Intermediate 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, 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. Deuteronomy 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 and Jesus Christ

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

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

Love for God and Jesus Christ is shown by obeying them

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

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.   John 14:23 NET

Love for God is linked with loving other Christians

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

Everyone who loves God will naturally love his children as well.

The Importance of Loving God

Loving God is of the utmost importance

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.”   Matthew 22:37-40 NET

God and Jesus Christ love those who love them

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

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

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.

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

Fear God to the extent that you tremble before him

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

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

Do not fear anything but God

[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.   Isaiah 8:12-13 NCV™

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

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

[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.   1 John 4:16b-18 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 live in anxious fear of God’s punishment.

Why God Should Be Feared

God’s surpassing greatness and sovereignty

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.   Jeremiah 10:6-7 ESV

God’s anger and judgment

[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.   Psalms 76:7-9 ESV

God’s holiness

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

The Importance of Fearing God

Fearing God is closely associated with obeying him . . .

[A wise teacher:] Fear God and keep his commandments, because this is the whole duty of man.   Ecclesiastes 12:13b NET

. . . Fearing God compels one to avoid sin

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.”   Exodus 20:20 ISV

Fear of God leads to life

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

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

Pray for persecuted Christians