The fear of God is not at odds with the grace of God. So what is the fear of God? Essentially, there are two sorts of fear. There is an ungodly fear and Godly fear. The key point about Ungodly fear is that this drives you from God. Genesis 3:10 Adam is afraid and so he hid. There is the ungodly fear that drives you from God. This is the fear that the Israelite’s have in Sinai hearing the trumpets, they draw back in fear. This is a fear of the rebel. The fear of being exposed and so they run. They have a fear that drives them away from God. And this is ungodly fear. It comes from not knowing God. Therefore fear and doubt are regularly connected in scripture. Wrong fear being the cause of unbelief. Revelation 21 puts fearful and faithless together and says their portion is in the lake that burns which is the second death. Where The spirit of God produces a fear of God, that drives us to God. The devil’s work is precisely this to promote the fear of God that makes people flee. So we Christians must ask ourselves these questions.
- Do we have fears that make us question whether there was ever a work of grace?
- Do these fears make us question whether we doubt there is any comfort from the word and Spirit of God?
- Do these fears keep us back from taking hold of the promise of salvation by Jesus Christ?
- Do these fears tend to the hardening of our hearts and making us desperate?
If we answer yes to these questions then there is no grace in it. For these cannot be the natural effects of the workings of the spirit of God. These are not His doings.
On the other hand, Godly fear is the fear the Spirit produces in our hearts. Jeremiah 32:38 They shall be my people and I will be their God, I will give them one heart and one way that they may fear me forever for their own good and their children after them. So the Spirit puts the fear of me in Verse 40 their heart that they may not turn from Me. That is the Godly fear the Spirit produces. The fear that draws us to God and keeps us from wandering away from God. And clearly this Spirit induces fear is not merely about fear of punishment that we might be punished if we wander away because the fear is associated with all the good that He does for them in Jeremiah 33. They are overwhelmed by His graciousness. No faith means no fear of God. Devil’s faith means devils fear. Godly fear flows from a sense of Love and Kindness of God to the soul. Where there is a sense of hope of the kindness and mercy of God by Jesus Christ, there can be none of these fear. Godly fear flows from a sense of hope of mercy from God by Jesus Christ. Nothing can lay a stronger obligation upon the heart to fear God than a sense of or hope in mercy. This begets true tenderness of heart, true Godly softness of spirit. This truly endears the affection to God and in this true tenderness to God lies the very essence of the fear of the Lord. In other words Fear defines true Love for God. It does not balance it out. It defines it. We are called to love God. That word love we can mistake it thinking it means the other loves that we have. But the nature of love is defined by its object. Love for God is not right unless it knows God in all His perfections. You could think it is the grace of God that makes us love God and that the holiness of God makes us tremble. But not so. God’s holiness and majesty does not lessen our love for God. It shapes it. Godly fear is love defined. The fear of God is the right overwhelmed response to God’s full revelations of Himself. Godly fear shapes our love for God.
How can we grow in this Holy fear?
This fear comes from knowing God. Particularly through His word.
Deuteronomy 6:1 This is the commandment your Lord God command me to teach you…that you may fear the Lord your God..You your sons
So learning from the word of God we drink in the fear of God. We drink in this right conception of who God is and so develop a right overwhelmed response to Him knowing who He is. God’s glory and majesty like light shining into darkness, they expose us. In encounter with God, not only grow to know Him but in His light we grow to know ourselves better too. Therefore an encounter with God must create a trembling at who He is and horror at who we are. In His light we see His holiness and our unholiness. We see ourselves. But this pain of seeing ourselves truly is a sweet pain to the believer for we want our sin blasted away. If God shall come to you indeed and visit you with forgiveness of sins that visit will remove the guilt but it will increase the sense of thy filth, it will increase your apprehension of your filth. And the sense of this that God has forgiven filthy sinner will make you both rejoice and tremble. You rejoice and tremble. A blessed confusion will cover your face. There is a fearful response to God His glory and grace. Rejoicing at His holiness, His graciousness and Goodness and trembling at it and trembling at our filthiness all at the same time. There is a relationship between fear and joy. The right fear of God is intimately related to joy in scripture. Fear is closely concerned with the glory of God. Revelation 15:4 “Who will not fear O Lord and glorify Your name.” The fear of God is concerned with the glory of God and enjoys it. True praise is full of a right fear. Psalm 2 Rejoice with trembling. That is the right rejoicing before this God and yet in Nehemiah 1:11 “O Lord let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delights to fear Your name. As fear defines our love for God, it defines or shapes our joy in God. Saints take a pleasure in fearing the Lord. There is a delight in it. This fear shapes what sort of joy we have. This is key as we talk about our enjoyment of God. Our enjoyment of God is shaped by the object of our joy. How then is this fear of the Lord so life savingly useful? Proverbs 1:7 tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. It means you do not have a true knowledge of God, You do not know God if you don’t fear Him. You do not have a true knowledge of yourself if you do not fear Him. The fear of God drives the believer to want God and to want to know God more. The fear of God shapes our learning. Without the fear of God all our abilities are a liability. The fear of God purifies us. Isaiah 8 verse 11 talks about how the fear of the Lord brings strength to His servants….let Him be your fear