The Meaning of Godliness in the Bible
Godliness is a significant term in the Christian faith. According to Strong's Concordance, the word is translated from the Greek word for "piety", and is used in the New Testament fourteen times in the letters of Peter and Paul. While the expression also refers to the divinity of God, godliness in the Bible is mainly used to describe a positive way of life influenced by God, and inspired reflection in the tenets of the Christian faith.
1 Usage by the Apostle Peter
In his second letter of the New Testament, the apostle Peter describes godliness as a trait that followers of the Christian faith should possess. He includes it with other sought after qualities such as virtue, knowledge and patience. Peter warns that believers who lack such characteristics are blind, and not fully accepting a new direction of life under Jesus Christ, purged of old sins. Peter also stresses that godliness especially is to be practiced by believers, considering they are living in expectation for a new heaven and new earth.
2 Usage by the Apostle Paul
The apostle Paul uses the term more than any other source in scripture, in both of his letters to Timothy and in Titus. In 1 Timothy 4:8, he describes godliness as "profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and that of which is to come." Paul advises his readers to avoid associating with church members who lack piety or express godliness falsely for personal gain. Similar to Peter, Paul's teaching describes godliness as an essential aspect of a good minister of Jesus Christ.
3 Godliness Among Modern Day Christians
The insights of Peter and Paul are quite relevant for many modern-day Christians. Aspiring to a way of life that successfully reflects God's love and influence is a goal that many believers in Jesus Christ hold close, regardless of denomination. Noted Christian author Jerry Bridges writes that being regarded as godly is one of the highest compliments a practicing Christian can receive. Practicing godliness in every facet of a believer's life, from ministry involvement to family and work life is considered a compelling and fulfilling expression of devotion.
4 Godliness as Divinity
Another interpretation of godliness sometimes conferred on the word in scripture is as a means to describe God's divine nature. Divinity is a much more complex term that is often conferred upon the godhead, the angels or Jesus Christ because of their origin in the spiritual realm. According to Strong's, Peter uses an entirely different Greek word to describe divinity, so it is important to remember the terms are not always interchangeable. In the context of the modern believer, godliness is typically seen as a spiritual state to aspire to, particularly through emulating the life of Jesus Christ and practicing Biblical teachings as proscribed by their chosen denomination.
- 1 Bible Gateway: 1 Timothy 4:8
- 2 Bible Gateway: 2 Peter 1:7
- 3 Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible; James Strong LL.D., S.T.D.
- 4 The Practice of Godliness; Jerry Bridges