Psa. 36:1 π Prov. 8:13 π Prov. 9:10 π Eccl. 12:13 π Hab. 2:3-4 π Mt. 10:28 π Mk. 4:40 π Mk. 4:41 π Jn. 6:29 π Jn. 14:27 π Rom. 3:18 π Rom. 8:13 π 2 Tim. 1:7; 2nd π Heb. 10:38-39 π Heb. 10:39 π Heb. 11:6 π 1 Jn. 5:3 π Rev. 21:8Greek Words Mentioned in This Article
Fear, Reverence – phobeo – 
There are few Christians who have not been counseled at one time or another, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ( 2 Tim. 1:7; top ) And who can argue with Paul on this point? For what place has fear over the life of a believer? Absolutely none - so long as you recognize which kind of fear we’re talking about here.
We recognize the truth of this but then we run out and read allegories like Hannah Hurnard’s Hind’s Feet on High Places which, if not actually glamorizing, it certainly excuses a “Christian” life characterized by fear. Or somewhere we’ve listened to someone’s psycho-babble that says that fear is a perfectly normal emotion and that we can do nothing but experience it. The New Testament however paints a very different picture.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear...” ( 2 Tim. 1:7; top ) The Greek word used here for “fear” is “delia” and it means to be fearful, timid, cowardly, reticent. What is important to notice here is that it is not an emotion - it is a spirit. If it were just an emotion, as some psycho-babblers suggest, then it would be perfectly normal for the believer to live with it and accept its presence as normal. But because it is an evil, wicked spirit, it competes with the Holy Spirit for control of our lives. Thus, when an action of ours is governed by our fears - whether it be using weapons in self-defense or using manipulative mind games to avoid unpleasant situations - we are in all actuality obeying a demonic spirit and we are practicing direct enmity against God.
This is why there is such strong language against fear in the New Testament. To obey the demonic spirit of fear we must disobey the Holy Spirit. This means that we failed to act in faith, the trust that God will sustain through all that He leads us into.
When the disciples were fearful of their ship sinking and themselves being drowned, Jesus rebuked His disciples and brought the sharp contrast of faith and fear into clear focus when He said, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” ( Mk. 4:40; top ) This is that same fear which Paul tells us does not come from God.
Jesus also contrasted this same fear with the peace that He gives to those who trust in Him. He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” ( Jn. 14:27; top )
But Jesus does not give this rebuke and this command and leave it at that. No, the stakes are much higher than that. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “‘Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” ( Heb. 10:38-39 ; Hab. 2:3-4; top )
Look carefully at those two classifications. The just live by faith, believing unto the saving of the soul. But the other classification is those who draw back from faith, in whom God has no pleasure and who are drawing back to perdition or eternal damnation. Again we can see that if fear were only an emotion, the penalty is too severe. But because fear is a spirit which requires our knowing and willing acceptance and compliance, the penalty fits the crime.
John confirms this sentence of eternal doom upon those who are fearful. When he lists the categories of those who “have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death,” the first category included is those who are fearful or cowardly. The second category is the unbelieving. ( Rev. 21:8; top ) Wow!
The Scriptures continuously point out the either/or nature of our life in God. Either we walk in the Spirit or we walk in the flesh. ( Rom. 8:13 ) Either we live by faith or we draw back to perdition. ( Heb. 10:39 ) Without faith it is impossible to please God. ( Heb. 11:6 ) If we are full of fear we are empty of faith and are in no way pleasing to God. Jesus said “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” ( Jn. 6:29; top ) If we don’t believe, we will be afraid. There is no middle ground.
There is another word for fear used even more often in the New Testament than “delia” and that is “phobos” [ 5399 ]. It means to put in fear of, terrify, frighten and it is where we derive the word “phobia.” Interestingly enough, after Jesus rebuked His disciples for their fear (delia) and lack of faith, the Scripture goes on to say, “And they feared (phobos) exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” ( Mk. 4:41; top )
With our ears jaded by years of lifeless Bible teaching and centuries of church traditions, we hear this question and have difficulty understanding what is going on. We have knowledge handed down through centuries of teachings and years of Sunday School that, of course, this was Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. Of course He can command the wind and the sea - He’s God! What’s the big deal?
But when these men, soaked to the skin, standing in a water-filled boat that wasn’t sinking, saw what authority Jesus wielded, they were full of fear, terrified. They had no revelation of Jesus’ true identity yet - that wouldn’t come for some time and even then it would take even more time for the divine information to enact the full transformation in their understanding. They had no revelation knowledge and they had no faith to tell them that this was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. So they were afraid, terrified, phobos. Whereas Jesus rebuked them by saying, “Why are you afraid (delia) for your lives because of the storm? Where is your faith?” - now that they have seen what Jesus is able to do but don’t understand who He really is, they are deeply afraid (phobos). A good beginning.
Later Jesus would tell His men, “And do not fear (phobos) those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear (phobos) Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” ( Mt. 10:28; top ) The cowardly and fearful (delia) can only look forward to eternity in hell. But those who fear (phobos) God are not given a spirit of fear (delia) but of power, love and a sound mind - that is, the mind of Christ and the Spirit of God.
Solomon’s advice still stands eminently practical even to our day. After exploring every avenue of human existence that he could imagine, he wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” ( Eccl. 12:13; top ) Under the New Covenant, though we are not under the commandments of the law, we are under the personal command of Christ Jesus who, through His Holy Spirit, will instruct and direct us into attitudes and actions that will fulfill the righteous requirements of God. We still need to fear God and keep His commands, commands which John tells us are not burdensome. ( 1 Jn. 5:3; top )
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” wrote Solomon ( Prov. 9:10; top ) and this is a lesson that the ekklesia seems to have forgotten. Paul’s compilation of Old Testament references to the wickedness of man culminates with, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ( Rom. 3:18 ; Psa. 36:1 ) The fear of the Lord is to hate all evil. ( Prov. 8:13; top )
What we fear is what will determine where we will spend eternity. If we fear some petty circumstances that surround our lives, or if we fear the unknown events of tomorrow, we can only look forward to an eternity in the lake of fire. This is because our fear is our explicit refusal to trust God to dispose of our lives as He sees fit and is our explicit embracing of demonic spirits so that they might control our lives. But if we will fear God and relinquish control of our lives to His Spirit, when that which is perfect is come, His perfect love will remove all fear forever and we will remain with Him throughout all of eternity in glorious life that cannot even be imagined now. So if we find we have feared the wrong things in life, let us be quick to repent now while we still can.
May God grant us a spirit of wisdom and revelation that we may know Him better. May we be like Isaiah and Ezekiel of old who, upon experiencing a vision of God, cried out, “I am undone!” The best thing that could happen to our smug, religious delusions about God would be for us to experience Him in a face to face, heart to heart encounter where we begin to grasp something of His transcendence and awesome majesty. What a difference that would make in us.
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