Should a Christian Be Afraid? -- By: Charles C. Ryrie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 110:437 (Jan 1953)
Article: Should a Christian Be Afraid?
Author: Charles C. Ryrie


Should a Christian Be Afraid?

Charles C. Ryrie

The answer to the question “Should a Christian Fear?” is not so obvious as it might seem to be. Although one’s immediate reaction is in the negative because of the perfect peace which the Lord Jesus gives to each believer, this is only part of the answer to the matter.

Two abuses of the doctrine of fear which are abroad today make the study of the proper doctrine mandatory. They are both based on the idea (if not the words) of 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The one concludes that, since fear ought not be a part of any Christian’s makeup, it should be avoided at all costs lest that Christian become inhibited. It often follows that carnal principles are used to accomplish this end and cure the Christian of his fear. The other abuse takes the idea of the verse as an excuse for familiarity with the Lord in His worship and service. Boldness, being made the opposite of fear by such ones, becomes then an excusing cover-up for any sort of conduct in Christian work. God preserve us from either of these abuses!

What is the proper doctrine of fear as set forth especially in the New Testament? The answer to this question is found in the study of the three Greek words for fear which are used there. (A fourth word is found in a variant reading of Hebrews 12:28 and will not be considered here.) The three words are deilia, ‘cowardice’; eulabeia, ‘reverence’; and phobos, ‘fear or alarm.’

I. The Christian and Cowardice

Five times in the New Testament the Holy Spirit has

used this first word, deilia, ‘cowardice’ (2 Tim 1:7; John 14:27; Matt 8:26; Mark 4:40; Rev 21:8). In the Greek literature outside the New Testament the word regularly has this meaning of cowardice,1 which meaning carries over into the New Testament always in a bad sense. This base spirit will manifest itself in the professing Christian in the time of persecution, proving that his profession was not real. Therefore the Scripture declares that cowards will partake of the second death, for they were never saved (Rev 21:8

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