Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Doctrine Conforming to Godliness

“If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with THE DOCTRINE CONFORMING TO GODLINESS, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-5 NAS).

Arrogance and ignorance are the charges made against those who disagree with sound words and proper doctrine.  Genius is often right technically but wrong in spirit, mad with “strange fire” power, and wrong before the scrutiny of God.  A morbid interest in controversy and disputations speaks to a predisposition of conceit and depravity of mind; and in connection to this depravity of mind is a deprivation of truth.  A depraved mind is inherently unreceptive—even immune to—truth.  Paul said it clearly in his letter to the Romans; therein he outlined a chain of causation.  First, in response to “men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and who deny the evidentiary proof of God’s existence, God punishes them by giving “them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (Romans 1:18 & 24).  Second, because “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,” God saw fit to give “them over to degrading passions” (Romans 1:25-26).  Third, and finally, because they “did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind” (Romans 1:28).  So, an impure heart leads to degraded passions and ultimately to a depraved mind; and there is the rub concerning genius without morality.  It is not the brilliance of the mind that leads to truth and enlightenment, but the purity of the heart.  A doctrine conforming to godliness is therefore not so much about theological perfection as it is about moral compliance.

The word “godliness” is used fifteen (15) times in the New Testament and none in the old (15 in biblical meaning equates to the idea of “spiritual rest”); its dictionary definition is “piety; specifically the gospel scheme:—godliness, holiness” (Strong’s).  Paul, after rebuking those who “suppose godliness is a means of gain,” affirmed that “godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (1 Timothy 6:5-6).  A quiet and still piety conforming to the gospel scheme of righteousness is the godliness doctrine herein spoken of.  It is not piety derived from law and propriety adherence, but piety derived from faith adherence to the gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The doctrine conforming to godliness is not about parsing words, but about guarding the simplicity of Christ in our hearts, about “avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’” (1 Timothy 6:20).

The doctrine conforming to godliness is about gently but firmly fighting the good fight of faith in the face of much controversy, disputations, suspicions, and constant friction foisted on the few believers by the many hordes of unbelievers.  While the unbelievers grasp and claw at illusory brass rings and climb ladders leading only to ruin and destruction—and consequently, by their contrary actions, contend with true believers pursuing true riches—believers pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).  In other words, the doctrine conforming to godliness is not so much about a state of doctrinal or theological perfection, or a misguided pursuit of earthly riches, but it is about partaking “of the divine nature” and escaping “the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:4).

The proper doctrine therefore is about “applying all diligence”—and “in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:5-9).

In the end, even those who started out well, who ran the race and fought the good fight of faith for a season, can lose out on conforming to a doctrine of godliness.  If “the corruption that is in the world by lust” lures your heart away, conformity to godliness goes with it.  Remember, piety in accordance with law and propriety is insufficient to be the piety in accordance with gospel truth.  Smarts or genius also has nothing to do with saving knowledge, because “knowledge of the truth” is only “according to godliness” (Titus 1:1).  “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things (faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love), you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:10-11).