The Form and the Power of Godliness
2 Timothy 3:5
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Godliness, what is it? It is, as the very word implies, God-likeness. Godliness is the God in the man; godliness is the man being like his God; and seeing that this image has been lost, godliness in man now is a restored godliness — restored through the mediation of Christ Jesus, and by the ministrations of the Holy Ghost.

I. In our text we read of THE FORM OF GODLINESS WITHOUT THE POWER — without that power which belongs to the form, and which ought to be inseparable from that form. If you pick up an empty shell, you know that there has been a living creature in that shell: just so there is a power belonging to the external form of godliness; but the two things may exist apart. Many examples might be given of form without power. Take a statue representing some man; it is a form without power. There is the form of the eye, but no power of sight; there is the form of the ear, but no power of hearing; there is the form of the mouth, but no power of speech; there is the form of the arm, and of the hand, but no power of working; there is the form of the legs and of the feet, but no power of walking. There is the form that does embody life, but there is no power of life in that form. And a painting, if it be a portrait, is a form without power. Thus in the form of godliness there is the appearance of spiritual knowledge without the knowledge; the appearance of the soul listening to God and hearkening to the voice of His word, without the attentive ear; the appearance of a nature breathed into again by the spirit of life, although still dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore without life. The outward appearance of godliness — what then may it be?

1. It is the appearance of faith in the doctrines which are according to godliness. And where shall we find the appearance of faith without faith? Why here. These doctrines may be held in some articles, or creeds, or theological writings, by the intellect alone. They may be understood as statements, and held by the understanding without being spiritually and religiously appreciated; and they may be held by the tongue.

2. The outward appearance of godliness may be the appearance of sympathy with the ordinances and institutions which are intended alike to express and to cherish godliness.

3. Or the form of godliness may be the appearance of obedience to the laws which are the requirements of godliness. Now these may be fulfilled in the letter and broken in the spirit. "For example, f may love nay fellow-creature in word and in tongue, and fail to do it in deed and in truth.

4. There may be also the appearance of oneness with the godly through associating with such without communion of spirit. Many things may lead me to associate with the godly — things which are not Christian, considerations which are not Christian motives. I may associate with a man who is a godly man, because he happens to be very intelligent, a well-read man, a man of exquisite taste, and I may fancy that I make him my companion, because of his godliness. The godliness of the man is, however, an accident of my association with him. The probability is that if the man were ungodly, I should associate with him still for his intellectuality; for while he stands on my right hand, and I associate with him, there is a man on nay left, not so well educated, not so refined, who is more godly than my well-educated friend, and I pass him by. I might with immense advantage to myself associate with that man, but I do not; his godliness is no attraction to me. Now what does this show? Why it shows that I have the appearance of oneness with the godly, without the affection for the image of God, which would bring me into profitable contact with all who really have and who manifest that image.

5. Further, there may be the appearance of enjoyment of the blessedness of godliness; and this appearance may be made in speech and in tongue, and in a cheerful face on religious occasions. "Having the form, but denying the power."

II. Now WHERE IS THE POWER? The power of godliness is true faith in the doctrines which are according to godliness; the power of godliness is worship in spirit and in truth; is doing the will of God from the heart; is love for the godly as godly persons; is joy in God as God; and, I may add, the power of godliness is that external godliness which is the fruit of an internal godliness

III. Now, LISTEN TO THIS EXHORTATION: "From such turn away." You know that this is not fashionable advice. The advice nowadays given is, Turn away from no person, as a protest against the principles and character of that person — especially if that person be much thought of, or be in a high position; or be rich, or from any cause popular. Now, it strikes me that for our soul's health, and especially for our uprightness, we need translate into action some of these directions which demand separation. Let us, therefore, solemnly look at the conduct to be pursued.

1. You see the precept before us requires us to form a judgment of the character of others. You must do so, or you cannot obey this precept. Elsewhere you are forbidden to judge, but you are to bring into harmony that prohibition with this direction. You are to do both. It often strikes me as exceedingly odd, that men who object very much to our forming judgments of the character of others in religious matters, do form judgments of the characters of others in commercial matters. A young man applies for a situation, and the employer, who happens to object to any judgment being formed as to the religious life of another, will thoroughly investigate the character of that young man — not his business habits merely, but everything about him — all his moral habits, and, it may be, even his religious tendencies and dispositions. Well, if the thing be right in one sphere, why is it not right in another? If it have God's sanction in one sphere, why has it not God's sanction in another?

2. By the text, too, we are required to act upon an unfavourable judgment when that judgment is unfavourable. You decide that certain persons have the form of godliness, but are denying the power, and from such you are to turn away. What does this show? This shows that, so far as we can secure it, the communion of Christians must be pure. But let us look again at this precept. "From such" let the confessedly religious man "turn away" — from the men who have the form of godliness without the power.

3. From such let the inquirer turn away, he will learn nothing of these. And from such, let the really religious man, as a matter of stern duty in every sphere, turn away where his association with such would seem to be a sanction.

(S. Martin.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

WEB: holding a form of godliness, but having denied its power. Turn away from these, also.

The Fair Covering the Foul
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