The Gospel and Fear

As a pre-teen and young teen, I frowned upon the idea of sharing the gospel with fear as a driving motivator for conversion. I heard of instances in which people had been driven to pray the sinner’s prayer by their fear of hell. That approach to sharing the gospel sat wrong with me, and I judged the people who used any such method of sharing the Good News.

A few years later, I find myself considering again the relationship between fear and the gospel. Where once I was quick to judge, I now wonder what truth there is to it.

The fear of the Lord is a good thing. In this post, I shared my heart on that, including some scriptures that speak on the matter.


As I consider it more and more, the fear of the Lord is a key distinguishing factor between the saved and the lost. A lack of the fear of the Lord, is what causes people to live their own way. A lack of the fear of the Lord is what causes people to disregard the His good laws and show contempt for their Maker. A lack of the fear of the Lord is what causes people to forget that the Lord is their Judge, that the day of judgment is near, and that the consequences of sin are very grave.

I asked a dear friend to share with me about her take on the fear of the Lord. Let me try to articulate her thoughts as I received them.

The overwhelming majority of the time, fear is perceived as a bad thing. But often, fear keeps us safe. We know the potential of fire to seriously harm us, so we don’t jump in it. A healthy respect for fire preserves us.

My friend’s words ring true. The fear of the Lord isn’t about reverence or respect for the sake of it. Just as our fear of fire is well grounded in it’s real power to harm us, so is our fear of the Lord. If He is an idea of man, invented to adapt according to personal preferences and so suit our fancy, we ought not to fear Him. What can an idea like that do to harm us?

On the contrary, God is real, powerful, and holds every right to punish us for our sin.

For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

-Hebrews 10:30-31

What does this have to do with sharing the gospel? A lot! I think at some point early in the process of sharing the gospel, we need to help the person to address the question of whether or not they fear the Lord. If they don’t, they have no reason to act. However, if they do fear the Lord, the same sense that causes them to be careful around fire will propel them to seek the salvation of their soul.

Love and peace and hope are great things to celebrate, and they will all follow in due time. But at the very beginning of the journey, I believe, is fear.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

-Proverbs 9:10


8 thoughts on “The Gospel and Fear

  1. Excellent point, Jordy! We shouldn’t “scare” someone into wanting to get into heaven just to escape hell, like you pointed out, but we should recognize that the fear of the Lord is vital to truly knowing Him (like it says in Proverbs). When someone realizes their broken state before the Lord, I think that proper fear is somewhat realized then.
    Our world is severely lacking in the fear of the Lord these days… we can only thank Him for the grace we have!


    1. Amen; we can only thank Him for the grace that we have! Isn’t that how we can approach God’s throne of grace… with confidence? There’s a delicate balance! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Emily. 🙂


  2. You raise a good point, Jordy. I too have always opposed the idea of trying to convert people through fear, thinking it was better to win them through love. But you’re right, fear does have to be a part of it, because if we don’t understand there’s a great chasm between God’s holiness and our unworthiness, we can’t appreciate the depth of God’s love.

    Have you seen/heard Ray Comfort’s approach to sharing the gospel? If so, what do you think about his use of fear? I’m just trying to think what this balance would look like in real life situations. Thanks for sharing! It’s good to think about. 🙂


    1. Yes! It certainly is a balance, as you said. God, in His Word, talks about fear *and* love. Both of them are there and so as stewards of His Word we can’t ignore either. But I think that one reason (probably one among others) for omitting the fear-of-God part when we share the gospel is that we actually fear people and their opinions of us. But yes, balance is absolutely necessary and we must not forget love, either.

      I haven’t heard of Ray Comfort’s approach to sharing the gospel. Is there a place I can go online or a book I can buy to learn about it? What are your thoughts on it, Jess?


      1. Yes, we fear the wrong thing! And I’ve read that the cure for fear of man is fear of God, so it’s all kind of linked!

        YouTube is the best place to find Ray Comfort, and his ministry Living Waters. He has full length films on there, as well as short clips of witnessing, etc. I have mixed thoughts on his approach – it’s very direct, as you’ll see if you’re able to watch any of the videos. I think we’re often not direct enough, so it’s inspiring in that way, and he brings up good lines of reasoning. But on the other hand, I wonder if different people are called to have different approaches to witnessing, seeing as different approaches reach different people, and all need to be reached. Anyway, I’m eager to hear what you think if you check it out sometime!


  3. There’s so much truth to this! I’m scared to death of being scared ( 😉 ), mostly because I perceive it as weakness, and I hate being weak! But … for God, we have to be weak, right? “We are weak but He is strong,” after all. And I think admitting that weakness is very key — and probably something I struggle with more than I would want to admit. 😛


    1. “for God, we have to be weak,” – You put it so simply, and I’ve never heard it stated so, but I think it’s true. He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong and His power is made perfect in our weakness, and He gives strength to the weak. He has so many affirmations in His word regarding the weak. In the end, I think it’s a blessing.

      Liked by 1 person

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