Godliness in Hope of Eternal Life
In my preaching Sunday from Romans 5:15-17, I emphasized the importance of having the full assurance of our salvation. If we are going to reign in life (and we most certainly are) we need to understand that we are under the reign of grace and no longer under the reign of sin and death.
This morning I read something in Titus 1:1-3 that reinforced to me the importance of continuing to emphasize this in my preaching. Paul believed that God called him to be an apostle in order to manifest through his preaching the hope of eternal life.
Titus 1:1-3 “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;”
What follows is an excerpt from a sermon on this text preached in 2001.
The truth with which we are entrusted is a truth which is according to godliness. What does that mean? “According to” is about the vaguest preposition we have. What kind of accord is there between truth and godliness? The NIV translates it “truth which leads to godliness.” And indeed we are transformed by the renewing of our mind by the truth, but that is not what Paul is saying here.
In this book Paul emphasizes the power of hope which leads to godliness, and of that hope I will speak in just a minute. For now we’re focusing on the relation between truth and godliness, and what Paul is saying is simply that they must go hand in hand. They must not be unnaturally separated. In every generation there are teachers who drift into gnosticism by turning Christianity into a merely intellectual faith, saying if not explicitly, at least in effect, it doesn’t matter how you live your life as long as you’ve got the right doctrine. And Paul says, “No, truth always accords with godliness” Notice how he makes this point in 2:1-2 and 3:8.
Titus 2:1-2 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
Titus 3:8 the saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.
I want to say something about the word godliness. The English word godly sounds like god-like and so we think the word means something like Christlike character, but in fact the Greek word means literally “right worship” It has a vertical dimension to it. It concerns our piety, not to the exclusion of our obedience, for obedience to God is also worship, but it must be a worshipful obedience if it is to be called godly. In fact, a better word, if there were such a word, would be Godwardness. That directs your focus toward God, urges you to do all things to the glory of God and to keep your mind on things above.
And where does the power come from to live this godly life? Of course it comes from the Holy Spirit, but it comes as you hope in God. We grow in godliness in the hope of eternal life. Compare Titus 2:12-13 where we are told that grace instructs us to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope” (see also 1P 1:13-14, 2P 3:10-12a, 1J 3:3)
So if an elder is entrusted with the truth that accords with godliness and if he is to exhort the flock to live a godly life, then he must speak much of the blessed hope. He must be a man with eternity on his mind, he must seek to be used of God to remind, remind, remind people that our hope is not in this world. For this is the truth that weans God’s people off of the world and produces a Godward life.