St. Paul told Timothy: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timo 4:7-8) However, there are some people who believe that they are justified and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God (1 Cor 6:11), and hence do not need such training. St. Paul warned Timothy to avoid such people because they have religion in their creed, but none in their hearts (2 Timo 3:5). So should Christians train themselves to be godly with the grace of God to His glory or just stick to their earthly ways and expect God to do all the work?
Let us take a look at what Jesus said in the Gospels. In Matt 5:16 Jesus said: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” We learn here that Christianity cannot be concealed; where it is not manifested in the life of Christians, it does not exist. In John 15:8 Jesus said: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” The design and intent of Christianity is to excite men to do much good, and to call forth all their strength, and time, and talents in the work for which the Saviour laid down his life. No true disciple should take comfort in the belief that he is a Christian who does not aim to do much good, or who does not devote to God all that he has in an honest effort to glorify his name. The apostles obeyed this command of their Lord and Saviour, and went forth preaching the gospel everywhere, striving to bring all men to the knowledge of the truth. It is in this spirit only, manifested in a proper manner, which can constitute any certain evidence of godliness.
Let us now turn to the writings of the apostle Paul. St. Paul said: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:24-27) Paul was telling the Corinthians faith demands self-sacrifice and discipline, and all Christians should live to please God rather than strive for earthly pleasures and rewards.
St. Paul’s ultimate goal was to win the approval of Christ. As Paul’s death was quickly approaching, he had these words for his assistant Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim 4:7-8). St. Paul finished his course well because he kept his eyes fixed on the prize. He realized that living for God’s approval was all that mattered.
It is easy to fall from God’s grace; hence we should not be complacent. Doing the minimum isn’t good enough. We must continually seek God’s grace, continually respond to the graces God provides us, and do good. This is what St. Paul discusses when he instructs us: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain” (Phil 2:12–16).
In contrast to the way of the world, we are to pursue the higher and nobler path. The apostle Paul said: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:8-9) He told the Romans: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Roma 14:17-19) St. Paul told his assistant Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)
St. Peter wrote in his first epistle: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Pet 2:12)… “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (1 Pet 2:15)
In conclusion, we can see that the teachings of Jesus and the apostles Peter and Paul are consistent; we are called to train ourselves to godliness with the grace of God. We must make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with God when He returns (2 Pet 3:14). May we strive more each day to respond to the call of God who had chosen us so that by pursuing godliness with His grace we may forever be united with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in His eternal kingdom (2 Pet 1:10-11).