Basic Battle Training
Chapter 14: Motivations: The Fear of God
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).
The fear of God understood in the 21st century (and practiced by the church) is one of the most confused, misunderstood and truly lost doctrines in the world today. Satan, in his efforts to quench the people of God, has effectively used a variety of approaches to nullify this powerful motivator. In this chapter we will bring this doctrine back into focus so the reader may benefit by understanding God with this facet of His character and plan clearly stated.
Their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men. (Isaiah 29:13).
What then is this fear that is the genesis of a wise man? To this doctrine Satan has brought one of his most crafty tricks. Being unable to remove the word and do away with the concept within Scripture Satan has done the second best thing. As understood and practiced by much of the Church today, he has succeeded in re-defining the word and concept of this doctrine.
What then does the Bible say about the fear of God?
That we are commanded to fear Him!
Luke 12:4-5: "And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him."
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
That the fear of God purifies our lives:
- 2 Corinthians 7:1: "…let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
And that the fear of God is a requirement for leadership:
- 2 Samuel 23:3: "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." (Ex. 18:21; 2 Chron. 19:7,9)
Word Games apostasy
For the most part today the word “fear” has been re-defined as “awe” or “reverence”. It is not fashionable in current faith to talk about "fearing God”. Modern Bible scholars reflect this error in their translation of many subject verses. For example the New American Standard Bible eliminates the word fear found in the KJV by re-translating it as "awe" or "respect" in the following verses
Exodus 15:11; 32:26-28
Leviticus 19:14’ 32, 36 and 43
Job 15:4; 25:2
Psalm 2:11; 5:7; 22:23; 65:8; 119:38; 135:20
Isaiah 25:3; 29:13, 23
Hosea 3:5; 10:3
Malachi 1:6; 2:5
Hebrews 5:7; 11:7; 22:28
1 Peter 3:15
Not to be outdone, the popular NIV does the same thing in these passages
- Leviticus 19:32
Deuteronomy 4:10-11; 8:6; 13:4; 13:23; 17:19; 25:58
1 Samuel 12:18
2 Kings 4:1; 17:25, 28, 33-36, 38, 41
Nehemiah 1:11; 5:15
Job 15:24; 25:2; 37:24
Psalm 22:23; 102:15; 119:120
Ecclesiastes 3:14; 5:7; 8:12
Isaiah 25:3; 29:13, 23; 63:17
Jeremiah 2:19; 10:7; 33:9; 44:10
Malachi 1:6; 2:5, 4:2
Luke 1:65, 5:26; 7:16
2 Corinthians 7:1
Hebrews 5:7; 12:28
Note: While some may excuse these changes by saying they represent little threat, we see any change from the true meaning to be detrimental and influential to the current lukewarm thought.
Greek and Hebrew?
Contrary to popular misconception, the Hebrew and Greek languages are not somehow imbued with some supernatural accuracy where each word has, without exception, only one precise meaning. Hebrew and Greek words can have many meanings and can sometimes be translated in numerous ways. The Hebrew and Greek words for "fear" can at times be translated "revere," but it is obvious that the primary meaning in the majority of cases (even in modern translations) is that of "fear," "terror," "dread," etc. As we will detail in Chapter 21, the best way to understand a word is not in consulting Greek or Hebrew lexicons, but by reading the passage in context!
In the Old Testament the word for "fear" is translated from the Hebrew word ya-re. This word is translated "fear" 154 times in the King James Bible. It is the word used by Jacob in Genesis 32:11, when he said, I fear him (Esau), lest he will come and smite me." In Deuteronomy 2:25 it is used as synonymous with “trembling” and being “in anguish”. It is translated "dread" in 1 Chronicles 22:13; it is translated "terrible" in Joel 2:11,31; Exod. 34:10; Deut. 7:21; and Zeph. 2:11.
The Greek word for fear in all of the New Testament passages on the fear God is phobos (from which we get “phobia”). "Great fear came upon the church after Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead. (Acts 5:11) It is the same word translated "fear" in the following verses: Matthew 14:26; 28:4; Luke 2:9; 21:26 ("men’s hearts failing them for fear"); Acts 5:5; Rev. 18:15…passages which refer to men "shaking," "becoming as dead men," and fearing for their lives.
Virtually all of this information is systematically ignored by those who insist that fear of God" in the Bible does not mean fear, but "reverential awe."
Biblically defined Fear
To be "Afraid" Exodus 3:6
To "Dread" Isaiah 8:13
To "Tremble" Jeremiah 5:22
(See also: Job 23:15; Ezra 9:4; Psalm 2:11; 119:120; Daniel 6:26; Acts 24:25.)
Isaiah 2:10-21 "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord….
And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord…." (Hos. 10:8; Rev. 6:15-16)
(See also 1 Sam. 11:7; 12:18-19; Psa. 9:17-20; 90:11; Isa. 25:2-3; 59:18-19; Zeph. 3:6-7; Hag. 1:9-12; Acts 5:1)
Deuteronomy 28:58-68 "If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and wonderful name, The Lord thy God; then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful…until thou be destroyed…. The Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you…."
2 Kings 17:25 "…they feared not the Lord: therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which slew some of them."
(See also Deut. 25:17-19; Prov. 1:26-29; Isaiah 29:13-14; Eccles. 8:13; Jer. 2:19; 5:24-25)
Blessings and reward come from fearing God
Psalm 128 "Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord. Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion."
Psalm 31:19 "Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee"
Luke 1:50 "And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation." (Prov. 22:4; Mal. 3:16)
(See also: Exod. 1:21; Psalm 34:7,9; 103:11,17; 145:19)
Fear in the Covenant to the Hebrews
God used the fear of punishment in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 in the blessings and the cursings. A light skim of these chapters will reveal that God put far more emphasis on the fear of cursing than on the anticipation of blessings. Lev. 26 contains 6 blessings to 37 cursings, and Deut. 28 contains 12 blessings and 78 cursings.
God used fear as the great motivator for Israel to remain obedient to His word. That the cursing was in such proportion to blessing again gives context for one of God’s greatest tools for service and obedience: that of FEAR!
Fear as understood by acts of God
- Gen. 6-8, 19
- Exodus 8-12, 14, 21
- Num. 14, 16, 20
- Deut. 20
- 1 Sam. 3, 4, 6, 15
- 2 Sam. 6, 11, 12, 24
- 1 Kings 11, 13, 17, 20, 22
- 2 Kings 1, 5, 6, 7, 17, 25
- Job 1, 2
- Isaiah 13-23, 37
- Jer. 46-51
- Ezek. 24, 25-32,35;
- Dan. 4, 5
- Amos 1
- Jonah 1,2
- Matt. 15
- Luke 1
- Acts 12, 13
(Though the word "fear" may not be specifically used in a verse, description often will suffice)
- Isaiah 19:6; 24:1, 34:2&7; 40:15&17; 45:9; 47:12-15,
- Jeremiah 4:10; 7:20; 12:12; 13:14; 15:7; 16:4; 20:7; 23:9; 25:23; 20:7
- Ezekiel 9:10; 14:19; 20:33; 21:2
- Hosea 5:6; 8:7; 9:15
- Joel 1:15
- Micah 3:4; 5:15
- Nahum 1:2,5,6
- Zechariah 11:6; 14:3
- Malachi 3:2
And for those who say we are putting too much emphasis on the Old Testament (as if God had changed between the covenants!), the following verses represent the Fear of God from the New Testament:
- Matthew 3:10; 5:22; 7:21-23; 11:21&24;18:16; 21:44; 25:30,
- Mark 13:2
- Luke 16:19-31; 20:16
- John 15:1-8
- 1 Corinthians 3; 5:5
- 1 Timothy 1:20
- 1Thes. 2:11
- 2 Peter 3:10
- Jude 12,13
- Revelation 7, 8, 9
(Also take note again that the word "love" is not found in the book of Acts once; but "fear" is mentioned 10 times!)
The New Testament God?
"To whom much is given, of him shall much be required" (Luke 12:48)
Some try to spread the old Gnostic lie that the Old Testament God was one of wrath, but the New Testament one is the God of love. In the Bible, this description is actually the other way around!
The Fear of Hell
"Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:11).
Hell is the promised destination of the unbeliever and the threat given to the apparent believer or those who turn their back on their salvation and God. In Jude 22, 23 it says that some come by love and some by fear. Unlike the Old Testament, God no longer threatens us with the loss of our freedom, goods or even our life. His New Testament guarantee is that we will suffer loss of even our eternal existence in the most horrific of circumstances: That of tortuous, unquenchable fire! This fear of hellfire as a prime motivator to the unbeliever has been satanically reduced in our time by its lack of emphasis and the re-definition of the concept (read: “separation” from God”). With this done, “those that would come by fear” has likewise been reduced.
Another consequence of this fear of judgment is evident in the runaway slide of moral decay we see around us. From our supposed leaders and "role models" to the degeneration of the youth of our land, there is no fear of accountability and judgment before God’s throne. With this void, sin proliferates and continues to find its own high level! The only stopgap to this decay is the declaration of clear moral principals found in the Scripture, coupled with the THREAT OF JUDGMENT before a holy God!
As with any web of deception, one doctrine can often times have an influence on another. This is the case as one struggles to equate the fear of God in a believer’s life, and the current beliefs of “eternal security”. Salvation of a soul being accomplished, how does the extreme of this doctrine and the doctrine of the fear of God correlate? A close study of this subject from Scripture shows a far different picture than is commonly believed in many Churches today. The truth is that this subject is not as clear from Scripture as many would have you believe.
Hebrews 10:26-31 "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much SORER PUNISHMENT suppose ye shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the spirit of grace? ... It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.
And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are SEALED unto the day of redemption. Eph 4:30
These two verses, used as samples to define the eternal consequences of a believers standing with God, are seemingly at odds. Proper division and understanding of these things is further explored in Chapter 20.
Love trumps fear?
Many believers like to quote 1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear…." Though this is true, notice in the verse that only “perfect love” can cast out fear. When we love God perfectly and serve Him completely every day with every thought, word, and deed, then we indeed have no need to fear His punishment. As many today even sing of their great love for God, how many can truly say that they possess this "perfect love?"
We have strayed far from God’s intents in this doctrine and now face a world crumbling under our feet as men live lives far from the fear of judgment to come. Sadly, this fact is true for believer and unbeliever alike. Satan has done a masterful job of dissolving this motivation and only a full revival of this understanding will suffice. With this, the motivation for believers to be better, the lost to convert, and sin to be withstood, will be in place. Do it now, or suffer the consequence of its continued omission: This is the course set before us
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