Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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Why are we taught to fear God? Fear, in my humble opinion does not seem to be the correct term. In 1 Jn 4:18 it says "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." Also St. Anthony states "I no longer fear God, but I love Him, for love casts out fear".

There has been some controversy over the real meaning of the scriptural term 'fear'. Some interpreters do assert that the word fear means reverence. However, in the Holy Bible there is a clear distinction between the two terms. In the Old Testament, several Hebrew words yirah (Jon 1:16; Ps 90:11), yare (Mal 3:16) and pachad (Job 3:25; Ps 119:120) are used which translate into the English equivalent of "fear". Most of these words actually mean exactly what they say—fear, be afraid, terror, dreadfulfear, etc. In some cases, it may mean reverence, such as kabad (Ex 20:12) as to revere or respect someone with great power. The same is the case in the New Testament where several Greek words used translate pretty much the same. Fear/terror is phobo (Mt 28:4; 1 Pet 2:17), where reverence or honor is timao (1 Pet 2:17). It is unlikely that God, through His Spirit could not select the right word hundreds of times. Satan would like us to believe this than to understand that God really ought to be feared. The Holy Bible says "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Ps 111:10) and "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Prov 9:10).

According to the Holy Bible, the first step in knowing and loving God is to fear Him. When one fears God, He will gain wisdom and understanding. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but the end is love. As believers, Love is our hope, goal, and sure destiny. If we are obedient, we will get close to it while still in this world. In the meantime, we should fear now, because none of us is yet without sin or perfect in love.

The Holy Spirit spoke to God's people through Moses saying, "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?" (Deut 10:12,13).

If you notice the order, the first thing is to fear the Lord; then as we grow spiritually we will love Him. May God grant us all to fear and love Him as St. Anthony did.
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