In preparation to send the Twelve Disciples out on their first mission, Jesus provided an interesting set of instructions for their work. We have seen how Jesus wanted them to condemn stubborn towns, how they would be given words to say to Gentile kings on this Jew-only mission, and how the “Son of Man” would come before they finished traveling to all of the towns in Israel. What wise words are next?
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. NIVThe context surrounding that verse, 1 John 4:7-21, is one of the most beautiful sections of the Bible. John tells us that God is love, and if we love one another then God lives in us and His love is perfected in us. Because of that love, Christians will have no fear on Judgement Day. As the verse above attests, love drives out the fear of punishment, and the fearful do not have the full love of God. But John's version of God is very different from the God in the remainder of the Bible, and even different from the God about which Jesus preached.
When preparing His Twelve Apostles for their first mission, Jesus gave them a warning that violence and persecution would come when spreading the Gospel message (Matthew 10:21-25). Then Jesus tells them not to be afraid men who persecute them, but rather to speak the Gospel boldly (Matthew 10:26-27). In Matthew 10:28, Jesus' message of motivation takes a sobering turn:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.” NIVLuke 12:4-5 offers a slightly more robust version of the same saying from Jesus:
“I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.” NIVDiametrically opposed to the words of James, Jesus tells His Disciples that they should fear God, precisely because of the punishment which God is able to administer.
The fear of God is a fairly consistent view throughout the Bible. There are at least 130 Old Testament (OT) and 19 New Testament (NT) references to the fear of God (searching fear+God and fear+lord-God). In fact, in Genesis 31:42 and Genesis 31:53, the word “Fear” is used in place of the word for God.
Compare this to the 29 OT and 39 NT commands to love God (searching love+God and love+lord-God). That is a fear-to-love ratio of 2.19 overall, 4.48 for the OT and 0.49 for the NT. It is clear that God promotes fear over love, and that the NT is a departure from the original message.
The concept of “God is love” is farcical, because the words of 1 John 4:18 are true; there really is no fear in perfect love. Yet God's message, and Jesus' message as we see here, is based on a platform of fear, not a foundation of love.
It is a shame, too. I really liked John's version of God.