Fruit of the Spirit, part 4: Godliness—Introduction

Jan 4, 2013

Earlier in this series, we listed nine fruits of the Spirit as recorded by Paul in Galatians 5. There are others besides those nine, however, and we find one or two additional ones in 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

Let’s begin with godliness. This one was not listed in Galatians 5, but I want to begin with it because it can have both a general and a specific meaning. When we say someone is a godly person, what do we mean? Do we not mean that he or she is Christ-like, a good and virtuous person, one who has a character and behavior that is pleasing to God?

This is the general meaning. Godliness can, and often is, used as an umbrella term which encompasses the whole range of the other fruits of the spirit. Godliness in this sense includes love, joy, peace, gentleness, patience, etc.

But godliness also has a specific meaning as just one of many fruits. So we will examine it in more depth now in both the general and the specific sense. We all have some general idea of what godliness is, but strictly speaking, what is godliness?

The word appears 15 times in the NT. Ten of those times are in Paul’s letters to Timothy. Fourteen times it is translated as godliness and once as holiness; but, surprisingly, the Greek word for godliness has no connection with the Greek word for god, theos. The Greek word for godliness is actually G2150 euvse,beia eusebeia {yoo-seb’-i-ah} The lexicographers say it means: 1) reverence, respect 2) piety towards God, godliness

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary it means the whole of practical piety” Do you see how godliness is an umbrella term? The dictionary says it is the whole of practical piety. “It supposes knowledge, veneration, affection, dependence, submission, gratitude, and obedience.” In 1Timothy 3:16 it denotes the substance of revealed religion.

1 Timothy 3: 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:[namely, that—] 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.

In that verse, godliness seems to encompass almost the entire gospel. We have seen the word pious or piety in these definitions, so I want to clarify how that is to be understood. In the past couple of decades, it seems as though the meaning of pious has changed somewhat.

It now often has the connotation of “hypocritically religious, holier-than-thou, Pharisaical, walking around with folded hands and eyes toward heaven, not out of sincerity, but to be seen by others.” But this is not the good meaning, the original meaning, as used in the King James Version. Webster’s 1828 dictionary has the meaning we ought to remember when we see this word in these contexts. It reads (emphasis mine—JWB):

“Godly; reverencing and honoring the Supreme Being in heart and in the practice of the duties he has enjoined; having due veneration and affection for the character of God; and habitually obeying his commands; religious; devoted to the service of God.”

Under piety, the entry reads: “Piety in principle, is a compound of veneration or reverence of the Supreme Being and love of his character, or veneration accompanied with love; and piety in practice, is the exercise of these affections in obedience to his will and devotion to his service.”

Remembering this, let’s look at the only place where this Greek word is not translated godliness but instead it is holiness.

Acts 3:12 And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness [same Greek as “godliness, godly”] we had made this man to walk

Remember we talked about the gift of healing in the course of our Sonship studies? Now here is Peter absolutely denying that this healing had anything to do with his own personal spiritual maturity. He made it clear that he and John were only channels used by God in the healing. As I stated, there are ten occurrences of the word godliness in Paul’s letters to Timothy. Consider this one:

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

[except for Bill Clinton, of course… or Hillary, or George Bush…or Barack Obama…or except for the Catholics or Mormons,…or except for those who don’t agree with me on all points of doctrine…You catch the sarcasm, no doubt…

…giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

I wonder what kind of theological or Bible college training we need in order to attain to godliness and mature Christian character? Certainly, we all understand that spiritual maturity is not simply a function of putting in years of church attendance. Spiritual maturity is no more a result of warming a pew than is emotional maturity guaranteed by virtue of a person’s chronological age.

We all know people who are in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who have the maturity of a 20-year old. That’s sad, but we know it is true. The same applies to spiritual maturity—in fact, I would contend that the two are closely connected. So spiritual maturity is not automatic by virtue of age or “putting in time” doing “religious” things. How then do we attain to it? What kind of theological or Bible school training must we have? None! We have everything we need as a gift from our heavenly Father.

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

Listen closely now….

3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

No, we don’t need a high IQ. We don’t need to attend seminary or Bible college to be growing in godliness. Every Christian believer has everything he needs for godliness as a gift from the Father. It is apprehended through the knowledge of Christ Jesus.

And I love verse 4 where it tells us the ultimate result of godliness: that we might be partakers of the divine nature! Do we understand that particular exceedingly great and precious promise?? That you! ________ (fill your name in the blank)—that all of us will ultimately take on the very nature of God! Is that not a goal worth striving for? Let’s continue reading.

2 Peter 1:5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

7 And to godliness [euvse,beia eusebeia {yoo-seb’-i-ah}] brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Godliness is an attitude of devotion to God. That means that He is the focal point of our life. Everything we think and say and do is to please Him. Remember how we showed that fruit is the outcome of our thoughts, words and actions. It is either good or bad fruit. If then, we have a constant attitude of devotion to God and He is the focal point of all our thoughts, words and actions; then it follows that we will produce good fruit.

To make God the focal point of our life does not mean that one has to have Bible study twice a day and formal prayer time three times a day. Those are commendable things IF we are doing it with the right attitude. We should study the Word, we should pray; but the point is not to become oppressed by legalisms such as thinking “I have to do this every day in order to be holy and godly.”

The important thing in view here is to have an attitude of pleasing God every waking minute. This is then borne out in how we treat our neighbor, how we deal with our employers, employees, customers, suppliers, etc. …How we treat family members, friends…and how we treat our enemies. (To be continued.)

Category: Teaching