SUPPOSING THAT GAIN IS GODLINESS (Part 2)
By John C. Carpenter
 
Continued from part 1...
 
THAT WHICH THOU HAST NOT ASKED
 
God's attitude toward seeking riches is also evident in the old testament. King Solomon prayed to God, And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked [nor lusted after], both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days (1 Ki 3:7-13). Because Solomon humbled himself before God, and asked for understanding and judgment, rather than riches, long life, or victory over enemies, God gave Solomon wisdom, an understanding heart, and made Solomon materially rich. God gave Solomon what Solomon did not want. Interestingly, as long as we lust after something for ourselves, God does often not give it; but when we have given up and forsaken that lust, God then often gives what we no longer truly want. The point of this illustration is that God wants us to desire righteousness, and to love and seek Him, rather than pursue worldly things and riches. God simply wants to come first with us, He wants to be more important than these worldly things. Did not Christ explain, the last [those who humble themselves and place Christ and others first] shall be first [most important to God], and the first [self-centered individual] last [least important]: for many be called, but few chosen (Mat 20:16). God often gives us what we do not ask for nor lust after.
 
FLEE THESE THINGS
 
The apostle Paul warned Timothy, and us, that those who teach "otherwise" from what Paul taught, and who "suppose that gain is Godliness," are teaching and preaching in error. Paul not only instructed believers several times as to how they were to respond to false teachers, but how to respond to those that are rich. Initially, Paul told believers regardingmen of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw [remove, depart] thyself (1 Tim 6:5). Second, Paul instructed, But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness (1 Tim 6:11). The word flee is the Greek word "Pheugo," which means "to run away from, or escape." "These things" in this verse refer to false teachings, as well as false teachers. True believers in Christ are simply to flee, or run away from, false teachings and false teachers, and then seek righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness. Third, Paul tells true believers to Fight the good fight of faith, [and] lay hold on [pursue those things which lead to] eternal life [as opposed to worldly gain], whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses (1 Tim 6:12). Fourth, Paul tells true believers to keep [hold fast to] this commandment [authoritative prescription] without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim 6:14). Regarding those that are already rich, Paul says, Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (1 Tim 6:17-19). Laying hold on eternal life refers to pursuing those things which lead to eternal life. The true Christian should not become entangled with false teachers and prophets who focus on riches. Referring to false individuals in the early Christian church, the apostle John valuably warned believers in Christ,Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test, examine] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). Beloved, if your pastor or minister focuses on the pursuit of riches, he or she is teaching error, and you, for the sake of your eternal destiny, should closely, scripturally, and prayerfully examine his or her teachings and spirit. If your pastor or minister is teaching in error, you should do as Paul instructed, "withdraw yourself and flee these things."
 
GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT
 
Paul finally said, ...godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6). In this verse, Paul told Timothy, and us, what kind of gain God truly desires in those who love Him: Godliness with contentment. Certainly, God does occasionally make some rich, but material gain, prosperity, and financial riches are not God's priority or deepest desire for those who love Him. God the Father most wants those who love Him to be godly. When we talk about godliness, there are three things which should be discussed: the definition of godliness, how godliness is achieved, and last, the reward of godliness. First, in the New Testament, the word "godliness" is technically defined as "piously, reverently, in the gospel scheme, holiness" (1 Tim 6:6, 2 Tim 3:12, Titus 2:12, 2 Pet 2:9, and 1 Tim 2:2). Godliness is defined as reverence for God, or holiness. Godliness might also indirectly be defined as "being like God," and if being like God is what Christians should be like, we must ask "what is God like?" The Scriptures tell us, He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (1 John 4:8). If believers are to be godly, and God is loving, believers should also be loving. This is consistent with Jesus' words, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35). Those who are Godly reverence God and Christ, and love one another. Second, individuals reverence God and become holy by believing the gospel, or good news, which is For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). The apostle Timothy tells us ...great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory (1 Tim 3:16). An individual becomes godly, or holy, when he or she understands and believes that God was manifested in the flesh [in the form of Christ], justified in the Holy Spirit, seen by angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on by the world, and received up into glory. In the introduction of his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul referred to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after [about, pertaining to] godliness (Titus 1:1). In these words, it becomes clear that faith and acknowledging of the truth result in godliness. So, what is the truth? Speaking to a Jewish crowd, Jesus said, Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth (John 5:33), while John the Baptist later said,And I saw, and bare record that this [Jesus] is the Son of God (John 1:34). The "truth" referred to here is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we believe this, in God's view, we become godly, or holy. In addressing the five Roman provinces in Asia Minor, the apostle Peter echoed this concept by saying, Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain untolife and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue (2 Pet 1:1-3). Godliness is the result of believing in and having "knowledge of" God the Father and Christ the Son. Paul teaches But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept (1 Cor 15:20), while Christ also says, I am the vine, ye [who believe in me] are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5). Paul adds For if the firstfruit [Christ] be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches [believers] (Rom 11:16). Those who believe in and abide in Christ are considered holy because they are attached to the firstfruit [Christ], or root, which is holy. Clearly, godliness is the result when we reverence God, believe that in the city of David a savior, Christ the Lord, was born, have a knowledge of Christ, and are attached to Him who is the root. Third, we should mention the reward of godliness, or holiness. Holy Scriptures teach that the LORD hath set apart [distinguished, separated, severed] him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him (Psa 4:3). God has already spiritually separated holy believers from unholy unbelievers, but in the judgment at the end of the world, God will also physically [Matt 25:32] separate believers from unbelievers. Additionally, the apostle Paul told Timothy, For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come (1 Tim 4:8). Godliness not only provides promise for our current life, but the promise of eternal life to come. Referring to those who believe in Christ, Paul also instructs, But now being made free from sin [and its' consequence of death], and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin [unholiness] is death; but [because you believe in Christ and are therefore holy] the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 6:22-23). The most significant reward of godliness, or holiness, is everlasting life. In God's view, godliness must be coupled with contentment. Scriptures not only instruct us that we should be contented with our wages (Luke 3:14), but we also know that Paul said,Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Phil 4:11). However, when Paul said, "But godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6), what did he mean here by "contentment?" What are Christians to be contented with? Paul answers this question in the next two verses by saying, For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1 Tim 6:7-8). We are to be contented with the necessities of life, such as food and raiment. In totality, Paul is saying that godly faith in Christ, coupled with being content with the basic needs of life such as food and clothing, is great gain. Paul went on to further explain that when we are not contented with the basics of life, when we want to be rich, we will fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition (1 Tim 6:9). Those of us who have inappropriately lusted after riches well know the temptations, snares, and hurtful lusts this lusting can bring, but this pain was and is not what God intends for those who truly love Him. True followers of Jesus Christ are simply to desire and seek godliness, as well as contentment with the basic necessities of life.
 
RICH TOWARD GOD
 
A greedy man eager for gain approached Jesus and said, ...Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me (Luke 12:13). The Lord responded, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? ...Take heed, and beware [be on guard, keep one's self from] of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things [material needs] shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Luke 12:14-34). In these verses, Christ initially warns against coveting since a man's life consists not in the things that he possesses. Christ next makes the point that we could die at any moment in time, and that when we do, our worldly treasures will then belong to someone else. Christ clearly said that the individual who seeks worldly treasures and riches rather than the eternal riches of God is a "fool." Despite the fact that some in the Christian church suggest that great faith leads to great material riches, Christ in these verses said that those who seek material riches have "little faith." He instructs us to seek the kingdom of God first, and then promises that when we do that, God will meet our daily needs. The Lord finally instructs us to sell whatever we have, give alms to those in need, and seek heavenly treasures that fail not. God does not want believers lusting after either the necessities of life or riches. He wants us to be rich toward Him, to have a full and loving relationship with our Heavenly Father. Paul touched on the importance and value of knowing God by referring to the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!... (Rom 11:33). Elsewhere, Christ explains how Christians can obtain true gain when He says For whosoever will save, his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose [destroy fully] his life for my sake shall [gain, protect, preserve] find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mat 16:25-26). Gaining one's life causes one to lose it, while gaining the whole world causes one to lose his own soul. This verse teaches a basic and inescapable principle: Christian life is not about gaining, it is about losing [giving], and losing always precedes gaining. This principle is seen most clearly regarding God the Father's love. Speaking and prophesying about himself, Christ said, For God so loved the world, that he gave [lost] his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have [gain] everlasting life (John 3:16). Because God loved, He gave, and He gave [lost] that believers in Christ might gain. Christ specifically instructed us, It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). The apostle John also echoed this principle, and explained the desired response of the true Christian, when he said, Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down [lose, give] our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16). Paul told us the true riches God wants believers to have when he referred to ...the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints (Eph 1:18). It's not gain, but giving and losing, and the riches of the glory of our inheritance, that Christianity is all about. When an individual becomes godly through faith in Jesus Christ, loves Christ and his fellow human beings as a result of that faith, gives his life in service to the brethren, and is contented with the basic necessities of life, as the apostle Paul says, this godliness with contentment is great gain. AMEN.
 
 
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
 
"If any of you
lack wisdom,
let him ask of
God, that giveth
to all men liberally, and upbraideth
not; and it shall
be given him"
(James 1:5)


 
"Go to now, ye
that say, To day
or to morrow we
will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and
buy and sell,
and get gain: Whereas ye know not what
shall be on the morrow. For what
is your life? It is
even a vapour,
that appeareth
for a little time,
and then vanisheth away.  For that
ye ought to say,
If the Lord will,
we shall live, and
do this, or that"
(James 4:13-15).
 
"Man is like
to vanity: his
days are as a
shadow that
passeth away"
(Psa 144:4).

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