2 Timothy 3:5
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
I. THE MEN.
1. What they had — "A form of godliness."(1) What is a form of godliness. Attention(a) to the ordinances of religion.
(b) Attendance with the assemblies of God's people.
(c) A great deal of religious talk Tongue-godliness is an abomination if the heart be destitute of grace.
(d) More than this, some have a form of godliness upheld and published by religious activity. It is possible to be intensely active in the outside work of the Church, and yet to know nothing of spiritual power.
(2) But now, as these people had not the power of godliness, how did they come to hold the form of it?
(a) Some come by the form of godliness in an hereditary way. Their ancestors were always godly people, and they almost naturally take up with the professions of their fathers. This is common, and where it is honest, it is most commendable. But remember, not generation, but regeneration, makes the Christian.
(b) Others have accepted the form of godliness by the force of authority and influence. There is danger lest we fail to have personal repentance and personal faith, and are content to lean upon the opinions of others.
(c) So have I seen the form of godliness taken up on account of friendships. Many a time courtship and marriage have led to a formal religiousness, lacking heart.
(d) I do not doubt that, in these silken days, many have a form of godliness because of the respect it brings them.
(e) Certain persons assume the form of godliness from a natural religious disposition. They could not be happy unless they were attending where God is worshipped, nor unless they were reckoned among the believers in Christ. They must play at religion, even if they do not make it their life business.
(f) From the days of Iscariot until now, some have taken up the form of godliness to gain thereby. To make gain of godliness is to imitate the son of perdition.
(g) A form of godliness has come to many because it brings them ease of conscience, and they are able, like the Pharisee, to thank God that they are not as other men are.
2. What they did not have — "The power."(1) What is that power? God Himself is the power of godliness. The Holy Spirit is the life and force of it.
(2) What is the general history of those who have not this power? Well, their course usually runs thus: they do not begin with denying the power, but they begin by trying to do without it. They try to persuade themselves that they have been changed: they accept emotion as regeneration, and a belief of doctrine for belief in Christ. It is rather hard at first to reckon brass as gold, but it grows easier as it is persisted in. At the first they are a good deal suspicious of themselves, but they industriously kill every question by treating it as a needless doubt. Thus, by degrees, they believe a lie. The next step is easy: they deceive themselves, and come to believe that they are surely saved. At last they take the daring step of denying the power. Being without it themselves, they conceive that others are without it also. They get on very well without any supernatural power, and others, no doubt, do the same; only they add a little cant to it to please the very godly folk. They practically deny the power in their lives, so that those who see them and take them for Christians say, "There really is nothing in it; for these people are as we are. They have a touch of paint here, and a little varnish there, but it is all the same work." Practically, their actions assure the world that there is no power in Christianity; it is only a name. Very soon, privately, in their hearts they think it is so, and they invent doctrines to match. By and by, in some cases, these people profanely deny the Divine power of our only faith, and then they become the greatest enemies of the Cross of Christ.
II. THE WICKED FOLLY OF THIS HYPOCRITICAL CONDUCT.
1. They degrade the very name of Christ. If there is no spiritual power in godliness, it is worth nothing.
2. There is no value in such a dead form. I have read that the swan was not allowed to be offered upon the altar of God, because, although its feathers are as white as snow, yet its skin is black. God will not accept that external morality which conceals internal impurity.
3. There is no use in mere formality. In the depth of winter, can you warm yourself before a painted fire? Could you dine off the picture of a feast when you are hungry?
4. There is no comfort in it. The form without the power has nothing in it to warm the heart, raise the spirits, or strengthen the mind against the day of sickness, or in the hour of death.
5. To have the form of godliness without the power of it, is to lack constancy in your religion. You never saw the mirage, but those who have travelled in the East, when they come home are sure to tell you about it. It is a very hot and thirsty day, and you are riding on a camel. Suddenly there rises before you a beautiful scene. Just a little from you are brooks of water, flowing between beds of osiers and banks of reeds and rushes. Yonder are palm trees and orange groves. Yes, and a city rises on a hilt, crowned with minarets and towers. You are rejoiced, and ask your guide to lead you nearer to the water which glistens in the sun. He grimly answers, "Take no notice, it is the mirage. There is nothing yonder but the burning sand." You can scarce believe him, it seems so real; but lo, it is all gone, like a dream of night. So unsubstantial is the hope which is built upon the form of godliness without the power. The white ants will eat up all the substance of a box, and yet leave it standing, till a touch causes the whole fabric to fall in dust: beware of a profession of which the substance has been eaten away. Believe in nothing which has not the stamp of eternity upon it.
6. In reality, this kind of religion is in opposition to Christ. It is Jannes and Jambres over again: the magician of hypocrisy is trying to work miracles which belong to God only. Nobody can do so much damage to the Church of God as the man who is within its walls, but not within its life.
7. This nominal godliness, which is devoid of power, is a shameful thing.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.