…and to  perseverance, godliness – 2 Peter 1:6

15 Sep

The terms Peter employs here for “godliness” are infrequently used in the New Testament.  This may be because the same expression was the most common word for religion in the pagan culture of Peter’s day.[1] Godliness refers to practical religion, or, perhaps we should say, practiced religion.

Godliness simply means “God-likeness.” In the original Greek, this word meant “to worship well.” It described the man who was right in his relationship with God and with his fellowman. Perhaps the words reverence and piety come closer to defining this term.

It is that quality of character that makes a person distinctive. He lives above the petty things of life, the passions and pressures that control the lives of others. He seeks to do the will of God and, as he does, he seeks the welfare of others.

We must never get the idea that godliness is an impractical thing, because it is intensely practical. The godly person makes the kinds of decisions that are right and noble. He does not take an easy path simply to avoid either pain or trial. He does what is right because it is right and because it is the will of God.

The Greek word for godliness was used by ancient pagans to describe a religious individual who kept in close touch with the gods. Here Peter uses the word to speak of the need for Christians to be continually aware of God’s presence. Knowing that all of our life is in His hands should influence every aspect of our life. We should live for God and not for ourselves.[2]

Godliness is the religion we practice in our day-to-day walk. It is “the attitude of reverence which seeks to please God in all things. It desires a right relation with both God and men. Godliness brings the sanctifying presence of God into all the experiences of life.… This characteristic distinguishes the true believer from the ungodly false teachers (2:5-22; 3:7).”[3]

The Old Testament Law related true faith to the daily aspects of living. The New Testament does the same:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.… 23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:14, 23).

“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of [our] God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, [and] to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27).

We were once “ungodly” as unbelievers, ripe for the judgment of God (see 2 Peter 3:7). Now that we have come to newness of life in Christ, we must put off our old way of life and put on the new: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

“But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its [evil] practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Colossians 3:8-10). 

In Acts 10:2, used to describe Cornelius as “a devoted man.” Godliness here carries the idea of “god-ward-ness, a state of mind which accepts God as the central object of trust and life (1 Timothy 6:11). The adding of all the Christian graces is to make us “godlike”, not just one grace. To possess the grace of godliness, one must live a godlike or moral life; however, it is possible for a person to live a good moral life and not even believe in God. The truly godly person obeys moral law “because of his respect and reverence for its divine giver.” His life is bound to God by love.

One who possesses godliness has truly given his heart to the Lord (1 Peter 3:15). True godliness is dynamic, not static as a spiritually empty life is an irreverent life (2 Timothy 3:4-5). Reverence for God is inseparable from reverence for his holy name (Matt. 6:9; 12:34-37; Psalms 111:9).

Relationship of godliness to other graces. Godliness gives us a sense of divine purpose in adding the other graces. Unless God is “true” all these things will have little meaning. All the graces must be “God” oriented. The Christian who possesses godliness can’t be self-inflated (1 Cor. 15:10). Godliness will help keep us from taking Christianity for granted.

Developing Godliness. Godliness must be developed (1 Tim. 4:7). To achieve godliness we must exercise our spiritual bodies as the athlete exercises his physical body (1 Tim. 4:8). The faithful Christian desires a greater realization of God’s presence in his life, a deeper sense of His majesty, holiness and power.

He will accomplish this as he devotes himself to the following: Bible study – no one can study without expressing some reverence in his approach to this study. The study of the Bible will reveal the nature of God, who is portrayed as the “creator” (Gen. 1:1); “eternal” (Gen. 21:33); “holy” (John 17:11); “omniscient” (1 Sam. 16:7); omnipotent” (Gen. 1:3); “omnipresent” (Psa 139:7); “love” (1 John 4:8); and many, many other expressions of the greatness and majesty of God.

Meditation – not enough to read and study, but must make God’s word a part of us (Prov. 23:7; 4:23; Phil. 4:8). The more we contemplate the nature of God, the more reverent we become.

Worship – in worship the Christian approaches God directly to express his appreciation for the presence of God in his life. Worship is where we prostrate our spirit before the throne of God (Matt. 4:10; John 4:24; 1 Peter 2:5; Rev. 19:10). The spirit of godliness makes for acceptable worship, and such worship contributes to the development of godliness. The more we reverence God in worship, the more reverent we will be toward God in our daily life. The various acts of worship, prayer, communion, study, giving and singing, are our ways of interacting with God and developing the grace of godliness.

It takes time to be godly. In a society which practices everything to the contrary, it takes an effort to be godly. With so many things to distract him, the Christian may find himself without time for the things of God. It is up to the individual as to whether he develops godliness or not, it does not happen by accident. As in everything good, Christ is our example. Christ was on earth to do God’s will (Matt. 26:39; John 17:4; Heb. 5:8-9). Our aim should be as Christ’s, o do the will of the Father.

Too often Christians do not give proper consideration to who they really are. Christians belong to God because he bought them with the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

[1] “The word eusebeia is rare in the New Testament, probably because it was the primary word for ‘religion’ in popular pagan usage. The ‘religious man’ of antiquity, both in Greek and Latin usage (where the equivalent word was pietas), was careful and correct in performing his duties both to gods and men. Perhaps Peter uses it here in deliberate contrast to the false teachers, who were far from proper in their behaviour both to God and their fellow men. Peter is at pains to emphasize that true knowledge of God (which they mistakenly boasted they possessed) manifests itself in reverence towards him and respect towards men. There is no hint of religiosity here. Eusebeia is a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of life.” Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), revised edition, p. 79.

[2]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. 1999. Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary . T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville

[3] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude (Greenville, South Carolina: Unusual Publications, 1989), p. 54.

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Posted by on September 15, 2022 in Christian graces


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