Godly living is simply God, through Jesus Christ, manifesting himself in the believer through many resurrection events.
The mystery of life coming out of death is everywhere present in the created world. It is illustrated when the new morning comes forth out of the night. It is there when the spring breaks into view after winter. This mystery of life is also revealed when flowers bud following the planting of their seeds. It is there with the experience of love, the true essence of all life, occurs when individuals’ rights are sacrificed. It is this life coming out of death that produces godly living. One of the early followers of Jesus simply stated,
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:15-16).
Jesus spoke of this mystery of life, the mystery of godly living, when he said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). Peter, often the spokesman for the original followers of Jesus, wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” (1 Pet. 1:3).
Godly living is based soley on resurrection events in the life of the believer.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ not only serves as the perfect example of the mystery of life coming out of death but also by his death and resurrection became the means by which all men can go through similar resurrection events. The resurrection of the body to experience the newness of life within the vessel is crucial to what it means to be Christian (2 Cor. 4:7). God has begotten his world in a continual living hope by bringing resurrection life out of death.
It is this resurrection of the physical body to newness of life that is the distinguishing mark that separates Christianity from all other belief systems. Many people in the world believe in some form of the reincarnation of the soul. Many Christians even believe that the soul is trapped within the body and ultimate salvation occurs only when the soul is finally set free from the body. The basic tenets of Biblical Christianity, however, declare that the body was created by God to house the essence of life and will go through numerous resurrection events to continually bring forth the newness of that life. It is how the created world experiences godly living.
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:10-11).
In this letter to the Corinthians, Paul would add,
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
Finally, the believers in Corinth were told,
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved [influence-loosened], we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life (2 Cor. 5:1-4).
Godly living occurs when the life of God overpowers the influence of the physical body.
Peter also spoke of this mystery of our physical body being overpowered by the resurrection life of God:
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature . . . (2 Pet. 1:3-4).
The believer in every generation has not only the promise of experiencing resurrection life in his “mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11), but also has been told of the process by which it happens. After Peter had stated to the first readers of his second letter “that they have obtained like precious faith” as himself, he wrote “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” Then, he stated that this grace and peace would come unto them “according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.”
Peter, in turn, stated that this “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” would come “through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” He added that this knowledge of Jesus Christ would be the means by which believers would be given “exceeding great and precious promises: that by these [the promises] [the believers] would be partakers of the divine nature.” They can experience the fullness of the life of God because they “have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Finally, Peter wrote of the process, the way, of which it occurs,
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (2 Pet. 1:1-7).
Godly living is ultimately manifested in loving and being loved.
Notice, the end of this process of which all believers have been called is nothing more or nothing less than to experience charity, love in action. This charity (the perfection or completeness of the believer) is to love and to be loved in interactions with others by his divine power. Peter added, “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8).
The way to this ultimate fulfillment, according to Peter, is that the believer is to be eager (diligence) to let faith fully supply (add) excellent valor (virtue) of which will come knowledge. In turn, this knowing will enable the believer to stay under control (temperance) thereby producing a cheerful endurance (patience). This cheerful endurance will allow a pious behavior (godliness) to be produced in the life of the believer by the Holy Spirit. Out of this Spirit-produced godliness will come brotherly kindness which will, in turn, energize a benevolent affection (charity). Again, Peter wrote that if this way (from faith to virtue, from virtue to knowledge, from knowledge to temperance, from temperance to patience, from patience to brotherly kindness, from brotherly kindness to charity) is experienced, the believer “shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Peter would go on to write, “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” He is actually revealing why most people struggle in the simple living of life. It seems that they are always under pressure, with its consequential stress, to keep making right decisions. Easily forgetting that somehow they made it through the past days, months, and even years of their lives, they find they are often filled with distress, despair, a sense of being forsaken, and a fear of being destroyed.
Godly living is always produced in the way of life.
Instead of being “bind and cannot see a far off, Peter encouraged the first readers of his letter: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” Then, Peter makes a statement that has largely been overlooked in Christianity today. It is the reason why this book is being written. After stating that believers could actually live life and never fall, “if ye do these things,” he wrote, “For so an entrance [a road; by implication a progress] shall be ministered [fully supply] unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:9-11). He is actually revealing the way, “an entrance,” into the kingdom of God. He is revealing how to experience the nearness of Christ in daily living. He is revealing how to experience godly living.
Peter is not the only New Testament writer that reveals the way by which resurrection life, godly living, is experienced. Paul and James also specify the process by which man moves through the mystery of life coming out of death. Paul wrote,
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Rom. 5:1-5).
Before Paul enumerated his understanding of the path through which the believer experiences the risen Christ in his physical body, he first stated,
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
With the word justified meaning, “to render (that is, show or regard as) just or innocent,” the question needs to be raised: “Just where or when does the believer experience this being just or innocent?” Is it solely based upon the belief of what Jesus did on the cross over 2,000 years ago? Or, does it have something to do with what is currently being experienced by the believer?
According to Paul, a believer is to manifest faith when he is “troubled on every side . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . cast down.” (2 Cor. 4:8-14). In fact, Paul stated, in essence, that if the believer believes that Jesus was raised from the death by the heavenly Father should not he also believe that God will raise him up from the troubles, the perplexities, the persecutions, and the put downs (2 Cor. 4:14). This is, in all reality, how the believer experiences peace in the time of the storm. Resting in the knowledge that God always brings the morning after the night, the believer in the innocence of his mind has “access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). He is justified by faith.
Understanding this process, Paul would then say,
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Rom. 5:3-5).
Notice, the comparison of Peter and Paul in each of their listing of the path to the ultimate experience of believers:
This way to be “partakers of the diving nature” according to Peter and the way of having “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” according to Paul is also mirrored in the writings of James. He wrote,
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4).
James added, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12). The authors of over half of the New Testament, Peter, Paul, and James, amply emphasized the importance of knowing the way of life for all the living created world. From being partakers in the divine nature (Peter) to having the love of God bestowed in our hearts (Paul) to receiving the crown of life (James), God is in control of the process that brings man to where he needs to be. God produces godly living in all believers who “endureth temptation.”
Jesus simply summarized this way as, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). The emphasis of Jesus was not in the afterlife of the world to come but in this life and in this world. He taught the profound truth of the way that all men can experience the heavenly life in this earthly existence. He said. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Again, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ not only serves as the perfect example of the mystery of life coming out of death but also by his death and resurrection became the means by which all men can go through similar resurrection events. It is the way of life for all living creatures. It is the way to godly living.
Godly living in the life of the early believers made them to become known as the people of the way.
It is interesting to note that it is not until the thirteenth chapter of the book of Acts that the early followers of Jesus were called Christians. Those who believed in Jesus did not identify themselves as Christians. They were labeled Christians by non-believers who wanted to make a distinction between those who followed Caesar and those who followed Christ. Prior to the thirteenth chapter of Acts, the early followers of Jesus seem to be known as the people of the way. As previously stated, they recognized that the death and resurrection of Jesus was crucial to their belief, but they soon begin to realize that their life experiences were actually mirroring the resurrection event of Jesus.
In the book of Acts, the term way is found twenty-one times of which nine of those references seem to imply something more than just a direction down a road. For example, it was said of Saul that he “desired of [the High Priest] letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (emphasis is added here and in all of the following quotations) (Acts 9:2). It was also said of Apollos, “this man was instructed in the way of the Lord . . .” (Acts 18:25). Paul, in his defense before Felix, the governor, said, “. . . this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets” (Acts 24:14). Aquila and Priscilla, after hearing Apollos speak, “. . . took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26). When Paul was in Macedonia, a young lady, possessed with a spirit of divination, who was following Paul cried out saying, “these men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17).
In addition, in the gospel this way is also emphasized. Matthew recorded,
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight (Matt. 3:1-3).
It seems that John’s baptism in water, the repentant taken down into the water to be raised, would serve as a vivid example of the way the followers of Jesus would be taken down to be raised to newness of life in a baptism by the Holy Spirit (a resurrection event).
Godly living is the results of experiencing the way of a resurrection event.
Peter expressed the fundamentals of this resurrection event when he wrote,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:3-5).
Peter began by stating “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope.” He would soon admonish them again concerning hope: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). Why were they to be thankful for a “lively hope” and then be encouraged to “hope to the end?”
The answer to those questions lie in another question, “To the end of what?” Those early believers needed hope because they were currently “for a season, if need be . . . in heaviness through manifold temptations” (1 Pet. 1:6). Even in this “trial of [their] faith” (1 Pet. 1:7) they could “greatly rejoice” (1 Pet. 1:6) because they were being “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3). Regardless of how dark the night or severe the persecution, there will come a moment of time when the night will be over, the pressure is lightened, and the morning rays begin to shine. Resurrection events are the reality of every human being.
Jesus came into this world to ultimately reveal the way of life in his death and resurrection. He not only showed the way, but became the way that believers might also experience the many resurrection events in their lives. After his death and resurrection, he told the early disciples to not leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 2:1-38). He knew that they would need this power in their lives to overwhelm their mind to not resist what God was doing in the circumstances of their lives. For after all, it is these many baptisms in the Holy Spirit, these many resurrection events, that enable believers to experience the nearness of Christ in their lives. It enpowers the believers to experience godly living.
Peter summarized the process of these resurrection events that enables the power of God to bring all believers to the end for which they are called:
. . . Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Pet. 5:5-11).
We have been called to experience “his eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” All believers are called to this “glory and virtue” (1 Pet. 1:3). The essence of experiencing the life that every man desires is simply about Jesus, and the people of the way. It is simply how to experience godly living.