Fear of God As Taught in the New Testament
Should a ‘New Testament’ believer fear God? Was the fear of God commanded to the Israelis because they were “under the law”? Was the fear of God relevant only to ‘Old Testament’ saints? Does 1 John 4:18 negate all the warnings in the Bible to fear God?
Since texts written to the Israelis commanding the fear of Jehovah and proclaiming the benefits of that fear will not be evidence to someone believing that the fear of God is relevant only to folks “under the law,” we will look at only New Testament Scriptures that speak of fearing God.
1. Matthew 10:28 – “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Yeshua (Jesus) is speaking to His disciples. He tells them not to fear those men who can put a body to death, but fear the One able to destroy soul and body. Obviously, this is God. In both places where the word fear is used, it is translated from the same Greek word (phobeo). He is telling them to have a certain state of heart or mind toward God that they should not have toward someone who can kill the body.
Some have determined that a ‘New Testament’ believer should only have awe or reverence for God. Do you think you would feel awe or reverence for someone you thought might kill you?
2. Luke 12:4-5 – “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
Again, Yeshua is speaking to His disciples. And again, both words fear are translated from the same Greek word (phobeo).
3. Acts 9:31 – Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
These are ‘New Testament’ believers. Is their walking in the fear of the Lord a good thing? It certainly seems so.
4. 2 Corinthians 7:1 – 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.
5. Ephesians 5:21 – Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Paul is speaking to Ephesian (probably largely non-Jewish) believers. This fear is also translated from the Greek word phobos (from which phobeo is taken).
6. Colossians 3:22 – Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.
Paul is speaking to Colossian (probably largely non-Jewish) believers. This fear is also translated from the Greek word, phobeo.
7. I Peter 2:17 – Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
Peter is probably speaking to mostly Jewish believers. Could this be any plainer? The word fear is translated from phobeo.
8. Revelation 14:6-7 – And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
It seems here that the everlasting gospel is being preached to folks on the earth during the tribulation, and that part of that everlasting gospel is to fear God. Again, this is the Greek word phobeo.
9. Revelation 15:4 – Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
The folks who say this are those who have gotten victory over the beast, and his image and his mark, and over the number of his name. They sing the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. These are saints from the tribulation, not ‘Old Testament’ saints. They are proclaiming the fear of Jehovah. Again, this is the word phobeo.
10. I John 4:17-18 — Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
Do these verses teach that to fear God is to not be perfect in love? The fear mentioned in verse 18 is not identified as the fear of God. Do you throw away all the warnings to fear God because this verse says that perfect love casteth out fear? Does perfect love cast out the fear of God? Could not this be some other kind of fear—especially in light of all the warnings in Scripture to fear God?
The passage is dealing with loving the brethren. Could it be saying that if these folks are to be perfect in God’s love, they will love the brethren without fear and that they’ll be as Messiah—not fearing, but willing to lay down their lives for the brethen?
Are a fear of God and a love for God exclusive? If one loves God, does that mean that he cannot fear Him? If one fears God, does that mean that he does not love Him?
Deuteronomy 10:12 — And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
Jehovah is commanding these folks to fear Him and to love Him. Fear and love are not opposites. Maybe the opposite of fear is high-mindedness as evidenced by Romans 11:20.