Godliness and transformation

by Mike Ratliff

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 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. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB) 

What is this godliness that Peter referred to in v3 (above)? The word godliness in v3 translates the Greek noun εὐσέβειαν (eusebeian) which is the accusative, singular, feminine case of εὐσέβεια (eusebeia). 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 “godliness” 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 godliness and is it different than transformation?

We train for godliness 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, godliness 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 1:1-11). 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. This is Biblical transformation, that is, it is the result of believers becoming living sacrifices as per Romans 12:1-2.

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

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!

One thought on “Godliness and transformation

  1. A dear brother told me, yesterday, of a sermon he heard Sat night at a local event. Fairly good sermon until the application. The preacher distributed a list he used to manage himself each week, with tasks to check off as he completed them. Things from reading the Bible to taking his meds.

    External controls for spiritual behavior.

    Paul would say something like, “Those who are without the Law of Moses are a law unto themselves.” Sad thing is, neither sort of law keeping can produce spiritual growth.


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