Godliness... is... awesome!
This series has been a brief examination of each of the qualities listed in 1 Peter 1:5-10, and in this write up, we're going to dive into the quality of 'godliness.' Godliness, is one of the seven qualities that we are to possess, increase and practice, in order to keep us from being ineffective, unfruitful, and prevent us from ever falling. Godliness is itself a mystery that has been unveiled, through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 3:16); Godliness has power (2 Timothy 3:5), and is valuable in EVERY way as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8), it is a measure of sound doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3), it is a way of life to be pursued (1 Timothy 6:11), and should accompany the quality of steadfastness and brotherly affection (2 Peter 1:6-7). Let's take a look at our primary text, to better understand how to take hold of this amazing promise!
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:5-10
So... what is "godliness?"
In our text (2 Peter 1:6-7), the ancient Greek word for godliness is 'eusebeia' (pronounced "yoo-seb'-i-ah"), and can be summarized as someone's inner response to the things of God which shows itself in godly piety (reverence). The word eusebeia comes from (εὖ) eu meaning "well" or "sacred awe", and (σέβας) sebas meaning "reverence", especially in actions. The root "seb" (σέβ) is connected to danger and flight, and thus, the sense of reverence originally described a healthy fear of the 'gods,' in ancient Greek texts -outside of the Scripture - and would carry this same sense of fear, in the New Testament, as it relates to our reverence for the most High God. For the Christian, the 'fear' associated with godliness - or eusebeia - is "the fear of the Lord." This is a healthy fear, and can be defined as the hatred of evil (Proverbs 8:13), and is the catalyst for turning away from evil (Proverbs 16:6). Thus, the fear of the Lord enables a lifestyle of eusebeia, or godliness. Through the fear of the Lord, one is lead to Jesus Christ, as the only way to enable us to truly hate evil, and put to death the earthly things within us. Understanding that Jesus is the only way to receive life, enables us to understand the "mystery of godliness."
The mystery of godliness
Godliness is described as a mystery in the New Testament and intuitively this makes perfect sense. If godliness is an inner - reverent - response to the things of God, what is the cause? Paul describes the mystery of godliness in 1 Timothy 3:16:
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
'The Gospel of Jesus Christ,' is how Paul describes the mystery of godliness! Not only did Jesus die on the cross to save us from the sting of death (which is sin), but he ascended into heaven, in power and authority, where He sends the Holy Spirit - the Comforter - to those who would believe in the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone. God poured out His love into the heart of the believer, through the Holy Spirit. As Paul put it: "...it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2:20) Godliness is only possible, because "it is God who works [in the believer] both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Now isn't this an incredible mystery? The reverent inner response to the things of God, comes not from man, but from God himself! The cause of the reverent inner response to the things of God, is the crucifixion of the virgin born, sinless, son of God: Jesus Christ, His resurrection and ascension into heaven, and the fulfilling of His promise to send us the Holy Spirit to live within those who would receive Him: to enable a life of godliness. Those who receive Jesus are temples for the Holy Spirit, and are clothed in power.
There is power in godliness
The mystery of godliness, is that it is not our own will driving an inner, reverent, response towards the things of God, but it is God Himself through the power of the Spirit of Christ, deposited within the believer - by God - who compels us toward godliness and eternal life. The Holy Spirit sent to those who would receive Jesus is the result of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our sins, and His eventual resurrection by the power of God. This power, that raised Jesus from the dead, is what revives the soul to life. Those who receive Jesus, receive the resurrection - from death to life - by the power of God. Our messiah, said of himself:
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11:25-26
This is not a metaphorical resurrection, but a present and eternal reality of new life, because of what Jesus fulfilled on the cross, and what He accomplished through His resurrection, by the power of God. The power of godliness (defined as 'the reverent inner response toward God') is centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ: His death on the cross to atone for our sins and His victory over death. Denying the Gospel (which is the power of God for salvation), is denying the power of godliness, and in the last days, there will be those who deny the power of godliness, as 2 Timothy 3:5 describes:
"3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people."
There may be those who appear - from the outside looking in - to be living lives of godliness, but in reality, they deny God by their works. 'Godliness' (a reverent inner response towards God) comes from an unseen place, within the heart. The denial of the power of godliness, is a denial of God's power to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6) and raise the dead to life. Godliness is only a reality for those who have been born again: those have come to the foot of the cross, who have received Jesus Christ, as the atoning sacrifice for sin. Godliness apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is self righteousness. Only through the power of God, to create new life, is one able to exercise godliness. New life - in Christ - is characterized by the Spirit of Christ, dwelling within the believer: compelling the believer to live a life FOR Jesus Christ.
We are to train ourselves for this godliness! Contrary to physical training - which has little value - godliness has (quite literally) all value. Godliness is the goal, so we ought to train with the type of focus and exertion used in physical exercise, toward this end. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 says:
7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
The Greek word to describe "some value," as it relates to bodily exercise, actually means "little value," and the Greek word to describe the value of godliness is "all" value. In every way that one can imagine, godliness has value. So, how do we train for godliness? Previously, we may have thought it required an 'outside in' approach, however, godliness is the inner reverent response towards the things of God. Training for godliness, is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Grow in our understanding and application of God's word: the Gospel truth. Sound doctrine is harmonious (accords) with godliness (1 Timothy 6:3). Allowing the richness of sound doctrine to stir the soul toward reformation is the process of sanctification, as knowledge and application of God's word amalgamate, resulting in newness of life, that is both unseen and seen. With this we ought to find contentment, and if we do, we are given a promise: "...godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6)."
Godliness must be pursued (1 Timothy 6:11)! The intensity which we ought to pursue godliness is like a hunter pursuing his prey. In likewise manner, godliness is pursued throughout the course of one's life. Growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a life long pursuit, supplemented by sound doctrine, and empowered by the Spirit of God.
Putting the pieces together
Now that we've gone through a brief survey of godliness, let's take a look at our primary text, where we are told that if we posses, practice, and increase certain qualities (including godliness) we will never fall. We are to add to the quality of steadfastness, the quality of godliness, and to the quality of godliness, we are to add the quality of brotherly affection:
6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 2 Peter 1:6-7
'Steadfastness' with 'godliness' is to endure (by the power of the Spirit) through even the most difficult trials and sufferings (steadfastness), maintaining a reverence for God (godliness). We can maintain a reverence for God even through the harshest of trials because "...we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28. God is sovereignly in control of all things, and by His awesome power works together all things for the good of His people. This doesn't mean that God bends the universe to accomplish our natural lustful cravings, but that each experience - for the Christian - has a divine purpose! This purpose is to conform us into the image of His Son, who is the apex - the very height - of humility. So we know that no matter how circumstances look from the outside, looking in, there is a good purpose that God is working: drawing His people to himself, and away from the darkness. We are not alone in this fallen world! God himself is with us, and has placed beacons of light throughout the world, in His people. Those who have been saved by Jesus Christ, are adopted sons of God, forming a family of redeemed children, who were lost in this dark world and yet found by a merciful God and Savior.
The second part of this passage refers to godliness with brotherly affection. 'Godliness with brotherly affection,' is an inner reverent response toward God, with a love for those who have been redeemed in likewise manner to oneself. Every Christian shares the same story of being saved from the pit, and washed clean by the word of God, through the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. When we remember that it is God who works within the believer to maintain godliness, we can recognize the Spirit of God within our fellow brethren, in Christ, to express the love that Jesus says is the most important commandment in the Law:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
Loving our brethren, is a love for the Spirit of Christ within the brethren, remembering that the brethren are as our own: redeemed by Jesus Christ. This is godliness with brotherly affection!
Godliness, is one of the seven qualities that we are to possess, increase and practice, in order to keep us from being ineffective, unfruitful, and prevent us from ever falling. Godliness is itself a mystery that has been unveiled, through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 3:16); Godliness has power (2 Timothy 3:5), and is valuable in EVERY way as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8), it is a measure of sound doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3), it is a way of life to be pursued (1 Timothy 6:11), and should accompany the quality of steadfastness and brotherly affection (2 Peter 1:6-7). My hope is that we - as believers - remember, as Paul said: "...it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)
Grace and peace,