December 03, 2020

Should Christians Fear the Lord in the Same Way as Unbelievers?

Nathan W. Bingham & Steven Lawson
Should Christians Fear the Lord in the Same Way as Unbelievers?

The book of Proverbs teaches us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Does this mean that we should be afraid of God? Today, Steven Lawson makes an important distinction between the fear that God’s enemies have toward Him and the way that Christians are to fear Him as His children.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: This week, I'm joined by Ligonier Teaching Fellow Dr. Steven Lawson. Dr. Lawson, should Christians fear the Lord in the same way that nonbelievers should?

DR. STEVEN LAWSON: Nathan, that's a great question, about fearing the Lord. And I would say this, that there is a difference between a Christian fearing God and an unbeliever fearing God. And I recall Martin Luther addressing this many years ago, and he made this distinction between servile fear and filial fear. Let me explain. Servile fear is the fear that a prisoner has towards the warden or towards the one who's put him into chains. It's the fear of someone who is being held captive by a punisher. That's the fear of an unbeliever, quite frankly, because they are under the wrath of God"Romans 1, verse 18. They have every reason to live in dread and terror, because they are held captive by sin and Satan.

That is one level of fear. That's not the fear of a Christian. The fear of a Christian Luther defined as filial fear. And that fear is the respect of a child for his father and mother. It's in the context of a loving relationship, and a healthy reverence and respect, for the one in authority over you. But knowing that, that one in authority over you has your best interest at heart.

So, we are to fear God as Christians. We never outgrow the fear of the Lord. It's the first step into the kingdom of heaven. No one enters the kingdom of heaven giggling. We enter really with a broken heart and with a sober heart. And as we progress in our Christian life, we don't grow out of fearing God. We grow deeper in the fear of the Lord. We have greater reverential awe for God, as we grow to see how much greater He is than we ever thought that He was. And so, the fear of God is a mark of a true Christian, as a true believer.

We start with the fear of God, and our Christian life ends with a fear of God. And when we get to heaven, it's going to be an exponentially greater, healthy, holy, reverential awe of who God is. But our fear is much different than the unbeliever's fear. Our fear is in the context of being assured of the love and the mercy and the compassion of God.

To put it in a last sentence: The fear of the Lord for a believer is to take God very serious. That my life is in His hands. He's ordained the day of my birth. He's already ordained the day of my death. He has already ordained good works for me to walk in, and He holds my life in the palm of His hand. I'm living on His earth; I'm breathing His air; I'm drinking His water. My whole life is to be lived in that recognition of taking God very seriously.