What is the Fear of The Lord?

What is the Fear of the Lord and Why Do We Need It?

There is so much discussion of the goodness of the Lord these days, and rightly so. His goodness is part of His perfection and beauty which attracts His children to Him. However, as much as the church needs to hear of His goodness as a foundational life changing truth, J.I Packer warns in his classic Knowing God that one always needs to talk of the “goodness and severity of the Lord” Without that perspective, God becomes some fluffy Santa Clause figure that is no God at all.

The goodness of God cannot really be appreciated without understanding that He does not compromise in His standard of righteousness. The gospel in a nutshell upholds his righteousness as He pays the price for the wages of sin and death by substituting His only begotten Son, who became poor so we could become enriched. He bears the consequences of rebellion Himself to restore relationship with His children. But believers must not lose that healthy fear of the consequences of rebellion and the appropriate sense of reverent awe and wonder at the mystery of his mighty power. Therefore, it seems good to consider the fear of the Lord

Differentiating between different kinds of fear is helpful at the outset of this discussion. First, there is simple human fear which involves self preservation -- a positive aspect of fear. Put simply, it is a good thing to fear placing one's hand on a hot burner or running into a busy intersection without the benefit of a stop light and walk signal! Fight or flight is part of a human's psyche; we all would like to continue being a human being. Second, because of trauma or indoctrination from others, one could develop an inordinate fear of some thing or activity. Often this “phobia” takes on a life of its own based on what could happen rather than what is really going to happen. Phobias are neither positive nor healthy.

Lastly, the fear of man, a huge issue in the contemporary culture and church, is that fear of rejection from peers if decisions or actions are taken which do not follow what is considered normal or current. Scripture states that the fear of man is a snare, a trap (Proverbs 29:25). Conversely, He who trusts in the Lord is safe. This concept is illustrated as the disciples defended their healing evangelism. Because of their fear of God; they must obey Him rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

When believers read the many hundreds of exhortations to “fear not” it is human fear, the fear of man and irrational phobias that are being addressed, not the fear of God. Saint Paul encouraged young Timothy by declaring that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. Yet this same apostle urges the Corinthians to perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1). Let us explore and define the fear of the Lord in part two of this series.

Written by: Larry Kennedy