Seeing that God Himself speaks of the profitableness of godliness, we shall do well to look further into this subject. Let us think of three things concerning this matter of godliness. First, the necessity for it. Second, the means by which it may be attained. Third, the reward of it.
The Necessity For Godliness
(1) God desires it: He has left us in no doubt as to this, and has stated, in clear, definite and unmistakable language, in the Holy Scriptures, that godliness of life is an essential requirement for all His blood-bought people. We have already referred to Titus 2:11-15, where we are told that “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” This passage also teaches the believer to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. The well-known words from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” express it well:
“He died to make us holy,
And He lives to make us good,
While His truth goes marching on…”
Each believer is urged to diligently add to his faith certain things which will deliver him from the tragedy of a barren and unfruitful life. Not the least in this list of Christian virtues is godliness. See 2 Peter 1:3-8. Paul urged Timothy to flee certain sins, which war against the soul; and to “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness” (1 Tim. 6:10-11). The words “follow after”, in this passage have the thought of a purposeful pursuit, as one would pursue a calling, giving it his earnest consideration and undivided concentration of purpose.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-3, believers are exhorted to engage in earnest intercessory prayer on behalf of all kings and for those who are in positions of authority. The reason given for this exhortation is: “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” From these Scriptures, and many more that might be quoted, it should be abundantly clear that one of the chief purposes God had in saving us was that we might live holy lives, characterized by godliness.
(2) Christianity demands it: Christianity was made possible by the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and glorification of Christ. Apart from Him it cannot possibly exist, for “Christianity is Christ.” It does not consist of a code of ethics to be followed, but involves the out-living of the in-living Christ. While Christianity confers inestimable blessings upon the Christian, it also involves the glad acceptance and faithful discharge of certain solemn responsibilities.
The Lord Jesus did not minimize the cost of being one of His disciples. He stated frankly what it would involve in the way of the world’s hatred and persecution, and also emphasized the necessity for strict self-denial and sacrificial service on His behalf. He declared: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35). By this standard we may surely learn that it is possible for a person to save himself into oblivion, or to lose himself into immortality: the choice remains with us.
Someone once remarked that Christianity does not come to a person tariff free, but there is always a “duty” involved in it! It furnishes both delights and duties. It brings with it great honour, but is balanced by equally great obligations. The great Sermon on the Mount will serve to drive home this fact to all who have ears to hear, minds to comprehend and hearts to obey the precepts laid down by the One who spake as no man ever spake, who demands what no other person does, and who exemplified, in His life, all He expressed by His lips. (See Matt. Chapters 5 to 7). He alone could testify, when asked who He was: “Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning” (John 8:24). In other words, Christ declared: “I am what I say. All that I emphasize in My teaching, I exemplify in My life.” It was this fact that silenced the carping critics. He could challenge them: “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” and none could point to any inconsistency between His creed and His conduct (John 8:46). He was literally the sum-total of all He said.
We must never allow ourselves to forget that the Lord Jesus, as our Saviour, has not only saved us and, as our Lord, now possesses us; but He is also our example for us to follow. Our Lord’s call to His disciples is still, as of old: “Follow Me.” He has left us an example that we should “follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). As the Shepherd of His flock, He still says: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
The demands of Christianity are high, as a study of our Lord’s commands will clearly indicate. Therefore, godliness of life is an imperative requirement for all who profess to name His name, and who claim to be His disciples.
(3) The world needs it: The world is described as being enshrouded in the darkness of sin, ignorance, superstition and enmity to God (John 1:5,10; Rom. 3:19; Eph. 4:18). Christ’s advent is described as the Light shining in the darkness (John 1:5). Our Lord declared: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:26). He also said: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Before Christ left this world to return to His Father, He said to His disciples: “Ye are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men” (Matt. 15:14-16). Thus each Christian has been left in the world in order to shine for his absent Lord. By his godliness of life before the world, he is to witness to the reality of God’s saving grace to him, the Holy Spirit’s regenerating and enabling power within him, and the Saviour’s satisfying presence with him. Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi and urged them to: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings, that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:14-16). Thus, by their godly and consistent lives and bold and persistent witness in the gospel, these believers became lighthouses for Christ.
Thousands of worldlings have been convicted of their need of God’s salvation by seeing it exemplified in the godly life of a believer which backs up his faithful testimony in the gospel. The Lord said to a man out of whom He had cast a legion of demons: “Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee.” Great blessing followed this evidence of his changed life and bold testimony to the Saviour’s grace and power in his experience (Luke 8:39; Mark 5:19-20).
Paul could write to the Thessalonian believers, and remind them of the manner of his life among them when he first came to them with the gospel message: “Ye are our witness, and God also, how holily and justly and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you” (1 Thess. 2:10). This practical combination of courageous lips and consistent lives is still being used of God to awaken the lost to a sense of their need, and lead them to put their trust in the Saviour. Though the world may not be much interested in reading the Bible, they are expert in their ability to read the Christian, and are quick to detect any inconsistency between what he says and how he lives. Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth: “Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men” (2 Cor. 3:2). It was this verse that prompted Annie Johnston Flint to write:
“We are the only Bible
The careless world will read;
We are the sinner’s gospel,
We are the scoffer’s creed.
We are the Lord’s last message
Given in deed and word:
What if the type is crooked?
What if the print is blurred?”
A man, when asked what version of the Bible he preferred, replied: .
“My mother’s version, which she translates into terms of a godly life lived to the honor of her Saviour.” In the case of many Christians, a revised version would certainly be in order! A preacher once remarked: “Every Christian is either a Bible that presents Christianity, or a libel that misrepresents Christianity!”
Yes, the world needs to see that genuine godliness of life exhibited in those who claim to belong to Christ, for this will have the effect of convincing them of the reality of Christianity, and rob them of any excuse for remaining in the darkness of sin, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). May it be yours and mine to furnish the world with a good measure of this godliness of life, which shall effectually evidence the reality of our profession of Christianity!