Understanding and Overcoming the Fear of Man


The fear of man is a common yet debilitating condition that hinders believers from living out their faith boldly and confidently. It manifests as an undue concern for human opinion and approval, often leading to compromised convictions and actions that betray one’s faith. In "The Christian in Complete Armour," William Gurnall provides profound insights into this issue and offers practical advice for overcoming the fear of man. This essay explores these insights and offers pastoral advice on how to live free from the fear of man. The fear of man proves to be a snare, as noted in Proverbs 29:25. It is disheartening to see the grip it holds on many, especially the young. This fear stifles independent thought and leads to a conformity that likens people to dead fish moving with the current. Such individuals adopt the prevailing opinions and behaviors of the day without scrutiny, driven by the need to fit in rather than stand firm in their beliefs. This results in a lack of original thinkers and a tendency to follow the majority, regardless of the moral or spiritual direction it takes.

The Nature of the Fear of Man

The fear of man arises from a misplaced focus on human opinion rather than divine approval. Gurnall highlights that when Christians crave the applause of men, they become susceptible to fearing their disapproval and criticism. This fear can lead to a reluctance to stand up for one’s faith openly, as seen in those who privohn 12:42). The pervasive influence of societal opinion often curtails good intentions. Many potential acts of faith are nipped in the bud by the dread of human judgment. Fear of ridicule or criticism can prevent individuals from engaging in practices such as reading the Bible or praying openly. This form of bondage is illustrated by historical figures like Saul, Zedekiah, Herod, and Pilate, who all succumbed to the fear of people, resulting in grievous disobedience to God’s commands. Such fear can lead to decisions that conflict with one's conscience and spiritual convictions, highlighting its enslaving nature. True freedom involves caring little for human opinion when the path of duty is clear. The ability to say "No" is a vital skill, especially when faced with enticement to sin. Jehoshaphat’s troubles stemmed from his inability to firmly say "No" to Ahab, teaching us the importance of standing firm in our convictions. When sinners entice, it is crucial to respond decisively with a refusal to comply.

Causes of the Fear of Man

  1. Carnal Desires: The desire for human approval stems from carnal desires. When believers allow their hearts to be captivated by the world's praise, they inevitably fear losing it. Gurnall warns that such carnal inclinations can enslave believers, making them fearful of human judgment (Proverbs 29:25)​ ​.

  2. Unbelief: A lack of faith contributes significantly to the fear of man. Gurnall notes that when believers’ spirits are low due to unbelief, they become more susceptible to human threats. Strengthening faith through the promises of God can bolster courage and diminish fear (Psalm 56:4)​ ​.

Overcoming the Fear of Man

  1. Mortify Carnal Desires: To overcome the fear of man, believers must mortify their fleshly desires. By dying to the need for human approval, they can live freely in the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. This involves a conscious effort to value God's approval above all else, embracing the attitude of Paul who found his boldness in God, not in human opinions (1 Thessalonians 2:2)​ ​.

  2. Strengthen Faith: Believers must fortify their faith by immersing themselves in God's promises. Gurnall advises that a heart fixed on faith is not easily shaken by human threats. Drinking deeply from the well of God's promises empowers believers to face human opposition with divine assurance (Psalm 112:7)​ ​.

  3. Trust in God's Protection: Gurnall emphasizes that believers should not fear man because God is their protector. Man can only harm the body, but God has authority over both body and soul. Therefore, fearing God should take precedence over fearing man (Matthew 10:28)​​. Believers are encouraged to be courageous and unconcerned with worldly judgment. The world’s opinion holds no sway over eternal matters. Man cannot save our soul, be our judge on the Day of Judgment, or provide us with a good conscience, hope in death, or a favorable answer at the resurrection. Hence, we should not fear the reproach or insults of men, as Isaiah 51:7-8 assures us that their hostility is temporary.

  4. Maintain a Holy Fear of God: One effective way to combat the fear of man is to cultivate a holy fear of God. When the fear of God surpasses the fear of man, believers find it easier to stand firm in their faith. Gurnall points out that this reverent fear of God should guide believers, making them more concerned with divine displeasure than with human opposition (Jeremiah 1:17)​. When fear God we have no one else to fear. By prioritizing the fear of God, believers can live with a boldness that disregards human disapproval. Embracing this mindset enables us to break free from the snare of human opinion and live in true freedom, aligned with God’s will and approval.

Pastoral Advice

  1. Encourage Community Support: Pastors should encourage believers to support one another in their faith journeys. A community of believers who uphold each other can provide the necessary courage to face human opposition.

  2. Cultivating a Deep Sense of God's Sovereignty: We must emphasize the sovereignty of God as a foundational truth that can liberate believers from the fear of man. When believers understand that God is in control of all circumstances, they can rest in His providence. Knowing that nothing happens outside of God's sovereign will can provide immense comfort and courage. Trusting in God's sovereignty means recognizing that He orchestrates all events for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28). This assurance helps believers to view human opposition in the light of God's overarching plan.
  3. Meditating on the Glory and Majesty of God: When believers focus on the greatness and holiness of God, their perspective shifts from fearing man to revering God. This practice can diminish the perceived power of human beings and elevate the rightful place of God in the believer’s life. Contemplating God's attributes such as His holiness, justice, and love can inspire awe and reinforce the believer’s commitment to pleasing God above all else.
  4. Embracing the Fellowship of Suffering with Christ: The concept of suffering with Christ is a recurring theme in the Bible. Believers are encouraged to view their trials and persecutions as a fellowship with Christ in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10). Willingness to suffer not only conforms believers to Christ but also strengthens their resolve. Recognizing that suffering for righteousness is a privilege and a means of deeper communion with Christ can empower believers to withstand the fear of man.
  5. Practicing the Means of Grace: The Scriptures place significant emphasis on the means of grace, which include the Word, sacraments, and prayer. Regular engagement with these means of grace strengthens believers spiritually, enabling them to face opposition with confidence. The Word of God equips believers with truth, the sacraments remind them of God's promises, and prayer fosters a close relationship with God. These practices collectively fortify the believer’s faith, making them less susceptible to the fear of man.
  6. Building a Robust Theological Foundation: A strong theological foundation is essential for overcoming the fear of man. Reformed literature encourages believers to delve deeply into doctrinal truths. Understanding doctrines such as justification by faith, sanctification, and glorification provides a solid grounding in the faith. This knowledge reassures believers of their identity in Christ and their secure position before God, which in turn diminishes the power of human opinion. The Westminster Confession of Faith and other Reformed confessions offer comprehensive summaries of these doctrines, which can serve as valuable resources for believers.
  7. Teach Biblical Promises: Regular teaching and reminders of God's promises can strengthen faith. Pastors should emphasize scriptures that reassure believers of God's protection and care.
  8. Promote Accountability: Creating accountability partnerships within the church can help believers stay committed to their faith without succumbing to the fear of man.
  9. Model Boldness: Pastors should model boldness in their own lives. By demonstrating a fearless commitment to God's truth, they can inspire their congregations to do the same.


The fear of man is a significant obstacle to living out one's faith boldly. By understanding its causes and applying practical biblical principles, believers can overcome this fear. Through mortifying carnal desires, strengthening faith, trusting in God's protection, and maintaining a holy fear of God, Christians can live courageously, fully embracing their identity in Christ. Pastors play a crucial role in guiding their congregations through this process, providing the support and teaching necessary to foster a community of fearless believers.


By Topic


By Scripture

Old Testament









1 Samuel

2 Samuel

1 Kings

2 Kings

1 Chronicles

2 Chronicles








Song of Solomon


















New Testament







1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians





1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy

2 Timothy





1 Peter

2 Peter

1 John

2 John

3 John



By Author

Latest Links