By T.M. Anderson
"Giving all diligence, add to your faith ... godliness."
Godliness means piety, devotion to God, worship, godlikeness in deportment. The latter meaning of the word includes all other uses of it. To be godly is to be Godlike -- Godlike in character and deportment. The sanctified must never lose sight of the fact that they are to be like God. Their conduct must be ordered so as never to be a discredit to this calling.
Let us first reconsider some facts relative to the work of holiness, that we may better understand the meaning of the practice of holiness. A man is not incapacitated to be like God morally and spiritually. The very facts of his creation show this to be true. God made man in His own moral image in the beginning. The entrance of sin and the fall of man did not incapacitate the race from ever becoming, in the new creation in Christ, like God. "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." God predetermined character for redeemed man. That character was to be like the Son. Now likeness to God does not mean equality. No human being can be equal to God in that he possesses His attributes. But likeness does mean a likeness to Him in holiness. He is sinless; so also are His people sinless. If He is holy, so also are they holy who are to be with Him, and behold His glory.
That which a holy people show in godliness is a manifestation of their nature, exactly as God manifests His nature. God has no moral qualities and virtues which cannot be duplicated in a holy man. We know God is what He is because of what He does. We know a man is what he is, whether holy or unholy, by what he does. To be godlike in deeds and actions, will and purposes, is the proof of holiness. But the fact of holiness is demonstrated by the life one lives. Yet the duty of a sanctified man is not to prove that he is holy any more than it is the duty of a man to prove he is alive. If he lives, all know it who see him; his task is to be living for something. If a man is pure, all will see it without his proving it to them. The one task of such a man is to be holy for a purpose. A holy person is to mean something to the world of mankind, and to the God he serves. What the world needs is not a laboratory proof of piety, but a living, everyday, practical use of it. Hence godliness is to be added to faith as a necessary working principle.
Godliness added to faith.
Godliness is added to faith in the practical demonstration of all Christian virtues. It is the bringing of these virtues into use in everyday life. It is acting and being godlike.
Forgiveness is one of these traits of godlikeness. We are to have the spirit of forgiveness even as Christ possessed it. Demands will be made upon this moral trait, even as they were made upon the compassion of our Lord.
The sanctified must be ever ready to forgive any offense, either against them or against the Church or against God. This spirit of forgiveness must work easily, readily, and without effort, no matter what the offense may be, nor how often it has been committed. If a brother be so fickle as to sin against us seventy times in a day, at the seventieth offense we must as readily and frankly forgive as at the first. Such must be this virtue in quality that one will not even be gratified when the erring brother or sister must confess his or her sin. He does not feel like saying, "I told you so."
Such compassion and pity possess him that he can feel no pleasure in the other's humiliation. Such a spirit of forgiveness would not desire the confession as a condition if it were not for the good of the offender. The contrition of an offending brother affords no pleasure to a holy man to boast in.
That godliness, as manifested in the spirit of forgiveness, is in much demand in the daily life of the sanctified, none can gainsay. The personal safety of every holy person depends on this trait of character being supplied to his faith.
Sanctification does not render anyone immune to insult. It does not destroy the sensibilities of the soul so that it does not feel hurt when one is wronged. A holy God can be insulted. He can be hurt and grieved. For one who is sanctified to feel the sting of slander is not carnal. Yet such a one must keep this from injuring him by the constant flow of the heart stream of forgiveness. If any have grounds of complaint against another, he is to forgive even as Christ hath forgiven him. Hot tears may fall as a result of the wounded feelings, but the sweet spirit of forgiveness looks up to God while the pain is the severest and prays, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." This is godliness added to faith.
So delicate are the relations between a holy God and a holy man that these relations may be severed by overlooking the practice of godliness in forgiveness. This may seem exaggerated; nevertheless, it is true. Worship is forbidden to those who bring their gift to the altar and remember their brother hath ought against them. They must leave the gift and be reconciled before God will accept their worship. The shortest route to a backslider's grave is to fail to be godlike and forgive. The want of this practical virtue will close the heavens against prayer, and hide the face of God from the soul. "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall," say the Scriptures. Give diligence to be godly. Supplying faith with this holy trait will make the calling and election sure.
Forbearance is another mark of godliness which must be added to faith. This grace in the sanctified must be coupled with that of forgiveness. By forbearance is meant that grace of a holy heart which endures and forbears with the infirmities and faults of others. The difference between forgiveness and forbearance is this: Forgiveness grants a clean record to all persons who sin against us willfully or otherwise. Forbearance is that which bears with others who do things that hurt us, or injure the Church, because they do not know any better. They do these things for want of understanding in spiritual things.
If God required a hundred per cent efficiency in our service, who among the saints could measure up? Not one. No matter how holy these may be, they are not perfect in understanding; neither are they without infirmities. God forbears with His people in many things that they do which are not up to the perfect standard, because they did the best they could. They knew no more to do. They had no better sense. The same godlike attitude must be taken by all holy persons toward one another. Forgive one another's debts when there is nothing with which to pay.
Some zealous persons become very narrow in their religious life. They become very negative in that they restrict themselves in dress and social relations almost to the point of fanaticism. This is done in ignorance, and not because of sin. They are to be borne with until they have time to get over their misconception. Let all others be careful not to flay them and criticize them. Rather, forbear with them. Some are naturally, or so it seems, weak in faith. It is so hard for them to get established! They become chronic doubters and constant seekers. Many of this class live on their emotions too much. When they are depressed they are down. They constitute a trial to all the established saints. If a class among us needs to have forbearance, these do. To support the weak becomes the life of holiness. To patiently forbear with them is godliness. The value of practical godliness in this respect cannot be overestimated. There passes not a day but that a sanctified person finds need of this virtue. The spiritual blindness of those around us could cause us no end of trouble if this grace to forbear with them were not at hand.
Even ministers can lose control of themselves, and denounce the wicked, and club the saints in a manner unbecoming of holiness, because they fail patiently to forbear with such persons. What we may clearly see may not be seen by others to whom we minister. To so presume, and become combative, and vehement, and denunciatory, is a grave error of mind. To forbear with them, and wait on God to convince and convict, is the better way. This will display godliness.
Godliness is added to faith by maintaining unity.
"Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Mark you the word "endeavouring." Note the personal responsibility that rests upon a Spirit-filled and Spirit-sealed people. This will be walking worthy of the vocation to which they are called. "In all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love."
The lack of unity among the believers may not be due to carnality in every instance. It may be caused by a lack of endeavor to preserve the unity of the whole body at the cost and sacrifice of the opinions and ambitions of the individual. There is a holy endeavor to be put forth by all holy persons to preserve this unity at any sacrifice.
Holiness does not make all persons see exactly alike. It does not guarantee against a difference of opinions, nor a conflict of wills. Matters that relate to the interest of the church may be viewed from various viewpoints. The general interests of all cover a vast scope. One person may not see the whole thing at once. Such a one may have plans and motives that are pure, yet impractical. Such situations often arise where these conditions prevail. A display of real godliness that is beautiful is shown when one can table his plans, take defeat gracefully and sweetly, waive all rights in favor of the common good of all The good of the whole unit is always to be sought. It is always above the private rights of any individual. Let none insist on having his way or say. Clamor is to be laid aside as being inconsistent with true holiness.
It is a display of godliness when one can back out, withdraw with love and grace, and feel sweet about it. To be headstrong is not the best way to add godliness. A sanctified will is a strong will, but not too strong to bend without breaking. Proper tempering by holy fire will result in a yielding will, which does not crumble and break when it must bow in humble deference to the wills of others.
Godliness is exemplified by those who are easily entreated. They can be moved from their position, and adapt themselves to other ways which make for the highest interest of all concerned.
There is no problem of the church that cannot be solved if this godlike endeavor is practiced by all. A division in the body of believers would be utterly impossible under such practice of godliness. We read of the Early Church that the "multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common." Here is unity. A multitude as one person. Every opinion, every ambition, every will, merged into the unit.
Godliness is added to faith by each esteeming others better than themselves.
"Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." It was this esteeming others better than himself that resulted in the sacrifice of Christ for the world's redemption. To seek the welfare of others, rather than seek your own interests, is to be like the Christ. He could have appeared in His glory, rather than empty himself, and be made of no reputation. But He thought it not the thing to be seized as the prize to appear in His glory. If He had done so, he would have dazzled and bewildered the world with His splendor, but He could not have saved them from sin. But to save others, himself he could not save. He esteemed others better than himself. This is the mind of Christ which is to be in every holy man. To carry out this into practice is the very essence of godliness.
Every sanctified person has certain rights. It is proper and fit that these rights should be recognized by all But not all persons recognize these rights and privileges. They trample on our feelings. They ignore our claims; they even fail to appreciate our talents. To be godlike let the sanctified feel that in the helping of others their own rights are not to be considered. To help others often means to sacrifice the feelings to be trampled upon. A holy person is willing to be a "nobody" if it will help another. If it would help another for such to eat 110 meat, then eat no more meat as long as you live. Do this in the spirit in which Paul did it, and not in any sense to cater to religious fanatics. Extremes are to be avoided. Jesus would not do some things merely to meet the demands of cranks in ritualism.
But there are many sacrifices which can be made that will result in helping others, which it is a show of godliness to make. The extra miles can be gone; it will be godlike to go. The other cheek can be turned; the results will compensate for the pain. The cup of sacrifice for others must be emptied by those who would do the will of God. The contents of that cup are made up of the home, the family, the comforts of life, the needs of the body, the name and the reputation, the feelings and the affections. All these are sacrificed in behalf of the happiness of others. The good of others comes first before the personal interest, comforts, and pleasure of your own, even though all be yours by right. A holy man is willing to be unnoticed, unappreciated, unrecognized, if it will redound to the salvation of others.
Godliness is sacrificial in behalf of both God and mankind. That is not godliness that gives up sinful things. It is godliness to give up what is rightfully ours, things which we could have and enjoy, and yet get to heaven. But if sacrificed for the sake of others it is godlikeness. By our doing this, godliness is added to faith; the life is enriched; and the whole work of God prospers.