Sunday, September 20, 2009

After Godliness

Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness...(Titus 1:1)

Both "according to" and "after" are translated from a Greek word that means down, in place or time. It is used to point to a related idea, similar to saying "in regard to".

The Greek word for "godliness" means piety, from a word meaning well-revererent or pious.

"Pious" is an old-fashioned word, often used today in a negative sense, but it originally was a very positive, sincere word. It meant a person was godly; revering and honoring the Supreme Being in heart and in practice. A pious person has veneration and affection for the character of God, and habitually obeys his commands. Piety, or godliness, combines faith with real-life actions.

Paul (little one), a servant (dedicated to humble service) of God, and an apostle (one sent out) of Jesus Christ, according to (in regard to) the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after (in regard to) godliness (adoration and obedience toward God)... (Titus 1:1)

Paul is writing to Titus to encourage him in faith, truth, and godliness. Is "godliness" a realistic goal for everyday Christians? Is godliness just good appearances, or does it spring from a heart sincerely in love with God?

First, a godly life is not to be flashy or confrontational. A quiet and peaceable life characterizes godliness. Paul encouraged Christians to pray for a godly lifestyle:

...for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (1 Timothy 2:2

Godliness is the expression of our faith...evidence that our beliefs guide our behavior.

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:15-16)

Here, Paul is listing the beliefs that are the foundation of godliness, expecting his readers to live in accordance to what they believe.

Godliness is a source of help. Paul contrasts godliness with old wive's fables, showing the futility of believing worldly religions. He compares godliness to spiritual exercise, bringing profit (advantage, "heaps of gain") for life here on earth and for eternity to come.

But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Paul uses an interesting word in this verse. He says to "exercise" godliness. The Greek word for "exercise" is "gumnazo", from which we get our English word, "gynastics" or "gymnasium". It literally means to practice or train naked for athletic events. "gumnazo" comes from "gumnos" which means "nude". The Greek culture completely accepted, and even encouraged, athletes to train naked.

This idea of training without clothing emphasizes the desire to strip away anything that might hinder or distract. For a Christian to exercise godliness, this means to focus on what is true about God and concentrate on living each day in accordance to this truth. A godly Christian loves God, loves the character of God, and loves to walk in obedience to His desires.

Godliness is not hypocritical. It is not weak. It is not "pie in the sky". Godliness is a daily commitment to living a life of love and goodness, regardless of the cost, regardless of the distractions of the world.