– George Macdonald
Fearing God and Wisdom
There seems to be a contradiction when we say that we should have fear for God and that the fear of God is the beginning–and I would say the consummate–of wisdom (Prov. 9:10; Psalm 111:10). The idea of fear is not one of dread or terror but a holy, reverential fear, which is a deep and abiding respect for the holiness of God. Fearing God is where wisdom begins, and that is the only place where it can be found, because you typically obey what you fear. For example, around a sharp curve on a mountainous road where the sign says “Slow, 10 MPH” or “Dangerous Curve,” you will most likely slow down and obey that sign. That truly is wisdom, at least if you want to live beyond that curve.
Fear God and Not Man
We have no fear of what any man can do to us because “the fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Prov. 29:25), just as Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28a). This is because there is no condemnation for those who have trusted in Christ (Rom. 8:1) since believers are now at peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Our faith casts out the fear of judgment because the judgment of our sins was placed on Christ and not on us, even though we surely deserved it. For those who have never repented, they have every reason to fear, as the author of Hebrews warns, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
No Fear in Love
To me, the Apostle John is known as the “Love Apostle” because in his letters (1, 2, and 3 John) and in his gospel, he wrote more about love than any other single author in the Bible. That’s why it makes perfect sense for him to write that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). This is exactly what I was writing about earlier. Fear only has to do with punishment, but this perfect love shown by the perfect God-Man, Jesus Christ, took the punishment for us, so this perfect faith, a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9), lifts us far and above an absolute fear.
Slaves Need Not Fear
The word “bondservant” used in the New Testament is actually the Greek word “doulos” and doesn’t mean servant but slave. So, we are actually slaves of God because we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20), and that price was the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Slaves have no reason to fear a benevolent Master. Paul makes this clear, writing, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). In ancient Rome, slaves could frequently earn their freedom, and when they did, they often stayed with the family they had served, became as much a son or daughter as the master’s own children, and were loved dearly by their former masters. So it is with us, the children of God.
You have no reason to fear God, or at least the punishment awaiting those who have yet to repent and trust in Christ (Rev. 20:12-15). We have only to fear God as our source for wisdom, not out of terror but an obedience that is done out of love, because a perfect faith lifts us above any fear, as far as the heavens are above the earth.