2 Peter 1:6c
As ingredients in the recipe of a master chef, or as
accomplished musicians in a fine-tuned symphony, the apostle Peter describes the
proper spiritual combination of qualities that makes for a mature, fruit-bearing
Christian (2 Pet. 1:5-11). Among these is the quality of godliness (2 Pet.
What is Godliness?
Godliness comes from the Greek word "eusebia" and is used in the New Testament to express the idea of inner piety or spirituality. Vine defines this word as, "piety, which, characterized by a God-ward attitude, does that which is well pleasing to Him." Thayer says, "Reverence, respect, in the Bible everywhere piety towards God, godliness." And, Arndt and Gingrich says it refers to, "the duty which man owes to God piety, godliness, religion."
Thus, there are two parts to godliness. First, there is the "God-ward attitude" of "reverence and respect." Second, there also is the "doing of what is pleasing" to God, as the "duty" that we owe to Him. In his commentary on Second Peter, brother Clinton Hamilton recognizes these two aspects of godliness and writes of the Christian who "develops a deep respect and reverence for God so that one begins to exhibit in one's behavior constant piety toward God" (p. 40).
Godliness as an Attitude
As an attitude, godliness is the quality of the inner person that recognizes from the various evidences, that the all-powerful Creator exits, and therefore actively seeks to develop a spiritual relationship with Him. In 1 Tim. 4:8, this inner spirituality is to be preferred over physical "bodily exercises." In verse 7 the "exercises" a godly person should engage in are those which develop further godliness. In 1 Tim.6:11 godliness is set in contrast to following after the lusts of the flesh and the world. Godliness is a mind set on spiritual matters (Rom.8:5-6).
Godliness, as an attitude, permeates all the Christian virtues that Peter lists, as it is the motivating factor behind our growth as Christians. We do not and cannot grow as Christians without first having the desire to be more spiritual, which is the attitude of godliness. In his booklet on "The Christian Graces," James Tolle writes, "Indeed, the graces of virtue, knowledge, and self-control, as well as of patience, must be hallowed and inspired by godliness, so that the thought of God is brought into them all, so that they begin and end with God" (p. 52). Godliness is required, then, for those who seek God and for those who seek to be more like the Divine Nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
Godliness as Duty
Godliness also has its fruits. There must be the "doing" of what pleases God. We must be careful, though, not to mistake the actions of some as actions of godliness. Morality alone is not godliness as it may not be motivated by piety and reverence for God. Displays of "spirituality" or "religion" also may not be actions motivated by the desire to please God. Often I hear of Christians who are envious of some in the denominational world because "they" seem to be more spiritual and religious. Many in the denominational world do claim godliness and spirituality as their own. They "appear" godly (proudly wearing crosses, WWJD bracelets, etc.); they "speak" godly ("Praise the Lord!" "Having a personal relationship with Jesus," etc.), and their lives seem to exemplify godliness (morality, doing good deeds). But, the scriptures would say they practice a "form of godliness" (2 Tim. 3:5), and not true godliness!
In the New Testament godliness is a product of following the truth. This is an important point! Godliness is always a result of obeying the truth. Vine comments on several verses on this line of thought and says, "In 1Tim. 6:3 `the doctrine which is according to godliness' signifies that which is consistent with `godliness,' in contrast to false teachings; in Titus 1:1, `the truth which is according to godliness' is that which is productive of `godliness' in 1 Tim. 3:16, `the mystery of godliness' is `godliness' as embodied in, and communicated through, the truths of the faith concerning Christ..." Thus, one is godly and acts godly upon obedience of the truth, and where there is no obedience of the truth there can be no true godliness or spirituality!
The Fruits of Godliness
Instead of a false "form of godliness," there are true fruits of godliness that would manifest themselves. Think of a person that you consider godly. What are they like? Usually, we consider one who is godly to be spiritually minded and to live in such a way as to exhibit this spiritual-mindedness in one's life. What would this consist of? Let me offer some examples.
A godly person seeks God on His terms. Cornelius was called a devout man because he sought to please God (Acts 10:2). The word "devout" is a form of the word for "godliness." That Cornelius was "devout" can be seen in his response to the preaching of the gospel by Peter (Acts 10:44-48). Whenever one obeys God's terms of forgiveness they are acting godly.
A godly person worships God "in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:24). Whenever one follows God's will on how to worship Him, then one is being godly. Worship is our attempt to give something of ourselves to God. It is the "fruit of our lips" (Heb. 13:15) and the presenting of our bodies as a "living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1). Worship is our inner piety expressing itself to God in praise through our physical bodies.
A godly person shows respect and reverence for God by studying and obeying His Word. Oftentimes we are told that our response to God's word is directly related to our relationship with God. For example, Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (Jn. 14:15). To respect God means we must respect His Word! Spiritual growth naturally results, as one becomes a product of the word (1 Tim. 4:13-15).
A godly person is one who acts properly, reacts properly, and leaves no doubt in anyone's mind that he/she is a child of God. God is seen in this person from the inside out and from the outside in.
No wonder godliness is a part of the spiritual combination that is important for Christians to cultivate. We simply cannot be faithful children of God without godliness.
Editor's note: The preceding expository article comes from "Bible Insight" edited by Carey Dillinger and is a part of a series by him and other writers. Carey contacted me several weeks ago and suggested that we might be interested in publishing these articles. The series is quite good and Lord willing, Expository Files will be using these articles in future issues. Carey and the other writers have given their permission.
By Steve Diaz
From Expository Files 7.10; October 2000