The Deadly Omission


John Hoole – March 7, 2010






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2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV


1       But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:

2       For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3       unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,

4       traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

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



The Bible is clear that the last days before Christ returns will be a difficult period of time.  There will be a marked sense of human arrogance and unhealthy pride.  People will be lovers of pleasures and themselves much more than lovers of God.  We’ve never lived in a time in our nation when we see so much of what is written here.  I think there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that we are living in the Last Days.


This reference to the “last days” seems to reveal Paul’s sense of urgency.  In his first letter to Timothy, Paul had written about the end times, in 1 Timothy 4:1:


1 Timothy 4:1 NKJV


4       Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,


As I read and considered these verses, I asked myself if this is meant to be a description of the world at large in the last days, or is it describing people who call themselves believers in the last days.




Personally, I believe Paul is describing the degenerating conditions in society.  Paul lists a whole catalog of attitudes and behaviors typical of “last days” people.  But while the emphasis is on the last days, it is often the case in prophetic passages that the writer is also addressing conditions present to his readers in that day.  Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to pastor the church there, and, in this passage, Paul could have been alluding also to false prophets and teachers there.  This is probably the case since Timothy is instructed to have nothing to do with them (vs. 5).  Timothy was to resist their methods and their underlying purposes.


Having said that Paul is addressing the society at large in the last days, I, unfortunately, see some of these conditions creeping into the Church today.


I am not going to go through this entire list, but I would like you to understand the beginning and ending of the list of character traits.  In the King James Version, verse 2 begins the list: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous,…”


Two very closely related words are used here in the Greek.  PHILAUTOS and PHILARGUROS.  As you can see, these two words begin with the same four letter – phil.  The root word in the Greek is PHILEO, which speaks of friendship love and affection.  The first word is “love of self.”


The use of the word “covetous” in the King James is a little broader than what is actually meant here.  That is because a person can be covetous of just about anything.


But the word, philarguros, has a much narrower focus.  The last part of that word is “ARGUROSArguros is the Greek word for “silver.”  I looked at the first 17 translations in my Bible software, and all other than the KJV translate it “love of money.”


So the list begins with people who misdirect their love.  And the last one on the list, in verse 4, is similar.  In that verse we read of those who are “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”  When people misdirect their love – toward themselves and material pleasures, there can be no love left to direct towards other, and certainly not to God.  And when that occurs, moral corruption naturally result, as is noted in all the other characteristics listed in these verses.  They all come from thinking of their own desires.


Those who fail to acknowledge God eventually are not able to love God.  Why is it so tempting to be a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God?





This turning to self instead of God will result in an abundance of sin and a lack of belief in things being “right” or “wrong.”  Each right and wrong will be based on what is “right” and “wrong” to each person.  It will be like it was in the days of Noah, when everyone did that which was right in their own eyes (Luke 17:26).


History is replete with time periods when people did whatever they personally thought was right.  In the last verse of the book of Judges – Judges 21:25, it reads:


25     In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. 


While we could take an entire lesson going through this list of end-time conditions, I want to focus on the very last one in the list.  “Having a form of godliness but denying its power.”


Over the last several weeks we have been looking at the counterfeits of Satan.  He is a master imitator of the holy things of God.  He twists the truths of God and deceives mankind to believe his lie.


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 our last lesson, I mentioned many of the counterfeits of Satan.  Among them, we mentioned that Satan has his:


         •  counterfeit gospel

         •  counterfeit ministers

         •  counterfeit doctrines


The last part of the lesson was about Satan’s counterfeit righteousness.  I took you to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, & 7.  In this sermon, 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, the Old Testament prophet describes faithless Israel as those who……


         “…draw near me with their words and honor [God] with their lips, but they remove their hearts far from [Him] and their reverence for [Him] 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.




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 where my title to this lesson comes – THE DEADLY OMISSION.  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.


The obvious answer to our question is that it is the power that is missing.  But that is not the core of the problem as to what is being omitted.  The apostle Paul helps answers the question 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 has not 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.