In Psalm 111:10 we read “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.“
God tells us in this Bible passage that to fear God is the beginning of Wisdom. How are we to express the proper Fear of the Lord? What does it mean to fear God? Solomon tells us something similar in Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding“.
In modern English this means:
“The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, obedience to Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of wisdom [its starting point and its essence], And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding and spiritual insight.“(AMP)
Biblically, the fear of God is defined as a deep respect, reverence and awe of God causing us to seek to learn and top live by God’s Word.
The fear of God [which is reverent awe, obedience, and worship of Him] is the very beginning and foundation of godly wisdom.
The second half of both of these verses speaks of the blessing we receive when we “fear” God enough to obey all of His commandments and walk in all of His ways. Here again is the incredible reward [blessing] that God promises if we have the proper “fear of the Lord”:
“…a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.”
“…the knowledge of the holy [godliness] is understanding.”
The apostle Peter and the other apostles with him told their persecutors that God gives His Holy Spirit only to those who obey Him. If we are “doing God’s commandments” that means we are “obeying God”, and in Acts 5, God’s Word confirms the same principle that David gives in Psalm 111:10 for it is the Holy Spirit that enlightens the mind to understand the spiritual things of God.
Acts 5:32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
1 Corinthians 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
It is through the power of God’s Spirit that God enlightens our minds so that we can understand God’s truths and how to apply them in our lives. When God gives us His wisdom in the spiritual things of God, we will come to have a good understanding which produces soundness of mind; unlike the foolishness and the unstable ways of thinking that are the hallmark of those who do not seek God.
2 Timothy 1:6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that a man or woman can overcome fear of men and replace it with the fear [deep respect] and the power of God’s life-giving Spirit, which gives us peace and well-being if we are faithful to live by every Word of God.
How do we get more of God’s Spirit to overcome our fears? By studying the Scriptures and engraving God’s words in our minds, by meditating night and day on God and all of His precepts, and by praying and asking for more of the Holy Spirit and then by doing and living by every Word of God.
David understood how God’s Spirit works and prayed that God would open his eyes [mind] so that he could behold [understand] the wondrous wisdom of God.
Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
Paul taught much about the commandments and described them as being holy, just and good!
Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, for if we fear [deeply respect and hold in awe] enough to obey our Lord in all of His directions, instructions and law (which is the whole Word of God), God promises that He will pour out His Spirit on us and enable us to learn the wisdom of God.
He will light up our minds with His Holy Spirit [His very own nature and capacity for wisdom] which will help us to understand things that the ungodly just cannot understand at this time.
The Greatest Visible Evidence of our Fear [respect] for God is Our Obedience to Him
Jesus tells us that: “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:15-17)
The fear of God is a deep respect and appreciation which causes us to love and to live by every Word of God! When we obey God He will supply us with His Holy Spirit which will fill us with the fruits of that Spirit including faith, love, peace and soundness of mind, all of which drive out negative fear.
Those who truly do love God will repent of their wrong doing, and will sincerely want to change their lives in a way that pleases Him, obeying Him from the heart. He will then give us His Spirit which empowers us to live for Him. So we see a full circle of God’s empowerment that begins with the positive type of the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord begins in the very mind and if that fear prompts us to seek the Lord with all of our hearts and we begin to keep all of His Word, we will reap the blessings that He offers to us; which are His awesome wisdom and a good understanding of all things which bring eternal life and peace.
The definition of the fear of God is; awe and reverence toward God, and a respetful passionate desire to do everything God says.
In Deuteronomy 10, Moses tells the children of Israel that “ fearing God” is required of them and then defines fear of God.
To fear God means to love Him and to serve Him with all of our hearts and with all of our souls and all of our mind. If we fear God, we will live by every Word of God from the heart. Because we know that His ways are good for us and others, and that they are the BEST ways to live.
Deuteronomy 10:12 And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 10:13 To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?
This positive fear is a respect God with awe and great reverence, and a deep desire with all of our hearts to live by every Word of God and to become like Him.
We adore Him and we want to do everything we can to please Him and be in His will.
The initial fear of God is a genuine fear to disobey and incur His wrath, but as we mature in godliness, this “fear” of God in its most advanced and deepest sense is really a deep passionate agape LOVE for God and everything about God.
The Biblical definition of worship is the act of obedience. We do not reverence [worship] or obey those we rebel against, therefore we are the servants or worshippers of the ones whom we obey.
Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
Romans 6:18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
We are to worship or obey God alone, He alone is to be our God and the object of our worship, obedience and reverence as our Lord and Savior. We are to have no other gods which are only idols. We are to fear God and fear no other, either gods or men.
Deuteronomy 5:6 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
5:7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.
5:8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:
5:9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
The word for “to bow down” is shachah (Strong’s #7812) which also means to worship, to submit to, to obey.
God tells us that we are to worship only Him, to fear only Him and to obey only Him; and not to worship, obey or fear false gods nor idols in going contrary to the Word of God.
Moses taught in many passages that we must fear God and keep all of His commandments and statutes. In Deuteronomy 6:2 we are told to fear God and keep His commandments and to teach that fear to our children and our grandchildren that they would keep them as well, and by doing so have long lives.
Deuteronomy 6:2 That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
Later when Jesus was on earth He taught about what it meant to worship God; that God is Spirit and that we must WORSHIP [reverence, obey and serve] Him in spirit and in truth: truth being every Word of God.
John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The Kinds of Fear
The Bible says that the demons believe in and fear God and yet they hate God and do not obey Him nor do they worship Him. What kind of fear is that? Why do they not WANT to obey God and do as He says?
James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble [with fear].
The demons fear God for they know that He is a God of awesome Power and He is a God of Justice and Recompense, and they also fear their fate.
But they have set their hearts against God and in their rebellion and bitterness toward Him, their minds have become warped and twisted. They are at war with God, and because they are under the rule of Satan (whom they have chosen to follow and to be their ruler), they do all that they can to obstruct God and His plan, thinking that they are going to derail Him somehow even though they have a great fear of Him.
Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
But God is much more brilliant than they are and He knows how to use their shenanigans to do His bidding, (remember Job) and in the end all evil doers are going to be destroyed.
Jude 1:6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
Matthew 8:28 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
Even though the demonic host tremble before God and His power, they do not have the proper kind of fear that motivates them to obey Him.
Paul tells us in Romans 3 that mankind’s chief sin is that they “have no fear of God at all” and that is the basis of all these other sins that he lists.
Romans 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 3:16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 3:17 And the way of peace have they not known: 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Some Who Feared God Rather Then Men
The Bible gives many examples of men and women who feared God in a proper way with a positive fear of awe, adoration, obedience, and reverence; and not in the way that is negative.
When Joseph was sold into Egypt and become the servant of Potiphar, Joseph refused to go along with Potiphar’s wife who tempted him to sin with her. Even though he probably knew that it would get him into trouble, he feared to sin against God rather than fear what could happen to him for refusing to obey her.
Genesis 39:7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. 39:8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; 39:9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? 39:10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.
Years later when dealing with his brothers, Joseph told them that he was being good to them for he feared God; the fact that this “ruler” said this to his brothers was meant to give them reassurance.
Genesis 42:18 And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:
When Pharaoh made a decree that the midwives were to kill all the male Hebrew babies that they helped to deliver, the Hebrew midwives feared God and they obeyed Him rather than obey the king of Egypt.
Exodus 1:15 And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: 1:16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. 1:17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
When we fear God, we then fear to do anything that is against God or anything that displeases Him. The fear of God serves as a tremendous motivator to do God’s will even in the face of persecution and opposition.
When Jesus sent forth His disciples to spread the Gospel message, He warned them of what would happen to them for doing so, but then told them to “fear not” these things or these people but to fear God more : “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell”. Then Jesus comforted them by adding that they were more precious to God than the sparrows that God cared for; that God is aware of all the things that they would have to go through.
Matthew 10:24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.
10:25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?
10:26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
10:27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
10:30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
10:31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
10:33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
When we suffer because of other peoples’ sins against us, do not think that God does not see or care; and at some point He will deal with them.
1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
Jeremiah 16:17 For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.
2 Samuel 22:25 Therefore the Lord hath recompensed me according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness in his eye sight. 22:26 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful, and with the upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright. 22:27 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself unsavoury. 22:28 And the afflicted people thou wilt save: but thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down.
The Fear of the Lord Sets Us Free From Bondage to Satan, Sin and Death
How does the fear of God replace the fear of men and the things of this world which threaten to cause us harm?
A key to overcoming the fear of man is to understand the transitory nature of this world and that whatever man can do to us is only temporary, and that God is the one we are to fear for He alone has the power over life and death for all eternity.
Revelation 1: 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
1 Samuel 2:6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
When we fear men and think of them as the ultimate threat to our safety, we give them unwarranted power, for in truth, man’s threats are temporary, for man is nothing but fading grass in comparison to God.
Isaiah 51:12 I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;
This is where “FAITH” comes in, for if we really have faith that what God says in His Word is true, we will believe that He is more powerful than the visible and audible threats that we can see and hear which seem so ominous to us.
If we keep God in focus, our perspective of what really matters in this life changes. We come to see that pleasing God is what matters most, and that it is He who, in truth. holds our well-being and even the gift of eternal life in His hands.
Sinning against God to appease a man because we fear that man, will bring only short-lived results if any results at all; and if not repented of, will have eternal consequences.
As we grow in grace and in the knowledge of God’s Word, God will deliver us from our delusions. As He reveals His truth and helps us to understand His plan and purpose we will see more and more how superfluous the things of this world are and how fleeting they are. As we come to know God’s truth, it will set us free from the lies and deceptions that have been foisted upon us from the time we were born.
Jesus says His mission is to set the captives free and one way He does this is to free us from Satan’s deceptions and lies.
Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
John 8:30 As he spake these words, many believed on him. 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Again we think of what David said in his Psalm about the fear of the Lord and wisdom:
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
Paul wrote about the kind of wisdom which we are to seek from God:
1 Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
2:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
2:6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
2:15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
2:16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.
Psalm 33:10 The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.
God through Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah who would come, foretelling that He would be the epitome of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. Jesus Christ is the supreme example we are to follow and strive to emulate.
When we read the Gospels we find that the overwhelming aspect of Jesus’ “fear” of God the Father, was the mature “fear” of a deep passionate agape love for God of such depth that he would do nothing without the Father, a love that was so intense that Jesus gave up his life to fulfill the father’s will. Luke 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
Isaiah 11:2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
Whom Do We Fear: Men or God?
It was God who created man with the capacity to feel emotions.
Fear is a good thing when it is used to protect us from things or people that may harm us or our loved ones.
On the other hand fear of men which causes to turn aside our fear ad respect for God and from living by every Word of God is a great evil which enslaves us to Satan, sin, men and death.
The threats (or rewards) of men can seem so concrete and seem so very real to us; whereas God is invisible and we need total Faith in Him that He will provide and sustain us even when it looks like there is no possible way.
The only way we can overcome fear of men, to obey them in place of God on moral matters, is with help from God and through the power He gives us.
John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
Ephesians 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
When we know that God loves us and that He is on our side [if we are on His side], we can have faith that He will guard us and deliver us, if not immediately then he will surely deliver us from the grave of death; and the kind of love that God has, casts out fear of Satan, sin, men and death.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth [is terrified of God] is not made perfect in love [is not mature in agape love towards God].
The phrase “fear of man” as defined in the Bible covers a broad range of preoccupation over what people think of us or may do to us.
God wants us to care about the feelings of others and not to want to offend them, but God does not want us to sacrifice our relationship with Him in order to follow men contrary to His Word.
What do the scriptures men when they speak of a good reputation? They mean that we should have a good reputation for godliness and for loving and living by every Word of God,
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.
Proverbs 3:1 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: 3:2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. 3:3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 3:4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
It was said of Jesus that as a young man He grew in the favor of God and the people. Why? because he was zealous and full of love to serve God the Father!
In today’s wicked world a person will be despised for loving God the Father and his Word. It is far better to be despised by the world for loving godliness, than to be accepted by the wicked and to be despised by God the Almighty for departing from His Word!
Luke 2:51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Having a good reputation for godliness is a valuable and desirable thing to have.
But fearing man so as to care more about what people think of us or what they may say about or do to us; than Almighty God thinks of us is idolatry and wickedness.
Fear that comes in many forms: we may overly crave people’s approval and regard for us; we may have an inordinate fear of people’s rejection of us or the fact that they may dislike us or even hate us; we may fear that we will look foolish in the eyes of others if we do what we know God wants us to do; and very often we fear that we will suffer some type of loss, and/or even pain, injury, or death which some men may try to inflict upon us if we do not toe their line or live according to their dictates rather than God’s.
See Daniel 3 and 6 for examples of bravery on the part of Daniel’s three friends in chapter 3, and Daniel, himself, in chapter 6, when faced with the demands placed upon them by evil men and rulers who tried to get them to compromise with God’s commandment of putting Him first.
Most of us have had to face situations to either obey men and their rules; or lose our jobs, or perhaps a relationship, the loss of family members’ love for us, homes, businesses, assets, retirements, etc; and some have been beaten, jailed, or killed, because they refused to bow to the demands of others.
When we have the fear of man and it prevents us from doing what God wills for us, it puts mere mortal men in the place of God in our lives and as such is a form of idolatry.
Deuteronomy 5:7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.
In the following proverb Solomon compares the fear of man to that of a snare.
Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.
Fear of man above fear of God is a trap and if we fall into it, it will bring our destruction.
The bait can be anything that we think we need or desire or even something can appear to be deliverance from something harmful or painful. (Often men will tell us that they will protect us or save us if we will only do what they say).
When we fear men and compromise with the Word of God and we go along, just to get along, (because we do not want to be rejected) or because we want to belong to their inner circle or some social club congregation, we join the wicked in their sins. Because we partake of the wickedness of others, we will surely partake of their correction.
Solomon is using this proverb as an allegory of believers who are hindered or trapped i9nto sin by the fear of man; and that fear of men then enslaves us and keeps us from living as free men in obedience to the life that God has called us to.
The deceitfulness of a trap is that it is most often hidden and the believer falls into the snare without seeing the trap and he becomes ensnared and entangled in sin and idolatry.
Because of the deceitfulness of the fear-of-man syndrome, often we do not understand what is going on and may not even realize that we have been taken captive until it is too late. A big part of the effectiveness of a snare is that it is hidden or subtle and the victim does not see it coming.
There are many ways that the fear of man can affect our lives if we are not watchful and if we are not staying close to Jesus Christ. The fear of man can be camouflaged in many different ways and methods.
Many of us have had it ingrained into our minds that to obey God we must obey those who are over us in corporate church organizations, even when what they are teaching or doing is contrary to the Scriptures.
Many false religious leaders will say that God has placed then in charge so the brethren must obey them. Yet, God’s Word says that are always to obey God rather than men no matter what office they hold.
Yes obey people in authority, as long as you obey God FIRST; and if there is a division between the Word of God and what men say, we are to obey God and not men. In fact we have an instruction from Jesus Christ that ware to leave the jurisdiction of those ungodly men who try to entice or force us to disobey God, whether that means immigrating to a new town or country or if it means leaving a corporate church entity.
Matthew 10:23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another:
We are to fear God and obey Him first; that is the teaching of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
Men are not gods and we are not to deem anyone as our god other than the true God, our Creator and the Creator of heaven and earth.
When it comes to the kind of fear that keeps us from doing God’s will, we think of the Parable of the Talents where the servants were given a certain number of talents and they were to use those talents to increase and to grow.
When God calls us, He gives us His truth and His Holy Spirit and we are to occupy until He comes, using what He has given to us to overcome, to increase in knowledge and wisdom, and grow to become more like He is. But one of the servants was afraid and hid the one talent that he had been given by His master.
Matthew 25:14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
25:15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
25:16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
25:17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
25:18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
25:19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
25:20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
25:21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
25:22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
25:23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
25:24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25:25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
Look at the excuse the servant gave in verse 25; he said that he was afraid, and because he was afraid he hid his talent away; as a result it was not used at all during the time the Master was away.
What was he afraid of? What kind of fear is the parable trying to warn us against that would cause us to be like this servant and do nothing with the gifts and calling that have been entrusted to us; and then receive the kind of rebuke and punishment that this fearful servant received when his master returned and wanted an accounting?
Matthew 25:26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
25:27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
25:28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
25:29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
25:30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
A big fear that can paralyze us from doing God’s will is the fear of men. When we fear what others think of us, we will tend to hide the fact that we are a child of God; we may not want our friends and neighbors or our company to know that we keep the Sabbath, the Holy Days, that we are against breaking the commandments of God; or fear may hold us back from doing anything to help preach the Gospel message to the world because we are afraid we will offend those who do not believe in keeping God’s ways and are living their lives in rebellion against Him.
We may be afraid to openly obey God or to use the gifts that God has given to us for fear of what other people will think of us. If we let the fear of man hold us back now, we will miss out on all the fabulous opportunities that God has planned for us in the future.
One of the ways fear of man can entrap us is out of fear of appearing foolish. We may know that we ought to do something that would be beneficial to others or something that would help us grow in our faith or in the gifts that God has provided; but we are afraid to step out in faith in obedience to God for we fear that we will makes fools of ourselves in the eyes of others. Sometimes we do have to risk making fools of ourselves in order to do as God wants us to, but so-be-it.
The apostle Paul tells us, “we are fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Corinthians 4:10). The unconverted around us cannot understand why people would want to take the Word of God seriously and do what it says in lieu of what society dictates.
They may say people who do not go after fame and fortune are very strange; people who choose to follow Christ and do as He says are crazy or in a cult; people who say that they talk to God and He speaks to them through the Word of God are loony. And how about people who find joy even in the midst of trials and struggles? Faith does indeed look crazy to unbelievers and to those who have no faith in God or in what He says.
Paul wrote to the Galatians that fearing and seeking to please men will lead us astray from the far more important matter of pleasing God.
Galatians 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Paul is not implying that we should never try to please people or that it is always wrong to want people to approve of us and like us. Not at all, but rather he is driving home a point about who we must put first when it comes to pleasing: either people or God.
What kind of fear is it that drives us? what is it that really motivates us? Is it the fear of man or the fear of God, that is really controlling us? If our underlying goal is to please people [which takes us away from pleasing God], we are no longer the servants of Christ but of people.
Paul tells us in other places; the Gospel message will be an offense to those who are not being called, those who have no interest in the things of God; and if we are being faithful to proclaim the Gospel and to teach God’s Word, it will offend many people.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: 2:16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? 2:17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
We should never try to be personally offensive to others. We are to always incorporate the fruits of God’s Spirit in all that we do and say including the preaching of the Gospel; but no matter how tactful we may be, if we are faithful in declaring the Gospel and its full message, it will invariably offend most people.
We must not be like shifting sand, which changes the message to that of an inoffensive to attempt to avoid any risk of offending men, and thereby offends God.
1 Thessalonians 2:4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
False leaders infiltrate the brotherhood and lead us to worship [follow and obey] men rather than to do God’s will and all that God says in His Word. False elders have taught us that to disobey them is to disobey God; and that God sets men between Himself and the brethren; and that we must believe everything they say just because they say so. We need to run from these people and run to God instead.
Matthew 23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 3:2 Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 23:5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 23:6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 23:7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
Like David prayed for God to open the eyes [understanding] of his heart; we have an urgent need to pray that God would open the eyes of our hearts to see and to give us discernment to understand what has happened in the Ekklesia and to ask ourselves: what kind of leaders do we follow?
Those who walk in the fear of God or those who are men-centered and want us to fear and obey them more than God? For we have become people who have gone after strange gods; men who make themselves gods that cannot save us; men who are unwilling to repent of rank idolatry and going after the precepts of men. This is idolatry in the eyes of God and idolatry is an abomination to Him!
Isaiah 51:7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. 51:8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.
Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
How then, do we as the people of God overcome the fear of men who are false leaders crept into the assemblies [See Jude] in our lives? Just as the Bible tells us: with the fear of God!
We overcome false men, false elders and leaders in the Ekklesia, by having a deep passionate respect and love for God and for every Word of God; so that we exalt the Word of God above the words of any man!
What God has to say about fearing Him in lieu of men, is what helps us to overcome our fear of men; and God can give us the strength and the faith and the power through His Spirit to overcome and to go on to do the will of God in our lives.
If mere men are causing us fear to disobey them and live by every Word of God, then that indicates that men have subtly replaced God in our eyes. Yes, we may fear and love God, but we either fear men more, or we have been deceived by the Nicolaitane lie that men come between us and God.
Brethren, ALL moral authority belongs to God and is contained in the Word of God, therefore when a man departs from zeal to live by and to teach others to live by every Word of God, he has departed from the fountain head of moral authority and has lost any moral authority! Any teacher who teaches contrary to the Word of God, has absolutely NO moral authority whatsoever!
God’s Word teaches us that we must fill ourselves up with Faith and walk in the fear of the Lord.
1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
Hebrews 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Isaiah 51:12 I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;
For the believer, now, in this life, the fear of the Lord matures into a deep respect and love for God and everything associated with God. This agape love brings peace for if we are reconciled through Jesus Christ to God the Father and we are walking with them and living as they live, we have a peace that is beyond human description.
Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Once one is called, that person with God’s help, exchanges the fear of man (which in reality is an embedded lifestyle of fearfulness) with the kind of fear of God which is reverence, awe, faithful obedience and deep agape love of the Great God who loves us and wants us to qualify to be a member of His own Family.
Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
The second half of this verse is a promise from God. It took me a long time to really believe this but once we come to the full grip of what God is saying it sets us free. For whoever trusts in the Lord; those who fear Him, and are in awe of Him, and reverence and obey Him; it is they who will be protected and kept safe and he or she will be kept safe from the snare of eternal death that the fear of man brings.
We are to understand that the fear of the Lord is a very good kind of fear which matures into a deep love and respect, which purges out the destructive kind of fear which is a terror and fear of men, Satan, and death.
The fear of the Lord puts things into their proper perspective: God is greater and more powerful than anything in this world including any man. And Almighty God is forever, while all men will perish without God!
David’s Psalm 19 speaks of the treasure that is ours if we will only trust God and hold dear all of His laws and statutes. David goes on to describe the wondrous things that the keeping of God’s commandments will do for us and that they and all of God’s statutes are more valuable than all the finest gold and the sweetest honey in the world.
In verse 11 we are told that the Law of the Lord shows us the way to live [by them thy servants are warned away from evil] and in keeping them there will be great reward [eternal life with God in His Kingdom].
Psalm 19:7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 19:8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. 19:9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 19:11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
David is very much qualified to teach about the fear of God versus the fear of man for he was hounded and persecuted most of his adult life. He had a lot of people before and during his reign, who hated him and wanted him dead; but David had come to see that these men could do nothing to him if God was on his side; because the Lord was his Protector, his Stronghold that kept and guarded his life from liars and persecutors.
Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
When we face the kind of fear of man that makes it feel like we have been punched in the stomach, or the kind that paralyzes us, silences us, makes us afraid to step out in faith to do the work God wants us to do; we need to remember that God is much greater than our fears and greater than anything man can do to us.
It is God who holds our lives in the palms of His hands and no other. What can man do to me? Of whom shall I be afraid? The fear of the Lord leads us to trust in our Great God, the One who loves us and sees us as the apple of His eye if we are one of His faithful children.
Psalm 17:5 Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. 17:6 I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech. 17:7 Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them. 17:8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, 17:9 From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.
Psalm 118:6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
Isaiah 49:14 But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. 49:15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. 49:16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. 49:17 Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.
James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
Psalm 55:22 Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
Our culture and our peers teach us that we must meet their standards of political correctness, wholeness and perfection; and we can become preoccupied with what we are to believe, what we can say, about how we look, the kind of possessions we must have, how successful or intelligent we may appear to others, and on and on.
The Holy Scripture tells us that one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and all these things and the people of the world that seemed so important to us in this life will melt away as we all behold the glory and power of God at this appearing.
For those who followed men rather than God there will be much pain and regret and torment (See Matthew 8:12). But for those who took up their burden and endured whatever others had to throw at them for following Christ and living by every Word of God, there will be much rejoicing.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
Philippians 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
As the psalmist wrote: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is where wisdom begins, therefor without a proper fear [respect, awe, submissiveness to and deep passionate love and desire to please God] of God, we will not live by God’s Word nor learn the wisdom contained there.
When Christ returns and raises up His chosen to be resurrected to spirit, it will not matter one iota what people [including false elders and leaders in the Ekklesia who tried to exalt themselves above the Word of God] thought of us in this life. If they rejected us for our zeal for godliness, they will not be around [unless they sincerely repent] and all their harsh words against us will not mean a thing, and that is how we should regard their evil speaking at this time.
Then the opinions of men will mean nothing at all: Only God’s approval will matter, and if we are one of God’s own faithful and zealous servants, we know that we are an accepted child of God the Father no matter what anyone thinks.
1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (See also Revelation 1:13-18)
Walking in the fear of the Lord will give us the wisdom to be able to see and know these things. The rest of the verse says that a good understanding have all they that keep His commandments. How blessed we are to know these things and God will increase our understanding as we strive to obey Him in all things.
If we have repented and have come to God the Father through Christ our reconciling spiritual High Priest and if we are putting Him and every Word of God first, we know that we are accepted by our heavenly Father.
This acceptance of God sets us free from the traps of man-centered worship and we are freed from the burden of needing the approval and acceptance of others. We can then devote our lives to pleasing God and doing His will.
Romans 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 8:33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us pray that God will help us all to overcome the fear of men and to come to fear Him alone. We need the power of the Holy Spirit in order to live our lives for Him in a world that is increasingly becoming intolerant of anything that has to do with the God of the Bible and of those who take a stand for God’s standards of righteousness and morality.
These are just a few examples of ways that the fear of man is played out and there may be many others, but the important thing is to acknowledge that we may be letting the fear of man determine for us how to live and what we are to believe.
We need to realize that this kind of fear is a trap that will ensnare us and it will inevitably hinder us from obeying God and will turn us away from worshiping the living God unto worthless idols that cannot save.
God says of Himself: “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. ” (Isaiah 43:11) and in Hebrews Paul tells us that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God“. (Hebrews 10:31)
Our whole world is careening to destruction because all men do what seems right in their OWN eyes and refuse to do what God says is right.
Living in the fear [deep respect, awe and obedience] of the Lord makes us realize that it is God who is Great, not ourselves; all men are really very small, less than fine dust compared to God.
If we fear God, He will provide us with the wisdom to do all His will; and as we do His will, we will know the incredible freedom of not having fear what men can do!
Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
If we are watching and praying, asking God to teach us, worshiping and 0beying God in the beauty of holiness, putting Him first and living by His every Word, and if we fear God rather than man; then we will be on the right path, drawing ever closer to Him and internalizing the very character and nature of our Great and Glorious God. No man is capable of doing that for us.
Let us walk in the fear, deep respect, awe and passionate Christ-like love of God our Father all of our days, seeking His will for us above the will of any other, no matter how impressive that man may appear to be.
James Malm and Constance Belanger
Note- Constance submitted the original rough draft of this article in 2016, which I then completed for posting.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
to depart from the snares of death.