“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof….”
–2 Timothy 3:5
If we understand this scripture correctly, godliness (piety, right living) has two phases or parts. One is external and visible, and is called the form of godliness; the other is internal and invisible, and is called the power of godliness. We are admonished by the Apostle that there will be some in the last days who will have a form of godliness, but who in fact will be empty of the power of godliness. From such we are instructed to turn away, or, in other words, avoid.
Apparently, the form of godliness can be imitated and manufactured. It is like a glove that reveals the shape of the human hand, even when the hand is removed or withdrawn from it. However, just as the glove without the hand has no power or ability to function, so is the person who merely possesses the form of godliness without the power of godliness.
Such people look like Apostolics, act like Apostolics, and even go through the motions of worship like Apostolics. Yet there is an emptiness to their praise, and their testimony is hollow. Their witness is weak and ineffective. They are spiritually tepid. They have a form of godliness but they lack its power.
We are living in an age where an alarming number of so-called Apostolics are content with merely the form of godliness without also possessing the power of godliness. The great danger in this is that it takes the true power of godliness to maintain a viable walk with God. But because we have had such a heavy emphasis on “externals,” many of our modern Apostolics feel more secure around someone who has a “good standard” than they do around someone who has a “good spirit.”
We are truly living in perilous times. Some of the most godly-looking people have proven to be quite empty of true godliness. The power of godliness works within the lives of those who possess it and creates the form of godliness in them. Those who have the form of godliness but do not have the power of godliness have either imitated those who do have it or have retained the form of godliness from a time in their lives when they actually did possess the power thereof.
It is frightening to consider the amount of spiritual “con artists” that are thriving in the Apostolic ranks these days. Where is our spiritual discernment? Where is the prophet who will rise and rebuke the pretenders and the play-actors? We must have more than merely a form of godliness! And we must avoid those who only possess a form of godliness. How could anyone who truly possessed the power of godliness be comfortable around someone who merely had a form of godliness?
Sometimes our preaching has emphasized adherence to a standard to the exclusion of receiving an understanding of the true nature of God. We often judge others by their “form of godliness” (i.e., their standards of holiness), but when the Son of Man comes He will be looking for FAITH! What a shame it is to consider that Divine Healing is treated as a joke in many conservative Apostolic circles today.
There are congregations that look great, but where is the ability to pray the prayer of faith for the sick? Where is the power to keep ourselves unspotted from the world? Where is the power to love our enemy, and to do good to them who hate us? Where is the power to pray for them who despitefully use us? Where is the power to forgive?
Have we glorified the “earthen vessel” to the point that the “heavenly treasure” has departed from it? Heaven forbid that we would wind up as empty, powerless shells – beautiful gloves with no working hands, or highly polished shoes with no feet to walk in them.
Make no mistake about it: the form of godliness is vital to the power of godliness. But we must never fall into the snare of assuming that because the form of godliness exists the power of godliness invariably accompanies it. We must not confuse outward manifestations of godliness with true holiness. And we must never make final judgments about someone’s standing in God simply because of the way they dress or live up to certain codes.
People who merely have a form of godliness but lack the power of godliness are highly susceptible to deception, and eventually wind up in false doctrine of one sort or another. The reason for this is because the power of godliness derives from the preaching of the Word of God. We are living in the time when man cannot endure sound doctrine, but according their own lusts they have heaped to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they have turned away their ears from hearing the truth, and have therefore been turned unto fables. The end result of this is spiritual impotence due to not hearing the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.
It is possible to dress conservatively and go through all the motions of godliness and still not possess the power of godliness within. This is a dangerous state. When we begin to feel empowered simply because we have a form of godliness, we have been deceived into thinking that is all we need. But we still need to fast and pray and worship God in spirit and in truth. We still have to connect spiritually with the preacher as he ministers to us the Word of God. We must be spiritually energized by the Holy Ghost within us. We receive power after the Holy Ghost comes upon us – power to work, power to witness, power to live an overcoming life.
God forbid that we should possess merely an empty shell of what a true child of God should be. We need more than simply a form of godliness – we need the power of godliness. We need power to intercept new forms of evil before they invade our homes and hearts; we need power to discern what spirits are trying to help us and what spirits are trying to harm us; we need power to overcome the constant downward pull of earth’s gravitational force; we need power to resist the ever-seducing siren’s song of worldly music; we need power to stand up for what is right even when it is not popular or safe to do so; we need power to ferret out all the subtle nuances of the New Age movement that have invaded Christendom; and we need power to defuse the demonic bombs that have been laid in our paths in an attempt to destroy us.
May God help us in these last days to beware lest we succumb to the pressure to settle for just a form of godliness. We must have more than a mere form of godliness – our very survival depends on our possessing the power of godliness.
Rev. Tim D. Cormier
Reprinted from the November, 2002 issue of the Apostolic Standard.
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