Fear is a strong emotion with a fairly negative connotation. It’s generally not a good thing. Psychology Today gives advice about how to overcome fear. Therefore, “fear God” could leave the secular thinker with a negative definition of a basic Scriptural tenant. And how can one fear God and also love God at the same time? The apostle John points this out in 1 John 4:18: “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.”
Looking at the Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) word for fear doesn’t really help. Look those up and you will find definitions like “alarm”, “dread”, “terror”. We can also find “revere” or “awe” – something relatable to God to be sure – but is fearing God more than just an emotional reaction?
How Scripture answers "What does it mean to fear God?"
To fear God means to revere Him1,2,9,14, but ultimately to fear God is much more than raw emotion. It’s not a reaction11,16, but a learned behavior3,6,8,13,17,18 – a choice10,12,14,15,16 – that can be quantified and taught to others3,7,8,15,17. Specifically, it means to obey2,3,4,5,14,18 God’s words3,6,7,13,15 in order not to sin5,6,16,17.
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