Theme: Being Like God
In this week’s lessons, we see that godliness, rooted in a thorough understanding of biblical doctrine, is necessary for the Christian life.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:7-8
Godliness is certainly not a popular idea in our time, nor even the word itself. A generation or two ago, people at least used it in sayings like “cleanliness is next to godliness.” But today you don’t even hear it used in that way. But although “godliness” has practically dropped out of our cultural vocabulary, it’s an important biblical idea.
It’s interesting that the word itself isn’t found throughout the Bible in a large number of instances. The concept is certainly there in different terms, but the word itself is really found only in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (what are known as the Pastoral Epistles), and in 2 Peter, which has a pastoral interest. In all, it’s only found 14 times, and eight of those are in 1 Timothy. Therefore, it was obviously a major concern of Paul’s as he wrote this letter.
Let me point out these instances from 1 Timothy to you. You find it in chapter 2, verse 2. Here, Paul is saying that we are to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” You find it again in the third chapter, verse 16, in the phrase, “the mystery of godliness,” which he explains in the verses that follow. In our passage for this week, the word occurs twice—once in verse 7, where the New International Version translated it as “godly,” and then in verse 8, where it appears as “godliness.” You also find it four times in chapter 6, in verses 3, 5, 6, and 11. So clearly, this is something about which Paul was very concerned.
“Godliness” is an interesting word because it is a truncated word. In English, you sometimes have words that start out longer, but because of the difficulty in saying them, they get shortened in the way we pronounce them. “Worship” is an example of this. The real meaning of “worship” is “worthship.” You have extra letters in there, and in a Christian context it means “to ascribe to God his true worth.” When you come to know the longer version, then you understand something about the meaning of the shorter word that has now taken the place of the longer in common use.
It’s the same with the word “godliness” because the longer word is “godlikeness.” Thus, when Paul is concerned that we might live in all godliness, what he’s talking about is that we might live in all godlikeness. Since we are the children of God, we are to be like God, and to let that be known in the way we live—seen in how we work, how we treat other people, how we spend our time, and in other areas as well.
Let me first outline this chapter so that we can see where we’re going in these verses. First, in verses 1 through 5, Paul speaks of things that will come in later times, which will threaten the godliness that Christians are told to have—things that Paul undoubtedly also saw beginning in his own age. Second, there is the answer to this need that you find in verses 6 through 8, and that has to do with godliness—particularly the kind that Paul is going to talk about. And then, finally, beginning in verse 9 and going on to the end, there are specifics of a godly life.
First of all, let’s look at the need, which is seen in verses 1 through 5. Paul writes:
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
Paul is talking about a two-part problem that he said would come in the latter days, in which he probably saw beginning in his own time. One part concerned something that’s happening within the body of Christians; and the other part has to do with something that’s happening outside the body of Christians. The first problem is that he says many will depart. He is talking about nominal Christians, those who are in the company of the people of God, but who will fall away for one reason or another. The other problem has to do with the teaching from outside, which unfortunately tends to push itself inside the church and cause nominal Christians to leave the church and fall away from the faith.
What is the origin and meaning of the word “godliness”? What are the implications of this for the believer?
Review the outline that is given for 1 Timothy 4.
What is the two-part problem Paul is addressing?
Prayer: Ask the Lord to make you more aware of those areas in your life where you need to increase in godliness, and to deal with them.
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “An Acrostic Poem about Godliness.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)