Uphold the Mystery of Godliness
Open Your Bible
1 Timothy 3:1-16, Ezekiel 36:26-27, 1 Peter 1:3-16
BY Yana Conner
Apostasy is on the rise. Just about every month, the news of an influential person in Christendom falling away from the faith goes viral. To see so many men and women whose ministry I’ve benefited from denouncing Jesus Christ has been jarring. At times, I find myself feeling like one of the disciples in the upper room after Jesus announced, “one of you will betray me” (John 13:21), asking, “Lord, is it me?”
This uncertainty has gained traction as the virus of apostasy hits closer to home. I’ve gotten text messages from friends and had countless cups of coffee with brothers and sisters in Christ wrestling with their faith. In all of these conversations, the common denominator is their disillusionment with the Church. They’ve found it challenging to trust Christ when His Church often appears untrustworthy, lacking godliness, sincere faith, and love. And like God, they have become fed up with the lukewarm Christianity they have witnessed, online and in-person, and spat it out (Revelation 3:16).
The letter Paul writes to Timothy could easily be written to any pastor today. In Paul’s context and ours, people are falling away, and false teaching is rampant. Knowing the difficulty of exhibiting godliness in this kind of environment, Paul calls for elders and deacons to exhibit godliness in their leadership and charges Timothy to pursue, teach, and value it above all earthly gain.
The commitment to godliness Paul calls Timothy and church leaders to is not innate to humans. Instead, we are innately spiritually dead, committed to our comforts, desires, pocketbooks, and reputations. Only the spirit of God can resuscitate us, removing our stony self-centered hearts and replacing them with a God-centered heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26–27 makes it clear, the remedy for ungodliness does not reside within us but Christ. He is both our example of and means to a life of godliness.
However, this life of godliness isn’t just for ourselves. It’s also for others. Sure, you made a personal decision to follow Christ. But the moment you said yes, you were transplanted into the household of God with many brothers, sisters, and onlookers, making your relationship with God communal and missional. Because of this, how we live with others matters.
Paul confirms the significance of our conduct by concluding his requirements of elder and deacon, adding that they must have a good reputation among unbelievers. Now, we know Paul is not calling for compromise. Instead, he calls for uncompromising godly conduct that doesn’t cause people to distrust Christ and His bride.
Sound doctrine coupled with sound conduct is the key to our ability to proclaim Christ boldly. When the two are aligned, we partner with God to make the mystery of godliness—Christ—known.