TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

I.  Loving and Fearing God

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Chapter 23  Part I

Loving and Fearing God

Love and fear are two emotions or attitudes that we should have towards God, and arguably they stand alone as such. The Bible states that loving God is of the utmost importance. Fearing God is also shown to be critical. Like loving God, understanding and having the fear of God that the Bible teaches helps and benefits us in many ways.

Note that both love and fear of God are closely associated with obeying him (the theme of the second half of this chapter). They are very strong, compelling emotions and provide the primary emotional stimuli for obeying God (cf. Deut 10:12-13) – supplementing intellectual stimuli arising out of such things as faith. Moreover, the Bible indicates that our love and fear of God are actually expressed primarily in obeying him.

Love God

Love God . . .

Ps 31:23a  Love the Lord, all you faithful followers of his!  NET

Ps 116:1  [A psalmist:] I love the Lord, because he has heard my prayer for mercy.  ISV

. . . Love Jesus Christ

Eph 6:24  Grace be with all of those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.  NET

Love and treasure God’s word

Ps 119:97, 140, 165  [A psalmist, to God:] O how I love your law! All day long I meditate on it.140Your word is absolutely pure, and your servant loves it!165Those who love your law are completely secure; nothing causes them to stumble.  NET

Job 23:12  [Job:] I have not left his commands behind. I have treasured his words in my heart.  GW

Love for God and Jesus Christ is shown by obeying them

1Jn 5:3  We show our love for God by obeying his commandments, and they are not hard to follow.  CEV

John 14:23-24  Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. 24The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.  NET

1Ki 3:3a  Solomon showed he loved the Lord by following the commands his father David had given him …  NCV™

Love for them is linked with loving and caring for other Christians

1Jn 5:1  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is God’s child, and whoever loves the Father also loves the Father’s children.  NCV™

Heb 6:10  [The writer, to believers:] For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name, in having served and continuing to serve the saints.  NET

 Questions for Section A

The Importance of Loving God

Loving God is of the utmost importance

Matt 22:37-40  Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”  NET

God and Jesus Christ love those who love them

Neh 1:5  And I [Nehemiah] said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, …  ESV

John 14:21b  [Jesus:] The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.  NET

Note that the last clause refers to Jesus Christ revealing himself to those who love him, along with loving them.

God cares for those who love him

Ps 91:14-15  God says, “I will save those who love me and will protect those who acknowledge me as Lord. 15When they call to me, I will answer them; when they are in trouble, I will be with them. I will rescue them and honor them.  GNT

Ps 145:20  The Lord protects those who love him, but he destroys all the wicked.  NET

Various spiritual blessings from loving God

Rom 8:28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  ESV

1Cor 8:3  But if someone loves God, he is known by God.  NET

God of course knows everything about all people, but he knows his own people in a unique way in that he has a personal, intimate relationship with them – which may be what Paul has in mind here. A related interpretation is that “known by God” refers to being recognized by God as one of his own.

Blessings in the afterlife from loving God

James 2:5  Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?  NET

1Cor 2:9  But as it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”  ISV

Note that as well as blessings of the afterlife, this is probably also referring to – or at least is applicable to – blessings of the present life.

 Questions for Section B

Fear God

Fearing God is more than just having reverence for him. A sound appreciation of God’s holiness and wrath, along with his supreme power, produces a genuine fear of incurring his displeasure. But this does not involve anxiety or terror for those who seek to please him and who understand his grace (cf. Note: God’s people should not live in fear of his punishment).

Clearly, fearing God moves us to obey him. It also evokes and supplements such things as worship and service, and even trust (cf. BKC). When we grasp the concepts involved and willingly do fear God, we learn to gladly do so, even treasuring verses that call on us to fear God.

Fear and be in awe of God

1Pet 1:17  If you call “Father” the one who judges everyone impartially according to what he has done, you must live in the fear of the Lord as long as you are strangers here [on earth].  ISV

Ps 33:8  Let the whole earth fear the Lord! Let all who live in the world stand in awe of him!  NET

Fear God to the extent that you tremble before him . . .

Ps 119:120a  [A psalmist, to God:] My flesh trembles out of fear of you, and I am in awe of your judgments.  ISV

Ps 96:9  Worship the Lord in holy attire! Tremble before him, all the earth!  NET

. . . and tremble at God’s word

Isa 66:2b  [God:] I will pay attention to those who are humble and sorry for their sins and who tremble at my word.  GW

Do not fear anyone or anything but God

Matt 10:28  Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  NET

Isa 8:12-13  [God, to Isaiah:] People are saying that others make plans against them, but you should not believe them. Don’t be afraid of what they fear; do not dread those things. 13But remember that the Lord All-Powerful is holy. He is the one you should fear; he is the one you should dread.  NCV™

Note that if a person truly fears God, they are practically unable to fear anyone or anything else.

Note: God’s people should not live in fear of his punishment

1Jn 4:16b-18  [John, to believers:] God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment.  GNT

In v. 18 “love” appears to be referring to the love of God that is manifested in the Christian – the love that God has for them and they in turn show to others (v. 16), revealing themselves to be like God or Christ (v. 17b). Knowing and expressing such love drives out anxious fear of punishment from God (v. 18) – particularly as those who live in love live in God, and God in them (v. 16b). Knowledge of such love cannot coexist with anxious fear of God’s punishment; they are incompatible, both logically and experientially. As such we can look towards Judgment Day with courage and confidence (v. 17).

Having a godly fear of God’s punishment is a good thing, as it leads us to spurn sin and to not turn away from God. However, living with God’s love – and under his grace – believers ought not to live in anxious fear of God’s punishment.

 Questions for Section C

Why God Should Be Feared

God’s surpassing greatness and sovereignty

Jer 10:6-7  There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you.  ESV

God’s great deeds . . .

1Sam 12:24  However, fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. Just look at the great things he has done for you!  NET

. . . including God’s creative work and control over nature

Ps 33:8-9  Let the whole earth fear the Lord! Let all who live in the world stand in awe of him! 9For he spoke, and it came into existence, he issued the decree, and it stood firm.  NET

Josh 4:23-24  [Joshua, to the Israelites:] The Lord your God dried up the Jordan ahead of you until you had crossed, as he did to the Red Sea until we had crossed. 24The Lord did this so that everyone in the world would know his mighty power and that you would fear the Lord your God every day of your life.  GW

God’s anger and judgment

Ps 76:7-9  [A psalmist, to God:] But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? 8From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, 9when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah  ESV

God’s holiness

Rev 15:4a  Who will not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name, because you alone are holy?  NET

God’s holiness involves his separateness from and intolerance of that which is morally impure, with the latter leading to his judgment. Thus God’s holiness – awesome in itself – and its grave implications give good reason to fear him.

God’s love

Ps 33:18  Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, …  ESV

This associates fearing God and having one’s hope in God’s love. Arguably it suggests that God’s love towards his people is a reason why they fear him.

God’s forgiveness

Ps 130:4  [A psalmist, to God:] But with you there is forgiveness, so that you may be feared.  ISV

Without God’s forgiveness the fear of God that the Bible commands would not be possible – it being a fear which encompasses (among other things) worship, service and even longing for God. In place of it there would only be terror.

 Questions for Section D

The Importance of Fearing God (I): Godly Living

Fearing God is closely associated with obeying him

Eccl 12:13  [A wise teacher:] Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion: Fear God and keep his commandments, because this is the whole duty of man.  NET

Fear of God and obedience of God are often spoken of in conjunction with each other, to the point where it would appear they are inseparable in practice. A key reason for this close relationship is that fear of God, with an appreciation of his power and wrath, is a great stimulus to obeying him.

Fear of God is associated with righteous living

Acts 10:35  Indeed, the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him in any nation.  ISV

Fearing God compels one to avoid sin and evil

Ex 20:20  Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so the fear of him may be present with you in order that you don’t sin.”  ISV

Prov 16:6  By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.  ESV

Fearing God ensures we deal rightly with others

Lev 25:17, 43  [God, to the Israelites:] You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord your God. … 43You shall not rule over him [a servant] ruthlessly but shall fear your God.  ESV

Not fearing God is linked with ungodliness – and the consequences

Ps 36:1  An evil man is rebellious to the core. He does not fear God, …  NET

Ps 55:19  [A psalmist, speaking of wicked enemies:] God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, because they do not change and do not fear God.  ISV

 Questions for Section E

The Importance of Fearing God (II): Blessings

God delivers and protects those who fear him

Ps 33:18-19  Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  ESV

Prov 14:26  In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.  ESV

Fear of God leads to life

Prov 19:23  Fearing the Lord leads to life, and one who does so will live satisfied; he will not be afflicted by calamity.  NET

OT verses (such as this one) which speak of fearing God leading to “life”, generally have in view: life as opposed to premature death; and/or a fullness of life.

Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom

Ps 111:10  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!  ISV

Further present-day blessings of fearing God

Ps 103:11, 13  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;13As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.  ESV

Acts 10:34-35  Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, 35but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him.  NET

Future blessings for those who fear God

Mal 3:16-17  Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17“They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.  ESV

Rev 11:18  [Loud voices in heaven, to God:] The nations were angry, but your wrath has come. It is time for the dead to be judged— to reward your servants, the prophets, the saints, and all who fear your name, both unimportant and important, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.  ISV

Both of the above passages have the day of God’s final judgment in view.

 Questions for Section F

Pray for persecuted Christians