Commonly I hear people say that under the Law people obeyed out of fear, whereas under grace we obey out of love. This is a nice happy notion but isn’t terribly consistent with Scripture.
The New Testament does invoke fear as a proper motivation for obeying God, most clearly in 2 Corinthians 7:1, a verse which most Pauline fans seemingly have never seen.
On top of that, the Law invokes love many times as a motivation for obedience. Deuteronomy is the second giving of the Law, a quick review of it before the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Here’s the motivation given to obey:
“And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,”
“Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.”
“love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,”
“For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him;”
“thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways;”
“In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments,”
“That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days:”
Love and fear are not opposites, they fit together. When the Bible speaks of love it often ties it in with obedience or submission. “If you love me, keep my commandments,” is how our Lord and Savior put it. Paul says, “for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” “And husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.”
Love is doing what God says, it’s the most loving thing you can do for God, for you, and for others. These are the Words of Life! It’s stunning how stubborn our flesh is to simply do what God says.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”