What is Godliness?

by Jeannette Haley

It’s interesting how people translate words differently according to their own understanding and perception. That is why it is so important to clearly define terminology when trying to get an idea across to others when teaching, or even in general conversation. How many misunderstandings have developed between people simply because definitions needed to be established?

The subject of godliness is no exception. If you were to take a survey of people’s perception of godliness, some of the terms you would most likely hear are “religious,” “pious,” “righteous,” “spiritual,” “holy,” “pure” or “saintly.” All of these definitions may be correct in whole or in part; that is, each can be a vital component of godliness. However, one has to delve deeper into the meaning of these terms in light of the context in which they are found in Scripture. In other words, we need to understand the definitions of words found within the framework of God’s attributes and character as revealed in His Word. Therefore, true godliness, or holiness, as the case may be, must be defined by Spirit and Truth.

Godliness is like a many-faceted diamond, wherein each “facet” is represented by a singular definition [of godliness]. Each facet reflects the purity and beauty of the whole. The facets are not the essence of the diamond, but they are necessary in order for the glory and beauty of the gem to shine forth in complete and total perfection.

Therefore, if I were to mention “religious” as just one “facet” of godliness to a person, that person could interpret it in any number of different ways. He or she might conclude, depending upon his or her frame of reference, that religious means belonging to a certain church or denomination. Another might think of fanaticism, while someone else could think in terms of one of the world’s “religions,” or the occult, or a cult. As you can see, at this point there would be a total breakdown in successfully communicating godliness according to spirit and truth.

The definition of “religious” has, through the centuries, been more or less subject to the church culture of the time, because “religion” and “religious” has to do with outward ceremonial observance and worship. While “religious” is not an attribute of God, who is spirit, it can be a characteristic of a truly godly person. But, not all outwardly religious persons are necessarily godly. We all know that the world is full of “religious” people of every sort who are enemies of God in disposition, motivation, word and deed. Such persons, unlike true servants of God, are easily identified (as were the Pharisees) by their pride, self-love and self-serving agendas, lack of fruit and Christ-likeness, and more often than not, a religious spirit.

We find this beautiful, simple yet profound definition of “religion” in James 1:26, 27: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”  James is saying that a person can outwardly appear to be “religious,” but what comes out of his or her mouth will reveal the heart condition. A person with a deceptive heart deceives no one but him or herself in the long run, regardless of how “good” or “religious” he or she appears to be, making his or her religion vain, or worthless.

James states that there is such a thing as “pure” religion that is “undefiled” before God. He doesn’t say that “pure and undefiled religion” is going to church every time the door opens. Nor is it running around “laying hands on people” and “prophesying.” James definitely rules out becoming rich and famous, traveling around the world promoting “world peace,” or pushing for every church to join in a “purpose-driven” agenda. Rather, pure and undefiled religion in God’s eyes is quiet servitude to those in great need, and living a consecrated life (separation from the world). [Note: If you want to understand how to live a consecrated life, we suggest that you download Rayola’s e-Book, “The Victorious Journey.” Also, watch for her new upcoming in-depth book on this subject, “Possessing Our souls.”]

It’s rather obvious, to even the most casual observer, that being religious is not an indication of godliness. After all, a pagan can be “religious” about idols demon gods, and tribal customs. However, a truly godly person may be religious, but only in the strictest sense of the term, where his or her religion is indeed “pure” and “undefiled” by personal pride, agendas or carnality.

The next word that people may use to describe godliness is “pious.” According (in part) to Webster, pious means marked by or showing reverence for deity and devotion to divine worship; sacred or devotional as distinct from the profane or secular; dutiful; virtuous. Webster refers to the word “devout” in conjunction to pious, and therein notes that pious applies to the faithful performance of religious duties and maintenance of outward religious attitudes, frequently with a connotation of hypocrisy. So we see that the underlying connotation of piety and devout, while giving the appearance of true religion outwardly, fails to uphold the lasting virtues of a pure and perfect heart. Thus, we can dismiss piety, pious and devout as true definitions or examples of godliness, although, as with “religious” a godly person may be devout or pious in disposition and attitude.

The next word in our list is righteous. The Hebrew definition for nearly all of the usages of righteous in the Old Testament is “make right (in a moral or forensic sense); cleanse, (be, do) just;” justice, justify, “(be, turn to) righteousness” and “lawful.” Thus those who lived before Christ and obeyed the law, and lived moral, upright lives, were considered righteous. We can study the lives of those whom God considered righteous such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Job, Abraham, and Daniel, to name a few who had right standing with God.

Righteous, or righteousness, is exemplified in the lives of Noah, Daniel and Job because of what they overcame in their generation. “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, [the world] they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD” Ezekiel 14:14. (Emphasis added). Noah overcame the world, Daniel overcame the flesh, and Job overcame the devil. True righteousness is more than external compliance to certain religious traditions or practices. It is more than conforming for the sake of appearing righteous to others. It is more than reforming one’s behavior in order to survive societal rules and laws. It is more than performing good works as the sole basis of personal righteousness.

The New Testament definition of righteous, or righteousness, reveals that only through Christ can we be rendered or regarded as just or innocent. Those who are in Christ are justified, or acquitted for Christ’s sake. Christ is our righteousness. (See Romans 1:4, 9, 10; 1 Corinthians 1:30). Consider Philippians 3:9: “And be foundin him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”  [Emphasis added] Thus we must settle it forever that righteousness is found only in Christ, and only as we are in Him by faith can we be deemed by God as righteous. A person cannot be considered righteous (or just) without faith; therefore, righteousness and faith go hand in hand. “The just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” Hebrews 10:38; 11:6.

       Faith and righteousness are essential components of godliness. This faith is not in faith itself, or faith in anything other than God and His Word. It is as Hebrews 11:1 defines it: “. . . faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” Ephesians 2:8, 9.

The next definition we need to consider is “spiritual.” Perhaps in years gone by, the word “spiritual” was automatically equated with biblical Christianity. Today, however, we hear this word coming forth from the lips of a variety of people—especially a certain wealthy TV celebrity who is an outspoken enemy of Christ and His cross. Taking advantage of her prestigious and powerful position as a popular American idol, this person has thrown up a “spiritual” detour sign on the broad highway of “churchianity,” thus rerouting the unsuspecting onto a blissfully ignorant road that leads straight to hell.

Keeping in mind that truth originates with God; that Jesus is the truth (John 14:6); that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17); and that the Holy Spirit teaches us the truth (1 John 2:27), and lead us into all truth (John 1613), let us conclude that the truly spiritual person has received the spirit of God. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” 1 Corinthians 2:12-16.

       The Apostle Paul describes why an individual can be considered godly or spiritual in Romans 8:13-16: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”

       The next word associated with godliness is holiness. 1 Peter 1:15, 16 says: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [behavior]; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” For a person to be holy, he or she must be set apart from what is profane, or evil in God’s sight. Holiness is a state of being. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek definition of holy is sacred, pure, morally blameless, consecrated (set apart). God calls us to holiness, which, by the way, is not a calling to be divine. Divinity can only be found in the Godhead. Man may think he is divine, or that he will in some future state become divine, but he is human, not divine. Nearly every cult teaches that Jesus was not divine by nature, and many of them teach that man either is divine by nature or going to become divine. Such are doctrines of demons.

Some may define godliness as purity. Pure simply means clean or clear. Definitely a godly person will possess a clean heart, and a clear conscience because of the sanctifying work of Christ, and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, we come to our last word, “saintly” (as referring to the saints.) I found it interesting that the definition in Strong’s Concordance of saints is the same as holy. Thus, whenever one reads of the saints in Scripture (from Deuteronomy through Revelation), it is referring to all of the holy people of God. A saint is anyone who belongs to God through faith in Jesus Christ the Lord, who has consecrated his or her life to the Lord, and one who walks in faith, righteousness and obedience.

In conclusion, I feel strongly led to mention one other aspect of godliness that needs to be considered, and that is this: pure hatred for evil. “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [despises] evil” Job 1:8? King David wrote, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A forward [perverted] heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person” Psalm 101: 3, 4.

       A godly, holy or perfect person despises sin. We need to wake up to the fact that the entire world, both secular and religious, is being systematically brainwashed by the New Age antichrist system of “positivism” and “political correctness.” All that is holy, true and righteous according to God’s Word is being mocked, undermined, redefined and sacrificed to the pagan idols of humanistic self exaltation as people buy into the old satanic lie that they are divine, or gods. How long do you think the mega churches would last if sin, hell, true repentance, self-denial, the Lordship of Christ, obedience, righteousness, separation from the world, the judgment to come, and godliness were preached from the pulpits?

In short, godliness is a holy, pure, consecrated life of righteousness that is lived by faith and obedience through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God which brings forth fruit for the glory of God. Godly persons have no hidden agendas that involve self-gratification, or love for that which God hates. In fact, a truly godly person will say with the Psalmist, “I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:204b). We are either living a carnal life of self-gratification in this world, where we are seeking for vain glory, or we are drawing ever closer to God, seeking and pursuing the spiritual life that endures forever. What does your life say about you today?