Why are we told to fear God?
Question: “Why are we told to fear God and to also love God?”
We only fear someone or something when we are afraid of them, what they may do to us. As children, we normally do not fear our parents when we are behaving. But if they told us to stay out of the cookie jar, we fear what they may do to us if we take a cookie. And if we decide that they would not know if we took just one cookie, we then are fearful that they might find out and punish us. It is exactly the same with a police officer. If we have not committed any infringement of the law, we have no fear, but if we have, then we are fearful of being caught and punished.
The word fear is used over 300 times in the Bible in reference to God. We are clearly told to fear God. Do we fear God for doing right or doing wrong? We fear God for having done wrong and we fear God of the consequences if we are considering doing wrong. But we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our sins separates us from God and God will not let anyone into heaven who has sinned. We fear the judgment of God for our sins. The realization that our sins will keep us out of heaven should be our greatest fear, for it is eternal.
“Should you not fear me?" declares the Lord. "Should you not tremble in my presence?" (Jeremiah 5:22). Fortunately, if we sincerely confess and repent of our sins, God will forgive us.
The Hebrew and the Greek languages have a half dozen words that cover different emotions related to God, ranging from extreme terror and fear to love and reverence. Unfortunately, they are usually translated in English Bibles into the single word “fear”. The word fear is appropriate when the verse is referring to disobedience of God or possible punishment. In other verses, the word fear would be better translated to heed or to revere God.
But God is also a God of love. He loves us so much that He provided a payment to pay the price for our sins. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Christ Jesus is our answer. For those who humbly come before Jesus, confess there sins, and asks to be forgiven, they are always forgiven. They not only are forgiven, but their record is erased. God chooses to remember their sin no more. God says, “even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more”(Isaiah 43:25).
So when do we fear God? We fear God for what we have done or what we are contemplating doing. We have no reason to fear God for what He has forgiven or for being obedient. We can say as John said, perfect love expels all fear (1 John 4:18).
Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). As with our parents and the police officer, a healthy fear of the consequences of doing wrong gives us the wisdom to be obedient and to do that which is pleasing to God.
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
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