Bible Question:

Should people be motivated to come to Christ because they fear hell or because they love God?

Bible Answer:

Beginning in Genesis 1 and continuing throughout scripture to Revelation 22, God repeatedly reveals His character. We discover that He loves us. Because He loves us, He warns us of future, pending danger. What follows are examples of some scriptures that reveal He draws us to Himself through love and in His love He warns us of danger.

Drawn by Fear of Hell or Love of God?

God Draws Us to Himself Through Love

Beginning with Genesis 1:1 God reveals that He made everything.

 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 (NASB)

But why did God do that? He could have created everything and ignored us, but He did not do that. Twenty-five verses later God tells us that He made every human in His image. That is, we are like Him in our intellect, emotion and will. This strongly implies that God has high respect for us and loves us. We are not like the other animals that He created (1 Corinthians 15:39). Why did God share this information? The answer is that God seeks a relationship with His creation – with us!

One of the greatest passages in scripture that reveals God’s love for us is Genesis 3:8-10. Here we find that God had regularly visited with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In verse 8 we discover that God used to walk in the Garden of Eden when He visited Adam and Eve.

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” Genesis 3:8-10 (NASB)

Most likely God appeared as a theophany or an Old Testament appearance of Christ, but notice that Adam was accustomed to God visiting them. He recognized a noise associated with God’s visit. This implies God spent time with them. Why did God do that? The answer is that God chose to do that. He wanted to visit them. He sought a relationship because He loved them.

The clearest statement in the Bible that reveals God love for us is found in John 3:16.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NASB)

Again in Romans 5:8 we are told that God loves us and, therefore, Christ died for us.  1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. Love describes God’s character. God’s love is a strong motivation for many to believe in Christ.

Love is like a magnet. It draws many to Christ. Many have responded to God because He loves them. He has shown us His love. The message that God loves us is common in the scriptures and why not? God is love!

God Draws Us When He Warns Us

Beginning in Genesis 2:16-17 we discover that God warned Adam to not eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God’s warning was an act of love; but in the process of warning us, a reason for fear is also communicated. We realize that danger is present around the corner. Throughout scripture God warns people of future judgment. That is an act of love. His warnings motivate us to run and His love draws us to Himself.

Fear works on some individuals but not on others. God warned Adam and Eve to flee death but it did not work. Love does not work on others. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus warned a crowd to do His will or else. Most did not obey. In Matthew 25:46, He gave the disciples a choice – eternal life or eternal punishment. In John 3:16-21, 36 Christ stated that God loves us; and at the same time He has warned us about eternal punishment.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NASB)

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said that the path to eternal life was narrow and few find it.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (NASB)

Jesus’ illustration warns us that most people do not respond to love or to the fear of danger. They do not care about God’s love or eternal punishment.

Jude 23 is a warning which states that some are rescued out of fear. Finally, Revelation 20:11-15 warns us of future judgment, a reason for fear.

Conclusion:

The Old Testament illustrates truth with example. The New Testament captures the truth of those illustrations in statements. The Old Testament reveals that God loves us and that is why He warns us of future judgment. The New Testament crystalizes those illustrations of truth into statements of fact. Because God loves us, He warns us. God uses both the “carrot and stick” to motivate us to believe in Christ. Those who respond come to Christ as a result of the Holy Spirit drawing them.

Therefore, the answer to the question, “Do people come to Christ because they fear hell or love God?” is that people respond to love and some to fear as God draws them to Himself. For John 6:44 help us understand that we respond to Christ because God draws us. In His love He draws us  (Ephesians 2:8-9). He draws us by telling us He loves us and helps us understand our future destiny is eternal punishment. God’s perfect love removes all fear (1 John 4:18).

 

Reference Links:

What is God’s image?