The Psalm says, “You who fear the LORD, praise Him” (Ps 22:23). In the presence of something so awesome, it’s natural to fear what you love, and love what you fear. When reading the words of the Psalmist, I’m reminded of a conversation I had the other day with a denominationally influenced man who asked me if “fear” of God was an appropriate thing? You know, because we are now under grace! The answer is yes, we are to love AND fear God.
A man who only praises God will not respect God’s authority. He will exhibit great zeal at the same time he dismisses Scripture. The zealot can claim respect for all it by metaphor-izing, generalizing, or local-izing whatever is objectionable. It’s easier to follow God’s laws if we can make them all a metaphor – repentance of the specific sin is not longer necessary. Don’t like the specifics of God’s word? Just generalize by proclaiming that God is love and He wants me to be happy. Problem solved. And if nothing else works, declare that the application was applicable for the time and location in which it was written – what Paul required of the Ephesians and the Corinthians doesn’t apply to our age. Problem solved. Those who question if Christians are to fear God, will transgress against the authority of God.
Such people are quick to talk about the freedom we have in Christ and how Christians are free from Law. But they also gloss over the fact that freedom in Christ isn’t freedom to do whatever we please (Gal. 5:13). And while we are free from a system of “sin and death”, we are not loosed from the “law of the Spirit”, the “the law of Christ”, or from the “Law of faith”. Christians know that to love Christ is to obey Him and we are to “observe everything which He commanded.”
On the other hand, a person who only fears God is not moved in his heart by the grace of God. Trembling fear alone leads to a false obeisance similar to the fawning adoration a dictator receives from trembling subjects – it’s not genuine love and praise. Trembling fear alone does not know the relief and confidence of truly being saved. The Psalmist said for those who fear God to praise Him. Praise is not the outward expression of the fear, but rather it is another thing altogether which rises out of love and gratitude for who God is.
The spiritual man does not see fear and praise as things opposed to one another. They are complimentary and essential in such a relationship as we have with Almighty God, who is loving and just in all of His ways. Being in God’s favor we are liberated from the fears that control so many and hinder them from doing good. Perfected love cast out all of the irrational fears that hinder the Christian walk, but the believer must still “fear God and keep His commandments”.