Fear is a natural feeling of terror when danger is present. Fear can be good or bad. A healthy fear tempers the soul, which is why children are to be taught to fear and respect their parents (Lev 19:3), wives are to fear and respect their husbands (Eph. 5:33), and slaves or servants are to respect their masters (Eph. 6:5). The foundational cause for a healthy expression of fear is rooted in reverence, awe, and respect for God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7) as well as “the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 16:16). An unhealthy and harmful fear is that sense of terror, or dread, that immobilizes the soul, and clouds rational judgment. God does not want His children to be burdened with this unhealthy, and harmful expression of fear. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).
For this reason the commandment comes to the Christian not to fear any person, for no man can do ultimate harm to the believer. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God” (Phil. 1:28).
While the Christian is not to fear anyone, but to trust in God, it is interesting and instructive to learn that, from a divine understanding of the nature of the human heart, it is the wicked that fear the righteous. The wicked may boast, and swagger, and pretend to be in charge, but deep in their hearts they fear the righteous. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). “And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet” (Matt. 14:5).
Because the wicked fear the righteous they act in a deceitful manner, and make every attempt to hide their sins (2 Sam. 11; Matt. 28:4-15). The wicked have every cause to be terror stricken at the thought of a righteous God taking vengeance upon evil, for this He has promised to do. “And to you [Christians] who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
While the unbeliever fears the righteous, and shall know the terror of the Lord, such fear does not often lead to gospel repentance. Rather, a greater attempt is made to hide from God (Gen 3:8; Rev 6:15-17) or worse, to deny His existence, and His claim on a person’s life (Ps 14:1; Rom 1:18-28).