Several places in The Bible talk about a “fear of the Lord”. For example, Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom….” Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 not to fear those who can destroy the body but no more than that, but that we should fear the one who has the power to destroy both body and soul in Hell (i.e God). Proverbs 8:13 says “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” And Proverbs 10:27 says “The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.” There are several other passages just like these I just mentioned that talk about the fear of God.
This confuses a lot of people because in modern English we often use the word “fear” in reference to something terrible. Many skeptics of The Bible taunt Christians with questions such as “If your God is so loving, why should we be afraid of Him? You don’t have to be afraid of people who are loving and kind, do you?”
The problem with the skeptic’s taunt is that he misunderstands the definition of fear in these biblical instances. I take this “Fear” of The Lord to be a similar kind of “fear” a person would have of police officers. Given that you respect their authority and know what they’d do to you if you committed a crime, you would therefore refrain from committing crimes, especially right in front of them! Who would litter or break into a vehicle with a cop standing right there? However, we don’t fear police officers in the same sense that we fear Islamic terrorists or the Ebola virus. We don’t think (most of us at least) think that the cops are out to get us. That they’re out to do us harm. We fear them, but we’re not afraid of them. We’re only afraid of things like blood thirsty murderers and deadly diseases etc. The Bible says that God doesn’t induce fear into us in this latter sense of the word. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
This is the type of fear one has towards God; we respect Him and also realize how serious God takes sin to be. We therefore refrain from sinning. But we do this not only out of fear of possible punishment and respect for divine authority. We also do this out of love. Jesus said “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:5). And Jesus is God (John 1:1-14, John 10:30, Hebrews 1). So His commandments are God’s commandments. Those who have received the Holy Spirit into their hearts have become children of God (John 1:12, Romans 8:14-17, Galatians 3:26). We have gained a new father, a Heavenly, Maximally Great Father. Out of our passionate love for our Heavenly Father, we obey his commandments. We do good and shun evil. Sin stinks to us. (see John 14:5). We obey the tri-personal Being out of love for Him. 1 John 5:2-5 says “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Should we fear God? Yes and no. Terrified in the sense that we should walk around always wanting to do honor to the Lord and obey him, constantly keeping in mind our King. But confident in our standing in Christ. Who you fear is who you obey. In the biblical sense of the word.
This type of fear does not necessarily mean to be afraid of something as I already stated above. Rather, it is a reverential awe of God; a reverence for His power and glory.
Fear of the Lord brings with it many blessings and benefits. It is the beginning of wisdom and leads to good understanding (Psalm 111:10). Only fools despise wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7). Furthermore, fear of the Lord leads to life, rest, peace, and contentment (Proverbs 19:23). It is the fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27) and provides a security and a place of safety for us (Proverbs 14:26).