If God is all-loving, why does the Bible say that we are to fear him? Unfortunately, the typical answer is that the fear that is referred to in the bible is something akin to 'Respect'. That response is not only incorrect but harmful as it limits what actually should be a very healthy and natural response when both sinner and saint are confronted with the awesome and powerful God of the universe.
Even worse is to equate the God that needs to be feared as an 'Old Testament' God as if we now have a different God or as if the New Testament is all about love but no fear. If so, we have to deal with a number of verses in the New Testament that deal with the same subject:
"Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the King." (1Peter 2:17)
"Don?t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."(Matt 10:28)
"But I will show you the One to fear: Fear Him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the One to fear!" (Luke 12:5)
"He spoke with a loud voice: 'Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. Worship the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water."(Rev. 14:7)
So what exactly does it mean that we are to "Fear the Lord"? The Fear of the Lord is a Holy Fear that for the believer is essential in living a life that is holy and pleasing to God. The fear of God that is taught in the New Testament is that which caused the early church to grow (Acts 2:43&47 and "fear came upon every soul...and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
For the unbeliever, the fear of the Lord is a powerful force that will often lead to true repentance. The fear of judgment, the consequences of sin both here on earth as well as for eternity has lead to an appropriate response which is to repent and turn to God and salvation.
For the believer, a healthy fear of God protects us from many unholy influences and temptations. This healthy fear is a dread of offending a holy and all-powerful God in whom we have entrusted our lives.ˇIt is not a fear of condemnation as the Bible clearly tells us, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1), but of disappointment and ultimately an understanding that God's mercy protects us from many but not all of the consequences of our sins.
For the believer, our God deserves both our worship and our fellowship.ˇIn order to have fellowship with a Holy God we need both the sanctifying work of Jesus Christ as well as our obedience.
The sacrifice has already been paid. It's now time to resist temptation and sin and submit our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
Romans 12:1 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship."