We live in a time when there is so much that passes for the fear of the Lord and yet, because it denies the power thereof, is actually in the service of the Antichrist.
Today it is fashionable to be a “Christian.”
Few in numbers are those who in our land would not be offended if you would tell them that they are not Christians. Few there are who would not consider that an insult!
Yet let us never forget that the reprobate, which far outnumber the children of God, are not Christians in anything more than in name. They have only the form of godliness. Nothing more.
A Christian according to the very correct answer of the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day XII is one who is a member of Christ and who therefore partakes of His anointing. He is the object of God’s grace.
Christians have more than the form of godliness. They live by its power.
There is also much that passes for Christianity and calls itself Christianity but actually is Antichristian and Antichristianity.
As Paul writes to Timothy, warning him in II Timothy 3:5: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
The word godliness means reverence, piety, worship and therefore the fear of the Lord.
A form of being “In His Fear” but denying the power thereof is irreverence, impiety and therefore sin.
And the very attempt to defend such powerless forms of godliness, reverence and fear is itself only a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. Let us be on our guard in this day when men would like to make us believe that Christianity is Sweeping the world and modern “evangelists” seem to put Christ and the Apostles to shame by their seeming “successes.” The more Christ preached the truth, the smaller His audiences became. From thousands who first came to hear him, instead of mass “decisions for Christ” there were only one hundred twenty who still followed Him after His death and burial. It is not all “In His Fear” that is presented to us as such. It is not all godliness and reverence that comes to the natural eye in that form.
It happens not infrequently that one envies the zeal of others. Not seldom is it that you have people sigh and say: O, if I could, only be as spiritual, as full of holy zeal for God’s kingdom as brother so and so or as sister so and so! And then almost overnight that form is torn off and the reverence and piety that was so highly coveted is no more to be seen! Without its power, it withered away.
What zeal also is often displayed in Modernism!
Energetic people! People full of ambition, ready to lend a helping hand and to spend a hard-earned dollar to improve the living conditions of another or to help some financially destitute family make ends meet.
Ah, we sigh and say: There truly is a Christian! There is a man filled with the fear of the Lord!
And yet it is only a form of godliness. Only a form. Only the outside shell that looks good to the naked eye. But you must not dig deeper unless you want to be disappointed by reality.
What is worse: it is not simply a fraud that for a time deceives man. It is an abomination in the sight of the Lord! “The sacrifice (also his gifts and the time he sacrifices, his charity and civic endeavors, etc.) of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is His delight” Proverbs 15:8.
We repeat: to deny that, to try to defend the wicked in their form of godliness is itself only a form of godliness and is not true reverence, piety and fear before God!
“Many shall say in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:22, 23.
What an indictment!
I never knew you! And we envied them! We, perhaps, began to review our Reformed faith and ask what is wrong with it that there is so much “In His Fear” in these modernistic circles and so little in ours. We fell in love with the form. And we, by so doing, denied the power thereof!
O, they cast out devils in Jesus’ name. The modern devils that drive you as a slave in the sweat shops of yesterday. They improved our working conditions in the name of Christ, in the name of Christianity. They did many “wonderful works” for his sake (?).
But they were not so wonderful after all. The form looked nice. It looked like the real thing. But it denied the power and without the power it is worse than worthless. It is an abomination in God’s sight. For it is Antichristian. Whatever does not serve the cause of Christ’s kingdom militates against it. Whatever is not Christian is Antichristian. He that is not for me is against me, Jesus said. Whether it has the form of being for Him or not makes no difference. If the power that is for Him is not behind that form, it is the power of the Antichristian movement. Why is it that with the Five Points of, Calvinism, we cannot fill a very large auditorium with listeners?
Why is it that in our circles there are no mass “decisions for Christ?” Others with a gospel that promises and offers salvation to all who hear; who present a Jesus, Who loves everybody; who apparently are overflowing with the mercy and compassion of God to save your dear soul from the brink of hell; who in Christ’s name have “done many wonderful works”; these have to turn away the multitudes that come to hear.
Shall we review our doctrinal stand?
Shall we consider a change of tactics that we may be more successful in “winning precious souls for Christ”?
A word of warning from God through the apostle Paul: Do not deny the power of godliness!
And that power is not in the rich harmonies and captivating tune of the hymn that extols the love of God for all men head for head.
The power is not in a fiery message that extols the cross of Christ and then asks and pleads with you to turn on the power and accept this Jesus Who, though He has done so much, still stands outside the door and is helpless to apply this salvation to you till you give him the right.
The power is not in a doctrine of election that preaches an election that is decided in time by your “decision for Christ.”
The power of godliness is in God!
The power in Christianity is in Christ!
The power in godliness that is more than a form is the power of the Spirit of the almighty God.
The power is therefore in the Word of God as God’s Word.
The power of godliness is in the truth.
The lie, false doctrine, any mixture of man’s philosophies can produce the form of godliness. It can deceive men and please men. It can do things that men will call “In Thy name many wonderful works.” In man’s judgment they are wonderful works; for man is benefited by them and man is glorified at the expense of God’s glory.
But God says: Depart from me ye that work iniquity!
He sees through the form of godliness. He sees the Antichristian power behind these works of iniquity.
That is also why it is so sickening when children of Zion sing the songs that have a form of godliness but deny its power. Many, many of the hymns of today evince that form of godliness. Are they not called hymns? Are they not set forth as gospel songs? Are they not rendered on the pulpits of the churches as church music and as inspirational and edifying numbers to render before God’s people.
“Roll, Jordan Roll!” “I want to go to heaven when I die to see old Jordan roll!” What a wealth of spiritual zeal in such a song!? Godliness it is not. It only has the form. God, Christ, the cross, salvation are not in it. Powerless, nonsensical, superficial, ANTICHRISTIAN! It puts Christ outside of heaven! Jordan is the important thing there!
It has a form of godliness because it speaks the language of Scripture. It speaks of Jordan as the Scriptures do. It speaks of heaven and of going there when we die.
The form of godliness is there; but the power is sadly lacking.
And so it goes with countless number of songs that even find their way on our programs. They contain a few phrases that may be found in holy writ, and therefore are labeled: “sacred music,” “gospel songs” etc.
We might as well be honest about the matter. We sing them and use them on programs because the music captivates us. The reason we sing and use them is the earthly pleasure we derive from them and not the power of godliness.
And so we simply underscore the words of the apostle in the verse that precedes this warning against that which has only a form of godliness. Paul says: “. . . lovers of. pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness (which looks like love of God, then) but denying the power thereof.”
“From such turn away.”
All these things are Antichristian.
That is not putting it too strongly. Does God through Paul warn us to turn away from such things for any other reason than that they are rooted in hatred towards Him? Deeds that are perpetrated because men are lovers of pleasure rather than of God?
And there is no neutrality. In the measure that we love pleasure more than God, in that measure we hate God and oppose Him and His Christ. And there surely is something wrong when the ungodly, the unregenerated are attracted to our godliness. You can realize such things by denying the power of godliness. You can make Christianity look good to him and “sell it to him” by taking the power of Christ out of it. Give him some room—and the more room you give him, the more attractive that form of godliness will be to him—give him plenty of room and push the living, almighty God to the background or else emphasize His love and grace for all down-and-outers, all underdogs and abused men while denying His righteousness, His justice and sovereignty. You will make that form attractive to man. They will see something good in Christianity. They will advocate it for the ills and troubles of our social and economic confusion and injustice.
But: “from such turn away.”
By all means do not advertise their form of godliness to your children.
This same apostle Paul, guided by the same Spirit of truth had written to the Thessalonians: “Let no man deceive you . . . that man of sin be revealed (the Antichrist) . . . Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped (essentially the same word as godliness in II Tim. 3:5); so that he as God sitteth in the temple, shewing himself that he is God.”
The Antichrist has a form of godliness.
But he opposes all that is of God.
From such turn away!