The Fear of God in the New Covenant

Jesus died on the cross to reconcile man to God and so that we might live free from the fear of punishment. Yet the phrase “the fear of the Lord” comes up many times in the New Testament. What does it mean to have the fear God under the new covenant?

The following is a special guest post from my friend Ryan Rufus:

The Fear of God in the New Covenant

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Ti 1:7)

We need to keep this scripture in mind when we talk about the fear of God. God doesn’t want us to have a fearfulness of Him. Our relationship with Him, and consequently our relationship toward others, is one of power (God’s empowerment), love (God’s love) and a sound mind (a supernatural sound mind).

“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because He first loved us.” (1Jn 4:15-19)

According to this scripture it is wrong to fear God’s judgments! If we fear God’s judgments it means we don’t understand His love!

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:28-29)

Let us have grace to serve God acceptably. What’s acceptably? It’s faith! It takes faith to acknowledge who He is. A reverence and a godly fear is about seeing God – the magnitude of His being and ascribing that greatness to His name. It’s not taking the greatness for yourself and it’s not playing down who God is. That would be the opposite of grace – i.e., self righteousness.

The fear of God that the Self Righteous have is that God will judge them for not being righteous enough. The fear of God that the Christ-righteous have is that God has qualified them to share in the Kingdom and that He is on their side and they therefore cannot be shaken or moved and that this awesome God will judge their enemies with fire! It’s not saying let us serve God because if you don’t He will judge you with fire, but let’s not be afraid to serve God because God is on our side and will judge our enemies!

The context of Hebrews 12 is that the saints were being persecuted for their faith and feeling like giving up because the opposition was too much. But the writer is saying, see who God is, how great He is, that He is on your side, that you’re in an unshakable kingdom, that your God is a consuming fire.

You’ve got God and heaven for you, backing you! When you see that, you will have the boldness to serve God the way that He has called you to serve Him – with boldness and confidence in His grace and power and authority. To see this is to “fear God.” To not see this is to have no “fear of God.”

16 Comments on The Fear of God in the New Covenant

  1. I love what Joseph Prince saids about the “Fear of the Lord.”
    One day a minister came up to him and asked him, “What about the fear of the Lord?”
    Pastor Prince said, “What about it?”
    The minister said, “Well the Bible saids we should fear the Lord.”
    And Pastor Prince began to explain this by quoting the temptation of Jesus, when Jesus said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]” -Mathew 4:10 Notice the word, “Worship.” Jesus said worship the Lord your God, but the verse He quoted in Deuteronomy saids, “Fear the LORD your God, serve him only – Deuteronomy 6:13. So Jesus changed out the word, “Fear” with, “Worship.” It must be that these two words are synonymous in the mind of Christ, and who else to interpret the fear of the Lord than Jesus himself! So, when we worship the Lord we are really, “Fearing the Lord.”

    • God bless you! I’ve always wondered what this means. I heard Pastor Prince say that to fear God means to worship Him but didn’t really understand as he did not go into the details. I know the Holy Spirit led me to see this – Jesus quoting Deuteronomy! Glory be to the Lord in the highest!

  2. Agree with Caleb Gibson. So according to Jesus himself, he redefined “to fear of the Lord” as to “to worship the Lord”. This must be a revelation from Jesus himself thru Pastor Prince. Be blessed!

  3. Responding to Caleb & Lazarus:
    Jesus was talking to Satan. If there was one being for Jesus to be talking to and say “fear the Lord!” or “be terrified of the Lord!” it would be Satan yet Jesus still gave us the true meaning. The fear of the Lord truly is reverence, honor, & respect not frightfulness & terror.

  4. Roshan Easo // May 12, 2012 at 3:27 am // Reply

    Wow, Wow, Wow!
    “The fear of God that the Self Righteous have is that God will judge them for not being righteous enough. The fear of God that the Christ-righteous have is that God has qualified them to share in the Kingdom and that He is on their side and they therefore cannot be shaken or moved and that this awesome God will judge their enemies with fire!”

  5. the primary Greek words used for fear in the new testament are phobeo (used 51x) and phobeos (36x) Phobeo means to do something to avoid harm, like when paul says we should fear (phobeo) punishment by secular authorities if we commit a crime. Phobeo causes a response in us. Sometimes as christians our response to be holy is out of fear of what will happen if we are rebellious. However the primary motivation is love and used 2x more than fear as motivational force, but fear is also needed for Christian to properly relate to God. Jonathan Edwards sums up our findings beautifully in his “treaties concerning the religious affections”, published in 1796.
    “So hath God contrived and constituted things in his dispensations toward his own people that when their love decays and the exercises of it fail or become weak, fear should arise; for then they need it to restrain them from sin and to excite them to care for the good of their souls and so to save them up to watchfulness and diligence in religion: but God hath so ordered that when love rises and is in vigorous exercise, then fear should vanish and be driven away for then they need it not, having a higher and more excellent principle in exercise to restrain them from sin and stir them up from their duty.
    There are no other principles which human nature is under the influence of that will ever make men conscientious but one of these two, fear or love: and therefore if one of these should not prevail as the other decayed, God’s people when fallen into dead and carnal frames, when love is asleep would be lamentably exposed indeed. And therefore God has wisely ordained, that these two opposite principles of love and fear should rise and fall like the two opposite scales of a balance; when one rises the other sinks…
    Fear is cast out by the Spirit of God, no other way than by the prevailing of love: nor is it ever maintained by his Spirit but when love is asleep…”

  6. I do not agree with many writers above. I don’t see the love and fear pattern of Ginny, and his quotes from Jonathan Edwards.

    To fear God, is a greek and also Hebrew way of saying that you worship a certain God. In that sense fear and worship is the same. Joseph Prince explanation denies this historical fact and presents the words of Jesus having here some sort of revelation, that it here does not contain.

    Any Greek and Hebrew scholar could tell Joseph Prince and our dear friends above so.

    Joseph Prince has written an excellent book on grace “Destined to Reign” (do not confuse with the devotional). But the book on “The fear of the Lord” of the other Charismatic Preacher, John Bevere is good as well. Both are true. If just take these two books, Bevere should make some changes after reading and understanding Joseph Prince. But in His preachings and concepts of God, Joseph Prince and there friends need to understand many of the true statements John Bevere makes in “The fear of the Lord.

    I hope these man of God will start to understand there mutual positions, and both be changed by that, and both come to the full understanding and knowledge of God. Let us pray they will together publish a book. It will bring a necessary balance to the body of Christ!

  7. Fear of the lord, if you as a 2 volt new creation reality are beholding your Creator you will see a volts almighty father who’s loving you tenderly. this behold is an awareness like a thunderbold of the greatness of a most Holy God is touching your heart. The fear of God is a revelation and brings you on your knees ,enjoy the reality that He is endless greater than all your struggles pain and enemies.

  8. I appreciate this article very much. Can you please help me understand 2 Corinthians 7:1 from the New Covenant perspective? Thank you.

  9. God is referring to the continuous present (now) and calls us to be in continuous worship. To be in – worship is not to be in a state of fearing. In a state of worship, there is only ONE of two things you would be doing at any one moment……worshiping God or the evil one. They are mutually exclusive in truth. So let’s worship in spirit and truth…….giving no airtime to anything else….24/7. If you err for a moment then get back immediately. ….For it is written.

  10. The fear of the wife is fear of hurting her. The fear of the taxman is fear of punishment (paying fine or going to jail). I believe the Bible teaches us to fear God like we fear the wife, not the taxman. Worse yet, “fearing” God merely like fearing the taxman is really unbelief – in Christ there is no condemnation.

  11. Perry Allis // May 23, 2016 at 11:03 am // Reply

    God is the same today as he was yesterday, read Exodus 20/20 to get perfect vision.

    Jesus delighted in the fear of The Lord Isiah 11 , Paul said we persuade men because we know the fear of The Lord .

    The Lord’s Evangelist

  12. When the Love of God can accomplish so much things in us,through us,why do people prefer the fear of God over Love of God?Fear of God will do this an that,etc,etc
    I believe its the reverential fear,the respectful fear which comes through love,coz u respect the one u love
    And how do u respect someone?
    By giving them 1st priority in ur life
    By giving thanks
    By asking God’s will before making any decision,means 1st pref to him
    That is the beginning of true wisdom.
    Thats what fear(reverence)is according to me.
    U wont always love the one whom u respect,
    But u will always respect the one whom u love.

  13. The fear of the Lord, In my opinion is a healthy emotional response to the Holiness of God. Yes we are justified by grace, God does not count our sin against us, but that does not mean He does not see our sin. He does and this must hurt Him immensely. We worship Him and that means we adore Him and His holiness. We do expect a reaction from a holy Father, but we do not expect wrath.

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