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What Is Godliness?

Have you ever thought to yourself, “He is a godly man” or “She is a godly woman”? While there are some unique expressions of godliness in a biblical understanding of manhood and womanhood, there are many common characteristics of a godly person.

But what are they? Is godliness just a vague notion that is hard to define? People may strike us as godly, but many of us would be hard pressed to come up with a handful of characteristics that would define the godly person.

In the newsletters this month and hopefully when I have a chance to write again at a later date, I would like to investigate the qualities that Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) puts forth in describing the godly man. I would like to briefly work through the characteristics in his book, “The Godly Man’s Picture” (1666).

For this week I’d like to ask, “What is godliness and why is it important?”

Thomas Watson says this:

It is the highest point of prudence to make preparations for another world… Godliness consists in an exact harmony between holy principles and practices….Godliness has the promise of the present life and of that which is to come (1 Tim.4:8)…Godliness puts a man in heaven before his time.

It is a real, supernatural work that is extensive in scope. “A person who is godly is good all over. Though he is regenerate only in part, yet it is in every part.” It results in great stirrings of the spirit in holy affections and is lasting, always yours once you have it. As it is tied to a circumcised heart and the regenerative work of the Spirit, once “godliness has taken root in the soul, it abides to eternity.”

The apostle Paul has a fair bit to say about godliness. First, godliness does not consist of our good works. It is something that we are. Yet, good works profess the existence of godliness (1 Tim. 2:9-10). Secondly, it is a quality that we are to pursue and train for which means that while we have it as a Christian, it is a character that we can grow in (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 6:11). Finally, godliness should not be a means of personal gain. Godliness itself is our gain for we will take nothing out of this world except that which accords with godliness (1 Tim. 6:5-7).

Peter remarks on the kind of people we ought to be in holiness and godliness in 2 Peter 3:11. What will characterise you as a godly person?

Stay tuned.