Articles by Topic
Articles by Type

Fear of God

Christian, tell me why do you talk about the "fear of God"? Why do you worship if you're afraid of him?

Because…Those who oppose or dismiss God SHOULD fear Him. Those who come to Him for help and forgiveness should NOT.

We hear the term “put the fear of God into him” or that someone is a “God-fearing person”. That can be a difficult concept to hear, or to explain. But the Bible definitely says that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10), and even Jesus taught:

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

What could the Bible mean by “Fear of God”? My first reaction is “No, that can’t be right. God is Love! No one should ever be afraid to come to Him.” That is infinitely true!

But there is more to it than that. It is also infinitely true that everyone should be absolutely terrified to stand against Him.

How can both statements be true? I’ll try to explain myself.

Perspectives on Fear

I’ll start with a couple of examples. Is fear an appropriate reaction in these cases?

  • A smaller schoolchild is being pushed around by a big bully, who is about to shove him into a locker. Fear? Yes.
    • The bully looks up, and sees the principal coming toward him with an angry look on his face. Fear? Again, yes.
  • An undercover investigator just found the final piece of evidence to convict the corrupt police chief. He sees that chief headed his way, grinning and reaching for his gun. Fear? Yes.
    • The corrupt chief hears sirens, squealing tires, and a bullhorn blaring that he’s surrounded. Fear? Again, yes.
  • The Jew is hauled before Hitler, or the infidel before Saddam Hussein. Fear? Yes.
    • Hitler and Hussein were both hidden in their bunkers as they heard the army’s final approach. Fear? Again, yes!

In each case, there is valid reason to be afraid. But are those cases the same? Why not? In the first instances, someone is afraid of an enemy with the power and intent to harm them. In the second, the wrong-doer is afraid of the forces of righteous justice.

Is God To Be Feared?

Which is God: An enemy, or a force of justice? Does He bring harm, or righteousness?

He is the enemy of evil, and the ultimate force of Righteous Justice. But that, by necessity, means that He instills terror in the forces of evil. Who would want otherwise? I desperately want a God who can make Satan quake in his pointy red boots!

In the first book 1 of the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, Susan hears about the great Lion, Aslan (who is a representation of Jesus). She asks “Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” The answer: “Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” Another description repeated throughout the series is that “He is not a tame lion.”

We’ve all known someone who had the bluster of authority, but not the power to actually do anything damaging. Everyone around them learns to ignore their empty threats and to laugh at them behind their back. Who would worship a toothless lion of a god like that? I’m sure that the bullies, the corrupt cops, and the evil dictators might hope for it. But those of us who want a God that we can respect, who is able to “deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13), prefer otherwise.

God’s threats are not empty. When He says “…because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God…” (Romans 2:5), He means it, and has the power to make it so.

So, Yes, God is to be feared. He isn’t safe, He isn’t tame…but He’s good!

Feared By Whom?

The obvious answer to “Who should fear God?” is “Wrong-doer’s, anyone following Satan and doing evil.” That’s easy when we think of Hitler or Hussein. But the Bible also says:

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good.
The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
To see if there are any who understand,
Who seek after God.
They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.

Psalm 14:1-3

Does that mean that I, and you, and everyone else, all have good reason to fear God? I have acted as if He were not there, or not relevant. I’ve turned aside, and sought things other than God. I deserve His wrath. Should I be terrified of Him?


God’s justice is matched by His love, mercy, and grace toward those who acknowledge their need of Him:

Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the LORD,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

Isaiah 55:7

Not by Me: Jesus Took God’s Wrath in My Place

The message of the Bible, the “Gospel“, the Good News that Christians are commissioned to share, is that no one needs to face the Righteous Justice that they deserve…not if they are willing to accept rescue. Because God loves us so much, Jesus has already faced that Justice, on the cross.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

Isaiah 53:5-6

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21

For those who accept Jesus, there is no need to be afraid of God. We definitely do have awe, and respect, and reverence for Him, though. He is still the all-powerful Sovereign who created and rules the universe, after all! For that reason, the term “fear of God” has come to have the additional connotation of awe/respect/reverence.

But there is no fear of harm as if by an enemy. There is only love, in return for the amazing grace and love (1 John 4:19) that He has shown to us through Jesus. Because of Him, we can…

…come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need..

Hebrews 4:16

As I said in the beginning, do fear to stand against God. But never, ever fear to come to Him!

Footnotes and Scripture References

  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture reference links go to, which defaults to another good translation, the New International Version (NIV).  The site has 20 or more translations available for reference.