DO YOU FEAR THE LORD?
by Wayne S. Walker
“Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who delights greatly in His commandments” (Psalm 112:1). There seems to be much misunderstanding about the idea of fear, at least from a Biblical standpoint. I have heard lessons by young preachers who said very plainly that we should never, ever serve the Lord out of fear. Wanting to be charitable, I assumed that maybe I could guess what they were trying to say, perhaps that we should not serve the Lord solely out of fear. But a simple statement which implies that fear has no place in the Christian’s life, period, overlooks the fact that many passages speak of fear in a positive sense while others, it is true, do talk about it in a negative sense. Therefore, we are left with the conclusion that the word is most likely used in two different meanings. And as we examine the scriptures, we see that this is precisely the case.
Sometimes the word “fear” is used to describe a sense of being afraid, of dread, of terror. The relationship of the Christian to the Lord is not based upon simply being afraid of God. Therefore, Paul says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Instead, our relationship with God is based on love. And John reminds us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). There is no feeling of dread or terror in the life of one who is truly a faithful child of God, simply because there is nothing to be afraid of.
However, the word “fear” is also used to refer to a deep reverence, respect, and awe for God that leads to obedience. Even Solomon noted that the whole of man is to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). One of the problems with our society, as was true in Paul’s day and even in the Psalmist’s time, is that “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). Therefore, in order to please our Maker and have the hope of being with Him in heaven, we must “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28). So, the “fear of God” is not just being scared of Him and His punishment, although for each of us it is still a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, but it is an abiding desire to serve God out of love for what He has done for us. Truly, the man who fears the Lord is blessed!