That may sound like a strange question. After all, if God is a God of love like the Bible says, why would anyone be afraid of Him? The Bible makes it clear that “… God is love” (1 John 4:8). It also says that “God so loved the world….” (John 3:16).
Knowing if God should scare us or not is not as simple as you might think. That’s because the Bible also describes the presence of God as terrifying. “For we know [God] said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will REPAY’ … It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30–31).
The presence of God is terrifying because He is pure and holy, and because He hates everything that is not pure and holy. That should scare us because none of us are as good as God.
Most of us don’t think of ourselves that way, though. We think of ourselves as being basically good people. If we think about sin at all, we excuse it by saying, “Of course I’m only human and I have my faults, but I’m not that bad of a person.” We will then be quick to point out some bad things that other people do that we would never do.
While those things we say may be accurate, we must remember that God doesn’t grade goodness on a curve. We may be better than some others, but none of us are good compared to how good God is. Jesus made this clear when He said, “… No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).
Jesus, who is described as the One “who loves us” (Revelation 1:5), also said that God’s standard for us is “… to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Since God is the only one who is completely good, and since we will never be that good, you might be wondering why He has given us so many commands. What’s the point? God did not give us those many commands to teach us HOW to be good. Instead, He gave them to us to show us what failures we are at being good. Notice: “Through the Law [God’s standard of right and wrong] comes the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:19, 20).
Here is a crucial point. God gave us laws so we could see how guilty we are before God. In other words, and I’m sure you will agree, we all fail to meet God’s standard of goodness. Although that is scary, knowing it is actually helpful because our guilt can lead “… us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).
This explains why we needed Jesus to keep the Law perfectly and then to suffer the wrath of God against our sin FOR us on the Cross. Trusting Jesus is what makes all the difference. Some people came to Jesus one day and asked what works they should do for God and He replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29).
The ultimate difference between eternal life and eternal death cannot depend on how good we are, because none of us can ever be good enough. Instead, it depends on whether or not we have put our trust in Christ. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), a famous German pastor, wrote a poem called “The Savior’s Blood and Righteousness” that explains the importance of the work of Jesus did for us.
The holy, spotless, Lamb of God,
Who freely gave His life and blood
For all my numerous sins to atone,
I for my Lord and Savior own.
Therefore, my Savior’s blood and death
Are here the substance of my faith;
And shall remain, when I’m called hence,
My only hope and confidence.
Thy incarnation, wounds, and death
I will confess while I have breath,
Till I shall see Thee face to face,
Arrayed with Thy righteousness.
We all stand guilty before God, but it is “… Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Once we are safe in Christ, we no longer need to be afraid of the punishment that our sin deserves.