Godly, Holy, or Both?

by Rayola Kelley

QI have a two-fold question. Can a person be a Christian and yet not be considered as a “godly” person? Is there a difference between being “godly” and “holy?” Is so, what is it.

A: I have to admit this is an interesting question. To answer the question, we must consider what these words “godly” and “holy” mean. “Godly” points to conduct or practices that can clearly be traced back to the character, spirit and ways of God. If such conduct does not find its source in God, then it cannot be considered godly. Hence, enters the instruction of the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:7b-8: “…exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” Exercise points to application of what we know is true and honorable to our lives before God and towards others.

            “Holy” means to be set apart. In this case a person must be set apart from the world with its influences in order to be set apart unto God to be led by His Spirit. Holiness points to a state that people must come into to properly respond to, interact and obey God. The type of state that we possess is determined by what we allow to influence us, as well as what we come into agreement with. Positionally, we are set apart for the work of God in and through us. In fact, we are referred to as “saints” in the Bible. But, we must also become holy in our inward disposition to maintain an upright environment for our holy God to operate within our lives. Without this state, a person would pervert the things of God. This is why we are commanded to be holy for our God is holy.

            Can a person be a Christian and yet not be considered as a “godly” person? In the Bible, we see where Paul referred to some of the Christians at Corinth as being fleshly or carnal. Obviously, these people’s inward state, and possibly some of their practices would not be considered holy or godly. This brings us to the part that spiritual maturity plays in our lives.

            When you study the Bible, it is obvious that God shows His mercy and grace towards us by establishing us in Christ who serves as our place of wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. In our different positions as believers we stand positionally acceptable to God in Christ Jesus. For example, as saints we are being identified to His work, as His children we are being identified to our inheritance, and as priests we are being identified to our responsibilities. We are constantly being identified to Christ for His sake and our benefit.

            However, we must be brought to perfection or maturity through application of what is honorable through obedience to God and His Word as we establish our inner state. We may start out carnal or fleshly, but if we refuse to walk in sin, and separate ourselves from the world, as well as give way to the Spirit, we will truly become holy people and godly before God. 

            To me the state of holiness and the conduct of godliness are not optional, but require us to take our position as Christians seriously. We must learn to be sober and diligent in our commitment, devotion and ways before God.