As Christians, we are considered people "of faith." But what is faith? True, BIBLICAL faith?
Biblically, the "father of faith" is Abraham (Romans 4:16-17ff)...
What sort of "faith" did he have? What kind of "faith" did The Lord God commend him for?
Without a doubt, it was his act of COMPLETE OBEDIENCE to God when he was commanded to sacifice his son, Isaac. (Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:17ff)
Many would say Abraham's "love" for The Lord, displayed by his willingness to sacrifice his very own son, is what he was commended for. Others would say it was his "belief/faith" in The Lord to provide a way out of his predicament (cf. Heb. 11). Yet others might point to pure "obedience," since God gave him a command, and he obeyed without question. Perhaps all are right. After all, Abraham's act to sacrifice Isaac was a demonstration of his love for God ABOVE that of his own beloved son. His act to sacrifice Isaac was a demonstration of his belief in God's word (see Hebrews 11). And he was, without question or hesitation, obeying The Lord's clear command.
So we know we have "faith" if we LOVE God, BELIEVE/HAVE-FAITH-IN God, & OBEY God....
But what did The Lord commend Abraham for? What were God's EXACT words?
In Genesis 22:12, we get The Lord's reaction and commendation of Abraham's "act of faith" in the exact words that God Himself used.
He said to Abraham,
"Now I know that you FEAR God...."
He could have said, "Now I know you love God." He could have said, "Now I know you believe." He could have said, "Now I know you are obedient." Or perhaps, "Now I know you have faith."
But He instead used the 4-letter "F-word" that most people ignore or simply don't want to talk about in Scripture. He said "FEAR"...F-E-A-R. Fear...
In any translation, in proper context, and even going to the original manuscripts, the word and concept is indeed FEAR. Not "reverence" or "respect" or "honor" or anything else that may act as a euphemism and water down the concept. It is very simply put, FEAR OF THE LORD.
While God IS loving, merciful, patient, and forgiving, have we emphasized the "love" of God and His forgiveness and kindness and mercy so much that we have forgotten how to FEAR The Lord?
Indeed, while He is all these things, He is referred to above all else NOT as "The All-Loving" or "The All-Forgiving" or "The All-Merciful" or "The All-Generous" or "The All-Patient" or the.... Well you get the point.
So, how is He referred to, more than anything else (other than simply being called "God")?
He is referred to as THE ALMIGHTY. It is a reference to His POWER and OMNIPOTENCE.
And the most natural (emotional) response to unimaginable power and absolute omnipotence - to THE ALMIGHTY - is fear... Fear of being on the wrong receiving end of such immeasurable and unsurpassed might.
Under divine inspiration of The Holy Spirit, wise King Solomon said that "the fear of The Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline" (Proverbs 1:7). He then went on to draw a very interesting, extremely simple, yet truly profound conclusion:
"...here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and obey His
commands, for this is the whole duty of mankind." (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
The words of Jesus Christ, affirming this conclusion in the New Testament, are very clear in Matthew 10:28 when He tells us that there is nothing to fear other than God Himself. (If one argues He did not mean "fear" but rather something else such as reverence or respect, this ignores the beginning of the verse: "Don't fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." And the idea that the One to whom the Saviour refers is anybody but God Himself would be to ignore the fact that we are saved from God's wrath as stated in Romans 1:18ff & Romans 5:9ff; and that the Devil/Satan is himself cast into hell by God as stated in Revelation 20:7-15.)
One might ask, "But doesn't perfect love cast out fear?" (1 John 4:18). Again, one must pay attention to CONTEXT and proper biblical exegesis rather than mere "proof-texting." The context of this verse in 1 John is seen in the prior verses (15-17). John is speaking about being saved and having confidence on the day of judgment. He is speaking about a "love" that helps us rest assured that we are saved through genuine faith in The Saviour. In no way is he negating fear of The Lord God (for even the "saved" are judged and may experience great loss resulting from disobedience, as seen in Numbers 14:11-24, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Hebrews 6:1-12, & Hebrews 10:26-31). He is rather negating fear of not being saved if you already accepted Jesus Christ.
It is interesting that, in the very end....in Revelation, when The Lord finally establishes His perfect kingdom here on Earth, from the throne upon which He sits God tells us (who are "saved")...
"Praise our God, all you His servants....who FEAR Him...." (Revelation 19:5)
(*NOTE: In Revelation 22:3, the last chapter of the last book of The Bible - after everything has been made perfect and there is no longer any pain, suffering, or death - where we reside with The Lord in eternal life and paradise, our primary identity above all else is as NOT as children or disciples or ambassadors or followers, etc., but rather, as His SERVANTS who SERVE/OBEY Him)
For those who struggle with the apparent tension stemming from a false dichotomy between "fear" of The Lord and "love" of The Lord, they should realize that, in the final analysis, both are one and the same. Both are expressed, tested, proven, measured, and validated by the same thing: OBEDIENCE (Genesis 22; Ecclesiastes 12:13; John 14:21-24).
Those who fear Him must obey Him. The same is true for those who love Him. If there is any difference between fearing Him and loving Him, it would only be in one's emotional state. Apart from "feelings," fear and love of God are exactly the same thing. Of course, this assumes that you approach things from a Christian & biblical, TRUE perspective. =)
But even without going to The Bible, just looking at how we live our daily lives should help shed light on the issue of "fear & love." Do people in society usually obey laws and follow rules because they "love" being law-abiding citizens, or because they "fear" the consequences of breaking the law? When you "do the right thing" in the presence of police or other law enforcement officers, is it more likely because you "love" how they serve and protect the public? Or is it more often the case that you simply "fear" the repercussions of violating the codes of conduct, knowing that the authorities have the power to fine and imprison you (or worse)?
If we "fear" other people, weak as they are with their limited firearms and tools at their disposal, how much more should we fear The Being with no weaknesses at all, Who is immortal and answerable to no one else but Himself, Who is The Final Judge to whom everyone is held accountable for every thought & deed, Who has limitless power and is omnipotent over all?
Only the arrogant, foolish, & rebelliously proud would dare not fear such infinite might.