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“Fear and Trembling:” The Relevance of Reverence

September 2nd, 2007

“Holy and reverend is his name”

(Psalm 111:9)

We received a call recently, in which the caller voiced his opinion that Christians should not be people who live in fear. He went on to express how fear is a paralyzing force and quite detrimental. 1 John 4:18 was quoted to bolster his case—“perfect love casts out fear.” In our opinion, fear has not always been subject to a fair hearing. So, what is the proper theology of fear? May we suggest the following:

1. Fear and trembling have a sacred origin and endorsement in the Old Testament (Ps. 2:11;119:120).

2. Though, fear and trembling are not always from God (see Job 4:14; Ps. 55:5; Hab. 3:16). Biblical context determines which type of fear- experience is meant—useful or destructive.

3. But, one must not conclude prematurely that fear is either Old Testament based or destructive, for we encounter in the New Testament a complete theological development of fear (Phil. 2:13; Heb. 12:28-29; 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:15).

The prophet Isaiah said, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2). Yes, there is a relevance of reverence among the Lord’s people (2 Tim. 2:19).

– Robert M. Housby

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