The danger of Satanic counterfeiting that was in the back of Peter’s mind when he penned the passage which has occupied this blog for the last few weeks, 2 Peter 1:5-7. In this post we continue to consider the phrase in verse 6, and (supply) in your perseverance godliness. I am opening up this phrase with me under three headings:
I. The Virtue Viewed
II. The Connection Clarified
III. The Lessons Learned
Having seen that godliness is according to the Bible (to use Louw and Nida’s helpful definition): behaviour reflecting correct religious beliefs and attitudes – ‘piety, godliness.’ In this post we consider
II. The Connection Clarified
We have said many times that there is a clear rationale for the order Peter follows here in 2 Peter 1:5-7. Thus we now ask, What is the connection between godliness and perseverance? What is the reason for the order of Peter? Why in particular is it important that perseverance and before perseverance, self-control, be supplied with godliness?
The answer is this. Self-control and perseverance can turn into a kind of mere dogged determination and proud moralism unless their focus is upon worshipping and rendering service to God. This is the meaning of godliness. There were ancient, pagan Greek philosophers who exalted self-control and doing your duty despite all the opposition and scorn of men. The name of those philosophers is still a part of the English language. It describes someone who shows austere indifference to joy, grief, pleasure, or pain; one who is calm and unflinching under suffering. It is the name, Stoic. The pagan, stoic philosopher taught an ethic that exalted self-control and perseverance in the face of suffering and pain and scorn. Some non-Christians show amazing self-control and perseverance. Yet all of their self-control and perseverance were not the virtues to which Peter had just referred. The true Christian who is out of shape and overweight has more genuine self-control and perseverance than the pagan who has disciplined himself to run 26 mile marathons. The fact that such self-control and perseverance are the genuine fruit of the Spirit will be manifested by their being supplied with godliness. Christian self-control and perseverance originates from and is pervaded by correct religious beliefs. We must never allow our efforts at self-control and perseverance in the face of opposition to degenerate into something irreligious, ungodly, and proud. While we are supplying perseverance in our self-control, we must supply in our perseverance godliness.
Look at it this way. True Christianity requires that we be in a right relation both to God and man and ourselves. Self-control describes the right relation to ourselves. Perseverance describes the right relationship to other men. Godliness describes the right relation to God. Where one of these graces is lacking the other two must be counterfeit. Where there is deficiency in one of these graces the others must be affected.
Lloyd-Jones helpfully articulates the connection between perseverance and godliness.
“In other words, while you are controlling these things within, and while you are going on in the spirit of patient endurance, remember why you are doing it all; remember that it is all for the glory of God. Self-culture must not be practised for its own sake, and the danger is to be falling back on our disciplined nature in and of itself. But if we worship discipline we are not being godly. There is no point in any of these things unless they are centrally related to God. Godliness, therefore, first. Before I think of my relationship to anybody else, I must always be certain that my main motive and ambition in life is to honour God, is to glorify God, and to tell forth His praise.” (2 Peter, 30)
Alford adds that perseverance is not “mere brute stoical endurance, but united with God-fearing and God-trusting.” (Commentary, 392)
III. The Lessons Learned
First, we learn to beware of being deceived by the counterfeit self-ism of our culture. Even while most Americans manifest an increasing lack of self-control and an increasing inability to stand against the peer pressure of our culture, there are those dedicated to the worship of self that preach all sorts of self-discipline and resistance to the system. The perfect body and perfect independence are the ideals of this worship of self. It is possible to be exercising self-control and resisting peer pressure for all the wrong reasons. Such self-control and perseverance are no evidence of growth in grace. You should not be happy if your diet is going great and your devotions are going into the toilet. You should definitely not think you are growing in grace.
Second, we learn the priority of godliness and our relation to God. Lloyd-Jones said it, Godliness, therefore, first! Are you living for God? No matter how well you seem to be doing in other areas. No matter how successful you are. Unless you are living for God, you are completely missing the boat. One mark of such a life will be that God is given all the glory. Are you characterized by constantly giving God praise for what you have been enabled to do? For your success? For your blessings? Let us renew our determination to live for the glory of God and to give God the glory of our lives!
Third, we learn that we must rehabilitate religion in our thinking. Religion—godliness—is a vital part of growing in grace. It is a vital part of Christianity. Do not let anyone sell you a religion-less Christianity. A religion-less Christianity is not the Christianity of the Bible. All of life is worship. Every day is holy. Christianity is not a religion. These are half-truths that are destroying American Christianity!
When we rehabilitate religion in our thinking, we will be able to see how very wrong the casual and informal culture is which we have imbibed. If there really is a difference between the sacred and the secular, then we will not treat religious duty with the same kind of casual-ness and informality with which Americans treat everything else. We will reject the lazy and slovenly approach to worship which we see in churches. We will prepare our hearts for worship, we will try to be early for worship, because we think that religious duty is sacred and holy and to be treated with great respect. We will practice the three P’s: priority, preparation, and punctuality as flowing directly out of godliness. If your reaction to my saying such things is that I am being stuffy, formal, and legalistic, let me reply that the worship culture of many churches is irreligious and profane. Part of what it means to supply godliness in your perseverance is to purge from your life the prevailing irreligious and profane attitudes I am warning you about!
Fourth, you may be religious and not be saved, but if you are not religious, you will not be saved! Are you religious? If you have no form of godliness, you certainly cannot have the power of godliness. You may have the form without the power, but you cannot have the power without the form.
Fifth, we learn that a mark of genuine Christianity is true religion or godliness. Do you understand and appreciate godliness? Are you at home in the house of God? Are you in your element in the place of prayer? Do you find delight in the duty of prayer? Is there a sense in which you find it a blessing, a delight, a relief to pray? Are you happy to give to the church and to its benevolent causes? Do you rejoice even in the laws of God that limit your freedom? His laws about modesty? His laws about masculine and feminine roles? Do you delight in the law of God in the inward man? Yes, I know you enjoy seeing your friends when you come to church. But the real question is, Do you enjoy drawing near to God when you come to church?
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.