rebelling against low expectations

How Does Sound Doctrine Help Us Grow in Godliness?


Which is better: knowledge or godliness?

What should you choose: learning and academia, a word that conjures up an image of an old professor hunched over a notebook amid a ridiculously crowded library, or hands-on actions taken to further the kingdom of God?

The way the question is phrased, knowledge seems negative. Many Christians rebel against the idea of stuffy theology or doctrine that gets in the way of more important concerns—like practically serving the people in our lives.

Or maybe you think of them as separate, though equally important. That you have to grow in both your theological intelligence and your day-to-day godliness to grow as a Christian, or that one is more important than the other.

But the dilemma is a false one. We aren’t forced to choose between doctrine and godliness— they go hand-in-hand.

We aren't forced to choose between doctrine and godliness— they go hand-in-hand. Share on X

In Titus 1:1, Paul gives a version of his trademark greeting: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.”

Instead of separating knowledge and behavior, Paul links them together in what’s almost a throwaway phrase at the beginning of the letter. Knowledge of the truth—sound doctrine—accords with godliness. The more truth you know, the more godly you will be.

How does this play out in our lives?

Understanding who God is and who you are.

Knowledge of Biblical salvation fundamentally deals with two parties: God and man.

God is the creator and sustainer of everything, and He’s fundamentally perfect. Due to His perfect nature, He does not tolerate sin—so He’s also the judge of all mankind.

Man is a created being, made in God’s image for the purpose of glorifying Him. But man’s nature is sinful. Fallen, totally depraved, and broken.

This is just a small part of what we know from the Bible—a simplification of the truth that leads to life. But it’s the foundation for our faith, and it’s knowledge that we badly need.

How can humans really understand the mysteries of God’s nature? How can we grasp something that’s too high for our minds to comprehend?

We can’t. But the more we try, the more we’ll marvel at God’s mercy.

The mystery of the Gospel can never be fully understood, but it can be partially understood. It’s like a large and detailed work of art—the more you study it, the more knowledge will be revealed. You could meditate on it for years and still have more to learn.

The more we learn who God is, and the more we understand who we really are, the more we'll stand in awe of God's powerful and amazing love. Share on X

The more we learn who God is, and the more we understand who we really are, the more we’ll stand in awe of God’s powerful and amazing love.

And this knowledge will make us more godly in three ways: we’ll want to obey God’s commandments, we’ll be grateful for what He’s given us, and we’ll love our neighbor better.

Obeying His Commands

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

If we know who God is, we will fear Him.

Our God is powerful. He is the divine creator of the universe, and He’s so awe-inspiring and perfect that no human can even see His face and live—no wonder that Isaiah cries out in fear when he sees the Lord. He is a man of unclean lips. (Isaiah 6:5)

If we have an accurate understanding of God's divine nature, we'll want to obey Him. It'll be natural. God is powerful, and God is good—therefore, we should do what He says. Share on X

If we have an accurate understanding of God’s divine nature, we’ll want to obey Him. It’ll be natural. God is powerful, and God is good—therefore, we should do what He says.

The fear of the Lord will keep us from sin. It’s the beginning of knowledge.

Grateful for Undeserved Mercy

If we understand who we are in relation to God, we’ll begin to understand just how great the mercy He shows us is.

We don’t deserve any of this. We don’t deserve our lives, our homes, our families, our daily bread—we deserve death, plain and simple. We are wholly inadequate to live the life that God’s holy standard requires.

But He gives us life anyway.

If we understand that we don’t deserve what was given to us—if we realize the depths of our sin and the corresponding depths of God’s love—we’ll be far more grateful. We’ll thank God for his mercy with every breath.

Because every breath is a gift that we don’t deserve.

Fulfilling the Greatest Commandment

And in the end, that very same gratefulness will impact the way we treat those around us.

If we know that we don’t deserve love, but that God gives it to us anyway, how can we refuse to love our neighbors? We can’t “punish” them for their imperfection by withholding our love—that’s hypocritical.

But more than that: the more we learn about God, the more we’ll grow to be like Him.

God is love. It’s in His nature—and if “we become what we behold,” as William Blake so famously said, we will grow in love as well.

The truth about God is truly wonderful. Knowledge of that truth will always increase our godliness—so grow in your knowledge! Study the Scriptures, and meditate on them. And pray.

The more we learn about God, the more godly we will be. The more we engage with the Bible, the more our lives will reflect that truth.

Paul’s greeting in Titus 1 is more than just a greeting. He’s showing us how to glorify God in our own lives—and that’s by learning who God is.

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About the author

Emma Thrasher

Emma Thrasher learned to read when she was three, learned the power of stories when she was 12, and decided to spend her life learning to tell them when she was 15. She loves how books help us understand life from another person's point of view, and wants her stories to make readers look beneath the surface. You can connect with her through her email list

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By Emma Thrasher
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