“But godliness with contentment is great gain” 1 Timothy 6:6 (ASV).
We cannot give to the world what we don’t have. We are called to set our light to shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our father which is in heaven (Mt. 5:16). The church must pursue godliness, as we keep in view the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and the judgment that awaits us. We are building for the Lord a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Eph. 5:27). Every member of the church must uphold this value of godliness as we patiently and diligently wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Jesus Christ. So, the Bible says, “looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13, ASV).
2.1 What is the Church?
Mcguire (2022) posits that when Jesus used the term church, it was not new. It was a phrase that would have been often used in the community. According to ancient understanding, it was first known as an assembly before being called the church. Particularly, this gathering resembled a legislative or political assembly. Jesus in mentioning the “Church” in Matthew 16:16-18 was essentially saying that the reign and control of the Kingdom of God would come through His church. It is far more than just a fellowship or a Wednesday or Sunday night get-together.
2.2 What is a Local Church?
In my understanding, the local church is the body of believers in a given locality, empowered to influence their environment, as light to dispel darkness, through the preaching of the gospel, the exemplary demonstration of godly character, acts of good works and life of purity. Notably, the church is the epicentre of godliness and righteousness.
According to Leeman (2014), in his article, “what is the local church”, he identifies the local church as a congregation of Christians that regularly meets in the name of Jesus Christ to affirm and oversee one another’s adherence to the gospel and the ordinances of the gospel. He identifies the local church with the following characteristics:
- group of Christians
- regular gathering
- a congregation-wide exercise of affirmation and oversight
- the purpose of officially representing Christ and His rule on earth – they gather in His name
- the use of preaching and ordinances for these purposes
- What is Godliness?
In pagan literature, godliness implies the manifestation of cautiousness, fear and appropriate respect towards the gods in offering sacrifices and other cultural activities. The gods were honoured by giving respect to elders, opinion leaders and chiefs who were believed to be protected by them. In Biblical understanding however, the term communicates different meanings. According to Bridges (2018), godliness is devotion to God that results in a life pleasing to Him. It can be viewed as the quality of being devoutly religious; piety or the quality or practice of conforming to the laws and wishes of God; devoutness and moral uprightness.
Bridges (2018) asserts that, there is no higher compliment that can be paid to a Christian than to call him a godly person. He might be a conscientious parent, a zealous church worker, a dynamic spokesman for Christ, or a talented Christian leader, but none of these things matters if, at the same time, he is not a godly person. All teachings should instigate godliness and incite obedience to the exigencies of the word of God.
2.3.1 Some examples of godly people
Jesus is our model of excellence in manifesting godliness (submission to God). He is the source of godliness and the essence of godliness. “Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear” (Heb. 5:7, ASV).
A devout man who venerated God and treated Him with reverential obedience and had a good report in his community. Acts 22:12 reads, “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews that dwelt there.
Cornelius was a gentile and a centurion but was also a devout man who truly feared God with all his household and gave alms to the people and prayed to God always. He exemplifies how we can together with our household live a life of godliness. Acts 10:1-2.
Paul was a man whose sense of righteousness or godliness was towards the Jewish law but on meeting Jesus, his pride for life and service was on God through the knowledge of Christ and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. He serves as an example for those who seek to live godly lives in our corrupt world. Gal. 2:17-20 (ASV) reads,
“But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor. For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.”
2.3.2 Scriptural references of godliness
- Godliness is a way of life that honors God Coming from an authentic knowledge of God and his grace manifested in Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 3:16 (ASV) – And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, received up in glory.
1 Timothy 4:7-8 (ASV) – But refuse profane and old wives’ fables. And exercise thyself unto godliness: for bodily exercise is profitable for a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.
Titus 1:1 (ASV) – Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.
- Believers must understand that godliness come with persecutions, sufferings but the Lord God shall rescue us from them.
2 Timothy 3:10-12 (ASV) – But thou didst follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, patience, persecutions, sufferings; what things befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: and out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. .
c. It is a requirement of Grace
Titus 2:11-12 (ASV) – For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world.
d. It is Christian principles which is a power given by Christ.
2 Peter 1:3 (ASV) – Seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue.
2 Timothy 3:5 (ASV) – Holding a form of godliness but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away.
3. TOOLS /SOURCES OF GODLINESS
Four main sources of godly living include:
- The knowledge of God
Essentially, knowing God has effects on one’s spirituality and morality. Knowing God is imperative for godliness. It is our principal subject of glory to Him (2Pet. 1:2-4, Jer. 9:23-24, Php. 3:8-11).
- Transformed life / newness of life
In Christ we are a new creation, the old things or way of life has given way to the new one in Christ, and we have become partakers of divine nature. The newness of life uncompromisingly is a requirement of all authentic born-again Christians (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:14-15, Rom. 6:2-4, Php. 3:3-8).
- The Love of our Heavenly Father
The salvation we have obtained in Christ, the baptism and presence of the Holy Spirit and our continual dependence on the inspired word of God, automatically ignites, and sustains our deep love for God. He first loved us, and we respond to His sacrifice and love by our godliness. This is necessary in keeping us on the track of godliness (1 Jh. 4:19).
- The Power of the Cross
The message of the power of the cross is the central theme of the Bible. Paul emphasised on the power of the cross and its effects on the sinner way above any other treasure he could have gloried in.
Possible sources in which Paul could boast or glory included his education, religious belonging, his Roman citizenship and his linguistic capacity. But only on the cross and the power therein did he make his boast. Paul did that for these following reasons:
- Colossians 2:14-15
- By the cross we have the forgiveness of sin.,
- We have liberation from racial prejudice,
- From adulterous life and perversion.
- The cross is hope, restored
- Is suppression of the powers of demons, principalities and even death.
- Colossians 1:20
- The cross gives a newness of life.
- Is our motivation for service.
- Is our procurement of peace.
- Revelation 5:4-10
- The cross is our guarantee for eternal life.
4. MARKS OF GODLINESS
The presence of these positive lifestyles or the absence of the negative ones listed below is an indication that we are living godly lives. It is expected that we mature in godliness as we seek to become more and more like Christ.
- Good temper (controlled anger) (Jam. 1:19-20; Gen. 49:5-7)
- Continuous reliance on the word of God and the daily appetite to read and obey (Ps. 119:105; Ps. 119:129-130)
- The teaching of pure doctrine – when we love sound doctrine and pass it on to others, it’s an indication that we are being godly. Godliness is not only about what we do but also what we teach (2 Tim. 2:15-16).
- Acts of good works that impacts the community and is well spoken of (Mt. 5:14-16).
- Life full of joy and peace – Godly people eschew quarrels, divisions, hatred, and all forms of ungodliness.
The local assembly is the seat of Christ, the salt and light of the locality within which the assembly is located. As salt is a preservative against corruption, light is to expose corruption. Our good works must show the world the way of godliness as against their ungodliness. This should be our rule throughout life journey. “For ye were once darkness but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth), proving what is well-pleasing unto the Lord; and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them” (Eph. 5:8-11, ASV).
The members of the local assembly must live above reproach and become examples for others to emulate. When people are looking for good examples to follow, they must learn it from the individual members living in the community. Each member should be so much disciplined and holy that we shall be good models without filth or blemish. We are to live circumspectly because of our observers for we are so much looked at (Php. 2:15, Jam. 3:13-14).
People must through our good works appreciate Christianity and glorify not us but our Father which is in heaven. Seeing our good works, they will see the power of God’s grace in us.
5. THE IMPORTANCE OF GODLINESS
- a means to glorify God (2 Cor. 1:12).
- Rescues from trials (2 Pet. 2:9, Dan. 11:32)
- The godly people will firmly resist the enemy.
- Godliness hold promises for this present life the life to come (2 Pet. 3:10-13).
- Ungodliness provokes God’s wrath (Rom. 1:18)
- The ungodly stifles the truth, arouse the worship of things created in place of the creator and leads to relations and attitude contrary to righteousness (Rom. 1:18)
In this presentation, I have sought to remind us that godliness is a value that should be upheld by the local Church. The local church is a light and as light in this dark world, it’s imperative that we let the light of our good deeds shine for men to see and glorify God. Again, I have mentioned that to be godly is to show honour to God and this come from an authentic knowledge of God. The church must also realise that in living a godly life, it is not without suffering and persecution. It comes as part of the package of godliness. In this age where the doctrine of suffering is being removed from certain circles, we must endeavour to reinforce this teaching and the endurance thereof. The power of the life in Christ is a derivative of godliness in the believer. Therefore, the believer is naturally motivated to live a life of godliness aided by the Holy Spirit.
There are tools which from which godliness is sourced from. These include the knowledge of God. Also, a transformed life must not be only at heart but must be translated in lifestyle-that is a life of godliness. The love of our heavenly father and the sacrifice of His beloved son on the cross should be a motivation for our subsequent love and sacrifice as we pursue godliness. The message of the power of the cross should be evidently sown in the hearts of the local church from which the effects of this power become the light of this life in Christ Jesus
I again emphasised a few metrics by which the local Church can measure itself to see whether it is maturing in godliness. Are the members of the local church growing in the fruit of the spirit, are they full of joy peace, do they continually rely on God’s word and seek Him daily, etc.? All these and more are yardsticks by which we can measure godliness. Additionally, the local church should be a place where we teach the truth of the word of God. Godliness does not lie in the spectrum of the lifestyle alone but also in the teaching of the right doctrine. This again must be reinforced at the local church. The local church must be a conduit for truth.
Bridges, J. (2018). The discipline of grace. NavPress.
Mcguire, T. (n.d). Universal Church vs Local Church: Differences & Similarities https://justdisciple.com/universal-church-vs-local-church/
Leeman, J. (2014, August 22). What Is a Local Church? 9marks. https://www.9marks.org/article/what-is-a-local-church/