Should we believe and fear the God of the Bible? Why fear the judgment of God? Is all fear bad? Can fear motivate us to avoid danger? The fear of being hit by a car causes us to look for cars when we are crossing roads. The fear of home intruders motivates residents to be armed. The fear of an early death provokes people to diet and exercise. Fear pushes neglectful employees, who want their jobs, to work hard. Fear prevents conflicts between nations and between spouses. Fear of punishment disciplines children. Fear is powerful and useful. Fear can be very good.
The apostle Peter instructed Christians to, “Fear God” (1 Pet. 2.17). This fear is not just respect, reverence, and awe. The Greek word for the fear in the New Testament is phobia, and yet this is not quite the irrational phobia that we may think of today. This is a rational fear. Why should we fear a loving God? A loving God is also a just God. We all pursue justice for those, whom we love. Jesus said in Luke 12.5, “Fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into Gehenna; yes, I say to you, fear this One” (cf. Matt. 10.26-28, Rev. 19.20, 20.10).
Why do we sin? Because “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3.18). Repentance requires fear (2 Cor. 7.1, 10-11, cf. Heb. 10.26-31). See, believers are commanded, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2.12). Proverb 16.6 states, “In mercy and truth appeasement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil” (cf. Prov. 1.7, 3.7, 8.13, 14.26-27, 19.23, Luke 1.50). Fearing God’s justice is good when it works repentance.
Does not the Bible say that “perfect love casts out fear”? Yes. It is certainly true that, “In this, love has been completed [perfected] among us, in order that we may have boldness in the Day of the Judgment” (1 John 4.17-18). Yet, if we sin, let us fear and so repent. One day, God will judge every work even our secret sins, so we must obey God and keep His commands (Eccl. 12.13-14, cf. Heb. 4.13). Let all believers walk in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9.31), and not in fear of condemnation for our sins (Rom. 8.15, 2 Tim. 1.7).