Balanced view of fear and punishment of disobedience

What can I do to be saved? Place to discuss sin and its remedy.

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Balanced view of fear and punishment of disobedience

Post by email » Wed Aug 01, 2012 8:11 am

The fear of God is a complicated topic in Scripture. Sometimes God says, "Do not fear," and other times we are told to "fear". We need to have a better balance.

"Fear" of God may not be simple. We are never told that we shouldn't fear that God will punish the wicked, and the most mature Christians are those who fear God the most (Acts 9:31; 1 Peter 1:17, etc.). How we are to fear God isn't just a matter of one point of doctrine; it involves the whole concept of how we approach God, and that's why I believe it's a very serious issue.

I hope my heart has been right in all of this and that God will bless us in seeking His will.
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Re: Balanced view of fear and punishment of disobedience

Post by m273p15c » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:05 am

You are doing well to not overlook your own heart. And, you have done well to see the gravity and scope of this one issue. Improper minimization of fear is to minimize the motivation of judgment and the likelihood of obedience. It is a thinly-veiled attack at the basis for personal obedience and - maybe more intentionally - the standard for fellowship.

FWIW, I understand that love becomes more dominant than fear in a Christian's heart and motivation as they mature (I John 4:17-18). However, that confidence can only come with maturity if one is consciously passing the tests given by John in his epistle ("so that you may know ..."), which includes obedience to God's commands. Furthermore, the basis of fear does not change. Our God does not become less of a "consuming fire", as we mature (Hebrews 12:29). Therefore, logically, love can override fear in the mature saint's heart if and only if that heart is walking according to a higher, stricter standard than what fear alone would dictate. You see this the most in personal evangelism. Christians can arguably talk themselves out of most opportunities to teach the gospel based on their (lack of) ability, (lack of) knowledge, and (lack of) opportunity, thereby securing their conscience against the fear of hell. However, when someone is wholly driven by love of God and love their brother in faith, they will not fail (I Corinthians 13:4-8). So, love compels us to greater service (II Corinthians 5:10-14) than what a simple fear of God's wrath would motivate. However, fear is never forgotten or lost, and if love should weaken, fear should always be present to hold the line. It's kind of the first and last line of defense, because it speaks to the basest instinct, self-preservation.

Now, in this I'm speaking of the fear of God's wrath, the fear of hell. A reverential fear that respects God may be motivated by many other factors, some very noble, such as respect for God's love and sacrifice. This appreciation of His character can produce a higher, nobler, and wholly different reverence than the respect for God's potential wrath. Context must determine who is being feared and why they are being feared. Each of these are critical for determining the propriety and priority of each fear as it occurs in Scripture.

Thanks again for who you are and what you do in the Lord! You are a great encouragement to many, including myself! :)
May God help us to love truth sincerely and supremely (II Thessalonians 2:11-12)

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