Fear God or Enjoy God

Dan Corner

This Place Called Hell -- (Fear God)
Hell Warnings from Jesus

Fear God -- The Important Details

There appears to be a growing dangerous trend among evangelicals that Christians are to "enjoy" God while, at the same time, there is a de-emphasis on fearing God. What has happened is Scripture references that speak of joy in the Lord have been equated with enjoying God, but they are not the same. Also, just because the word joy is used in the Bible doesn't mean that should be understood to "enjoy God." Getting saved gives us great joy (Matt. 13:20,44; Acts 16:34; 1 Pet. 1:8). Jesus is a joy and delight and caused many to rejoice at his birth (Lk. 1:14; 2:10), and He wants joy for us (Jn. 15:11; 17:13). Part of the fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22). Jesus risen from the dead caused joy (Lk. 24:41,52). Paul spoke of the kingdom of God being a matter of joy (Rom. 14:17), and he wanted joy for the Philippians (1:25-26). By the way, how often do you hear anyone preach, as Jesus did, that you should leap for joy at persecution (Lk. 6:23) or as James did, to consider it pure joy when we face trials (1:2)?

The above verses are very encouraging but, do not prove we are to "enjoy" God by the usage of the word joy! On the other hand, there are dozens of verses throughout the Scriptures which explicitly speak of the important command to FEAR GOD.

Fear God Meaning

To understand fear from a Biblical perspective, consider that the same word as used in Matt. 10:28 for being afraid of God is also used in a negative sense in that same verse as not to fear those who kill our bodies. In other words, the emotion we aren't to have in a dangerous situation where we may be killed, we are to have towards God! Please remember that fear of God meaning as you proceed. Also, since there are so many verses which speak of the fear of the Lord, only some will be cited. Similar to Matt. 10:28, Jesus gave his disciples other fear God not man teachings:
But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. (Mat 10:33)
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him (Lk. 12:4,5).
Jesus goes on several verses later to warn the disciples not to disown him so that they would not be disowned before the angels of God. So, no matter what would happen, even persecution to death, they were commanded to fear God more than anything man could do. Man can only kill your body, but God alone can have your eternal soul thrown into hell! Simultaneously, Jesus told them not to be afraid because they were worth more than many sparrows. Hence, fear God not man is basic Christian doctrine

Fear God Not Man

Jesus told the Smyrna church not to be afraid of the imprisonment and persecution they were about to suffer. If they were faithful even to the point of death, they would receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). We should conclude from these passages that we are to fear God and His power to condemn us, but not to fear dying for the cause of the Lord. Remember:
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints (Ps. 116:15).
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. (Prov 29:25)
Hence, fear God not man. Then in Romams 11, Paul told the Romans not to be arrogant, but to be afraid because God might not spare them from being cut out of the root (11:17-23). The opposite, then, of that fear must be arrogance! [Don't be deceived by the mythical non-existent so-called eternal security of the believer. NO teaching will crush the fear of God after salvation, like that myth.]

Paul also told the Philippians not to be frightened in any way by those who would oppose them. This was a sign to them that they would be destroyed and the Christians saved because they didn't give way to fear of man in persecution (1:28). Here again, we are not to fear physical harm! This is also clear from Heb. 13:6, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (He quoted Ps. 118:6,7.)

God Is Our Dread

God warned the great prophet Isaiah not to follow the ways of the evil people of his day (8:11). God also told him not to fear what they fear or dread it. Then he said this:
The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to DREAD (Isa. 8:13).
Can we excuse this as only for Old Testament times? God immediately goes on to say in the next verse that He will be a sanctuary, but for Israel, "a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall" (8:14). Peter repeats these truths in 1 Pet. 2:8 and 3:14. So the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Apostle Peter, felt these passages were relevant for the Christians to whom he was writing. Shouldn't they be relevant for us today as well? Read also that he told the believers to live their lives in fear [of God] (1 Pet. 1:17). Another little-known truth from the OT is:
Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. (Psa 2:11)

The Earliest Original Church Feared The Lord

The early church lived in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:31). Are we like them today? Fear seized those in Ephesus after they heard that the demon possessed man beat the seven sons of Sceva bloody. Such caused the name of the Lord Jesus to be held in high honor (Acts 19:17)!

In Acts 5, we find Ananias and Sapphira lying to the Holy Spirit, and falling down dead as a result. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events (5:11). This occurred under the new grace covenant, our covenant with God. So if you think you can live any way you please because of grace without incurring severe consequences, remember what happened to them!

Korah, Dathan and Abiram became insolent and rose up to oppose Moses and Aaron (Num. 16). The next day the earth swallowed them, their wives and children, and all their possessions (v. 31:32). They went down alive into the grave (v. 33). They sinned at the cost of their lives (v. 38). God has the power to easily kill us, if He wants to!

Someone might mention 1 Jn. 4:18:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
A good example of perfect love could be Stephen, the martyr of Acts chapter 7. He had no fear of dying. Nor was he afraid to testify about the Lord to the evil religious leaders of his day. He held no animosity toward those who were stoning him to death, but asked the Lord to forgive them! Wow, what love. Lk. 1:74,75 read, "[God] enables us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days."

What about Jesus telling the disciples not to let their hearts be troubled and not to be afraid in Jn. 14:27? If you read the chapter, you will see that Jesus was comforting them about His own death. However, in the next chapter, Jesus warns them to produce fruit so as not to be cut off the true vine by the Father. Then he speaks of remaining in Him eleven times in the first ten verses of chapter 15! Remember that the servant in Lk. 19:21 and Matt. 25:25 was unjustified for claiming that his fear kept him from serving God and was condemned! Therefore, don't let fear of failure or man stop you from serving and obeying God!

Paul wrote the Romans about the depravity of man in 3:10-18 and included a lack of the fear of God in his description (v.18). Should we be like depraved men? In Rom. 8:15, he tells us we did not receive a spirit that makes us a slave again to fear, but he's referring to suffering for Christ's sake (v.17) or death, as exemplified in Heb. 2:15:

And free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Remember that Paul, the grace teacher, wrote to the Corinthians that he knew what it was to fear the Lord (2 Cor. 5:11). He counseled the Ephesian slaves to obey their masters with respect and fear just as they would the Lord (6:5). The Philippians were to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (2:12).

Take a moment to reflect on these fear God bible verses from the OT about the desirable things that come to those who fear God:

Fear God Bible Verses and Benefits

Nowhere in Scripture are these promises extended to those who enjoy God! The most concise fear God meaning is: to hate and avoid evil (Pr. 8:13; Pr. 16:6). There is no fear of God before the eyes of the sinful wicked (Ps. 36:1). Those with an undivided heart fear his name (Ps. 86:11). Rightfully so, since great fear is due him (Ps. 90:11)! God said through the prophet Jeremiah that we should fear Him and tremble in His presence because He made a boundary for the sea and gives autumn and spring rains in season (5:21-24). We have a direct command from God to fear him in Lev. 19:14; 25:17,36,43. God longed for his people to fear him so that it might go well with them forever (Deut. 5:28-6:2). God inspires us to fear him for our own good so we will not turn away from him (Jer. 32:39-40). Moses said God came to test the people so that the fear of God would be with them to keep them from sinning (Ex. 20:20).

Noah is in the faith chapter as one who built the ark in holy fear (Heb. 11:7). Moses trembled at the terrifying sight of the burning mountain of God (Heb. 12:18-21). God was the Fear of Isaac (Gen. 31:42). Job feared God and shunned evil (1:8) and God called him blameless and upright. The godly writer of Ps. 119:120 had flesh that trembled in fear of God. Whoever wrote Ps. 33 said, "Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him (v.8, NKJV). Asaph in Ps. 76 said God alone was to be feared (v.7). Ethan declared God is greatly feared in the council of the holy ones (Ps. 89:7). Shouldn't we fear God as these righteous men did?

Fear God And Give Him Glory

Lastly, please notice what John recorded as the eternal gospel:
Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water (Rev. 14:6,7).
Remember, those who are victorious over the beast will sing of the fear of God (Rev. 15:4). The small and great who fear Him will praise Him (Rev. 19:5). The Lord Almighty said:
I am a great king and my name is to be feared among the nations (Mal. 1:14).
The ones who fear Him and honor His name will be God's and part of His treasured possession (Mal. 3:16-17). The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever (Ps. 19:9). You who fear the Lord, praise him (Ps. 22:23). Reader, do YOU fear God?

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