Goodliness vs Godliness

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Goodliness vs Godliness

by Ivan Ho    6 Nov 2021


And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.
1 Samuel 9:2 KJV


Saul who became the first king of Israel was known to be a ‘goodly’ person. In fact, there was no one in Israel at the time more goodlier than Saul. I didn’t make the word ‘goodly’ up, it was in the Bible, and for a reason. The trouble is, as ‘goodly’ a person Saul was, he wasn’t a ‘godly’ man. History shows that Saul wasn’t godly in the way he rebelled against God’s instructions.

Herein exemplifies the kind of characters whom people choose to be their leaders these days, goodly men and women who aren’t godly. Like Saul, they have a goodly profile. They may look good on the outside, seemingly display goodly behaviours, speak goodly words but in reality they aren’t godly. They may lead a goodly life and run a goodly church or goodly business with goodly causes, but because they fail to respond to and follow God’s words, they aren’t godly leaders, and the people who follow them will also end up being goodly followers but sadly God isn’t connected with them. Goodly leaders and goodly followers reinforce each other’s goodliness. In fact, the bible warns us about people gathering amongst themselves teachers who teach goodly things that tickle their ears (2 Tim 4:3).

There is a fine line between being a goodly leader and a godly leader, a goodly father and a godly father, a goodly wife and a godly wife.


What’s wrong with being good?

“What’s wrong with being good?” you may ask. Well, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being good. In fact, it is better to be good than to be bad, better to be good looking than ugly looking. What’s wrong is when we choose what looks good over what is God. This happened in the garden of Eden when Eve chose what looked good in her eyes, in so doing disobeyed God.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Genesis 3:6 KJV


Know that seducing spirits won’t seduce us with things that look bad but instead with things that are appealing and attractive to us. The goal of seducing spirit is to tempt us to choose what looks good over God’s words and His perfect will for our lives. When we choose what looks good instead of what is God, it is called sin in God’s eyes. Sin isn’t defined by doing things that are bad according to our moral standards. Rather, sin is defined by our disobedience to God’s words. 


Saul the goodly but ungodly leader

Let’s return to the story of Saul, a goodly man who was more goodly than all the children of Israel. The people of Israel desired to have an earthly king to rule over them and they have chosen a goodly person in Saul as their king. The prophet Samuel warned the people that, in having a king, their primary responsibility remained the same, and that was to follow God and to obey His voice.  In other words, earthly rulers and leaders must not replace our devotion to follow Jesus our Lord. If your leader tells you to do anything that contradicts God’s words over your life, even though these things may look good on the surface, you are to choose to obey God instead of man. 

Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the Lord hath set a king over you. If ye will fear the Lord, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the Lord your God: But if ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you, as it was against your fathers.
1 Samuel 12:13‭-‬15 KJV


While David was a man after God’s own heart, Saul was a man after his own heart. He repeatedly did things according to what felt good in his heart instead of obeying the voice of God spoken to him through prophet Samuel. (1 Samuel 10:8) A classic example of Saul’s rebellion was when he made sacrifice to God ahead of the appointed time before the arrival of Samuel. The sacrifice looked good but the timing wasn’t according to God’s commands, just as Cain’s sacrifice wasn’t acceptable to God because it wasn’t done according to God’s instructions. 1 Samuel 13:7‭-‬14 KJV

All the religious or ‘good things we do for God’ are in vain if they aren’t done according to God’s words for our lives.


Follow God 

There was a rich young man who faithfully followed the ten commandments since his youth. He thought that being good was defined by his good behaviours until one day he had an encounter with Jesus.

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.

And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
Luke 18:18‭-‬23 KJV


Jesus did not tell the young man that there was no need to follow the ten commandments. However, in order to inherit eternal life, being ‘good’ by following the scriptures alone is not enough, we need to follow Jesus the living Word Himself. In fact, Paul tells us in the book of Romans that no one is good, for all of us has broken God’s commandments and fallen short of His glory. The only way to inherit eternal life is for you and I to allow the blood of Jesus to wash away our sins, repent and follow Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Romans 3:23‭-‬26 KJV


Jesus said to the rich young man: “Sell all you have, give to the poor, and come, follow Me“. That was the spoken word of God to him but sadly, the young ruler felt very sorrowful because he was unwilling to leave behind his riches. By contrast, when Jesus called His disciples, they immediately left behind their families and businesses in order to follow Him. This is what Jesus promises to those who follow Him: not only will we receive rewards in this present life, but moreover in the world to come, everlasting life.

Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.
Luke 18:28‭-‬30 KJV

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