Q: #26. Should a Christian fear God?
By: Steve Shirley
A: Yes! The Bible says that it is wisdom to fear God (Prov 1:7)(Prov 15:33) (Prov 9:10)(Ps 111:10)(Job 28:28). The word that most use to describe what "fear" means is to have reverence, respect, or awe for God. That is most certainly one way the word "fear" is used in the Bible. However, should we truly FEAR, as in be afraid of God, as well? Yes! This lack of fear is a huge problem amongst Christians today. Nearly every Christian will agree "God is love," and He is indeed that, however, what SO many fail to see is that God is equally a "God of justice."
God HATES sin, and we are sinners. He can and does punish sin amongst His children. Let's look at a few Bible verses on this.
(Rev 3:19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
(Job 5:17-18) ... despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: (18) For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: He woundeth, and his hands make whole.
(Heb 12:5-6)(NASB) ... "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; (6) For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And he scourges every son whom He receives."
(Ps 118:18) The Lord hath chastened me sore: But he hath not given me over unto death.
(Deut 8:5) ... as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.
Do you fear God's punishment and chastisement? I certainly do... While I realize that His punishment and chastisement is meant for my own good, and meant to correct me and turn me in the right way, I most certainly want to avoid it. Did you, or do you now, fear discipline from your earthly father if you have done wrong? If your father has trained you up in God's ways (i.e. using the rod for correction and discipline of wrong behavior Prov 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15) I suspect you fear it a LOT! And, while your earthly father might not see and discipline each sin you commit, your heavenly Father sees them ALL.
Do you think God isn't going to punish your sins? Do you think you are getting away with them? The Bible says in (Num 32:23) "Be sure your sins will find you out." You are NOT getting away with them, punishment WILL come unless you confess and repent. And, while God's punishment can vary from light to severe, it is not pleasant.
God can and does at times make people sick in response to sinful rebellion (Num 12:9-10)(Num 11:33)(Gen 12:17)(Num 5:21-22)(2 Kin 6:18)(1 Cor 11:29-30)(Ex 7:14-12:30: The 10 plagues on Egypt).
God has even taken the lives of people for
sinful rebellion (Gen 6-7: The flood) (Ex 12:29-30: The firstborn of
Egypt)(Gen 19:26)(Num 21:6-9)(Gen 38:7-10)(Acts 12:23) (Ex 14:23-28)(Lev
10:1-2)(Gen 19:12-29)(1 Sam 6:19)(1 Sam 25:38)(2 Kin 19:35)
(2 Chr 13:20)(2 Chr 21:18-19) and more...!
Do you think this doesn't happen today? Do you think that the God of today is different than the God who did those things in the Bible? Let me tell you, the Bible says God does NOT change (Mal 3:6)(James 1:17)(Ps 102:26-27). He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).
Take a look at what is going on in the world today. As I write this, the greatest natural disaster in the history of the Unites States has just occurred in a city where many evil things have been done. Was this God's judgment? I don't believe anyone can know that... What we DO know for certain though, is that nothing can happen that God does not allow. I would certainly not want to be blatantly and unrepentantly flaunting sin before God. In fact, we are seeing an increase in disasters all over the world: acts of terrorism, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc... Why is this happening? Can anyone say with certainty that it isn't God's judgment on this increasingly wicked world?
Does this mean that every time something bad happens, it is judgment or punishment from God? No... But, we should not discount that possibility. Of course, we know that Satan has power also, and certainly has the ability to cause tragedies (take a look at what he did to Job). However, just as he could not harm Job without God's permission, he can do no harm to God's children without God's permission. So... either way, when bad things happen, God is ultimately in control. In addition, for God's children, we have a promise from God that He will work ALL things for our good in some way (Rom 8:28).
We are told in (Phil 2:12) "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." What does the word "trembling" mean to you? When I looked at some definitions, what I found was basically to shake or quiver uncontrollably in response to something like fear or cold. Does the fear of God cause you to tremble? God says it should:
(Jer 5:22) fear ye me not? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence...
(Ps 119:120) My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; And I am afraid of thy judgments.
(Ps 114:7) Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord...
(Isa 66:2) ...But to this man will I look, Even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, And trembleth at my word.
(Jer 10:10) But the Lord is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting king: At his wrath the earth shall tremble, And the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.
(James 2:19) ... the devils also believe, and tremble.
Some very prominent people in the Bible were afraid and terrified of God.
Moses feared and quaked because of God (Heb 12:21), and was afraid of God's anger and hot displeasure (Deut 9:19).
Job was terrified of God (Job 23:15-16), and said destruction from God was a terror to him (Job 31:23).
David was greatly afraid of God when He killed Uzzah for touching the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6:7-9)(1 Chr 13:10-12).
Adam and Eve were afraid of God and hid themselves because they had disobeyed God's command (Gen 3:8-11).
The Israelites feared God would kill them because they had sinned against God by asking for a king (1 Sam 12:18-19).
Great fear came upon those who saw God take the lives of Ananias and Sapphira for lying to Him (Acts 5:5,11).
The disciples were terrified "sore afraid" when they heard God's voice (Mt 17:5-6).
We are told in (Eccl 12:13-14) to "Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (14) For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." (Also see: 2 Cor 5:10) Does this refer to some commandments, or just the 10 Commandments? He means ALL of His commandments. Each thing we do, both good and bad, will be judged, not for salvation, but for rewards in Heaven. Many will suffer great loss on that day as their "works" are burned by fire (See: 1 Cor 3:10-15).
While it is by blessed grace through the blood of Jesus that our sins are covered, and our salvation secured as Christians, we will live a life of misery, a life of separation from a close walk with God, a life of no victory, a life with no joy or peace, if we fail to strive with all we have, to follow God's commandments through seeking His help, and humbly confessing and repenting when we give into temptation and sin.
If we fear the Lord, we will hate evil (Prov 8:13), and depart from evil (Prov 16:6). (Ex 20:20) says the fear of God will keep you from sinning. (Jer 32:40) says if we have the fear of God in our hearts, we won't depart from Him. (Prov 14:27) says the fear of the Lord will help you avoid the snares of death.
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31). "Our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:29). God told Isaiah that he should fear and dread Him (Isa 8:13). We should as well. God loves us. He is gracious and compassionate (Ps 111:4)(Ps 112:4)(Ps 145:8), merciful and longsuffering (Ex 34:6)(Num 14:18), full of lovingkindness (Ps 36:7)(Ps 40:1-11)(Ps 63:3)(Ps 69:16), and slow to anger (Neh 9:17)(Ps 103:8)(Joel 2:13)(Jonah 4:2)(Nah 1:3) towards us. But, if we live a life of rebellion and unrepentance, He WILL take action.
He is EQUALLY a God of love and justice! Let us remember His justice as much as we seem to remember His love. If we do, and we FEAR God, we have these promises from Him.
God has mercy on those who fear Him (Lk 1:50)(Ps 103:13).
God has compassion on those who fear Him (Ps 103:13).
Those who fear God are blessed (Ps 112:1)(Ps 115:13)(Ps 128:1,4).
God takes pleasure in those who fear Him (Ps 147:11).
The fear of the Lord prolongs life (Prov 10:27).
The fear of the Lord leads to life (Prov 19:23).
Happy is the man who always fears God (Prov 24:14).
P.S. For those non-Christians reading this: "fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Mt 10:28)(Also see: Lk 12:4). You should have the greatest fear of all, for you stand to spend eternity apart from God... Please see the Plan Of Salvation link to see how you can be saved from your sins and become a child of God.