“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,
Because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”
1 John 4:18 NASB
As we dwell in the Scriptures, we often find there are some key words that continually draw our attention. “Fear” and “love” are two words, and they are often in juxtaposition to each other, as in our opening verse.
We do have ample Scripture to give us a good understanding of the meanings of the three Greek words translated as “love” in the new Testament and we have the whole 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians to define agape love for us and to establish it as the primary fruit of the Spirit But we often have to hear from the Holy Spirit what is being said to us with the word “fear.”
Why is this important to us at this time? Because we are hearing expressions from the body of Christ of a fearfulness about the present social-economic situation and the increasing anti-Christian actions here and abroad in spite of all the admonitions in God’s Word to us to not be afraid, such as: “But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.’”(Mark 5:36) and, “Fear not, little flock: for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 KJV)
The presence of fear, as the state of being afraid and frightened is real and is increasingly the result of demonic attacks against our faith. I was recently greatly blessed when I heard the testimony of a precious brother in Christ about his demanding the spirit of fear to leave his house and household, and the awesome changes in his family that were evident the next day. This is a great example of walking in faith, exercising our God-given dominion over Satan and his minions, and taking God literally at His Word.
Being-afraid fear is a faith quencher! The emotional fear of man is a strong man in the enemy’s camp. This spirit is active in many of today’s circles because of the financial pressure cooker we are all in these days. Leadership fears contributions will decrease if uncomfortably hard-hitting truths are proclaimed on purity, current social political issues, scriptural views of sexuality, or (God forbid!) divine concepts of giving. “Nevertheless, many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” (John 12:42-43)
This verse exemplifies the spirit of emotional fear-of-man that binds so many church and government leaders today. But the Bible proclaims from cover to cover that God will protect and direct His people who are committed to hearing and obeying Him without fear. “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them for the Lord your God who brought you up from the land Egypt, is with you.” (Deut. 20:1 “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled…” (1 Peter 3:14)
In Fact, the Bible equates being afraid of man’s resistance and opposition to your righteous acts and pronouncements with rebellion against God. “Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protections has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Num. 14:9)
It is interesting to note that in all of the above scriptures with our word “fear,” the Greek (phobus and derivatives) and the Hebrew (yare and its derivatives) “fear” are primarily denoted as a real, emotional, frightfulness fear, but also contain the connotation an accompanying sense of respect and reverence in their definitions.
They therefore express a real fear of man along with a basic respect for him., and always with an accompanying and awe and reverence of the God who is reassuring them not to be afraid of man.
Is this some kind of Christian doubletalk?
Absolutely not! It is a beautiful example in the written Word of our loving God saying to us that we are to love the sinner while we hate the sin!
But we still have a problem with grasping God’s use of the word “fear” because by far the most frequent use of “fear” in Scripture is in the consistent encouragement and even command to seek and walk in the “fear of the Lord.” So, we come face-to-face with an apparent contradiction of fear and love.
The “fear of the Lord” is defined for us as being “clean, enduring forever, …righteous altogether” (Ps19:9). “the beginning of wisdom and knowledge” (Psa 111:10 and Prov 1:7), “to hate evil, pride, arrogance, the evil way, and the perverted mouth” (Prov. 8:13) “strong confidence…a fountain of life” (Prov. 14:26-27).”God’s treasure” (Isa. 33:6) and His command. “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgement has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” (Rev. 14:7)
All these verses use the Hebrew word yare and its derivations to say that fear in the “fear of the Lord” is primarily awesomeness, respect and honor, not frightfulness! So once again we see the need to read Scripture with a both/and understanding of God’s special choice of wording instead of our Westernized either/or approach, because even these words, there is a definite connotation of frightfulness.
Now don’t for a minute think we are saying God says we are never to fear! There are tons of Scriptures that tell us we are to fear (to be afraid) and what we are to fear, like: “Now the dread of the Lord was on all the kingdoms of the lands which were around Judah, so that they did not take war against Jehoshaphat.” (2 Chron 17:10), and: “Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you, be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.” (2 Chron. 19:7) The Hebrew word translated as “fear” in these Scriptures is pachad, an entirely different word from yare, and the primary denotation of pachad is alarm and dread. And please not that it is not just reserved for use with the heathen but also with God’s people.