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What is the fear of God? What does it mean to have the fear of God?

The fear of God is a concept you may have heard, perhaps even in situations outside of church. The fear of God is a different concept to believers than it is to those outside of the faith (John 3:16-18). For unbelievers, it is a fear of God's wrath and judgment. Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), they stand condemned by Him. Hebrews 10:31 says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

As believers, however, our sins are forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). We can boldly approach the throne of grace. Speaking of Christ, Ephesians 3:12 says, "in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him." We fear God in the sense of great reverence and an understanding of God's wrath toward sin (Romans 1:18).

Hebrews 12:28-29 is a good text to look at regarding the fear of God: "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." Scripture gives us several accounts of men encountering God and seeing firsthand how fearful an experience it truly can be. Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord, and wrote in Isaiah 6:5, "Then I said, 'Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.'"

In other words, he had a vision of the "LORD of hosts" and was struck with incredible grief over the immense holiness and glory of God compared to his own sinfulness (Isaiah 6:1-3). Isaiah likely had a good understanding of the fear of God at that point. Similarly, the disciple Peter fell at Jesus' feet and said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8).

The Fear of God in Prayer

Our attitude toward prayer should change when we see our God in a fearful light. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, "Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore, let your words be few." We need to remember who we are when we pray. God is in Heaven; we are not. Let us approach Him with reverence and respect.

As we recognize the fear of God, we are more apt to learn from Him. Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge." We need to understand God's character and develop a reverence for mighty His power. Without that reverence, true wisdom will be hard to find. When we interact with God, we must keep in mind that He is holy, just, and righteous (Deuteronomy 10:12, 20-21).

The Fear of God in Worship

The fear of God should also affect the way we worship. The same holiness that Isaiah saw in his vision should impact us. As Hebrews 12:28 says, we need to worship with "reverence and awe." Hebrews 10:22 says, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." We should do our best to live honest lives before God, having a clean conscience and confessing our known sin to Him, especially when we go to worship.

The Fear of God in Life

Christians have no need to be scared of God. That's not what the fear of God is about. We know that God loves us no matter how much we mess up (Romans 8:38-39), will always forgive us when we ask (1 John 1:9), and will never abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). But we also need to understand that there are consequences for making sinful choices, that God will discipline His children like a loving parent would with their child (Hebrews 12:6-11). Fearing discipline isn't necessarily a bad thing. Many an evil deed has been avoided due to fear of unpleasant repercussions. Hebrews 12:11 says, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

Let us never have a superficial, casual relationship with God. Instead, let us draw near to Him confidently, in full assurance of His love for us, yet acknowledging His power, majesty, and hatred for sin.

TL;DR

Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), all people stand guilty before Him. Unbelievers are condemned to eternal punishment, while believers are forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and need not be scared God (John 3:16-18; Romans 8:1). A Christian's fear of God translates into a reverential awe and respect of His position as our all-powerful God and a reverence in prayer (Ecclesiastes 5:2) and worship (Hebrews 10:22; Hebrews 12:28). A fear of God's discipline can be healthy for character growth and to fight sinful temptations (Hebrews 12:6-11). Approach God in full assurance of His love for us, yet acknowledging His power, majesty, and hatred for sin.

By: Jeremy V.

Jeremy is a homeschooled high school student. He enjoys teaching spiritual truth and helping out at his church. He believes in the sufficiency and objectivity of Scripture over the subjective and unreliable nature of the heart (1 Timothy 3:16; Jeremiah 17:9). He also enjoys pin trading, marksmanship, and visiting theme parks.

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