FEAR OF GOD
Living in the Awe
Holiness of God
Fear not man
MISUNDERSTANDINGS OF THE FEAR OF GOD
The lack of the fear of God is a big problem among non-Christians. One might say the lack of this fear of God lies at the base of our secular society. People live as if God is not present to reward, discipline, punish or worship. The problem is exaggerated because many Christians do not believe that they should fear God either. There are at least two reasons for this.
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- 1) They have a distorted view of the fear of God.
Many think the 'fear of God' means that they are to be scared of God. There are two senses to this, one being wrong; the other being right.
- Wrong view: For some, the 'fear of God' portrays an image of God who doesn't care about those around them and does whatever He wants when He wants. The elicited response to such a representation is to fearfully stay as far away as possible from him. This of course is an unbiblical viewpoint of God who cares for His people. A few verses which affirm this are below.
- "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2).
- "Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16).
- Summary: By the fear of God we do not mean that God's people are to stay away from God. Because of the love of God found in Jesus Christ, we find that we are welcomed into God's presence. In fact both the OT and NT give us a picture of God's people seeking and loving God's presence.
- 2) They have a distorted view of the love of God.
Others believe the love of God has eliminated the need for the 'fear of God.' They believe God has revealed His love through Christ so that the fear of God is no longer needed. In fact, they would contend that holding to the fear of God somehow restricts God's child in knowing the full potential of His love. They would state that the love of God and the fear of God are mutually exclusive apprehensions of God. If one fears God, then he does not really know the love of God. Or if one really knows of God's love, then he does not fear God.
This problem partly stems from problems below.
- They interpret the fear of God to mean bully instead of awesome (see point one above).
- Their concept of the love of God is this over-patronizing image which only affirms and never chastises. These people ignorantly suppose the God of the OT to be wrathful and fearsome while the NT image being loving and all-accepting. Some of these people focus on God being like a warm Mom rather than a mean Dad. Usually these people have a problem with understanding and appreciating God's authority and also want to legitimize their own self-expression.
- They use I John 4:17-18 to support the inferiority of the fear of God.
"There is no fear in love." John had some wonderful things to say about how God's love in Christ has shaped the natural fear man had toward God. Later on we explore the glorious meaning of this passage in more detail.
- They quote 2 Timothy 1:7 in support for having no fear of God.
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV).
However, this spirit of fear is not the 'fear of God.'
- Actually, this word quoted from the KJV is an old usage. The newer translations support the accurate meaning.
"For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but ..." (NASB).
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but ... (NIV).
It is unfortunate that the NKJV still uses 'fear.' This modern translation should use a more appropriate translation. Please note the next subpoint.
- The Greek word used here for 'fear' or 'timidity' (deilia) is alone used here in the NT. This is not the typical word used for fear (phobos). The newer translations rightly translate deilia as cowardice, fearfulness or timidity. This word is always used in a negative way.
- The translation 'cowardice' rather than 'fear' better fits the context. Fear focus on the overwhelming events outside oneself while cowardice focuses on the insufficiency or inability inside oneself.
Although many relegate the 'fear of God' as an OT concept, we instead discover through a word search in the New Testament that the fear of God is a frequently used phrase and an important concept to being a godly Christian. (Next page)