What Does it Mean to 'Fear the Lord?' Greg Laurie, Billy Graham Respond

Nov 16, 2017 11:23 AM EST

Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, has shed light on what the Bible truly means in its instruction to "Fear the Lord."

"Have you ever heard the phrase, 'The fear of the Lord?'" the pastor asks in a recent Facebook video. "You know, the Bible tells us the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. But what does that mean? Does it mean we walk around cowering in fear that the Lord's going to hit us or hurt us?"

"No," Laurie continues. "Take that word 'fear' and replace it with another word like 'respect' or 'honor' or 'reverence.' We are to reverence the Lord, respect the Lord, honor the Lord."

One good definition of "fearing the Lord," the pastor says, is "a wholesome dread of displeasing Him."

"So, it's not, 'I'm afraid of repercussions,'" he explains, 'but I honor, respect, and reverence the Lord. So, listen, walk in fear of the Lord, and the reverence of the Lord today, and remember, He loves you."

The Bible commands believers to both "fear the Lord" and "love the Lord" - two ideas that seem to contradict one another.

Another famed pastor, 99-year-old evangelist Billy Graham - who Laurie previously identified as the "most Christlike man" he's ever met - explained that once we understand what the Bible actually means, the contradiction goes away.

"Let me explain. It's true that the Bible repeatedly tells us to fear God: 'Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him' (Psalm 33:8),'" he said. "But what does it mean by 'fear'? We usually fear something (such as a vicious dog or a violent storm) when we expect it to harm us. In other words, we fear something that has no concern for us, and is a source of constant danger to us."

He continued, "But that isn't what God is like! God created us, and He also loves us-and the proof is that He sent His only Son into the world to die for our sins. Would He have done this if He hated us? No, of course not. The Bible says, 'This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins' (1 John 4:10). Stop right now and thank God for loving you and sending His Son to die for you."

He concluded: "To fear God is not to shrink back from Him in terror. To fear God is to have a deep reverence for Him, and to stand in awe at His holiness and majesty and power and love. Only then will we love and serve and worship Him as we should."