You are on page 1of 4

The Secret of Godliness

(I Timothy 3: 16)
by Wayne Rogers
"Great is the mystery of godliness,"
Paul declares. The book of Acts (19:28)
records that a great disturbance arose in
the city of Ephesus because of the Way,
19:23. The Ephesians were filled with
rage and began to shout, "Great is
Artemis of the Ephesians." Now, as
Paul writes to Timothy who is pas-
taring in Ephesus, Paul declares; "Great
is the mystery of godliness." Paul is
shouting that the answer to false wor-
ship and idolatry, to a pagan and human-
istic culture is Christianity.
The word "mystery" as used in the
Bible does not have the same connota-
tion that it does for us. When We think
of a mystery we think of Alfred Hitch-
cock or Agatha Christie. A mystery is a
"Whodunit?" bt the Bible a mystery
refers to something that was hidden and
unknown until God revealed it. If you
will look at Eph. 3:3ff. and Rom.
16:25-27 you will see that the "mys-
tery" of the Gospel which the people of
God had not known or realized was that
God was going to join Jew and Gentile
into one body through the death and sal-
vation of His Son. This explains why
the Jews had a difficult time accepting
Jesus as the Christ, the SaVior. Not on-
ly did He associate with Gentiles, but
He was crucified. Paul says that this
was a stumbling block, I Cor. 1:23.
They didn't k:how the mystery of the
Secondly, Paul calls the Gospel the
mystery of "godliness." The Gospel is
abbut Godliness. This is a synonym for
SalvatiOn. In I Tim. 3:9 Paul refers to
the "mystery of faith." In vs. 15,
mediately before he refers to the mys-
Wayne Rog_ers is
Assosciate l'astor
at Chalcedon
Presbyteian Church,
Atlanta, Georgia.
tery of godliness, he refers to the church
as the pillar and ground of the
truth. The mystery of godliness is the
revelation of the truth. So, when Paul
says, "Great is the mystery of godli-
ness," he is saying, "Great is the revela-
tion of God's salvation which has as its
goal godliness."
Timothy was the Pastor in Ephesians
1:3. Acts tells us that the city motto of
Ephesus was, "Great is Artemis of the
Ephesians," Acts 19:28,34. Paul is
saying that the answer to the shout of
allegiance to fa1Se worship, idolatry,
and a pagan and humanistic culture is,
"Great is the Christian Religion."
The particular purpose of this study
is, however, to demonstrate that the
message of the Gospel, the goal of the
Gospel, and the purpose of the Gospel
has to do with godliness, and what that
I. The Universal
Salvation of God
The Scriptures are able to make us
wise unto salvation, IT Tim. 3:15. We
need to understand the full nature, ex-
tent, and purpose of salvation.
The first thing that I want to point
out is that God's salvation is universal
in extent or scope.
God is referred to as the Savior,
the "Soter" in Greek, ten times in the
Pastoral Epistles. Not only is Christ
referred to as the Savior, which is what
we are used to, n Tim. 1:10, Titus 1:4,
2:13, 3:6, but God is called the Savior
six. times, I Tim. 1:1, 2:3, 4:10, Titus
1:3, 2:10, 3:4. God is seen as the
Savior of men, the only Savior; He is
the source of salvation, while Christ is
the mediator, I Tim. The pagans
called Zeus their "Soter." Nero said he
was to be called "Soter." Indeed, he said
that the people were to say, "There is
none other tiame under heaven given
among men whereby we may be saved
than in the name of Caesar." it was in
response to that that Peter said in Acts
4:12, "There is none other name under
heaven given among men we
may be saved than in the name of
Jesus." God alone is the Savibr of men . .
He is the only Savior of the world. I
Tun. 1:17 and 6:15-16 refers to God's
kingship and dominion over all men
and nations. He is King of Kings and
Lord of Lords.
God's salvation is universal in
extent I Tun. 2: 1-4 tells us to pray for
all meh for God desires all merl to be
In I Tim. 4:10 Palil calls God the
Savior of all men, especially those who
believe. This has confused many men.
What does it mean? I believe that I
Tim. 6:13 and Titus 3:4-5 explain the
meaning of the verse. God is the one
who has given life to all men, and his
salvation has appeared to all the World.
He is the only savior of men, and he is
the only savior of all men, whethet
they be Jew or Gentile, Princes or
Paupers. And all men experience the
blessings of God's salvation to some
degree through the Gospel. But He is
especially the Savior of those who be-
lieve. Only they receive the forgiveness
of sins, new: life, etc.
Nevertheless, we need to understand,
that the scope, the extent, of the Gospel
is expressed in unjversal terms. It is not
limited to a few men, and. it is not limit-
ed to what we call "spiritual" matters. It
pertains to the whole world, every bllkle
of grass. In I Tim .. 4:3 Paul says that it
pertains to food and marriage. Vs . . 4
says that everything that God created is
good and is being sanctified by the
Word of God and prayer, vs. 5.
God is saving individuals, as he did
Palil, who gives his testimony in I
Tim. Paul says that he was a
blasphemer, a violent aggressor, a perse-
cutor, the chief of sinners. If Paul could
be saved, then God can save anyone.
God is saving families, I Tim.
3:4,12; 4:8; Tit, 1:1L There is a great
emphasis on the in these
Page 16 ____________ ___;._...._ __________ ;_.. __ The Counsel ofChakedon, July, 1988
epistles and what salvation and redemp-
tion means to them.
God is saving cultures and societies.
II Tim. 3:1ff. describes what Paul sees
as the culture that forgets or does not
know God and rejects the truth, only
having a fonn of godliness, but denying
the power thereof. But, he says, they
shall not make further progress, vs. 9!
Why? Because the Gospel has come,
and Timothy is equipped with the Word
of God for every good work, IT Tim.
3:10-17. God has come to save cultures
and societies.
ll. The Universal Goal
of Salvation
A. The Meaning or Definition of
The word "Godly" is only used in the
Pastoral Epistles and II Peter to refer to
or to identify Christians, (I Tim. 2:2,
3:16, 4:7,8, 6:3,5,6,11; II Tim. 3:5;
Titus 1:1; II Peter 1:3,5,6, 3:11). The
word "Godly" is the word that is used to
translate the Greek word "Eusebia,"
which is often translated "religion" or
"religious" in other contexts, Acts
17:23, 3:12, 10:2,7. To be godly, there-
fore, is to be devoted to God. Pagans
were devoted to their idols; Christians
were devoted to the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of
the Lord Jesus Christ. II Tim. 3:4 tells
us that to be Godly is to be a lover of
God. That's what it means frrst of all.
The Gospel is the mystery of godliness
in that it is the revelation of how God
is making men lovers of God again.
That's what it means to be a Christian.
In I Tim. 2: 10 Paul refers to women
who "make a claim to godliness." He's
not saying that these women are talking
about how holy they are. Rather, they
are claiming to be lovers of God. They
claim to be Christians, which is synon-
ymous to a claim of being godly.
I want you to understand what it
means to claim to be a Christian. It is a
claim to be a lover of God! It is a claim
to godliness. Do you love God? Do you
have a form of "religion," only the out-
ward appearance of Christianity, or do
you love God, and thereby act in a god-
ly way?
B. The Goal of Salvation
We must understand that the very
goal of salvation is godliness. In I Tim.
1:5 Paul says that the goal of our in-
struction is love from a pure heart, and
a clear conscience, and a sincere faith.
This is another way of saying that the
goal of our instruction is godliness.
When Paul wants to define or distill
the essence of true religion into one
phrase he says, "The grace of God has
appeared to all men instructing us to
deny ungodliness and to live godly in
the present age." In Titus 1:1 Paul tells
us that his job, his job description, is
to preach the Gospel that leads to godli-
The purpose of salvation is the glory
of God, 1: 17, 6:16. And the goal is god-
C. Godliness is a Matter of Conduct
While we said that Godliness first
of all means to be devoted to God, the
fruit of that is that it produces godly or
god-like character. William Law defined
godliness as "A life given, or devoted to
God. He therefore is the godly man who
lives no longer to his own will, or the
way and spirit of the world, but to the
sole will of God, who considers God in
everything, who makes all the parts of
his common life, parts of piety, by do-
ing everything in the name of God, and
under such rules as are conformable to
His glory."
The three Pastoral Epistles, I and IT
Timothy, and Titus, are all concerned
primarily about Christian conduct Paul
says in I Tim. 3:15 that he has written
to Timothy to instruct him and them in
how to conduct themselves in the house-
hold of God.
Paul is continually contrasting the
conduct of the unbelieving with the con-
duct of the people of God in these
epistles. See I Tim. 1:8-11, 4:12, 5:8,
6:3-11, 17-18; II Tim 2:22-26, 3:1-9,
Titus 2:11-14, 3:1ff. Of particular em-
phasis is his contrast between the
"quarrelsomeness" of the wicked with
the "quietness" of the people of God.
The unbelieving pagans are often charac-
terized as full of malice, hateful, self-
willed, rebellious, troublemakers, quick-
tempered, etc. (Titus 3:3, 9, 10, 1:10-
16, I Tim. 1:4, 6-11, 13, 20; 6:4-
5, 20-21; II Tim. 2:14, 16, 23-26, 3: 1-
In contrast, the people of God are des-
cribed as, or commanded to be "quiet,"
"gentle," "temperate," "sober," etc. (See
I Tim. 1:2, 5, 2:2, 8, 11, 3:2-4, 11,
4:12, 5:1-2, 19-20, 6:1-2, 6-8, 11-12,
18, 20; II Tim. 1:7, 2:10, 22-26,
3:10ff., 4:2; Titus 1:6-8, 2:2-14, 3:1-4,
8, 14.)
Particularly note that in I Tim. 2
Paul refers to three particular classes of
people or institutions: civil authority,
men leading in worship, and women. In
each case the goal is "peace and quiet,"
2:2, 8, 11. One of the primary differ-
ences between the people of God and
the world is that the people of God are
pursuing peace with all men, not self-
willed, violent, ready to strike or fight
They are tamed of God.
Now, Paul says that we do have to
fight for this, for peace. He often tells
Timothy to fight the good fight of
faith, I Tim. 1:3, 18-19, 4:6-16, 6:12-
14, 17-20, II Tim. 1:7-8, 13-14, 2:1ff.,
4:2, 5, 14-18, Titus 1:11. Timothy, as
the man of God, II Tim. 3:17, must not
compromise the truth. He must be
frrm, unmovable, dogmatic, and insis-
tent He must reprove, rebuke, and ex-
hort. He must be unbending and un-
yielding for the sake of the Gospel.
There can be no compromise with error
or wickedness. The Church is the pillar
and ground of the truth, I Timothy
3:15. Yet, leaders must still not be
quick-tempered, but gentle, I Tim. 3:1-
7, Titus 1:7-9, II Tim 2:24-26.
If a preacher is dogmatic, unbending,
and unyielding he is regarded as arro-
gant, self-righteous, unloving, judgmen-
tal. People get upset They can't stand
it They need to read Paul's letter to
Timothy. They are guilty of II Tim.
4:3, "For the time will come when they
will not endure sound doctrine, but
wanting to have their ears tickled, they
will accumulate for themselves teachers
in accordance to their own desires."
The goal of the Gospel is godliness,
the restoration of men to the image of
God in all holiness, righteousness, and
truth. The man who claims to be a
Christian is claiming to be godly. And
The Counsel of Chalcedon, July, 1988 ----------------------------Page 17
godliness is a matter of conduct and.
ill. The Universal. Scope ..
of Salvation
As we said earlier, the Scriptures are
able to make us w.ise unto salvation, II
Tim. 3:15. We need wisdom to see the
scope of God's salvation, and how His .
salvation is advanced. and accomplished
through His God-created institutions.
A. Civil Goverrunent
. The Apostle Paul is making a
statement in I Tim. 2:1-2 that clearly
implies, 01;, even asserts, that God wants
us .to pray for godly civil government.
It is significant that the c:;ity of.Ephesus
in Acts 19 was in an uproar of
the Gospel. The Gospel was viewed as
a tbreat to their city:s business com-
. munity which was based on a certain re-
ligious commitment and became a mat-
ter that was addressed by the town clerk,
19:35-41. The function of civil govern-
ment is . the administration of justice
and defense in order that we may live
peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness.
(1) Paul asserts the supreme Lord-
ship and Dominion of Ood over all
Tim. 1:17, 6:1S. God is
lishing his own "administration," 1:4.
There is no such thing as a secular or
"neutral" state for Paul, or for Chrls-.
tians .
. (2) The function of the state is the
punishment of evildoers in terms of the
law of God, I Tim. i:8ff, Acts 19:37:
The function of the law is to restrain ,
wickedness, it is for law-breakers. Paul
goes on to say that there is no contradic-
tion between the Jaw and the . Gospel,
but rather complete hatmony, 1:10-1L
(3) Paul says to pray for those in
civil authority' to fulfill their function
in order that the society of men niay be
characterized by godliness. Pray for .
them that the church may be protected,
and have a base from to further
proclaim the gospel in order that the
salvation of God may extend into .all
the world. Paul is saying pray for the
civil authorities that they will arrest
criminals rather than Chris.tians, n ..
The proclamation of the Gospel is .re- ,
- . . .
lated to the protection of the civil ma-
gistrate. Where civil n:tagistrates reject
the function of civil govern-
ment ' they . will inevitably. persecute
Christians and prohibit as
is true in many countries this very day.
Every form of civil government is
based upon system of belief or
faith. If that faith is not Biblical, then
the Biblical. faith becomes a threat to.
their established civil religion as it did .
in Ephesus.
Christians must see that evangelism
is directly related to .the sanctification of
the civil by reminding and
limiting tJtem to their praper function.
The Apostle says to pray for the civil .
magistrate. In I Tim. 4:4-5 Paul says
that everything is sanctified through the
God wants us to sanc-
tify the state. If we do not sanctify the
state then the state will seek to control
and eventUally to crush the church. We
want to live in pea<;e in relation to. the
civil magistrate. we. do not like having
to be a religious pressure group, always
in conflict with the state and its actions
and Nevertheless, the church
mtist act as a pressure group to sanctify .
the state in order that we may live a
tranquil and godly life.
B; the chureh
The :Church is the pillar and
ground of the truif}, !Tim. 3:15. One
of Paul's favorite words is "sound" doe-
trine. But the word for ''sound"
means mOJ:e than accurate; true, or
right. It means "healthy." In other
words, it means doctrine that is holy,
goilly, that promotes .and produces holi-
ness of life and character. That's why he
says the goal of our instruction is love,
1:4, and that the Scriptures useful
for training in ll Tim.
3:16, and that all things are sanctified
through. the word, I Tim. 4:5. In o'ther
words, the church must not only con-
tend for the truth, but the church, Chris-
tians, must, be characterized by godly
He. says in that when the men
lead the congregation in prayer for the
civil magistrates and the salvation qf
the \'{orld they must lliJ up holy handS;
I believe that the chtirch has equated-
sound docttine only with theological
preciseness. It includes that, but that
does not exhaust what it mearis to be
sound in the .faith, or to be a man of
sound doctrine. Men may be gifted,
they may be knowledgeable, they may .
be able to count the angels on a pin..:
head, and split theological hairs .. But
that is not sufficient to.qualify or
them for the . gospel ministry. They
must also be of godly character; they ..
must be godly Jllell. .
Paul addresses the leadership of the
church, Elders (Bishops) and Deacons, '
in I Tim. 3 and Titus 1. These "qu31i-
ficationsn are not optional. Nor are apy
of them able to be omitted. There were
men wanting to be teachers who were
false teachers. They were troubling the
church. Paul says, "Listen, leaders have
to be godly men, men of certain charac-
ter, maturity, godliness. They have .to
manage well their own families, be
respectable, etc."
Officers must be examples to the
flock, I Tim. 4:12. That doesri't just
apply to Timothy or preachers. It
plies to all leaders, Elders, Deacons, and
any women who serve in particular .
ministries as described in I Tim. 5.
The point is that the success of the
depends upon .the character of
the church, which is the pillar and
ground of the tnith. If church is bad,
then the gosPel of truth is not going to
be preserved or proclaimed as it should.
The salvation of the world and inen is _,
at stake, I Tim. 4:11-16.
Christians continue to elect men as
Pastors and church officers who are ,
neither sound in . the faith nor godly in
character. Christians continue to. finan-
cially support churches which are no
mote pillars of the trUth than the man
in the moon. How ctare they take God.:s
money and it to thos_e mi.nistries.
How dare they lend support by the:lr .
attendance to those churches which are a
blight on the earth. No church is perfect
and no lea.der is perfect. But the bare
rninimuin. is a cominitment to sound
doctrine and godliness. Many Christians
continue to attend and support churches .
which th_e inspiration of
condone immorality and homosexuill-
ity, have no commitment to the .Scrlp"
Page 18 ----------------------------The Counsel of Chalcedon, July, 1988
tures as the Word of God, and condone
abortion, to say the least And yet,
these Christians continue to attend, to
support them with their money, and
thereby lend credibility to them in the
eyes of the world. There is no excuse e ~
fore God to support and sustain those
so-called churches. In Acts 19:9 Paul
withdrew from the synagogue when it
would not tolerate or submit to the sim-
ple truth of the Word of God. Chris-
tians will give an account before God
Almighty for failing to separate them-
selves from false churches and for the
harm they have done by continuing to
support them.
The Apostle Paul addresses leadership
and church government in I Tim. 2 and
3. Let me tell you that Church govern-
ment is vital to evangelism and mis-
sions. If we are electing leaders who are
not called, qualified, equipped of God,
then the whole world will suffer. It is
evangelism, foreign missions, salvation
that is at stake.
But let me say also, that the qualifica-
tions for officers are also the require-
ments of all men. In listing the qualifi-
cations Paul has said that the goal of
salvation is godliness for all men. He is
simply saying that those who have a
role of leadership must have attained to
a ~ v e l of godliness and holiness before
they can serve as a leader. But no man
is off the hook. Every man must pursue
godliness whether or not he pursues an
The Apostle Paul is saying that the
church must be godly. I plead with you
to hear the words of the Apostle Paul.
C. The Family
Paul says that the family must be
godly. There are many references to the
family, to men, women, youth, older
men and women, widows, individuals.
See I Tim. 3:4, 11, 12, 4:3, 12, 5:lff,
IT Tim. 1:5, 16-18, 3:1ff, Titus 1:11_,
Two things that are clear are that it is
the family and the church that is respon-
sible for providing for their own fami-
lies, and the education of children.
Paul never said to pray that the civil
magistrate will increase welfare checks.
The responsibility of providing for the
family is the family and the church.
The same thing is true of education
as well. Timothy was educated by his
mother and grandmother, II Tim. 1:5.
Christians must cease looking to the
state to provide for health, education
and welfare. They need to repent of it.
They must assume the responsibility
for education and welfare.
It is also clear that Paul recognizes a
distinction between male and female,
and husband and wife, I Tim. 2:9ff.
Men and women must submit their
masculinity and femininity to the Word
and will of God, recognizing their God-
given distinctions and roles.
Moreover, these books have implica-
tions for young men and women, boys
and girls. See I Tim. 2:9ff. and II Tim.
2:22. God does not excuse children
from the call to godly living. From a
youth Timothy knew the Holy Scrip-
tures which made him wise unto salva-
tion - the Cluistian life, a godly life, II
Tim. 3:15. And Timothy is set in con-
trast to the children who are described in
II Tim. 3: Iff. Let me tell you parents
to take seriously these things for your
children. Young people, if you don't
want adults looking down on your
youth then you be an example, I Tim.
4:12. But if you dress, talk, look, and
act like the world then don't expect your
parents or other adults to trust or to
treat you with confidence.
Again, we see how important the
family is in relation to the universal sal-
vation of God. Paul says in I Tim. 2:15
that women will be saved through bear-
ing children. There is a real sense in
which the salvation of the world began
with Eve's having babies and continues
even today through the home and
women bearing children. Timothy was
taught by his mother and grandmother,
II Tim. 1:5. And he became a teacher
and preacher of the Gospel, one who
was an instrument in the salvation of
others, I Tim. 4: 16.
Women must submit themselves to
God's Word and His will for their lives
as women who have a unique and dis-
tinct role in God's purposes. What is
your attitude toward marriage, toward a
career, toward having babies? You must
submit your will to God's as women
making a claim to godliness, claiming
to be Christians.
We need godly men, women, hus-
bands, wives, children. God is sancti-
fying all things through His Word and
Prayer, I Tim. 4:5, and He is saving the
world through people, families, and
churches. Here is, as William Law en-
titled his book, a serious call to a de-
vout and holy life! Here is a call to self-
examination and to repentance. Here is
a call to get right with God! Here is a
call to discipline yourself for the pur-
pose of godliness, I Tim. 4:7-8. And
Paul reminds us that it is for this that
we strive, I Tim. 4:10. We have flxed
our hope on the living God who is the
savior of all men, espeCially believers.
Have you flxed your hope on Him? Do
you claim to be a Christian? Then you
must be godly. D
The Counsel of Chalcedon, July, 1988 ----------------------------Page 19