What does the Bible teach about fear?


Today I spoke with a student and he asked me if fear is a sin. Could you explain me what kinds of fear are there if we speak about human fear and the fear of God. God bless you in the work that you do.

The Bible talks  a lot about fear and about different kinds of fear. Obviously we can not cover in one article everything that is written about fear, but we will limit ourselves to the most important truths about fear and its kinds. It is right and the most important to begin with …

The fear of God

About it is spoken mostly in the Bible and we are encouraged to have this fear, which also means reverence or fear not to make God angry. Wise Solomon approached this kind of fear in the book of Proverbs and even in the beginning of the book he writes:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

In chapter 8 of the same book of Proverbs it is given the definition of what this fear of God means:

Thefear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance andthe evil way and theperverted mouth, I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)

There are many benefits of the fear of the Lord and these are some of them:

Thefear of the LORD prolongslife, but theyears of the wicked will be shortened. (Proverbs 10:27)

Thefear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death. (Proverbs 14:27)

The fear of the LORD leads to life, so that one may sleepsatisfied,untouched by evil. (Proverbs 19:23)

The reward of humility and thefear of the LORD are riches, honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4)

The fear of people

In contrast with the fear of God it is  the fear of people. Here is what the Bible says about the fear of people:

Thefear of manbrings a snare, but he whotrusts in the LORD will be exalted. (Proverbs 29:25)

The fear of man has caused many believers to be caught in trap and then they suffered, compromised themselves, or maybe they also harmed others.

The prophet Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, even if they were young  and slaves in a foreign country, they had fear of the Lord and were not overcome by the fear of people, as others did. Days are coming into our lives when we must choose if we want to listen to God or to man.  Sometimes this thing may not seem so apparent or categorical, as it was the situation of the parents of the man born blind who was healed by Jesus. They knew well that their child was blind from birth and was healed by Jesus, but, when asked by the Pharisees, they did not bear testimony for fear of being expelled from the synagogue. This was their way to deny the Lord Jesus for fear of being expelled from their synagogue. Today there are also many people who would like to follow God but have fear of people and do not do it. Therefore:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, andtake up his cross and follow Me. Forwhoever wishes to save hislife will lose it; but whoever loses hislife for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)(NASB)

To take up your cross means to die for yourself and if you want to become a Christian and a true disciple of Jesus you must overcome the fear of people and death and die for yourself. Only then you deserve to be called a disciple of Christ.

The fear of governing authorities

God teaches us to have respect for governing authorities and not to have fear of authorities  as long as we do good:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. (Romans 13:1-6)(NASB)

If there comes a government that asks us to do something against God’s will, we shall remain faithful to God and abide in His fear, as Daniel and his three young Jews friends did when the king asked them to worship an idol. They chose to remain in the fear of God and refused to obey this law and commandment of the king, for which they were thrown alive into the fiery furnace. However, God showed His glory and and they remained alive, their clothes did not even smell of smoke when they came out of that furnace.

Another form of fear is …

The fear of the day of Judgment

In the I Epistle of John it is written:

By this,love is perfected with us, so that we may haveconfidence inthe day of judgment; becauseas He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; butperfect love casts out fear, because fearinvolves punishment, and the one who fears is notperfected in love. (1 John 4:17-18)(NASB)

The text says that there is no fear in love and it refers to the fear that people have to stand before God in the day of judgment. If we love God and this love is perfected with us, then we live to please God and our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore, we have no reason to be afraid of the day of judgment.

Fear in the sense of respect

The word “fear” is used in the Bible many times meaning “respect” of the higher authority:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are yourmasters according to the flesh, withfear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart,as to Christ. (Ephesians 6:5)(NASB)

Be subject to one another in thefear of Christ (Ephesians 5:21)(NASB)

Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that sherespects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)(NASB)

Do not have fear in proclaiming the Gospel

In the Epistle addressed to his beloved disciple Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote:

For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me insuffering for thegospel according to the power of God. (2 Timothy 1:6-8)(NASB)

The fear of people, or of persecution, or I do not know what other consequences, paralyzes some Christians and they do not preach the Word of God to others. Therefore, the Apostle Paul, who was in prison for preaching the Gospel in Rome, he wrote to Timothy to be strong and not to be intimidated by anyone and to preach the Gospel without shame and without fear. When he wrote to the Christians in the city of Philippi, the Apostle Paul said:

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (Philippians 1:27-30)(NASB)

Do not be afraid of people, but proclaim the Gospel to them.

About people who do not have fear

There are such people, who behave as if they would have no fear of God or of people and do iniquity after iniquity. Some of them, especially adolescents and young people, like to be so, perhaps to impress others. God’s Word says about them:

A wise manis cautious andturns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless. (Proverbs 14:16)(NASB)

And the consequences in the lives of these people are these:

But it willnot be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like ashadow, because he does not fear God. (Ecclesiastes 8:13)(NASB)

Is fear a sin?

Yes, this is written in the Bible and cowardly persons are listed as sinners:

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be inthe lake that burns with fire andbrimstone, which is thesecond death. (Revelation 21:8)(NASB)

Why so and what kind of fear did the Apostle John refer to in this text? Certainly he did not referred to the fear of God, because those who had it lived in complete obedience to God and they shall inherit the kingdom of God. Cowards in this list are those who were afraid of people and because of it they refused to believe in Christ, to follow Him or stand firm when they had to face persecution. Fear was the trap that caught and pushed them into other sins, so their part is the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

God help us be faithful to Him in all things and always have fear of Him and not be afraid of people, persecution, death, or any other thing.

Translated by Felicia Rotaru