The New Testament Church; A Place For The Fear of God
Kato Mivule, May 25, 2010

If the Fear of God is not evident in the Church,then how do we expect the world to fear God? The Contemporary Church of our day has drastically lost the True Fear of The Lord that what we have is instead a fear of man. Yet the contrast was quite true and a reality in the early New Testament Church, The Fear of The Lord was present.

(Act 5:11 KJV) And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

Some Theologians have debated about the Fear of God in the New Testament as simply being a fear in form of “reverence” and not dread and fright associated with the term ‘fear’. Yet while this is true, it is only a partial recognition of the type of fear that was experienced in the New Testament Church.

The fear in the New Testament Church, in the Book of Acts had to do with both reverence and consternation when it came to the Fear of God. A look at the Greek word for ‘fear’ used in the verse in Acts 5:11 shows that the fear that came upon the Church had to do with consternation…

G5401, φόβος , phobos, fob’-os
From a primary φέβομαι phebomai (to be put in fear); alarm or fright: – be afraid, + exceedingly, fear, terror.[1]

The Greek word used here for fear, is ‘phobos’, the same word from which Psychologists derive the term ‘Phobia’ in regards to unreasonable fear. Yet in this case, this is not unreasonable fear but fear with reason, The Holy Fear of God, The Creator of Heaven and Earth. The term ‘phobos’ used in Acts 5:11 is translated as ‘to be put in fear’, alarm, fright, exceedingly afraid, fear, and interestingly, terror.

Yet Acts 5:11 is not isolated, as a matter of fact the same Greek word ‘phobos’ is used in other New Testament verses concerning fear of The Lord…

Rom 3:13-18 KJV Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: (14) Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: (15) Their feet are swift to shed blood: (16) Destruction and misery are in their ways: (17) And the way of peace have they not known: (18) There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Eph 5:21 KJV Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Php 2:12 KJV Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

The wicked are noted as those without ‘the fear of God’, the wicked do not have the ‘phobos’ of God in them. Therefore we see that the ‘fear of God’ in the New Testament had both to do with reverence and consternation of God. For He alone is God, He is the author of Life and creator of everything. He alone can forgive sins and cast one into eternal damnation, so, why not have reverence and consternation for God?

The attitude in today’s contemporary Church is to equate God as a mere brother, ATM Machine, or an imbecilic Father to whom we go just to get material things, and ‘fight off our enemies’. Such an attitude is one with no fear of God. We forget that we still worship the Old Testament God even though we are in a time of Grace. This one reason why sin is so pervasive in the contemporary Church today – no fear of God.

Interestingly in the Old Testament The Fear of The Lord is considered as a starting point for wisdom and those who reject that wisdom are considered fools, setting our modern day worldly wisdom on a collision course with the God of Heaven and Earth.

Pro 1:7 KJV The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Yet in the Old Testament the word fear in Hebrew had to do with reverence and consternation too…

H3374, יראה, yir’âh, yir-aw’
Feminine of H3373; fear (also used as infinitive); morally reverence: – X dreadful, X exceedingly, fear (-fulness).[2]

In the Old Testament times there was a fear of the God of Israel that had to do with reverence but also consternation. He is the God that led the Children of Israel out of Egypt with mighty signs and wonders, he divided the Red Sea and His people crossed the sea on dry ground while their enemies drowned. Yet God has not changed even in this time of Grace, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Our present culture of consumerism has painted a very deceptive picture among Christians, of who we think God is. God is compared with Santa on Christmas day and the Bunny Rabbit on Easter Day. God is seen as a geek who simply comes in to solve our problems. A society driven by lust of more material things keeps defining who God is for us. No wonder the phenomenon of the Prosperity Gospel in the Church around the World, God is seen as an author of materialism.

As one Bible Scholar put it that the first sin we are told about in the New Testament Church had to do with man’s praise and the love of money – very telling of the Gospel of Materialism, Prosperity and Greed in the Church today…

“…The first sin we are told of within the NT church is the love for man’s praise and the love of money. This incident is proof, both then and for all time, that God will not tolerate hypocrisy(John 12:43; 1 Tim 6:10)…” [3]

There is no doubt that if the praise of man and the love of money continue unhindered in the Church today, Judgment from God will come in the Church, it is just a matter of time.

It is with sadness that scriptures are twisted and taken out of context to support a lifestyle of greed and self indulgence, yet it is for the same reason of Materialism that judgment came upon Ananias and Sapphira. Both husband and wife decided to sell their own possession but lied to The Holy Spirit about their sell, their hearts were still captivated by material goods, that they kept part of the sell for themselves yet lied to The Holy Spirit…

Act 5:1-10 KJV But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, (2) And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (3) But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? (4) Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (5) And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. (6) And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. (7) And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. (8) And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. (9) Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. (10) Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

However, God’s purpose in the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira was to instill His Holy Fear in the Church. Even those that heard about what happened feared The Lord. There was a sense of fear for eternal consequences when Peter stood to preach that the hearts of men were convicted of sin that people asked what they should do to avoid the coming judgment of this world.

If sin is prevalent in the Church, that from the Mainstream Churches, young boys are sexually molested by those who call themselves servants of God, to the Protestant Churches were acquisition of the material is exalted and worshiped, then the fear of God that has to do with Holy Reverence and Consternation has departed from a number of Churches.

Yet in the New Testament Church, such Holy Fear ought to be present, the world ought to truly stand in awe of The Lord if the Christians themselves fear God. …and great fear of God will be in the Church and upon all who hear the things of God that happen in His Church.

The New Testament must fear God if we are to be effective in our evangelism and outreach to a dying and sinning world that has no regard and fear for God. Yet this is a very important issue we have to consider at a personal level, as a Christian do I still fear The Lord?

To be continued…

Kato Mivule

[1] Strong’s Concordance, Number G5401

[2] Strong’s Concordance, Number H3374,

[3] Derek Carlsen, Faith and Courage: Commentary on ACTS, Christian Liberty Press, 2004, Page 116, ISBN: 1930367988, 9781930367982