We continue our look into the mystery of godliness in two more posts. This post will look mainly at 1 Timothy 6:3 which discusses “the doctrine conforming to godliness.” That word “doctrine” confuses many, it is worth spending some time here. Next week we look at the power of godliness that some deny.
The doctrine… why that word? At its most basic, we could understand “doctrine” simply as “teachings.” The teachings of our LORD, of His apostles, of the prophets. (See Ephesians 2:20). The Scriptures, and the ways they are taught in the Church.
The epistles describe teachers, elders, and older men and women, and even young men firmly grounded in the faith (Timothy, for example) as responsible for passing on these doctrines. We know from Deuteronomy that families are meant to feast on these doctrines together as well. We also know that Timothy was well grounded because of his mom and grandma who passed on their faith.
In the Church, people are to be conversing about these things, encouraging one another with these things, able to teach and admonish one another with these doctrines.
Doctrine And Godliness
Let us look at a few uses of doctrine and godliness to learn what the Spirit would have us understand concerning this word, keeping in mind that a full understanding will come from the whole of Scripture, not just these verses:
TItus 1:1-3 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, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior.
Titus 2:1 Speak the things that are fitting for sound doctrine…
1 Timothy 4:6-8 …you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Knowing truth according to godliness; or knowing truth now that we are remade in His image and are being conformed to the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit heals us of the noetic effects of the Fall–a fancy theological term encompassing the way our rationality is impacted by the Fall, think Romans 1.
But now, in Christ, we are renewed by the Holy Spirit to a true knowledge– a knowledge of God, of His creation, of His redemptive purposes and plans, of His people, of my self, of my circumstances, of His Word. We are capable of learning now that He has lifted the veil, and we are life long learners.
Godliness means we delight to know Him, a true knowledge that we no longer actively suppress.
We not only love the one true Triune God with all our heart, soul and might; we also do all that we do from that love. “Faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6). As my pastor frequently says: orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy. That is to say: we know truth, and cannot ever separate that from our actions. Our theology leads to works of faith and labors of love (see here).
Theology ushers us into doxology. We will, if we know Him, have actions flowing from a heart full of the knowledge of God–godliness flowing out of our hearts, hearts that He has filled (Romans 5:1-5).
We believe what He has made known, what God has revealed of Himself; and as the true Church we corporately are the “pillar and support of the truth.” This knowledge of the truth, this whole-person-knowing of God must guide and direct all of our interactions with one another and with the world.
So take time to ponder, especially as we near Easter: How did Jesus relate to the Father? What was His obedience like? Jesus told us He was going to “My God, and your God, My Father and your Father,” do we easily think and act out of this identity, as adopted, claiming to know my God and my Father?
Jesus says He did not do or say anything on His own, but as the Father told Him; do we too relate to Him humbly, cheerfully, completely, ears wide open? Humbly and yet boldly, fully assured of God’s love and mercy, and that He is listening to our every thought and prayer? Is this not what the Holy Spirit empowers us to desire and to do?
No christian is able to fully know (we see dimly), or to fully explain what he knows (though we can explain much of what we know!) A large part of the mystery of godliness is trusting, the way the Son displayed trust in the Father.