My first thought about these verses was that fear might be a figure of speech because John wrote that fear has to do with punishment. Fear makes you follow the rules because you are afraid of the punishment. If this is a figure of speech then "Fear God" would mean "follow God's commandments". This would be Metonomy of cause. The cause "fear" is put for the effect "following God". An example of this figure of speech would be: "step on the gas" which means "go faster". The act of stepping on the gas causes the car to go faster (if the engine is on) which is the end effect that you are talking about. You do not care about the actual stepping on the gas only the result of going faster. Going back to our verse, we can see the cause and the effect. The cause being "fear God" and the result (of the cause) being "following His commandments".
Before I decide that this was my conclusion, I wanted to look up the word "fear" in both passages and look at the context. So I looked up fear in John and found that it meant "intimidating" or "alaming force". I then looked up "fear" in Peter and found that it was a different definition and should be translated as "reverence". This took away the apparent contradiction. We are to love and have reverence for God. This also took away my theory of "fear" being a figure of speech in this passage. However, "fear" could be a figure of speech in other passages (maybe in the OT).
All this is interesting, but what does it really mean to us? This whole discussion shows us that there is no disagreement with these two passages. This is a good thing, but it does not stop there. We should be loving and fearing God more. Love should be driving us to follow Him more everyday and trying to please Him, not man. Let us focus on God with everything we have and then do everything we can to follow and please Him. This week share the good news with someone and continue to transform your character to be more like Christ. Blessings from God.
Copyright 2012 Marshall