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Should we fear God? What about working out our salvation with fear and trembling?

Quick Answer: Should we fear God? We often associate the word “fear” with being afraid. While Scripture is clear there is a healthy fear (awe) of God we can have (Matthew 10:28; Philippians 2:12; Proverbs 9:10), God does not want us to be afraid of Him (2 Timothy 1:7; Matthew 14:27; Luke 1:30). In fact, His perfect love is designed to cast out all fear from our lives (1 John 4:18).

Diving Deeper: While many believe God wants us to be afraid of Him, we actually see the opposite in Scripture. God wipes away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4) and casts away our fright with His perfect love (1 John 4:18).

Consider what happened when Jesus appeared to His disciples on the water. They were afraid. But what did Jesus say? “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Jesus’ presence scared them, so Jesus reassured them and removed their fear. God doesn’t want this type of fear of Him to be present in our lives (2 Timothy 1:7).

Still, there is another type of fear explained in the Bible – a healthy fear (respect) we can have for God. This is the type of fear mentioned in Proverbs 9:10 and Matthew 10:28. This fear is synonymous with the idea of reverence and awe. Proverbs 9:10 tells us that recognizing God for who He is – the all-powerful Creator and sustainer of all things – is the first step towards wisdom. Matthew 10:28 says we are not to fear people but rather God who is powerful enough to destroy “soul and body” in Hell (Matthew 10:28). In other words, we need to view the opinions of humans in light of the authority of God.

It’s this same “fear” (respect, reverence, awe) that we are to have when we are working out our salvation. Notice that we work out our salvation (but we don’t work for it!). We work out what God has already worked in – namely, the presence of Christ within our hearts (Philippians 2:12). We are to consider with “fear” and “trembling” what God has done within us. The Greek expression used here does not mean we are to tremble with fright. It simply means we should consider all the stunning implications of “Christ in you” as we go about our day.

God loves us perfectly and wants His perfect love to cast away any unhealthy fear of Him. He wants us to recognize Him for who He is: the all-powerful and all-loving God of the universe who is, at the same time, our Daddy Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).

Let’s Make It a Conversation!
1. Have you ever been afraid of God? Why or why not?
2. Read 1 John 4:18. What does the passage reveal about the relationship between God’s love and fear?
3. React to this statement: We can be in awe of God without being afraid of Him.


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