What is the Fear of God?
Daily Reading: (1 Peter 2:17):
“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
The phrase “fear of God” is found only 10 times in the Bible. 8 in the Old Testament and 2 in the New. 80% is Old Testament Law. When you go with just “fear God” instead of “fear of God”, that phrase is found a total of 21 times. 16 times it is in the Old Testament 5 times in the New. There are some other derivatives such as “fear Him” but they all are talking about fearing God. Is this something that believers should do?
In our verse from 1 Peter 2:17 in the context around this verse, Peter is elevating the respect, the awe, we are to have toward God. He uses the Greek word (phobeō)- which can mean to reverence, venerate.
What is the fear of God for New Testament believers? It is revering and not being afraid of God but worshipping Him (1 Peter 2:17).
How do I know that for sure? Because Jesus said so. What did Jesus say when He was tempted by Satan? Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10).
Unless you are studying a side-by-side comparison with what Jesus said compared to the verse He just quoted, you would miss the word change. Jesus made a New Covenant change.“ Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only,” is the text He quoted in Deuteronomy 6:13a.
When we worship the Lord, we are really, “fearing the Lord.” We are not afraid of God, it is just that our worship is born out of reverence and awe of God. This is what Peter was saying all along.
Here is another common mistake placed on believers: “fear the wrath of God.” Why? There is no condemnation for you in Christ. Fear causes you to run and hide. When you did something bad when you did you run to tell your parents the bad thing that you did? Probably not, but that is what you should have done, and that is what I am trying to teach my kids. Like Adam in the Eve in the Garden they hide from God. They were afraid. The devil wants you to fear God, so you won’t receive from God.
Jesus died on the cross to reconcile man to God and so that we might live free from the fear of punishment. According to John the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ, it is wrong to fear God’s judgments (1 John 4:15-19). If we fear God’s judgments it means we don’t understand His love!
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (awe): For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
We finally have the fear of God translated correctly. The fear of God that the self-righteous have is that God will judge them for not being righteous enough. The fear of God that the Christ-righteous have is awe and reverence that God has qualified them to share in the Kingdom. It is amazing that God is on our side and we therefore cannot be shaken or moved and our awesome God will judge our enemies with fire!
One last verse from the Old Testament: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
I picked this verse because in the New Testament fear was written in the Greek, so earlier we had a Greek word used (phobeō). Now since we are in the Old Testament in Proverbs, it isn’t written in Greek but in Hebrew. The Hebrew word for fear is “yir’â”: respect, reverence, piety, revered.
Time spent marveling in how awesome God is (worship), is the beginning of wisdom. If you want to be wise, spend time with God (Proverbs 9:10). The “fear of the Lord” in the new covenant of grace is about honoring, worshipping, and reverencing God our Father through spending time receiving from Him.
Worship Him and all your fears will fade away in the light of His glory and grace. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15 NKJV).