parent loves a child, God loves you. Believers are accurately described as God’s children in the Bible (John 1:12). This means that God loves you, cares about you, and longs to have a relationship with you.
A child does not fear their parent in the sense of their parent harming them; however, a child does respect their parent out of reverence. Likewise, believers can stand before God in awe and respect, but not in fear. God is not the God of fear for believers, but rather, He is the God of love, mercy, and peace.
If you are fearful of God today, you can make the decision to place faith in Him today. There is not a magical prayer or anything you have to do in order to be saved. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
If you want to accept Jesus today as your Savior and Lord, all you have to do is believe that Jesus died for your sins, was physically buried, and physically rose from the dead.
You must also believe that Jesus is God as only God could die for the sins of the world and come back from the grave. If you believe this, then you have now officially become a child of God, and you are given forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.