What Does it Mean to be Godly?

I have been reading Thomas Watson’s The Godly Man’s Picture this week. Watson defines godliness by saying,

Godliness is the sacred impression and workmanship of God in man, whereby from being carnal he is made spiritual.

He goes on to say,

When godliness is wrought in a person, he does not receive a new soul, but he has ‘another spirit’ (Num. 14:24). The faculties are not new, but the qualities are; the strings are the same, but the tune is corrected.

Watson then gives seven propositions concerning godliness:

(1) Godliness is a real thing

It is not a fantasy, but a fact. A Christian is no enthusiast, one whose religion is all made up of fancy.

(2) Godliness is an intrinsic thing

It lies chiefly in the heart. The moralist’s religion is all in the leaf; it consists only in externals, but godliness is a holy sap which is rooted in the soul.

(3) Godliness is a supernatural thing

By nature we inherit nothing but evil, but godliness is the wisdom from above. It is given by the Spirit because a man has no more power to change himself than to create himself.

(4) Godliness is an extensive thing

He who is godly is good all over. Godliness is a sacred leaven that spreads itself into the whole soul.

(5) Godliness is an intense thing

It does not lie in dead formality and indifference, but is vigorous and flaming. He whose devotion is inflamed is godly and his heart boils over in holy affections.

(6) Godliness is a glorious thing

As the jewel to the ring, so is piety to the soul, bespangling it in God’s eyes.

(7) Godliness is a permanent thing

A blush of godliness is not enough to distinguish a Christian, but godliness must be the temper and complexion of the soul. Godliness is a fixed thing.


Today’s post was adapted from Thomas Watson’s The Godly Man’s Picture, pp. 12-14. You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

4 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to be Godly?

  1. Pingback: My Top 10 « Christianity Matters

  2. BEN

    On your point 3, I agree in terms of the wider Gospel that we cannot save ourselves, however Paul urges Timothy to ‘train yourself to be godly (1Tim 4:7). How does that fit with the notion here that man has no ability to bring about godliness in himself? Perhaps the answer lies in the work of the Spirit?

    1. Ben,
      That is a great question. In the point you referenced, Watson is pointing to the idea that godliness requires the supernatural intervention of God in our lives. Without Him intervening we have no hope of being godly. This is because we are corrupt by nature.

      So then without the Holy Spirit intervening in our lives we will never believe in the gospel and we will not work toward godliness. While Paul tells Timothy to work toward godliness, Timothy has no hope or chance of doing so without the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in his life to first cause him to believe and then to cause him to desire to be godly.

      In addition, implicitly in your question is the fact that we are active in the sanctification process. James 1:21 makes this point as well. There James uses the phrases “put away” and “receive” which shows that we are active in this process. But again, we can’t be active unless there is first a supernatural intervention in our life by the Holy Spirit.

      I hope that answers your question.

      Thanks for interacting with my post.


      Casey Lewis

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