As I consider this topic, the question keeps ringing in my mind: how can God be love (1 John 4:16) and still be feared? Can there be fear in love? As a matter of fact, the Bible states: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love,” (1 John 4:18). In other words, we cannot say we love God and yet fear Him. So what then is the fear of God or better yet, why do we still need to fear God if there is no fear in love?

To this question, the Bible gives an interesting answer. The Bible says in Proverbs 8:13 that “the fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate”. Thus, it is crystal clear that the fear of God being talked about in 1 John 4:18 is not the fear of God being talked about in Proverbs 8:13. The earlier is talking about our dreadfulness of God because of the fear of torment which is the punishment for our sins, and the other is talking about our love for God because of our fear to hurt him which is the result of our sins. So while the earlier focuses on our fear of punishment from a tyrant God who is obsessed with punishing us for our sins; the latter focuses on our love for a loving God who was slain by our sins. Thus, the Bible, having said “He that fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18), concludes in the next verse that “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Amazingly, the Bible focuses on our fear of God that is based on our love for Him which is reflected in our hatred of evil as opposed to our fear of God that is based on our dreadfulness of Him which is reflected in our obsession with torment.

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“The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do [his commandments]” (Psalms 111:10) = “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

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“And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that [is] wisdom; and to depart from evil [is] understanding” (Job 28:28) = “Hate evil, you who love the LORD” (Psalm 97:10)

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“Praise the LORD! How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments” (Psalm 112:1) = “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3)

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“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) = “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

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“The fear of the LORD [is] a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27) = “The LORD keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:20).

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“In the fear of the LORD [is] strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge” (Proverbs 14:26) = “The LORD keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:20).

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“And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12) = “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

In all of the above scriptures amongst the many others present in the Bible, one theme is repeated; the fear of God and the love of God cannot be separated! In fact, in biblical terms as already established above, the two phrases can actually be exchanged. Though there are many other practical examples in the Scripture and history that may be identified, the experience of Joseph, of Daniel, of the three Hebrew Boys, of the Apostles, and of the believers during the dark ages may be called to mind as a typical illustration of this biblical concept of fear; the one connected to our love for God. It was the fear of God that made Joseph refuse to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, yet it was the love of God; it was the fear of God that made Daniel defy King Darius commandment, yet it was the love of God; it was the fear of God that made the three Hebrew Boys disobey Nebuchadnezzar’s decree, yet it was the love of God; it was the fear of God that made the Apostles give up their dear lives for the Gospel, yet it was the love of God; it was the fear of God that made the believers during the dark ages choose to be burnt alive for their faith, yet it was the love of God. These people were not obsessed with the torment that would accompany their sins; they simply loved God too much to hurt him in disobedience or denial, even if it would cost them their lives.

Friend, what are your thoughts? Kindly leave a comment below.

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