Wednesday, July 29, 2015

WHY ADD GODLINESS?

Godliness comes a little more than halfway down Peter's list of things that we are to add to our faith. It comes after virtue, knowledge, self-control, and patience.

Since Peter's list is obviously sequential, why does godliness come so much later in our training with the Lord?
Isn't godliness something that we automatically expect from believers?
Do we assume that godliness equates with perfection?

Let's begin with the word itself as presented in our English language.

Godliness is the noun form of the adjective godly.

Is there any similarity of 'godly' to 'manly' or 'womanly?' Of course, there is; and putting the word in that light immediately gives us an idea of its intent.

Manly = like a man
Womanly = like a woman
Godly = like God

Simple, straightforward, and plain, no?
With that we could almost end our discussion right there.

However, I find it instructive to note how the word is used in the Bible.

The Greek word is used 15 times, and is translated 'godliness' 14x and 'holiness' one time (Acts 3:12).
Spoiler Alert!
The old proverb
"Cleanliness is next to godliness"
is NOT found in the Bible.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words gives this definition:
from eu, "well," and sebomai, "to be devout," denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him. 
"Piety" may be too old of a word for many to recognize, but it essentially means 'devotion,' or in modern terms, your spirituality. Piety characterizes your "attitude toward God," resulting in speech, thoughts, and actions that are pleasing to the Lord.

However, most folks equate 'piety' with someone who goes to church and doesn't smoke, drink, or cuss. That is also their concept of 'godliness.' Of course, there is much more to godliness/piety than that. Many people refrain from the things mentioned, but are not godly at all. Nice, or good, maybe; but not godly.

Therefore, Peter's admonition for us to add godliness later on in our walk is fitting for the maturing believer who is "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Eph. 5:10).

Following are the places where the word 'godliness' appears for our instruction as to how and why it is added:
  • 1Ti 4:8
  • 1Ti 6:3
  • 1Ti 6:5-6
  • 1Ti 6:11
  • 2Ti 3:5
  • 2Pe 3:11
Notice that Paul only uses the word in the so-called Pastoral Epistles. Peter uses the word four times (2Pe 1:3; 2Pe 1:6; 2Pe 1:7; 2Pe 3:11), but for our discussion at this point, only once is instructive.

Peter asks the rhetorical question, "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,...?" (2Pet. 3:11)

In 1 Tim. 4:8, we have the oft-quoted verse about 'bodily exercise.'
Notice that one of the benefits of godliness has to do with "the life that now is."

This has been my 'mantra' for decades: "I am not motivated by heaven. I am motivated by how much fun it is just to live the Christian life." The "life that now is" is enhanced by godly a life.

I am continually made aware of the difficulties others experience as a direct result of a lack of godliness in a particular area of their life.
Mine, too.

Then, Paul continues with his discussion and uses the other oft-quoted concept of "gain is godliness" (1 Tim. 6:5)

I used the word "continues" intentionally, even though the word 'godliness' doesn't show up again until chapter 6. A close look at the intervening verses will show very plainly what godliness looks like. It looks quite similar to what Paul calls "sound doctrine" (Tit. 2:1ff).

Therefore, one of the most effective ways to add godliness to our faith is to have our preachers/teachers giving us sound doctrine. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17).

CAVEAT: 2Tim. 3:5 teaches us plainly that godliness can be imitated; that it is something that can be faked. So, just because we see someone who has all the outward appearances of a godly life, we still need to be alert to the deception possible from judging only by visible signs. (1 John 4:1; John 7:24)

I give the warning above, because truth is not imparted mind to mind, but life to life (John 1:38-39; John 8:31-32; Matt. 24:24; Heb. 13:7). It is too easy for the charlatans who abound in this hour to deceive the people of God with their smooth talk and charismatic personality. Personality has taken precedence over character, which is the biblical criteria we are to look for (1 Tim: 3:1-7).

In summary, then, godliness is a quality that does not show up simply because you have "accepted Jesus," or go to church, or hang around with the right people. Each of those things help, of course, in your growth; but they will not insure godliness being added to your life.

Adding godliness as a character trait is an intentional approach to your daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

What aspect of godliness will you be attempting in the coming weeks?
Share with us here, or on the Challenge of Character page on Facebook.

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