Reverence, worship, and service to God, with loyalty to his universal sovereignty. The Scriptures use the Greek word eu·seʹbei·a and related adjective, adverb, and verb forms. The noun as used in the Bible may be translated literally as “well-reverencing” and applies to reverence or devotion toward that which is genuinely holy and righteous. (Compare 2Pe 1:6, Int.) The antonym of “godly devotion” is “ungodliness” or “irreverence” (Gr., a·seʹbei·a).
In Christian Words, Nigel Turner wrote: “Eusebeia occurs occasionally in a sense which suggests personal religious devotion in the contemporary inscriptions . . . but its more general meaning in the popular Greek of the Roman period was ‘loyalty.’ . . . For Christians eusebeia is the highest kind of devotion to God.” (1981, p. 111) The Bible’s use of the expression “godly devotion” refers to devotion with loyalty to Jehovah God personally.
The related adjective eu·se·besʹ, meaning “devout; of godly devotion,” occurs in Acts 10:2, 7; 2 Peter 2:9. According to John A. H. Tittmann, eu·se·besʹ “expresses that reverence for the Deity which shows itself in actions, especially in the worship of God; . . . he is [eu·se·besʹ] who shows that piety by acting.”—Remarks on the Synonyms of the New Testament, Edinburgh, 1833, Vol. I, pp. 253, 254.
The verb eu·se·beʹo is used at 1 Timothy 5:4 with regard to the conduct of children or grandchildren toward their widowed mothers or grandmothers. A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, by Edward Robinson (1885, p. 307), states that eu·se·beʹo can have the meaning of being pious toward anyone. For this reason some translations of this passage read: “They are to learn first of all to do their duty to their own families.” (JB; compare The New English Bible and The Bible in Basic English.) But God is the Establisher of the family arrangement (Eph 3:14, 15), and the Bible likens the household of God to the family unit. Therefore, reverence, or godly devotion, in family relationships in the Christian household would actually be reverence to God and obedience to God’s commands regarding the family and proper conduct of its members. The rendering of this text, “If any widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household” (NW), is in harmony with this understanding.
The ‘Sacred Secret of Godly Devotion.’ The prime example of godly devotion is Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “Indeed, the sacred secret of this godly devotion is admittedly great: ‘He was made manifest in flesh, was declared righteous in spirit, appeared to angels, was preached about among nations, was believed upon in the world, was received up in glory.’” (1Ti 3:16) Adam, the perfect man, had not set the perfect example of godly devotion. None of his children, born imperfect, could do so. Who would be able to do this? The coming of God’s Son to earth and his integrity-keeping course gave the answer, revealing the solution to the sacred secret. He is the one to whom Timothy should look for the perfect example of conduct manifesting godly devotion.—1Ti 3:15.
Jesus Christ was the one man to manifest godly devotion perfectly, in every sense, proving that man in the flesh can maintain such devotion. Under severe trials, right down to the end of his earthly course Jesus was “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.” (Heb 7:26) No flaw could be found in his integrity, to accuse him before God. He said, before his death: “I have conquered the world,” also, “The ruler of the world is coming. And he has no hold on me.” (Joh 16:33; 14:30) No unrighteousness could be found in him. He could rightly say to his enemies: “Who of you convicts me of sin?” (Joh 8:46) The solution to “the sacred secret of this godly devotion” is so great and means so much to mankind that it is to be proclaimed worldwide. Jesus Christ himself is the basis upon which Christian godly devotion and conduct in the congregation are patterned.
Training, With Contentment, Is Essential. Strenuous training is necessary on the part of the Christian in order to achieve full godly devotion. It entails the enduring of opposition and persecution. (2Ti 3:12) A person’s aim, or objective, in training himself is not to achieve selfish materialistic gain. But there is gain to the one who is content with his lot, who continues in godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. “It holds promise of the life now,” namely, spiritual health, satisfaction, happiness, and a purpose in living. It also holds promise of the life that “is to come.”—1Ti 4:7, 8; 6:6-8; compare Pr 3:7, 8; 4:20-22.
Though persecution and hardship may come upon the person having godly devotion, he need not fear, for “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.” (2Pe 2:9) The apostle Peter counsels Christians to add to their endurance godly devotion. (2Pe 1:5, 6) He admonishes them to be persons identified by “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion” in order to survive the judgment of Jehovah’s day.—2Pe 3:7, 10, 11; 1Pe 4:18.
The Power of Godly Devotion. A person professing godly devotion must recognize its power to change his personality and must be true and genuine in following godliness. (1Ti 6:11; Eph 4:20-24) He must recognize that God’s Word is His expression of the way of godly devotion, and so he must conform to its precepts. (Tit 1:1; 2Pe 1:3) Since godly devotion is toward God personally, his Word and spirit will bring one to know Jehovah personally, intimately, and to become more like him—to be an imitator or copier of him. (Eph 5:1) Such a person will reflect more and more the fine qualities of Jehovah God.—2Co 3:18.
If anyone who professes to serve God relies on his own ideas instead of adhering to the Bible and if his teaching does not ‘accord with godly devotion,’ thus failing to reflect the teacher’s devotion to God, he becomes “mentally diseased.” (1Ti 6:3, 4) The apostle Paul warned his younger fellow minister Timothy about ungodly ones who professed devotion to God. He cautioned Timothy to handle the Word of the truth aright, shunning empty speeches that violate what is holy, that Timothy might not be turned from the way of godly devotion. He then pointed out that there would be those who would practice all sorts of wickedness, hypocritically having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power. (2Ti 2:15, 16; 3:1-5) Jude likewise shows that such ones would have no genuine reverence for God or devotion to him, no respect or appreciation for his undeserved kindness. They would be persons using godliness for materialistic or sensual gain. Their hypocrisy is revealed in their practice of acts of loose conduct.—Jude 4.
What is “the mystery of this lawlessness” to which Paul refers?
Herein lies another mystery, diametrically opposed to Jehovah’s “sacred secret.” It is “the mystery of this lawlessness.” This was a mystery to true Christians because in the apostle Paul’s day the identity of “the man of lawlessness” had not taken form in a definitely established and clearly identifiable class. Even after that “man” would take form, his identity would continue to be mysterious to most persons because his wickedness would be practiced under the guise and in the name of godly devotion. It would, in fact, be an apostasy from true godly devotion. Paul said that “the mystery of this lawlessness” was already at work in his day, because there was a lawless influence in the Christian congregation that would eventually result in producing this apostate class. Finally, this one would be done away with by Jesus Christ at the manifestation of his presence. This apostate, Satan-operated “man” would lift himself up “over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence” (Gr., seʹba·sma). Thus this great opposer of God as a Satanic instrument would be extremely deceptive and would bring destruction to those following its practices. The effectiveness of “the man of lawlessness” would lie in the fact that his wickedness would be cloaked in a hypocritical godly devotion.—2Th 2:3-12; compare Mt 7:15, 21-23.