There seem to be two camps of thought when it comes to God: those who focus on the fear of God and those who focus on the love of God.
Is it possible though to have both the fear of God and the love of God? Or are they mutually exclusive of each other?
Does fearing God contradict loving God? And does God’s love contradict His justice?
When it comes to loyalty to God, which of these two (the fear of God or the love of God) produces unwavering loyalty?
These are all questions that I have been mulling over for several weeks, probably years really.
First of all, is there a Biblical basis for the fear of God? If so, what does the Bible mean when it says “fear God”?
20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
14 Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling-block before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord.
2 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.
2 Corinthians 7:1
7 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
In the above Scriptural passages, we can see that “fear of God” is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments.
What exactly is this “fear of God”?
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
9 For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it [a]stood fast.
10 The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations;
He frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart from generation to generation.
120 My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws.
These passages show us that fearing God is being awe-struck with His character. I love what the book, Freedom From Fear, says about the fear of God:
To fear God is to be awestruck with God’s character and Word. It is a state of deep reverence that can cause us to tremble before Him because of His righteous judgments. The fear of the Lord is also joyful praise and worship of His glory, resulting in humble obedience to His will.
Fearing God is not a law-based principle, but rather, it is an eternally enduring aspect of our relationship to God.
…in the hearts of those who fear Him there is an unspoken language of faith, a bowing down with humility before One infinitely greater and more magnificent than self.
The sheer magnitude of His glory and greatness does not diminish over time. Familiarity does not breed contempt of the Almighty.
We revere God in the sense that we have the ultimate respect for Him… We also fear God because He has the power to judge and His attributes make Him the only legitimate fear object (He is both omnipresent and omnipotent). This healthy and balanced knowledge of God provides for us a sanctuary from all unhealthy fears.
Scripture is also replete with verses, stating God’s love and revealing His mercy, grace, longsuffering, kindness, forgiveness.
Is God’s justice in opposition to His grace, or do they work in coordination with each other? In my blog, https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/grace. In this blog, a key phrase is “God’s grace can only be understood in the context of His justice.” The question is asked, “What is grace without justice?” Grace implies that justice was required and necessary.
The book, Freedom From Fear, states this: “…the hammer fell! It fell on Christ. The punishment we deserved has already fallen on Christ.”
We fear or reverence God because of both His holiness, justice, and because of His undeserving grace and tender mercies.
Loving God and fearing God work in coordination to reflect the perfection of both God’s holinesss that requires justice and of His love that offers grace and forgiveness.
The following Scriptural passages reflect both the fear or reverence of God and the mercies of God — all within the same verses:
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
4 Let those who fear the Lord say:
“His love endures forever.”
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
It is reverence (“fear of God”) and love for God that purifies our lives, propels us to submit to Him, impassions us to yearn after Him and to follow Him.
It is the recognition of how awe-inspiring He is and then that He would love us that causes us to be amazed with Him! It is this awe and this love that compels us to follow Him in faith. This is the foundation of loyalty. This is the reason why generations of Christians have suffered horrific persecution out of loyalty and love for the One Who died to save them and who continues to be their All.
When our eyes are opened to God as He truly is, nothing else really matters. Running to Him as the holy, forgiving, loving sanctuary that He is becomes an all-consuming passion and priority. Pride, guilt, shame, and fear are swept clean by the fear of God and replaced with humility, forgiveness, affirmation, and faith. All this happens when we have a truth encounter with the living God. (From Freedom From Fear)
How does “fearing God” actually offer us the peace and protection we all need and desire?
Here’s what Freedom From Fear says on this:
A sanctuary was the place where God manifested His presence to His people. It was a holy place of communion with the Almighty … His presence would always be a sanctuary for His people. …The fear of the Lord was the door that opened that sanctuary, which is not a physical location or building at all. It is the presence of God! New Testament believers find their sanctuary in Christ, which is a spiritual position, not a physical location.
Why do so many of us react to God’s Presence or His holiness with a type of fear that cripples and enslaves? Could it be that it’s our response to God that produces two very different types of “fear”?
When we are made aware of our own sins and of His justice and righteousness, we can react in two different ways:
- We can understand that God is a good and loving God — that seeks to purify us from all that would harm us, and we can run to Him. The right kind of “fear” or awe causes us to run towards God, understanding the freeing power of His love that seeks to purify us from all that enslaves and cripples us.
- The other response is not believing God is good in every sense and loving; and so instead, we run away from Him. The wrong kind of fear causes us to hide, to rebel, to follow after all the things that actually harm us rather than free us.
We are most tempted to run from God when we feel dirty or defiled, but that is the time when we need Him the most … It was God who first came to Adam after the fall, and it is God who takes the initiative to come to us … we are saints in the hands of a loving God, Therefore, “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (From Freedom From Fear)
The answer to fearing God and loving God is that it takes both.
God’s love was manifested in how He fulfilled His justice on the cross. His love and grace is what continues to seek after us and draw us to Himself. His righteousness is what purifies us and offers us freedom.
It is all of this plus more that causes us to stand in awe of Him and to surrender to a God who is completely trustworthy because He can offer us a true sanctuary that is free from all that is destructive to us.
As Christians, we can stand in awe of God but not from afar. We stand in awe of Him because we know personally the security of being in His Presence. It is with joy, we follow Him and look to Him for our all!