You are a rare person. I say that because you actually read the preceding sentence. Most people probably did not get beyond the title of these few paragraphs. Godliness. It is a subject seldom mentioned and of even less interest to Christendom today. When did you last hear the topic broached from your pulpit? To many professing Christians, godliness is an archaic and irrelevant topic, a doddering old spinster breathing the same dusty air as the Victorians. Most of us have never ventured into its neighborhood, and we’d need MapQuest or Garman even to locate it. It has no panache. It lacks marketability.
But godliness should never be considered old-fashioned by real believers. Its qualities are as substantial, as essential, as eternal, and as valuable as they were when the God-breathed words of Scripture were penned. A partial survey of texts containing the word reveals the weight that God gives to this virtue. We are exhorted to pray for “all men,” particularly “for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Paul assures us that “this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (I Tim. 2:1c-3). Paul says to Timothy (and by implication to us): “exercise thyself rather unto godliness” because “godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (I Tim. 4:7b, 8b). Paul warns that “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing . . . from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Tim. 6:3-6). Flee the pursuit of wealth, Paul says, but “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love patience, meekness” (I Tim. 6:11).
What is godliness? Since it is commended and commanded and since its exercise with contentment promises “great gain,” we ought to give care to what it is. The Greek word does not contain the word for God in it, but is made up of a prefix meaning well and a root meaning reverent. Piety is a good modern synonym (an equally out-of-fashion concept). In other words, to be godly is not to exercise a regal bearing, to maintain some authoritarian air, or to exhibit superior knowledge. Nor is it to demonstrate supernatural gifts, whether healing or speaking in tongues. Vine explains that godliness means “to be devout, denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him.”
What a marvelous, simple, yet profound and blessed definition. Believers are to exercise ourselves unto godliness. We are to establish and maintain a Godward attitude; that is, we are to seek to know and do His will, to understand and obey His Word, to please Him rather than ourselves, or even others. To be godly is to be godlike. It is to live the life of heaven on earth. It is to manifest the character of God in our flesh. It is to manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our doings, our desires, our thoughts, and ambitions. “For to me to live is Christ” is how Paul expressed the idea (Phil. 1:21). Such a concept is alien to modern thought because it is alien to human nature and experience. But it is the purpose for which we have been saved. And the believer who wholeheartedly embraces this life truly finds himself living in the “heavenlies.” Godliness is not old or old-fashioned. It is eternal as God is eternal. May I, may you, grasp the necessity of living a godly life that we might honor our Savior, glorify our God, and reap the blessings of an obedient—a godly—life.
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