The Essence of the Beatitudes


Dr. John Hoole – November 8, 2015



Over the past ten weeks, we have examined the eight Beatitudes closely.  We have noted that each of them are contrary to the normal human way of life.  And certainly we would not think of these as the things that would make us Happy.  And yet, Christ has established them as characteristics of those who follow Him.  The reason they seem so utterly contrary to how most of us understand life, is because they cannot be generated through human effort.  It is obvious that both the attributes of each beatitude and the blessings promised come only from, and are maintained by, the help of God alone.


To help us understand that more completely, I want to take you on a short side trip.  It is my hope that we can construct a foundation that we can build upon to understand what is mentioned in the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount.  Let me continue by asking you another question.




1 Timothy 4:8   (NKJV)


8    For bodily exercise profits a little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.


There is no higher compliment given to a Christian than to call him or her a godly person.  They might be a conscientious parent, a zealous church worker, a dynamic spokesperson for Christ, or a talented Christian leader.  But NONE of these things really matter if, at the same time, they are not a godly person.


Paul admonished Timothy, his son in the Lord, to exercise himself unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7) and to follow after godliness  (1 Timothy 6:11)


In speaking about the end-times and the nearness of Christ’s return, Peter says in……


2 Peter 3:11   (NAS)


11       Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way (speaking of the earth), what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,




Whatever godliness is, I think you would have to agree that it cannot be confused with how a person looks,as hard as it is for us to get beyond that.  We often judge a person by what they look like, nor can godliness be confused with what a person owns or drives. As tough as it is for us to be completely free of envy and critical thoughts, it is imperative that we remind ourselves that “God does not look on the outward appearance, but looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Therefore, whatever we may say godliness is, it is not skin deep.  It is something below the surface of life deep down in the realm of our attitudes -- specifically, one’s attitude toward God Himself.


I want to approach the definition of godliness coming at it from two directions.  For the next several moments I would like to employ a different example than usually would be used to describe the subject of godliness.




     1.         A Spirit                           9.       Sovereign - Self-sufficient, - Self-existent

     2.         Creative                        10.       Holy

     3.         Compassionate             11.       Righteous

     4.         Love                             12.       Just

     5.         Omnipresent                 13.       Good (always)

     6.         Omnipotent                  14.       Merciful

     7.         Omniscient                   15.       Eternal

     8.         Unchangeable               16.       Infinite - free from limits and space





Some theologians would categorize these attributes of God into two major groups.

1.  His MORAL attributes  (Shown in the right hand column on the slide) -- like……love, compassion, holy, merciful, good;


2.  His NON-MORAL attributes (shown in the left column) -- like……spirit, omnipotent, sovereign, infinite……


That is a very good and proper way to categorize them.  But I would like to suggest a slightly different categorization of the attributes of God.


Most all of us have heard of communicable and incommunicable diseases……Right?




It means that it can be passed from one person to another.  In other words, it is “catching.”


I think God’s attributes can be classified into groups, using these same two word – COMMUNICABLE AND INCOMMUNICABLE ATTRIBUTES  i.e., those personal attributes of Himself which he shares with us and those he does not.


Into incommunicable attributes - those which are not shared with finite humanity but reserved for Himself alone.  This is where we truly realize that God goes beyond what we can comprehend or even reveal.  They show just how different – vastly different – He is from us, His creatures.




Into this list would be such attributes as:

1.         His unchangeable character (Immutability).  This means He is entirely consistent in His actions.  He never deviates. He doesn’t change  It is a fact that there are in Him no elements that can conflict.  Unlike you and me, He cannot be torn different ways by divergent thoughts and desires.


2.         He is infinite.  He is not bound by time and space.  God is transcendent.  This means that He is not dependent or restricted to space and time but, rather, transcends both.  We, on the other hand, are not transcendent.  In this you would find his omnipresence and omniscience, among other things.


3.         His Sovereignty.  God does not depend on anything else for His existence.  But we do depend or are contingent upon Him for our existence.  He answers to no one.  He is above all.  He is self-sufficient and self-existent.  This is not an attribute God has shared with us.

In discussing what we know as the attributes of God, we must keep in mind that all of our discussions about God’s attributes are going to be inadequate.  God is, after all, infinite in His perfections.  Though we may be able to understand the concept of omnipresence, we cannot experience it.  We can understand the concept of transcendence, but we cannot experience it, These are the qualities which belong to God and Him alone.  And because we are man or woman, and not God, our characters do not and cannot share in any of them.  We do not have these qualities.


Into the category of COMMUNICABLE attributes of God, you would find those qualities that can be transferred from God to mankind.  They can be transferred because God deemed it be so.




Some of these qualities were given to us when He created us.


            - For instance:  We are spiritual beings like He is.


            - We have been given the freedom of choice, like He has.


            - We will live forever.   We are eternal beings.  (different from Christ in that we have not always existed)


For Adam and Eve, these qualities were given them when God created them.  For us, these attributes become ours when we are born.  And these attributes are shared with everyone, whether a believer or not. And then there is another set of communicable attributes and qualities which He passes to us either when we ask Him for them, or when He bestows them upon us as we seek to grow in Him. Most of these communicable attributes are associated with God’s moral character and nature.       i.e., Love, compassion, goodness, holiness, righteousness, mercifulness, patience, etc.  As we grow in the Lord, these qualities become more and more a part of our own life and character.  Or as Romans 8:29 says….we are conformed to the image of God’s Son.


I have used this example of the Attributes of God, because I believe that all of the communicable attributes of God, which He shares with us later than at birth, can be summarized in one word - GODLINESS -


Godliness is the sum of all those qualities which He bestows upon us, those qualities of His life which He has chosen to share with us.  And isn’t that what “godliness” means? - God-likeness”  And how better can we become like our God, than to have him share with us His own character traits.  Godliness is a reflection of God’s character within us!


Our godly character is a reflection of the extent to which God’s character has been reproduced in us.  As we mentioned a minute ago, the Father desires that all His children reflect the image of His Son.


Unlike those attributes which God gives us at birth, the qualities that make up “godliness” are not given at birth.  Neither are they automatically given to a person when they become a Christian.  This is why we are admonished to “grow in grace” in our Christian walk (2 Peter 3:18).


I have taken you through this fairly lengthy excursion to make sure we understand that the source of godliness is only God.  We don’t have the character attributes that make up “godliness” by natural means.  It comes to us only because He has desired to share Himself with us.  And, also, we cannot exhibit them in ourselves without having a very close relationship with our Lord.


I want to look at another verse about godliness.  2 Timothy 3 speaks of conditions that will be present on earth in the last days.  While we could take an entire lesson going through this list of end-time conditions which are mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:5, I want to focus on the very last one in the list.


            “Having a form of godliness but denying its power.”


For a moment, look at some other translations and paraphrases of 2 Timothy 3:5.


2 Timothy 3:5 New Living Translation


5   They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.


2 Timothy 3:5 AMP


5   For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession].


2 Timothy 3:5 (God’s Word Translation)


5   They will appear to have a godly life, but they will not let its power change them.


2 Timothy 3:5 KJV


5   Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:


2 Timothy 3:5 (New Century Version – NCV)


5   and (They) will act as if they serve God but will not have his power.


2 Timothy 3:5 Phillips


5   They will maintain a façade of “religion”, but their conduct will deny its validity.


2 Timothy 3:5 Weymouth


5   They will keep up a make-believe of piety and yet exclude its power.


It is important to see here that the flesh can put on a show of godliness while in fact being utterly devoid of true spirituality.  This verse is not speaking of self-acknowledged pagans, but rather, those professing to be adherents to Christianity.  The form of godliness is a shell which looks at first glance to be like the real, but there is a definite lack of genuine substance.


In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers that they must have true righteousness.  And he compares this righteousness with those displaying the counterfeit – the Pharisees.  And Jesus tells us that our righteousness must exceed theirs.  Then later in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:33, Jesus instructs us to:  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”


And now, in 2 Timothy 3:5, Paul is warning about another counterfeit.  A counterfeit where people appear to be righteous and godly.  But, like the Pharisees, it is only for show – it’s not real.  They have a form of godliness.




In this particular verse, the Greek word translated “form,” is the word MORPHOSIS.  It refers to the outward shape and appearance, such as that of a silhouette.  Here it refers to the mere outward resemblance, as distinguished from the essential reality.  Like the unbelieving Pharisees, lovers of self are only concerned with outward show.  Christ said of them:  “You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)


In Isaiah 29:13 (NASU) the Old Testament prophet describes faithless Israel as those who……


13             …draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,


We have people today, as they had then, that go through all the correct movements and maintain all the external forms of religion.  But they know nothing of the dynamic power of the Christ life which transforms sinners into saints.


It is something that looks like the real thing.  In other words, it is a counterfeit.  There is true worship and then there is a form of worship.  There is a true word of God and a true Gospel and there are false gospels and a preaching of a hybrid word that is a mixture of the True Word and the doctrines of men and/or demons.  There is true prayer and there is a form of prayer.  There is a true anointing by the Holy Spirit, and there is that which is only a form of the anointing.


I have addressed the topic of “having a form of godliness” to lead u to the 2nd approach at defining godliness.  The Greek word used here is EUSEBEIA.  This can be broken down into two words.  EU, which means “well” or “good.”  SEBAMAI, which means worship.  Literally, EUSEBEIA means, “well worship.”  SEBOMAI can be further broken down into root words.  SEB means reverence or awe.


So Godliness is literally “well worship” which reflects an attitude to live with a sense of God’s reverence.  Eusebeia describes reverence or awe that is well directed.  It is “true worship” and describes a person who gives God His rightful place by worshiping Him properly.  There is no effective spiritual ministry apart from personal godliness, since true and godly ministry is the overflow of a godly life.  True godliness is seen in action.


The apostle Paul doesn’t stop with telling us there are those “who hold to a form of godliness.”  He adds, “but they deny its power.”


This is the bottom line about those who demonstrate a “form of godliness.”  It is not that religion is gone.  It is not that a cloak of respectability is not there.  It is not that a semblance of godliness is missing.  We can still be talking of those going to church, knowing Christian doctrine, using Christian clichés, and following Christian traditions.  Such practices can make a person outwardly look good and righteous.


It is that the power that is missing.  The apostle Paul hits it straight on in 1 Corinthians 1:18.


18    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.


It is the power of God unto salvation.  What is it?  The preaching of the cross.  That’s it!


2 Timothy 3:5 NKJV


5   having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!


True Christianity was never ever “a form of godliness.”  It has always been the “real thing.”  Godliness is that lifestyle that glorifies God.  It is that which allows the Holy Spirit to set God’s standards in our life.  If our belief system does not change our lives and bring us into a more direct and closer walk and personal relationship with Christ, then we have to seriously question its authenticity.


I think one of the greatest tragedies and shocks in life anyone could ever have, would be to go to church faithfully all their life, yet never really know Jesus, and then, when they stand before God, hear Him say, “Depart from me.  I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:21-23).


In the last days, as men turn away from God, paradoxically, they will become more religious, not less.  Religion will become more popular as we approach the end times.  That is because people will seek some refuge in a world that increasingly has lost its way.  They will ask the right questions – but will follow the wrong answers.  It will be religion for religion’s sake, not religion for the sake of knowing Christ.


I did some searching through the writings of Charles H. Spurgeon, and found these thoughts that relate to “having a form of godliness.”


•  “A mere form of godliness joined to an unholy heart is of no value to God.”


•  “God will not accept that ‘external morality’ which conceals ‘internal impurity.’  There must be a pure heart as well as a clean life.”


•  “The power of godliness must work within, or else God will not accept our offering of worship.”


•  “Sad is that man’s plight who wears the name of Christian but has never been quickened by the Holy Spirit.”


•  “There is no use in a mere formal religion.  If your religion is without spiritual life, what is the use of it?  Could you ride home on a dead horse?  Would you hunt with dead dogs?”


•  “In the depth of winter, can you warm yourself before a “painted fire?”


•  “Could you dine off a picture of a feast when you are hungry?”


•  “There must be vitality and substantiality, or else the form is utterly worthless; and worse than worthless, for it may flatter you into deadly self-conceit.”


In our past lessons on Satan’s counterfeits, you have heard me say that Satan does not have a problem with people being religious.  And that is true even if what is being described passes as Christianity.  In his counterfeit of the things of God, Satan is so subtle to include a real semblance of what is true.  But the devil will leave out anything that would cause a person to go to the Cross of Christ.  That which is vital to true faith is that which is so carefully omitted in the false faith.  That which makes the true so potent,  is that which, when omitted, makes the false an immeasurable deception.  Everything depends upon this one point of distinction, for it is the only difference that in the end exists between the false and true.  I am talking of a personal relationship with Jesus.  There is no power of godliness without a relationship with Jesus.  Godliness literally means “God-likeness.”  And one will never be “God-like” without a relationship with Him.


Let me end with a couple of verses about godliness.


1 Timothy 4:8 NKJV


8   For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.


In speaking of the end-times and the nearness of Christ’s return, Peter says in……


2 Peter 3:11 NASU


11             Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,


We cannot afford to have a form of godliness.  We need the power that real godliness brings.  And that comes from a real a vital relationship with Jesus Christ.