What is the Fear of God?

Keep it Simple Series

As with many other terms in the Bible, this term too is often misunderstood. So, first and foremost, the most important point to make here is that the ‘fear of God’ is not to be afraid of God. When you begin to understand the greatness of God you may sometimes feel humbled, and a little fearful in His presence. And that is not a bad thing. However, there are times when you may be afraid of talking to God, scared that He may not answer you; fearful that He may be angry with you about something or other. You may think that He won’t hear you because you don’t deserve to be heard, or that God will punish you for something you have done. This is not true! These feelings of genuine fear, doubt, guilt and self-condemnation are unfounded. The emotion of fear can be debilitating and should not go unchecked. Remember, Romans 8 v1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” So everyone has the same access to God to be spiritually re-born in Christ Jesus.

Fear is a by-product of sin; it does not come from God. When Adam and Eve sinned for the first time in the Garden of Eden, their first negative emotion was a feeling of shame at realising they were naked. They immediately covered themselves with fig leaves to hide their shame. The second negative emotion they felt was fear, which made them hide from God when He came to see them. The God of the universe put time aside, to come down to Earth to spend quality time with Adam and Eve and they hid from Him, because they were now affected by the fear of what would happen to them as a result of their disobedience.

People often confuse their personal feelings of fear with the term ‘to fear God’, or ‘the fear of God’. To fear God is to have a deep awareness of who God really is—His greatness, and to live by His standard. It is to know that God is far more awesome and greater than we could ever imagine. Having the fear of God in you is to have reverence for God and to live your life according to His standard. Cornelius, a centurion in the Roman army was “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave donations generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” [Acts 10:2 – NKJV]. So, Cornelius’ fear of God was apparent in the way he lived. He lived a life of prayer, active kindness and great devotion to God and was not afraid to pray to God or afraid of having a relationship with Him. And not just Cornelius, but his household also. 

The fear of God was also demonstrated in John the Baptist’s lifestyle and when Jesus came to him to be baptised. John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins once removed, meaning their mothers were cousins (Luke 1:36), so they too were cousins of the next generation. John rejected the comfortable lifestyle and lived and preached in the wilderness of Judea according to his calling. People from all the surrounding regions came to hear John preach and to be baptised by him. He preached for people to turn away from their sinful lives and seek the kingdom of heaven. 

John’s belief in God was absolute. When Jesus came to John to be baptised, he (John) was so humbled that the Son of God would come to him, a mere man to be baptised. Clearly from John’s reaction he was not expecting this great honour, but more importantly he knew the God that he served. To put it in modern colloquial language, ‘John was floored.’

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptised by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus [therefore] it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.” [Matthew 3:13-17].

The fear of God is the realisation in yourself of who God is, the acknowledgement of His power and might; and to live according to His standards.

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Recommended Reading

Matthew 13
Acts 10