Pursue Godly Devotion as Baptized Christians
“However, you, O man of God, . . . pursue righteousness, godly devotion.”—1 TIMOTHY 6:11.
1. How would you answer the question, What is the most important day in your life? Why do you so answer?
WHAT is the most important day in your life? If you are a baptized Witness of Jehovah, undoubtedly you will answer, ‘Why, the day I got baptized!’ To be sure, baptism is a most important step in your life. It is an outward symbol that you have made a complete and unreserved dedication to Jehovah to do his will. Your baptism marks the date of your ordination as a minister of the Most High God, Jehovah.
2. (a) How might it be illustrated that baptism is not the last step you take in your Christian course? (b) What important preliminary steps did you take before getting baptized?
2 Is baptism, though, the last step you take in your Christian course? Far from it! To illustrate: In many lands a wedding ceremony marks the end of a period of planning and preparation (and usually of courtship). At the same time, it marks the beginning of life together as a married couple. Similarly, your baptism is the culmination of a period of preparation during which you took a number of important preliminary steps. You gained knowledge of God and Christ. (John 17:3) You began to exercise faith in Jehovah as the true God, in Christ as your Savior, and in the Bible as God’s Word. (Acts 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 11:6) You demonstrated that faith by repenting of your former course of action and converting to a righteous course. (Acts 3:19) You then made a decision to dedicate yourself to Jehovah to do his will. (Matthew 16:24) Finally, you were baptized.—Matthew 28:19, 20.
3. (a) How can we demonstrate that our baptism marks the beginning of a life of dedicated service to God? (b) What questions arise, and why should the answers be of keen interest to us?
3 Your baptism, though, is not the end but the beginning of a life of dedicated sacred service to God. As one Bible scholar noted, the Christian life must not be ‘an initial spasm followed by a chronic inertia.’ How, then, can you demonstrate that in your case, baptism does not represent simply ‘an initial spasm’? It is by pursuing a lifelong course of godly devotion. What is this godly devotion? Why is it necessary to pursue it? How can you cultivate it more fully in your life? The answers should be of keen interest to us, for we must be persons identified by “deeds of godly devotion” if we are to survive the approaching day of Jehovah’s judgment.—2 Peter 3:11, 12.
The Meaning of Godly Devotion
4. What did Paul advise Timothy to do, and what was true of Timothy at this time?
4 Sometime between 61 and 64 C.E., the apostle Paul wrote his first inspired letter to the Christian disciple Timothy. After describing the dangers to which the love of money can lead, Paul wrote: “However, you, O man of God, flee from these things. But pursue . . . godly devotion.” (1 Timothy 6:9-11) Interestingly, at this time Timothy was perhaps in his early 30’s. He had already traveled extensively with the apostle Paul and had been given the authority to appoint overseers and ministerial servants in the congregations. (Acts 16:3; 1 Timothy 5:22) Yet, Paul advised this dedicated and baptized, mature Christian man to pursue godly devotion.
5. What is the meaning of the expression “godly devotion”?
5 What did Paul mean by the expression “godly devotion”? The original Greek word (eu·seʹbei·a) may be translated literally as “well-reverencing.” Regarding its meaning, we read: “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.” (Christian Words, by Nigel Turner) So as used in the Scriptures, the expression “godly devotion” refers to reverence or devotion with loyalty to Jehovah God personally.
6. How does a Christian give evidence of his godly devotion?
6 This godly devotion, though, is not simply a worshipful feeling. Just as “faith without works is dead,” so, too, godly devotion must find expression in one’s life. (James 2:26) In New Testament Words, William Barclay wrote: “Not only do [eu·seʹbei·a and related words] express that feeling of awe and reverence, but they also imply a worship which befits that awe, and a life of active obedience which befits that reverence.” Eu·seʹbei·a is further defined as “a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of life.” (The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude, by Michael Green) The Christian, then, must give evidence of his personal attachment to Jehovah by the way he lives his life.—1 Timothy 2:2; 2 Peter 3:11.
Strenuous Effort Needed
7. What did Paul mean when he urged Timothy, though he was baptized, to “pursue” godly devotion?
7 What, though, is involved in developing and manifesting godly devotion? Is it simply a matter of getting baptized? Recall that Timothy, though baptized, was urged to “pursue [literally, ‘be you pursuing’]” it.* (1 Timothy 6:11, Kingdom Interlinear) Obviously, Paul was not suggesting that the disciple Timothy lacked godly devotion. Instead, he was impressing upon him the need to continue pursuing it with earnestness and zeal. (Compare Philippians 3:14.) Clearly, this was to be a lifelong pursuit. Timothy, like all baptized Christians, could continue to make progress in manifesting godly devotion.
8. How did Peter show that strenuous effort is needed for a dedicated, baptized Christian to pursue godly devotion?
8 Strenuous effort is needed for a dedicated, baptized Christian to pursue godly devotion. Writing to baptized Christians who had the prospect of ‘becoming sharers in divine nature,’ the apostle Peter said: “Yes, for this very reason, by your contributing in response all earnest effort, supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion.” (2 Peter 1:4-6) Obviously, a measure of faith is needed in order to present ourselves for baptism. However, following baptism we cannot coast, contenting ourselves with mere token Christianity. Rather, as we make progress in Christian living, we need to continue developing other fine qualities, including godly devotion, that can be supplied to our faith. This, Peter says, takes earnest effort on our part.
9. (a) How does the Greek word for “supply” illustrate the degree of effort needed to develop godly devotion? (b) What is Peter urging us to do?
9 The Greek word Peter uses for “supply” (e·pi·kho·re·geʹo) has an interesting background and illustrates the degree of effort necessary. It comes from a noun (kho·re·gosʹ) that literally means “the leader of a chorus.” It referred to someone who paid all the expenses of training and maintaining a chorus in staging a play. Such men undertook this responsibility voluntarily out of love for their city and paid the expenses out of their own pockets. It was the pride of such men to spend lavishly to provide all that was needed for a noble performance. The word grew to mean “to supply, furnish abundantly.” (Compare 2 Peter 1:11.) So Peter urges us to supply ourselves with, not just a measure of godly devotion, but the fullest possible expression of this precious quality.
10, 11. (a) Why is effort needed to cultivate and manifest godly devotion? (b) How can we win the struggle?
10 Why, though, is such effort needed to cultivate and manifest godly devotion? For one thing, there is the struggle against the fallen flesh. Since “the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up,” it is not easy to pursue a life of active obedience to God. (Genesis 8:21; Romans 7:21-23) “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted,” says the apostle Paul. (2 Timothy 3:12) Yes, the Christian who endeavors to live in a way that pleases God must be different from the world. He has a different set of standards and different aims. As Jesus warned, this arouses the hatred of the wicked world.—John 15:19; 1 Peter 4:4.
11 Nevertheless, we can win the struggle, for “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.” (2 Peter 2:9) We, though, must do our part by continuing to pursue godly devotion.
Cultivating Godly Devotion
12. How does Peter indicate what is needed to develop godly devotion in fuller measure?
12 How, then, can you cultivate this godly devotion in fuller measure? The apostle Peter provides a clue. At 2 Peter 1:5, 6, when listing the qualities that must be supplied to our faith, he lists knowledge ahead of godly devotion. Earlier in the same chapter, he wrote: “His divine power has given us freely all the things that concern life and godly devotion, through the accurate knowledge of the one who called us.” (2 Peter 1:3) Peter thus associates godly devotion with accurate knowledge of Jehovah.
13. Why is accurate knowledge essential in developing godly devotion?
13 In fact, without accurate knowledge it is impossible to cultivate godly devotion. Why? Well, recall that godly devotion is toward Jehovah personally and is evidenced by the way we live our lives. Accurate knowledge of Jehovah is thus essential, since it involves coming to know him personally, intimately, becoming thoroughly acquainted with his qualities and his ways. More than that, it involves striving to imitate him. (Ephesians 5:1) The more we progress in learning about Jehovah and in reflecting his ways and qualities in our lives, the better we come to know him. (2 Corinthians 3:18; compare 1 John 2:3-6.) This, in turn, results in a deeper appreciation for Jehovah’s precious qualities, a fuller measure of godly devotion.
14. To gain accurate knowledge, what should our program of personal study include, and why?
14 How do you gain such accurate knowledge? There are no shortcuts. To gain accurate knowledge, we must be diligent in studying God’s Word and Bible-based publications. Such personal study should include a regular program of Bible reading, such as is scheduled in connection with the Theocratic Ministry School. (Psalm 1:2) Since the Bible is a gift from Jehovah, what we do in the way of personal Bible study is a reflection of how much we appreciate that gift. What do your personal study habits reveal about the depth of your appreciation for Jehovah’s spiritual provisions?—Psalm 119:97.
15, 16. (a) What can help us to develop a spiritual appetite for personal Bible study? (b) If personal Bible study is to result in our developing godly devotion, what should be done when reading a portion of God’s Word?
15 Admittedly, reading and studying are not easy for some. But with time and effort, you can develop a spiritual appetite for personal Bible study. (1 Peter 2:2) When you reflect appreciatively on all that Jehovah God has done, is doing, and will yet do in your behalf, your heart will move you to learn all you can about him.—Psalm 25:4.
16 But if such personal Bible study is to result in your developing godly devotion, your objective cannot be simply to cover pages of material or to fill your mind with information. Instead, when you read a portion of God’s Word, you must take the time to reflect on the material, asking yourself such questions as: ‘What does it teach me about Jehovah’s tender qualities and ways? How can I be more like Jehovah in these respects?’
17. (a) What do we learn about Jehovah’s mercy from the book of Hosea? (b) How should reflecting on Jehovah’s mercy affect us?
17 Consider an example. Some time ago our assigned Bible reading in the Theocratic Ministry School took us through the book of Hosea. After reading through this Bible book, you might ask yourself: ‘What do I learn about Jehovah as a Person—his qualities and his ways—from this book?’ The way it is used by later Bible writers indicates that we learn much about Jehovah’s tender mercy from the book of Hosea. (Compare Matthew 9:13 with Hosea 6:6; Romans 9:22-26 with Hosea 1:10 and Ho 2:21-23.) Jehovah’s willingness to show mercy to Israel was illustrated by Hosea’s dealings with his wife, Gomer. (Hosea 1:2; 3:1-5) Although bloodshed, stealing, fornication, and idolatry were rampant in Israel, Jehovah ‘spoke to Israel’s heart.’ (Hosea 2:13, 14; 4:2) Jehovah was not obligated to show such mercy but would do so of his “own free will,” provided that the Israelites manifested heartfelt repentance and turned from their sinful course. (Hosea 14:4; compare Hosea 3:3.) As you reflect in this way on Jehovah’s extraordinary mercy, it will stir your heart, strengthening your personal attachment to him.
18. After reflecting on Jehovah’s mercy as emphasized in Hosea, what might you ask yourself?
18 More, though, is necessary. “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy,” said Jesus. (Matthew 5:7) Therefore, after reflecting on Jehovah’s mercy as emphasized in the book of Hosea, ask yourself: ‘How can I better imitate Jehovah’s mercy in my dealings with others? If a brother or a sister who has sinned against or offended me asks for forgiveness, do I forgive “with cheerfulness”?’ (Romans 12:8; Ephesians 4:32) If you serve in the congregation as an appointed elder, you might ask yourself: ‘When handling judicial matters, how can I better imitate Jehovah, who stands “ready to forgive,” particularly when a wrongdoer gives genuine evidence of heartfelt repentance?’ (Psalm 86:5; Proverbs 28:13) ‘What should I look for as a basis for extending mercy?’—Compare Hosea 5:4 and Ho 7:14.
19, 20. (a) What results when Bible study is done in a thorough manner? (b) What is a further aid in cultivating godly devotion?
19 How rewarding your personal Bible study becomes when done in such a thorough manner! Your heart will swell with appreciation for Jehovah’s precious qualities. And by continually striving to imitate these qualities in your life, you will strengthen your personal attachment to him. You will thereby be pursuing godly devotion as a dedicated, baptized servant of Jehovah.—1 Timothy 6:11.
20 A further aid in cultivating this precious quality can be found in Jesus Christ—the perfect example of godly devotion. How will following Jesus’ example aid you both in cultivating and in manifesting godly devotion? The article on page 18 will discuss this and related questions.
Regarding the Greek word di·oʹko (“pursue”), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology explains that in classical writings the word “means lit[erally] to chase, pursue, run after, . . . and fig[uratively] to pursue something zealously, try to achieve something, try to obtain.”
How Would You Respond?
□ Why is baptism not the last step you take in your Christian course?
□ What is the meaning of “godly devotion,” and how do you give evidence of it?
□ Why is strenuous effort needed to develop godly devotion?
□ How can you cultivate godly devotion in fuller measure?