Fear of God Does Not Mean Being Afraid of God By Babatunde Olugboji
Fear could be a confusing concept. The Bible calls on us to fear. And it may be strange to even some believers that we are called to fear God. The Bible says in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” In the New Testament, Jesus describes the unrighteous judge as one “who neither feared God nor respected man” (Luke 18:2). And Apostle Paul writes, “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
All of which can be rather confusing. On the one hand, we are told that Christ frees us from fear (For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind – 2 Timothy 1:7) but on the other, we are told we ought to fear —and fear God, no less, that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.
This can leave us with a feeling that perhaps “the fear of God” should not be a prominent idea in Scripture. We have enough fears without adding more, thank you very much. And fearing God may feel so negative, it doesn’t seem to square with the God of love that has been introduced to us in the gospel. Why would any God worth loving ask us to fear Him?
In his book, ‘Rejoice and Tremble,’ Michael Reeves calls believers to see God as the object of their fear —a fear marked not by anxiety but by reverence and awe.
This week and in the next couple of weeks, we will aim to cut through this confusion and have a clear understanding that in this seeming paradox, the gospel both frees us from fear and gives us fear. It frees us from our crippling fears, giving us instead what we can describe as a most delightful fear. We will learn that for believers, “the fear of God” really does NOT mean being afraid of God.
Indeed, Scripture has many weighty surprises for us as it describes the fear of God. One example is in Isaiah 11:1–3 where we are given a beautiful description of the Messiah, filled with the Spirit: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
Those last two statements should make us question what this fear of the Lord is. Here we see that the fear of the Lord is not something the Messiah wishes to be without. Even He has the fear of the Lord—but He is not reluctant about it. Quite the opposite: his delight is in the fear of the Lord. It forces us to ask, what is this fear, that it can be Christ’s very delight? It cannot be negative, depressing stuff. In reality, it is a positive, uplifting stuff.
Have a great week.
Kingdom Dynamics, a weekly column written by Dr. Babatunde Olugboji, the President, Kingdom House, a non-profit organization in New Jersey, USA.