What does the phrase, “Fear of God” mean? I'm preparing to teach on that subject in the next couple of weeks, and thought it might be an interesting topic for an article here on the Faithful Men Blog.
The “fear of God” is often described as an awe, respect or profound reverence for God. But how that description is understood depends on what you know about God. People have all kinds of ideas about what God is like, but it's important to know what God is like based on statements in his Word, the Bible.
There are basically two classifications of people: those who have believed on Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sins and have accepted his free gift of eternal life and there are those who have not. The implications of “the fear of God” depends on which of those two groups you are in.
God has a holy and righteous hatred of sin. Sins are those things that we do that don't meet God's standards of behavior and perfection in thought and deed. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And 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.” This is from the lips of the one everyone says is so meek and mild and loving. It is wise to fear someone who has the power to throw us into hell. Why would God do that? Because he hates sin and has determined to judge all of those who sin against his rule.
Read what the Bible says in Hebrews 10:26 – 31:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Psalm 7:11 tells us “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”
You might be saying, “I thought God was a God of love.” He is, but he is angry with those who have not admitted their failure to meet God's standards and that they are in the need of God's grace. He would not be a just king and judge if he just let everyone do what they wanted without any punishment and justice.
So what does “fearing God” mean. To those who are outside of God's grace, it should mean a fear and dread that God means what he says. He will by no means clear the guilty (Numbers 14:18) and he will in fact cast the wicked into hell and all the nations that forget God (Psalms 9:17). I say “should mean” because most people don't seem the least bit concerned about any of this. Maybe it's because they don't believe this is true? Personally, I don't think it's a gamble worth risking.
Next time we'll look at what it means to fear God for those who have accepted God's offer of forgiveness. Do they still need to fear God?