At first glance, the Apostle Peter’s vision of the Christian life as involving both “joy inexpressible” (1 Pet. 1:8), and the need to “conduct yourselves with fear” (1 Pet. 1:17) seems to be utterly contradictory. How are we to understand these seemingly incompatible dispositions of both joy and fear?
With good insight that regards the overall context and thrust of Peter’s first letter, Alexander MacLaren helps answer this question (from his sermon on 1 Pet. 1:17 entitled Father and Judge):
“Such carefulness over conduct and heart is fully compatible with all the blessed emotions to which it seems at first antagonistic. There is no discord between the phrase that I have quoted about’ joy unspeakable and full of glory, ‘ and this temper, but rather the two help one another. And such blended confidence and fear are the parents of courage. The man that is afraid that he will do wrong and so hurt himself and grieve his Saviour, is the man that will never be afraid of anything else. Martyrs have gone to the stake ‘fearing not them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do,’ (Mt. 10:28) because they were so afraid to sin against God that they were not afraid to die rather than to do it. And that is the temper that you and I should have.”
Continually growing in joy and fear with you,