Matthew 10:28 (NKJV) And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Everyone knows what it is to be afraid. Fear is a natural emotion felt by every human being sometime in his or her life. For Christians, the question is not whether we will experience fear or not, it’s how we will respond to it.

The Greek term for fear that appears in this gospel passage is the one from which we derive our English word, “phobia,” but, it can be translated a number of ways, including, “dread,” “terror,” and even, “reverence.” What do these synonyms have in common? The idea they convey is that the person experiencing the “phobia” is in some way controlled by it.

To be controlled or dominated by our fear means it changes our thinking or our behavior. In other words, because we are afraid, we will think, say, or do something that we wouldn’t otherwise. The sobering reality is that whatever we fear will effectively dominate us. And whatever “dominates” us is our master, our controller.

In reaching out to, and encouraging His disciples [and in turn, you and me], Jesus used the very real threat of being killed to declare what they [and us] were and were not to fear. To allow fear of being murdered, or, to be afraid of persons we think will murder us, is to grant those things mastery over our thoughts, words, and actions. Yet, there is only one, Jesus clearly indicated, that legitimately commands our “fear” or “reverence.” The New Living Bible paraphrases the beginning of the second sentence in this passage as, “Fear only God.”

Learning to fear God alone will ultimately fill the anxiety space we have in our lives with His peace. God is too big and too great to share that space with anyone or anything else.


O how I fear you, living God, with deepest tenderest fears, and worship you with trembling hope and penitential tears!

Frederick W. Faber (1848), My God, How Wonderful Thou Art

The Rev. Dr. Rob Schenck is an ordained evangelical minister and president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, located in Washington, DC. He holds a Doctor of Ministry from Faith Evangelical Seminary in Tacoma, Washington and is a senior fellow of The Centre for the Study of Law and Public Policy at Oxford. Rev. Schenck is the author of the book, “Costly Grace”.