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Bible Search
The Glory of Godliness (2 Peter 1:6)
Growing by Addition
The Glory of Godliness
2 Peter 1:6
 
Remember all those things your mother said to you while you were growing up that made no sense? 
 
- “Don’t make me come over there”
 
- “Because I said so”
 
- “Don’t make me turn this car around!”
 
- “Eat your spinach so you’ll grow up to be big and strong!”
 
- "I hope I live long enough for you to have kids of your own!'
 
-"Just wait until your daddy gets home!"
 
-"Do you want your face to freeze that way?"
 
-"Put your coat on before you go out or you'll catch your death of cold"
 
And of course, "cleanliness is next to godliness".  It's amazing how many people believe that's in the Bible!  In fact, some of you are already looking to find the reference.  Well, it's not in there so you can stop looking!
 
So where did it come from, if not the Bible?  Some say the American Puritans.  Others credit Ben Franklin in his Poor Richard’s Almanac.
The saying actually comes from the writings of Phineas ben Yair, a Jewish rabbi from the second century whose writings can be found in the Talmud.  He wrote:
 
(1) Torah-study leads to being forewarned
(2) being forewarned leads to diligence,
(3) diligence leads to guiltlessness,
(4) guiltlessness leads to abstemiousness,
(5) abstemiousness leads to purity,
(6) purity leads to holiness,
(7) holiness leads to dread of sin,
(8) dread of sin leads to humility,
(9) humility leads to (10) devotion,
 
and devotion is the greatest of them all.
 
And in the quote, his reference to 'purity" or ‘cleanliness’ is literally placed next to ‘godliness.‘
 
Then, in his 1605 book, "Advancement of Learning" Francis Bacon wrote: “Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God”. 
 
Then, in a 1778 sermon called "On Dress", John Wesley said, "But, before we enter on the subject, let it be observed, that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this, nor any text of Scripture, condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly this is a duty, not a sin."
 
Then he said, "Cleanliness is, indeed, next to godliness", and he put the words in quotes indicating that he had borrowed or changed them from another source.
 
Well today, I'm not as worried about whether or not cleanliness is next to godliness as I am about understanding what is godliness. 
 
We need to understand that because we read in
 
2 Peter 1:6 that we are to add to my faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control and perseverance, godliness.
If I am to develop Christlikeness, then these are some of the things that must be added to my faith.  Thus, our series title, "Growing by Addition."
 
So far we've looked at virtue, knowledge, self-control and perseverance.  Next on the list is "godliness".  Now I will tell you, I originally thought this characteristic would be one of the easier, if not the easiest to develop.  But what I discovered is developing the concept of godliness proved to be much more challenging than I had expected. 
 
Although we’ve all heard the word, most of us would be hard-pressed to give a quick and concise definition for godliness. We read very little about it because historically, the concept has been treated rather lightly in Christian literature.  And because of that, we might be tempted to conclude that it’s something we'll experience and understand only as we go much further down the road of Christian living.
 
But it's unfortunate that the subject is not better understood because there is no higher compliment that can be paid to a Christian than to call him a godly person. He might be a good parent, a faithful member of the church, even a dynamic witness for Christ, but none of these things matters if, at the same time, he is not a godly person.
In fact, the entire Bible is a book on godliness. And even though the word isn't used often, when it does appear, it is pregnant with meaning and instruction for us.  So, as we've done with the others, we'll follow the same outline and begin with
 
1.  The Background
 
In the Old Testament, the concept of godliness has mostly to do with conduct and lifestyle. 
 
For instance, Genesis 5:21-24 tells us about Enoch, the father of Methuselah. In a short three-verse summary of Enoch’s life, Moses twice describes him as one who "walked with God."
 
Later on, the author of Hebrews gives Enoch a place in his great 'Faith’s Hall of Fame" in chapter 11 where he describes him as "one who pleased God."
It is evident from these two statements that Enoch could be described as a godly man.
 
Or we could say it this way:  Enoch was a God-centered man.  God was the focal point of his life.  He enjoyed a relationship with God and he pleased God.  We could look in other places to demonstrate the point, but in simple, Old Testament terms, godliness means being devoted to God. 
 
The New Testament uses are similar in that the word for godliness, in its original meaning, conveys the idea of a personal attitude toward God that results in actions that are pleasing to him. The word "godliness" actually comes from a Greek root  which originally meant "to step back from someone or something, to maintain a distance." 
This idea of standing at a distance grew from having awe or respect for God.  So in the New Testament, the word is used in the sense of, "awesome respect that is given to God.  It is a favorite word of the Apostle Paul.  Of the fifteen occurrences of godliness in the New Testament, thirteen are in the letters he penned to Timothy and Titus.  Nine of those occurrences are in the 1 Timothy alone.
 
His hearers are encouraged to pray for those in authority so life can be lived godliness and reverence.   He talks about how women who profess godliness should dress.   Hearers are encouraged to stay away from fables and develop godliness and abe leery of those who think godliness will bring them wealth..
 
On and one the references continue and they address virtually every area of practical life and living.      
 
When Paul writes about his own calling to Titus, he says in the first verse of the book,
 
Titus 1:1
 
Later in the book at Titus 2;11-13, Paul writes about God's grace by saying,  
 
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."
 
As we see here in our text in 2 Peter, Peter says God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
 
He tells us to add godliness to our faith.  Later in chapter 3, he says we have the privilege of looking forward to the, day of the Lord when the earth and everything in it will be destroyed, and in regard to what kind of people we are to be, he says we are to live holy and godly lives (2 Peter 3:10-12).
 
So what is godliness?  Let's consider
 
2.  The Definition
 
Most of the time, we think of godliness in terms of Christian character.  We talk about being like Christ or living under the control of the Spirit.  But godliness goes deeper and affects more than just our outward conduct. 
 
Being godly means being pre-disposed toward God in our thinking, decisions, and all of life.  It does means we avoid those things that are sinful and evil, but there is a purpose and reason that we do that and it is to enjoy the presence of God and directly influence the world around us by being like God. 
 
Think about Isaiah's experience before God's throne in
 
Isaiah 6:1-7
 
Here he sees these seraphim who are hiding themselves in the presence of God.  They are worshipping and celebrating and acknowledging the holiness of God. 
Isaiah is so overwhelmed that he begins to shake and tremble.  There is this overwhelming awareness of his sin and those who are like him.  But in a purifying act, his tongue and lips are touched with purifying coal from the altar.  And immediately, this call to service is issued.
 
verse 8
 
Isaiah's response is
 
verse 8b
 
What I discovered in my study this week is this undeniable connection both in the Old Testament and the New between godliness and evangelism.
 
So for a definition, consider this:
 
Godliness is devotion to God which results in a life that is pleasing to Him and points others toward Him.  It is the word used to describe that person who has fallen so deeply in love with God that everything he does and says and demonstrates is a reflection of the character and nature of God. 
 
And the result is that those who observe that lifestyle are either encouraged as fellow Christians to live for the Lord, or, those who are lost, are intrigued by the difference they see in that life and drawn to salvation. 
 
Let me give you
 
3.  The Example
 
Obviously, our example as with everything else, is Christ.  Everything He did was an example of godliness.  Everything He said was as if God said it. 
 
After all, He said, in
 
John 5:19
 
Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.
 
A few chapters later, in John 12:49, we read,
 
For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.
 
So we could turn to any page of the New Testament that contains an account of the earthly ministry of the Lord and find an example of godliness in His life. 
 
But instead of looking at a specific example from his earthly life, I want to return to the writing of Paul in 1 Timothy. 
 
1 Timothy 3:16
 
Now I find it significant that this reference to "the mystery of godliness" is placed at the end of a section that deals with Christian conduct.  In chapter 2, he talks about our responsibility to pray for those in authority over us.  Then he talks about how women are to dress and style their hair and in chapter 3 it is the qualifications of pastors and deacons and their wives. 
Then he says this: 
 
verses 14-16
 
And just so we don't misunderstand, right in the middle of the fifteenth verse, he talks about the "the church of the Living God". 
 
Then he defines the church of the living God as
"the pillar and ground (or support) of the truth".  And if you look at that phrase the way it is used in the original Greek it is not just the church of the Living God.  It is "the living God's church".
 
And what that means is the emphasis is not on the institution of the church, but rather the nature of the church.  It belongs to God. And the emphasis of what he is writing is intended for the church who carries the nature of God.
 
The emphasis then becomes laid squarely on the living God. It is the living God's church, the One according to Acts 20:28 which He purchased with His own blood.  And he says of the this church that it is the pillar and support of the truth. And the truth that is foundational is centered in one thing and one thing only. 
 
And that's what verse 16 is all about.  And by the way, that one thing is without argument.  It is without controversy.  It is the common confession of the truth that identifies the true church. 
 
So what is that great truth? Paul says it is "the mystery of godliness".
 
So what is the mystery of godliness?  What does that mean? Is that a doctrine or a theological truth? Is iot some kind of philosophical reality?  Well, as mysterious as it sounds, it can be easily understood. In the New Testament, a mystery always refers to something that used to be hidden, but is now revealed.
 
So as the church, what we have and what we stand for and what we preach is the truth of godliness that has been revealed.  Or we could say it like this:  God has been revealed, His nature, His character, His deity, His will, everything about Him that He wanted us to know has been revealed and He did it by coming to earth Himself.
 
So the mystery of godliness is not a what, but a Who. The mystery of Godliness is a person and that person was "manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world and received up into glory."
Sound like anyone you know?
 
The mystery of Godliness is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.  And what we read here in verse 16 is nothing other than a hymn of praise that is designed to be sung in honor of the Christ Who reveals the mystery of Godliness. 
 
Verse #1: God Appeared in a Body
 
In Jesus, God took on flesh.  Jesus Christ is God made visible. The invisible took on human flesh and was born of virgin named Mary. Jesus was created by God in the womb of Mary and therefore had the blood of God in Him. He was born the way all people are born, from the womb of His mother.
And He died the way all people die. In John 1 we have the statement that Word became flesh and it can't be said any more clearer than the name that was given to Him at His birth when He was called Immanuel, God with us!
 
That means those who walked around with Jesus were walking with God.  They listened as God spoke.  They touched the hands and face of God.  He lived for 33 years human body just like yours as God in the flesh.  So that's the first great statement about Jesus Christ.  He was manifested in the flesh. 
 
Second,
 
Verse #2:  God was Justified in the Spirit
 
Justified means He was declared righteous or affirmed as God in the flesh.  So when did that happen?  Was it at his baptism when the Spirit of God came upon Him and settled as a dove and the Father said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased?"   
 
Was that His great vindication? It couldn't be.  After all, that was at the very beginning of His earthly ministry.  There was three years left to endure.  How could He be vindicated or justified at the beginning? 
 
Was it at the transfiguration when the same statement was made?  It couldn't be then either because everything He would do hadn't been finished.  This vindication had to come at the end when everything that was involved could be evaluated, and that's exactly what happened.  The ultimate justification came at the resurrection. 
 
Romans 1:4 tells us,
 
"He was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness."
 
The Holy Spirit affirms the holy perfection of Christ by empowering Him to rise from the dead. It is the Spirit who gives life, says Romans 8:11, and God raised Jesus from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit and in so doing justified Him as God in the flesh.  Now that's important because He died as a criminal. 
 
He died under the sentence of sin. From the Jews' viewpoint He was a heretic who threatened the Kingdom of God. From the Romans' viewpoint, He was a would-be king who threatened the power of Rome. In any case, He died under a cloud of guilt. The resurrection was God's vindication that the Jews were wrong and the Romans were equally wrong. And so the great vindication of Christ comes in His resurrection.
 
Verse #3: He was Seen by Angels
 
To what does this refer? Is it His birth?  After all, angels are very prominent at the birth. Is it a reference to the temptation when angels came and ministered to Him?   Is it during the agony of the Garden of Gethsemane?  By the way, those two experiences are the only times angels appear during His earthly ministry.
 
None of those make sense.  The verse says He was "seen" by angels, not ministered to or announced.
We're talking about angels looking at Him. The word means "to watch".  He was being watched by angels.
It helps to remember, there is a chronology in these verses.  They are moving us through the life of Christ.  And here we read he was "seen by angels" and that is after He appeared in a body and was vindicated by the Spirit. 
 
So what angels are we talking about? Well these verses place us at the resurrection where angels have a conversation with those who show up. In fact, Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us about an angel who had a conversation with those who came to the tomb.
 
John tells us that when they went inside the tomb, there were two angels, one sitting at His place where His feet had been, one sitting at the place where His head had been. Some very specific angels were firsthand participants in the scene of the resurrection. And all of the angels in heaven must have been having a great celebration, worshiping the Son of God.
 
But there's something more here to see.  Angels had witnessed the creation. The morning stars sang together when God made the universe. Angels had witnessed the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. Angels had announced the birth of Jesus Christ. Angels will be very involved in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. And angels were there at the resurrection. They are holy beings devoted to God. They are there as witnesses to the resurrection.
 
People may have been confused about the resurrection. They may have wondered exactly what went on to some degree or another.
The disciples were confused. It says in Mark 16:11 they even refused to believe it. But while the disciples were struggling to believe, the angels had no problem. The angels were fascinated by the events of the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were completely absorbed in those things.
 
In fact, 1 Peter chapter 1, verse 12, says,
 
"It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preach the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven," then this, "things, the gospel things, into which angels long to look."
 
You see, angels have no personal knowledge of redemption. Fallen angels were confirmed in their fallen condition and destined for eternal hell and a lake of fire and there is no redemption of any angels. Demons are demons forever. Holy angels were confirmed in holiness forever. They know nothing of grace. They know nothing of mercy. They know nothing of redemption. They know nothing of substitution. They know nothing of the sacrifice for sin. They know nothing of sin.
 
And they look at this whole thing as outsiders, stunned and amazed and longing to understand and comprehend it. They long to look at these things.
 
They were there observing and ministering in the Garden of His agony. They were looking at the cross of His suffering and at His glorious resurrection.
 
Hebrews 1:6 says, "When He brings the firstborn into the world," He says, "Let all the angels of God worship Him." And if you go heaven in Revelation 4 and 5 and you listen to the worship of heaven, you're going to hear this, "Worthy art Thou to take the book and break its seals for Thou was slain and purchased for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."
 
That, you say, is 24 elders, don't they represent men? Yes. But the next verse says, "And I looked and heard the voice of many angels." And what did the angels say, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." The angels watched the death and the resurrection of Christ so that it might forever inform their worship.
 
Verse #4: He was Preached among the Gentiles
 
So, after His resurrection what happened? After His resurrection He revealed Himself to those who believed on Him. First He revealed Himself to the disciples on a couple of weekends. Then He revealed Himself to some in Galilee, namely 500 at one time.
And by the revelation of the risen Christ, those who were sorrowful and sad and lonely and doubtful and fearful and wondering whether they had wasted the years of their life in following the Lord Jesus because He was now dead, they were totally transformed.
 
From those few who met Him on the road to Emmaus to the 500 who saw Him risen from the dead in Galilee, they were transformed and they were transformed into powerful preachers of the gospel and they went everywhere proclaiming the risen Christ.
 
Read the book of Acts, and you will discover that everywhere they went, they preached that Christ had risen from the dead. The Messiah had to suffer and die and be raised from the dead. They became passionate evangelists. They went out and gave their lives and so did the ones who followed after them. And they do even today. And the gospel is still being preached and will continue to be preached until the end of time.
 
And as a result,
 
Verse 5: He was Believed on in the World
 
The evidence for the resurrection was so overwhelming that people believed. When the gospel was preached, people responded. In Mark 16:15, Jesus said, "Go into all the world, preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and been baptized shall be saved. He who disbelieved will be condemned." Verse 20, the end of the chapter, "They went out and preached everywhere." The Lord worked with them and continued the Word by the signs that followed.
 
At Pentecost, according to Acts 2, Peter gets up and preaches that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Three thousand people believed and are baptized and the church is born.
 
Move all the way through the book of Acts as the resurrection is being preached, affirming the sacrifice of Christ being accepted by God on behalf of sinners and you will discover the gospel is heard and believed. And it's still going on today, as Jesus is being proclaimed among the nations and believed on in the world.
finally,
 
Verse 6:  He was Taken Up into Glory
 
This is the climax to incarnation, vindication, resurrection, evangelization and salvation. This is glorification. This is Christ going back to the glory that He had with the Father before the world began. This is Christ ascending into heaven and taking His seat at the right hand of God. This is Christ being coronated and given a name which is above every name, the name Lord, a name at which every knee must bow. He took His seat at the right hand of God.
 
Hebrews chapter 1 makes it abundantly clear that when He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high and He was given a name that is more excellent than any other name and that name is "Lord". 
 
He is there reigning over His spiritual Kingdom. But the glory is not yet consummated, it is not yet complete. He is coming again in Second Coming glory. He will establish His Kingdom in the world and then He will reign over an earthly Kingdom for a thousand years, and then over the new heaven and the new earth where He will be revealed in majesty and glory in His fullness forever and forever.
 
These few phrases, in six lines sweep from incarnation to glorification, all the way from the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to His eternal glory. He is God in human flesh. His incarnate life confirms it, the sinless perfection of His life. His resurrection by the Spirit of God confirms it. God was affirming His holiness when He lifted Him out of death.
The experience of angels confirms it for the angels worship Him and call Him worthy to be worshiped. The preaching of the apostles confirms it for they preach because He is risen. The faith of believers confirms it because we put our trust by the power of God in a living Christ.
 
After hundreds of appearances to believers, he ascended into Heaven. As the Lamb of God and also our High Priest, his blood atones for our sins. He lives to make intercession for the believer. His prophetic fulfillment, his virgin birth, his baptism, his sin free life, his miracles, his love, his words, his sacrifice on the cross, his death, his burial, his resurrection, and his ascension all testify that He is the Christ, who takes away the sin of the world.
 
And His final coronation and exaltation confirms it as He takes His place at the right hand of God and awaits the moment when He will come in glory to establish His earthly Kingdom and then to reign forever and ever.
 
And that is the common confession of every child of God.  We all affirm the deity of Jesus Christ, that He is the eternal God manifest in human flesh.  So let's bring that to a focus by thinking about
 
4.  The Application
 
One of the great victories Satan has had in the life of the people of God from the very beginning has been won by convincing us that godliness, living a godly life, is all about the externals.  There are many who believe, in a spiritual sense, what our mother's taught us when they said, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness."
In fact, many are convinced 'Cleanliness IS Godliness", and you prove your clean by your conduct.  And those who believe that are nothing more than rule-keepers.  They've got a list and they live their life by the list and judge others by the list also.  And those who keep the list are deemed godly people. 
 
In fact, that was the Old Testament approach to godliness.  Defilement must be avoided.  Read the books of Leviticus and Numbers, and you will see God gave the Jews many laws about the importance of being both ceremonially and physically clean and those laws covered every aspect of their life. 
 
And as a result of that, the Jews became more concerned with outward purity than inner purity.  We see several examples of that in the earthly ministry of Christ.  One time, the Jewish leaders were upset because the followers of Jesus didn't wash their hands before they ate.
 
But listen to how Jesus addressed that in
 
Mark 7:6
 
Then after dealing with the situation, He said,
 
verses 14-23
 
Jesus was telling them the real problem is not dirty hands, but dirty hearts.  The Jewish leaders thought they were cleaner than Jesus and His disciples because they washed their hands a certain way before they touched food. It made them feel good about themselves and better than others.
Outward religious ritual allows you to feel good about yourself and better than others.  It makes people think well of you.  But what the Pharisees didn’t understand was that we have an inner stain that soap and water can never clean.  Even in Old Testament times God was trying to teach people there is a big difference between outward purity and inner purity.
 
The Jews kept lathering up, washing up and cleaning up thinking they were presentable to God. But through the prophet Jeremiah, God said, “Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Jeremiah 2:22)
 
God’s desire is that we be holy and pure, or to use the word of the day, He wants to make us godly.
And only the blood of Jesus can accomplish that because only He can cleanse us from the inside out.
 
And that's why the "mystery of godliness" is so significant.  Jesus is the essence and wellspring of godliness. He lived in godliness, and now, as ascended Lord, He gives us godliness. Godliness is not external but is the inner power to live a godly life.  And it is the mystery of Christ and His work on the cross and what was accomplished through His resurrection that makes godliness possible.
 
We become overwhelmed with the majesty of God, Jesus strikes us with awe and then enables us to be godly, obedient servants of His.
 
Listen:  you will never be good enough on your own to arrive at godliness.  It is not keeping rules and going by the list. 
Godliness has much more to do with a thriving, spiritual relationship with God that leads t freedom and liberty in Christ than it does keeping someone's list of rules. 
 
Living a godly life is nothing other than living in the presence of God.  It is being attentive to His presence and His power and His will.  It is motivated, not by the fear of disobedience, but love and reverence for the One who created us and cares for us.
 
And in that regard, "godliness" is simply demonstrating the heart of God, or as we defined it earlier, a devotion to God which results in a life that is pleasing to him and points others toward him.  The greatest demonstration of godliness anyone would ever encounter is a presentation of the gospel message backed up by a life that has been radically changed by Christ.
 
If the fundamental truth upon which the church stands and preaches is that God has been revealed in the person and work of Jesus, if this is "godliness" revealed, does it not make sense that godliness would somehow be related to evangelism? 
 
You see, the mystery of godliness is not only revealed in Christ, it is revealed in every person saved by Christ.  In much the same way that Jesus was God in the flesh, so are you and I privileged to have God living in us. 
 
We, too, have been justified by the Spirit.  We have been declared accepted in the beloved.  We have received the earnest of our inheritance, the seal of the Spirit.  Our salvation was witnessed by angels.  We are one of those experiences that angels desire to look into.  The gospel was preached in the world and we believed it and one day we will be received up into glory! 

We are the mystery of godliness revealed in the world and it is our privilege to be messengers of our faith to a lost and dying world.  And we will never be more like God than when we demonstrate a heart of compassion and grace to those with whom we come in contact.  And that is accoplished when to our faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control and perseverance, we add godliness.
 
Let's pray.
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