Satan is the great liar and deceiver. The most effective lies always have an element of truth in them. In line with this Satan is the great counterfeiter, and you know that counterfeiting always requires something of real, substantial value to make it worthwhile. Few would bother to counterfeit some third world currency with an inflation rate of 100% per year, but many find it worthwhile to counterfeit the American Dollar. It is the danger of Satanic counterfeiting that was in the back of Peter’s mind when he penned the passage which has occupied this series for the last several weeks, 2 Peter 1:5-7. In this post we take up the phrase in verse 6, “and (supply) in your perseverance godliness.” In this phrase Peter is attempting to warn Christians against the Satanic counterfeits of perseverance and self-control by telling them that the genuine Christian virtues of perseverance and self-control are permeated by and have supplied in them the virtue of godliness. Self-control and perseverance barren of godliness, devoid of godliness, are Satanic counterfeits with which no Christian should rest satisfied.
I will consider this phrase over the next few days under three headings:
I. The Virtue Viewed
II. The Connection Clarified
III. The Lessons Learned
The first thing to be considered is …
I. The Virtue Viewed
What is this virtue or grace called in the phrase we are studying godliness? When you look at all the places in the New Testament where the word, godliness, and its various relatives occur and also at many of the places where these words occur in the Greek version of the Old Testament in use in New Testament times, the short and sweet definition of this word given by Louw and Nida seems correct. Here it is: behaviour reflecting correct religious beliefs and attitudes – ‘piety, godliness.’ I want to unpack this definition in three stages.
First, this virtue has to do with religious beliefs and attitudes – ‘piety, godliness.’ In our day and age words like religion and religious and piety and pious are often said with a sneer even by Christians. You may hear things like l am not religious. I am a Christian. It would be a kind of religious slur if you called someone pious. This kind of dislike of the words, religion and piety, indicates how far we are from a biblical mindset. Peter in our text calls us to add religion to our perseverance, to supply piety in our endurance. Therefore, Christians must stop treating religion and piety like dirty words. Whatever the word, godliness, religion, or piety, meant for Peter. It was a virtue, not a vice.
Now the very idea of religion or godliness assumes a distinction. It assumes a distinction between what I will call the religious and the secular, the holy and the common. Now notice that I did not say the holy and the profane. Nor did I say the religious and the irreligious. Rather I spoke of godliness assuming a distinction between the religious and the secular, the holy and the common. (One definition of secular is having to do with this age or world or temporal rather than having to do with the age to come or the church or religion.)
All of life is, of course, to be lived for God. Therefore, in a certain qualified sense you may say that all of life is holy. There are, however, some aspects or parts of life in which we have dealings more directly with God. Those aspects of life are the arena of religion or godliness. I trust you live for God at your school or plant or business. I trust you are living for God on the golf course. But I also trust that you know the difference between the plant, the golf course, and the church. I trust that you live for God every day of the week. But I also trust that you know the difference between Monday and the Lord’s Day. When Peter refers to godliness and religion, he assumes the difference between the religious and the secular.
Look at a number of texts that use this word, godliness or religion, where this distinction is visible and even clear.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, There is a difference between ungodliness and unrighteousness. The wrath of God is revealed against both, but unrighteousness has to do with all deviations from the requirements of God’s law. Ungodliness has to do particularly with violations of the first four commandments that have to do directly with our relationship to God Himself.
1 Timothy 6:5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. Ask yourself the question, What is Paul saying? How could godliness be a means of gain? Clearly, Paul is talking about men using organized religion to make money. Godliness has to do with organized religion or religious services.
1 Timothy 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Here Paul proceeds to instruct the man of God about a number of different virtues he is to pursue. Of course, all of these virtues are related. Yet faith and love and righteousness are not the same thing. Even so godliness is a distinct virtue as well and has to do with observance of the ordinances and institutions of the Christian religion.
Titus 2:12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, Twice in this text the distinctiveness of religion is clear. Paul distinguishes between ungodliness and worldly desires. The one has to do with sins of impiety related to God directly. The other has to do with a lack of self-control. In the last part of the verse Paul distinguishes living sensibly and righteously from living godly. Each refers to a distinct dimension of the Christian life. Even so in 2 Peter 1:6 Peter distinguishes between self-control and perseverance, on the one hand, and godliness, on the other.
2 Peter 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Here again Peter plainly distinguishes life in general from godliness in particular. God’s divine power has enabled us to live for God in the whole of life and also and especially in the religious aspect of life.
The virtue referred to in the phrase we are studying this morning has to do with religious beliefs and attitudes – ‘piety, godliness.’ First, this virtue has to do with religious beliefs and attitudes – ‘piety, godliness.’ But …
Second, this virtue has to do with correct religious beliefs and attitudes – ‘piety, godliness.’ In English we have to speak of true religion. But the Greek word for religion or godliness contains within it—conveys innately—the idea of true religion. You don’t have to say true religion in Greek because the word itself says it or assumes it. In this way the Greek word, godliness, is slightly different than the English word, religion. Peter does not say supply in your perseverance genuine godliness. He just says, godliness, because the word conveys correct religious beliefs. Let me show you that this virtue has to do with correct religious beliefs in the rest of the Scriptures.
1 Timothy 3:16 And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Beheld by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory. Paul does not say great is the mystery of genuine godliness or of the true religion. He simply says great is the mystery of godliness, because the word assumes that the religion or godliness under discussion is the true religion the genuine godliness. Cf. also 1 Timothy 4:7-8; 6:6; Titus 1:1
In the third stage of this definition of godliness we note that godliness is behavior reflecting correct religious beliefs and attitudes – ‘piety, godliness.’ Here we come to the heart of our study of godliness. For here we ask the question, What is the godliness exactly that Peter says we must supply in our perseverance and self-control? There are five texts in the New Testament that I think give us a very clear and full description of what behavior manifests this godliness is.
2 Timothy 3:5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. Here Paul teaches that there is a correct, outward form of true religion that even some who are strangers to the power of godliness may exhibit. Clearly, a merely external form of true religion is no evidence of genuine conversion. Nevertheless, the passage teaches that godliness does involve a commitment to this form. I cannot take the time to give you chapter and verse for all that I will assert right here. I doubt if I need to. What is this form of godliness to which Paul refers? Well, a study of the Scriptures shows that true religion involves a number of visible, outward religious actions. First, it certainly involves attendance upon the corporate worship of God’s people. Second, piety toward God clearly involves being baptized in the name of Christ, a public sign of identifying with God’s religion. Third, true religion involves being formally identified with a local church. Fourth, it involves taking the Lord’s Supper in that church regularly. Fifth, it involves the religious observance of the Lord’s Day. Sixth, it involves giving financially to support the church’s worship and its benevolence to the poor. Seventh, it involves upholding orthodox Christian doctrine. Now remember doing all of these things does not mean that you are godly, but all these things are part of the biblical form of godliness.
Acts 10:2 a devout (godly) man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God continually. Here Cornelius is described as a devout or godly man. Then what this meant is explained. The fact Cornelius was a godly man meant: (1) that he feared God. His whole life manifested that he lived under the eye of God. (2) that he practiced family religion. He feared God with his entire household. Whatever else this means, it must mean at least that Cornelius somehow led his household in worship. You could not be in Cornelius’ household for any time without noticing that they were religious and without feeling a holy pressure to join them in their religious exercises. (3) that he practiced charitable giving to God’s people. This is what it means that he gave alms to the Jews. Perhaps, he helped support the needy among the Jews. Perhaps, like the Gentile in the gospels he had given to help the Jews construct or enlarge a synagogue. (4) that he prayed continually. Godliness means that you pray continually. That is to say, godliness in the heart makes a man a man of prayer. Such a man lives in a spirit of prayer. He engages regularly and daily in both stated times of prayer and a constant spirit of prayer. Godliness is manifested by the behavior of prayer.
1 Timothy 2:10 but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness. Godliness is manifested by certain, specific behaviors in women. In other words, there is an outward conduct by women that vindicates their claim to be godly. In this passage three such behaviors are mentioned. First, feminine godliness is manifested by a practical commitment to the good works of charity (v. 10b). Second, it is manifested by a manifest commitment to Christian standards of adornment (v. 9). The appearance of a godly woman attests her claim to godliness. Her appearance reflects a rejection of immodesty, impropriety, and showiness or ostentation. Her appearance manifests that her priorities are set by a desire to please God. Third, feminine godliness is manifested by a submissive commitment to biblical roles in the church (vv. 11-12). She does not chafe at, she rather rejoices in God’s ordination of masculine leadership in the church. She regularly and thankfully takes her place in the church to be instructed by its God-appointed teachers.
2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, The context of this statement makes clear what Paul means here by living a godly life. Look at verses 9-11. Godliness means living for the purpose of telling others about Christ and seeing the gospel of Christ spread. A godly person has embraced God’s holy purpose for the spread of the gospel. Though we do not have either the calling or gifts of the Apostle, every Christian is to live for the spread of the gospel. He looks for opportunities to further gospel himself. He fills his part in the body of Christ to enable others more gifted or with a different calling to do what he cannot do himself. This is what it means to live a godly life here in 2 Timothy 3:12.
Godliness is: behavior reflecting correct religious beliefs and attitudes – ‘piety, godliness.’ John Brown very ably summarizes godliness in this perceptive paragraph.
“The worship of God is either internal or external. The internal worship of God is just the habitual cultivation of the sentiments and feelings we have just been illustrating. Supremely to love, fear, trust in Him?-to be ever ready to believe what he reveals, because He reveals it?-to do what He commands, because He commands it?-and to submit to what He appoints because He appoints it: this is to worship with our spirits Him who is a Spirit, and to worship Him in truth. The ordinary state of a godly man’s mind is thus silent, habitual worship; and he expresses this state of mind in the appointed offices of religion. He loves the habitation of God’s house, and the place where His honour dwells. He dares not neglect the holy assembly for divine worship, as too many do. He goes into His tabernacle; he worships at His footstool; he is glad when it is said to him, “Let us go up to the house of the Lord.” “The voice of rejoicing and salvation,”?-of prayer and praise “is in the tabernacles” of the godly; and his family is kept beyond the reach of the curse that lies on “the families that call not on God’s name;” and he enters into his closet, and shuts his door, and prays to his Father who seeth in secret.” (Parting Counsels, 100)
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.