The Mystery of Godliness

by Mike Ratliff

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:3-10 ESV)

In the visible church in our time one of the key terms that we are hearing and seeing everywhere is rooted in the word “transform.” Rick Warren likes to say that his church is responsible for thousands of transformed lives for instance. In the incarnation/missional/dominionistic push right now we are seeing some call their particular flavor of that “transformational.” This word is a good biblical word. For instance, in Romans 12:2 we have Paul saying, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The words “be transformed” are translated from the Greek word μεταμορφοῦσθε. Paul used this word to describe God’s process of the Christian being transformed by the renewing of their minds. That is, Christ has come to give us a new way of thinking, which is not legalistically following a fixed set of rules and regulations, but desiring to serve Jesus with all our heart and mind. It is this transformation that produces true godliness that cannot be faked and is a mystery to those outside of God’s grace. Is this the same thing that is being described by Rick Warren and the Dominionists?

What is this godliness that is produced through this true transformation through the renewal of our minds by God? The New Testament word translated as godliness is εὐσεβείας. This word is used in the N.T. To refer to a particular manner of life in which the believer is devoted to God. In 1 Timothy 4:7, for instance, Paul exhorts believers to train themselves for εὐσεβείας even to the extent that it requires a strenuous pursuit (6:11). Of course, the goal of such training is far more valuable than physical training (4:8).

How do believers train for εὐσεβείας? It is through the means of sound instruction (1 Timothy 6:3) and knowledge of the truth (Titus 1:1), especially knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:3). Think about that my brethren and what those who belong to or are part of those glitzy circus churches out there that are all about pandering to the flesh. There is not any of this sort sound instruction into the knowledge of the truth and of God going on there. Oh, there may be a lot of esoteric philosophical stuff going on with focus being on what men have said leading to works righteousness, but forget focusing on God’s Word and what God alone has said.

Obviously, εὐσεβείας leads to a life of contentment and gain (1 Timothy 6:6), but it is an end in itself, not a means. Peter, for example, is shocked when the onlookers suppose that it is his own godliness that gave him the power to heal the lame man (Acts 3:12), and Paul rebukes those who use godliness as a mere means to obtain wealth (1 Timothy 6:5). Yes, sadly, it is possible for people to put on a show of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5), but such a show is without the true transforming power of the gospel, described by Paul as the τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον or “of godliness mystery” in 1 Timothy 3:16. This “mystery of godliness” is but one in a series of Christian virtues that are indicative of the renewed or regenerated life as seen in the passage I placed at the top of this post (2 Peter 1:3-10). In that passage we see that godliness stands between the personal virtues of knowledge, self-control, steadfastness and the community virtues of brotherly affection and love.

Godliness refers to the truths of salvation and righteousness in Christ, which produce holiness in believers; namely, the manifestation of true and perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ. I believe if you examine what the visible church is referring to when the apostates in it refer to transformed lives or transformational churches they are talking about something else entirely and their evidence will always point to a form of works righteousness.

Soli Deo Gloria!

8 thoughts on “The Mystery of Godliness

  1. Good post Mike, I point to Warren’s sin of pride in bragging that his church is responsible for thousands of transformed lives. It is my understanding that salvation is by grace, with ALL credit, glory and praise for saving dead sinners going to the One who is worthy.
    A truly transformed life is only possible by the supernatural power of God, not by any man-made church and only comes from the preaching of the true Gospel {unadulterated, untampered with}.
    I just read this article http://blog.betterthansacrifice.org/2010/07/11/dangerous-pragmatism/
    and wanted to point out this paragraph, ‘’Point me then, not to my own works, but to the exceedingly precious promises of Christ that are mine through His finished work on the cross. Call me daily to repentance, and tell me of the forgiveness of all my sin that has been accomplished through Christ’s death and the shedding of His blood. Exhort me not to look inward to myself, but outward to the one with whom I was buried through baptism into death, the one who was raised from the dead for my justification and even now causes me to walk in newness of life {cf Romans 6}’. — Amen!

    Lyn

  2. A wondeful explanatory post, Mike…a delight to be able to get a better grasp of the “Godliness” Scripture!
    What is your view on the Southern Baptist “Transistional” teaching regarding church growth, as in “Our church is in transistion” or is a transistional church?
    Do you think it is more of Warren’s church growth scheming?

  3. Good post Mike, spot on.

    Thankyou also for the link to Paul Washer’s sermon yesterday, I followed it to another sermon by him ,about regeneration, which was excellent .God used both to really speak to me. I feel a bit like in the film ; that I have just stepped back into the Matrix to see it for what it really is!But unlike Neo, it is Gods spirit in us that works to transform, and not our own understanding. We are indeed new creations. As you said:

    ‘It is this transformation that produces true godliness that cannot be faked and is a mystery to those outside of God’s grace.’

    Gods will be done.
    love in Christ
    Fiona

  4. Thank you Mike for posting this article, and pointing out what SCRIPTURE says – and not a “personal opinion” – but basing it IN what God’s Word says!

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