Fruit of the Spirit, part 5: Godliness (continued)
In our last essay we asserted that the fruit of godliness consists in part of making God the focal point of our life. It means we ought 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, customers, suppliers, etc. …How we treat family members, friends…and how we treat our enemies. Paul sums this up succinctly.
1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Jesus said His commandments are not burdensome, but light and easy. All too often Christians become so bogged down in rules and regulations and become so legalistic that they find that His law becomes oppressive and wearisome instead of easy. If this is the case in my life or your life, it is that way most likely because our attitude needs some fine tuning. Are we trying to earn brownie points with God by how diligently we keep the law?
Let us be careful that we do not become like the Pharisee in Luke 18 who in his prayer was so proud of himself because he did all the right things according to the law. He really missed the boat, didn’t he? He thought that his salvation was based on his performance of the law, and he failed to realize that it is the attitude of the heart which God is most concerned with.
We have been teaching about sonship over the past few weeks. As we grow in our relationship with God, we begin as sinners cut off from God to a place where we are sinners saved by the grace of God. Our path is from sinner to servant to son. And here is the key: that a servant obeys his master because he has to; whereas a son is obedient to the Father because he wants to. It’s all in the attitude, or the spirit, it you will.
We said that godliness is an attitude of devotion to God. Let us explore that further. Our devotion to God would include an attitude of fear of God. The Bible speaks of the fear of the Lord in two ways. Which way concerns you and me depends upon our relationship with God. For the unsaved sinner, the fear of God refers to the rightful dread of the wrath of God which should strike every unsaved person.
It is often this very realization which leads to repentance. A non-Christian comes to realize that he is an imperfect being and as such that there is no way that he can stand in the presence of the Creator. He realizes that in his present condition, he is cut off from God and is completely undeserving of eonian life.
The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. To me, this implies that as a Christian matures in wisdom, that he grows beyond this initial dreadful terror type of fear. Of course, those who preach hellfire and brimstone are able to conjure up the most heinous and dreadful terrors imaginable which they attribute to the wrath of God. Fortunately, those vain imaginations are in error; nonetheless, an unsaved person ought to have initially that fear and dread of his Creator.
But whatever dreadful fear one experiences as one comes to faith in Christ, our knowledge of His word leads us to acquire another type of fear of God. It is not the negative side of fear of pain and punishment, but a mature fear. As Christian believers we are delivered from the wrath of God. Our fear is one of awe-inspired reverence for the majesty and glory and power and holiness of God. So fear of God is a mark of devotion to God.
As we cultivate the fruit of godliness, our attitude of devotion to God comes to include more and more a love for God. Again, it is a growth process. Whereas our initial love for God might be and usually is based upon our gratitude to Him for saving me from His wrath, our more mature love is one which begins to comprehend more and more of the cosmic scope of God’s plan for His creation.
In the more mature love for God, we become less self-focused. Our personal salvation is wonderful, and it is only natural that we would be concerned with our own individual eternal destiny first; nevertheless, some—indeed many—Christians never grow beyond that first stage in their love for God.
In a more mature love, we come to realize the purpose for evil, for disease and deformities, for war and calamities, for hatred and violence, for sickness and suffering, for pain and torture inflicted by man upon man, for every evil imaginable; we come to understand its purpose in the plan of God. (I have taught about that in great detail in my audio lecture series, God’s Plan for Man—see information below.)
Then, instead of blaming it on the devil, we realize that the devil is only middle management, he is an agent of God. We not only recognize that God takes the credit for all the evil in the world, but that He planned it from the very beginning for a magnificently awesome purpose!
When we truly comprehend that fact, then our gratitude to Him for His mercy and His grace soars to new heights. Our love for Him abounds all the more because He not only saved me but we know that He will ultimately restore all to pristine perfection.
Therefore, as we cultivate the fruit of godliness, our attitude of devotion to God includes the fear and reverence of God, and we grow more and more of a love for God. As these grow, it results in an unending desire for God. We yearn to know Him more intimately. We long for His constant presence via His Holy Spirit.
Our desire for Him displaces our desire for self. This vertical relationship with God in such sweet personal intimacy is then reflected and manifested in our horizontal relationship with our fellow man. The virtue of godliness flows out of our character as easily as water from a pitcher.
We have seen now how godliness has both a specific and a general meaning. Generally, it is the sum of the gospel, the totality of the religion of Christ. Specifically, it is piety and reverence toward God marked by an attitude of devotion to God. This dedication of our thoughts, words and deeds towards pleasing God manifests itself in our attitudes and dealings with our fellow man. Let us now read some passages which speak of godliness. Hopefully, our understanding of these passages will now be more fully illuminated when we come across that word.
KJV 1 Timothy 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.
2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.
3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
Let us pause and analyze this for a moment. I believe that godliness here is used by Paul in its general meaning referring to the sum of the gospel, the true religion. Let me extract from verse 3 the phrases pertinent to our topic. It would read:
3 If any man …consent not… to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
In other words, if any man purporting to be a teacher comes along and consents not, that is, shows his disapproval of the doctrines which we have taught you concerning the gospel of Christ, then Paul says…..
4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
Other translations shed more light on what Paul is aiming at here. He is speaking of those who seem to have a morbid craving and passion for controversy and argument, those who like to show themselves superior by always winning the debate and especially over relatively minor points of doctrine. They are not so much interested in the truth as they are in making themselves look good by winning. But it takes at least two parties to argue, doesn’t it? That is why Paul says in the next verse that it is the …
5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth,
Again, let us pause to remark that anyone who joins in such debates is also of a corrupted mind. Back in verse 4, Paul states that such strife leads to envy and railings. The fruit is envy because the one who loses the argument will despise the other for his supposed superior knowledge of subtle points.
What are railings in this context? To rail at someone is to degenerate to personal attacks, to employ harsh and abusive language towards those with whom the railer disagrees. Paul then gives a specific example of what he is referring to. He says this is the type of person (as we continue in v. 5) who supposes….
supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
As we read verses 5 through 10 I am sure many of us could not help but think of the so-called prosperity gospel which is being preached in many churches today and certainly it is prominent over the religious airwaves. I would just like to share a few thoughts on that, based on this context.
First of all, let us remember that the context of Paul’s exhortation here has to do with master-slave relationships, as we read in verses 1-3. Paul did not come along and attempt to immediately abolish slavery. He knew that would take a long time. Instead, he encouraged the servant who was a Christian to honor and serve his master all the better, whether the master was a believer or not.
So that when we come down to verse 8 and read Paul’s exhortation to be content with food and clothing, we remember he is basically addressing those whose lot in life cannot be readily changed by their own initiative. I do not believe Paul is making a command here to all Christians of all times. If he were, then it could be construed as to be approving of laziness and sloth. The servant has virtually no choice, so Paul tells him to be content with the food and clothing provided by his master. (To be continued.)
God’s Plan for Man Series
by Dr. James W. Bruggeman
Here is the suggested order of listening to the lectures. Doing so will provide a progressive course of study covering many topics. Some of them do not necessarily follow in numerical order. Request SKM Resources Catalog for description of each lecture.
CD # Lecture Title
Album A-101 The Ages and the Jubilees 6 CDs: $24
263 How Long Is “Forever?”—The Doctrine of the Ages, Part 1
264 How Long Is “Forever?”—The Doctrine of the Ages, Part 2
271 Jubilee: Level One—The Moral Law, 1
272 Jubilee: Level One—The Moral Law, 2
275 Jubilee: Level Two—The Prophetic Law, 1
276 Jubilee: Level Two—The Prophetic Law, 2
Album A-102 The Sovereignty of God 10 CDs: $40
280 The Sovereignty of God (SoG) series: Lecture 1: Who’s In Charge Here?, 1
281 The Sovereignty of God (SoG) series: Lecture 2: Who’s In Charge Here?, 2
282 SoG: Lecture 3: Foreknowledge and Predestination, 1
283 SoG: Lecture 4: Foreknowledge and Predestination, 2
284 SoG: Lecture 5: Do We Have Freewill?, 1
285 SoG: Lecture 6: Do We Have Freewill?, 2
286 SoG: Lecture 7: Why Hast Thou Made Me Thus? (The Doctrine of Election),1
287 SoG: Lecture 8: Why Hast Thou Made Me Thus? (The Doctrine of Election), 2
288 SoG: Lecture 9: Adam’s Fall & Christ’s Gift (Doctrines of Imputation and Infusion), 1
289 SoG: Lecture 10: Adam’s Fall & Christ’s Gift (Doctrines of Imputation and Infusion),2
Album A-103 It’s Hell or Nothing 10 CDs: $40
302 The Doctrine of Eternal Torture, 1
303 The Doctrine of Eternal Torture, 2
304 The Doctrine of Final Annihilationism, 1
305 The Doctrine of Final Annihilationism, 2
273 Do Rich Men Go To Hell and Beggars To Heaven? (Lazarus and the Rich Man), 1
274 Do Rich Men Go To Hell and Beggars To Heaven? (Lazarus and the Rich Man), 2
310 The Truth About Hell, Soul and Spirit, 1
311 The Truth About Hell, Soul and Spirit, 2
312 The Truth About Hell, Soul and Spirit, 3
313 The Truth About Hell, Soul and Spirit, 4
Album A-104 – Universal Reconciliation 12CDs: $44
296 History of the Doctrine of Universal Reconciliation (UR), 1
297 History of the Doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, 2
314 UR: Lecture 1: God’s Plan and Purpose in the Three Resurrections, 1
315 UR: Lecture 2: God’s Plan and Purpose in the Three Resurrections, 2
317 UR: Lecture 3: Conciliating the World, 1
318 UR: Lecture 4: Conciliating the World, 1
319 UR: Lecture 5: Everyman Returns in Jubilee, 1
320 UR: Lecture 6: Everyman Returns in Jubilee, 2
325 UR: Lecture 7: The Good News, 1
326 UR: Lecture 8: The Good News, 2
327 UR: Lecture 9: Back to the Garden—God’s Purpose for Evil, 1
328 UR: Lecture 10: Back to the Garden—God’s Purpose for Evil, 2
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