Why Does the Bible Say That We Should “Fear God”?

As always, it is vital for us to define our terms. Given that 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” and that virtually every angel who ever showed up immediately said, “FEAR NOT!” and that Jesus himself often said the same thing, we must acknowledge an apparent contradiction in the way some Christians teach that we are to “fear God.”

In the 2 Timothy verse, the Greek word for “fear” means “timidity” or “cowardice.” The Greek word most always used by Jesus or by an angel in saying, “Fear not,” means “to put to flight by terrifying; to scare away.” Obviously, we are not to fear God in that sense. Consider this verse:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (KJV)
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

We will define “fear” as a feeling or attitude of awe, insecurity, or inferiority toward a particular object that prompts you to act either to establish a relationship between you and the object that you think is beneficial, or avoid a relationship with it that is harmful. Think about it: there are two categories of fear: (1) rational, healthy, godly fear (2) irrational, unhealthy, ungodly fear.

  1. Fear of God = fear of the consequences of disobeying Him. Rational, learned from the Word, based on reality; leads to love for, trust in, obedience to God, and benefits for you.
  2. “F.E.A.R.” = False evidence appearing real. Irrational, learned from the world; based upon a distorted perspective of what is real. Leads to trust in oneself or in a false god, and thus to disobedience and harm to you.
  3. Sudden fear. Rational; fear of a lion.
  4. Excessive fear. Irrational; fear of a lion at the zoo.

Thus the OBJECT of one’s fear and the ACTION you take regarding it determine whether fear is beneficial or harmful to you. Fear of God is the key to overcoming the wrong kind of fear, and acting accordingly. Here is an excellent scriptural example of that principle:

Isaiah 8:12 and 13
12 “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. 13 The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread,

The better we know our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, the more we will love them and want to obey them and the less we want to disobey them. For more study see our article: “Fear: Face Explore Accept Respond.”

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