“Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness…” (Titus 1:1; NASB)
In this simple introduction to his letter to Titus, Paul provides the reader with several foundations of ministry. Ministry is an expression of our service to God (which, by implication also means that our service flows from our delight in God). Ministry is a commitment to serve others so that they might come to faith and grow in faith. Ministry is a commitment to uphold, defend, and spread the truth of God (i.e., the gospel). And the goal of ministry is to produce godly character in the church.
It is this final aspect that captures my attention this morning. Godliness is one of God’s great desires for the bride of His Son. Scripture is replete with this passion of God. Consider just a few examples:
- “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1)
- “And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ.” (Col. 1:28)
- “…godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8b)
- “[He] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:14)
- “…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Pet. 1:3)
- “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,” (2 Pet. 3:11)
- “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3)
What, though, does it mean to be godly? Godliness is more than Christian character. It includes the aspect of one who is becoming more like Christ, but it is more than that. It is character and obedience to God that, as Jerry Bridges says, “springs from a devotion to God.…It is devotion in action.”
You cannot separate godliness from love for God. Obedience without devotion (love) is mere formality and legalism. Obedience and submission with love is the highest demonstration of our sonship relationship to God. Left unchanged, the former is prone to produce an inappropriate sense of duty and obligation that may leave one bitter at the (perceived) “tyranny of God.” The latter will produce an unsurpassed satisfaction and delight in God.
So here is the value of godliness: it is demonstrated not only in the character that produces actions that are “good and profitable for all men” (Titus 3:8), but it flows from a heart that has indulged in the greatest joy man can know — satisfaction and rest in God.