In 2 Timothy 3, the Apostle Paul speaks of “the last days.” He offers a lengthy description of what people will be like in those times. “Lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive … ungrateful, unholy…” (2 Timothy 3:2-3) He goes on and on. Honestly, it sounds as though Paul looked forward into twenty-first century America, doesn’t it? One of his last statements, though, caused me to reflect as I read it recently. “…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5)
I have heard many people say that this verse is talking about Christians who deny that God still works miracles. By suggesting that healings and other spiritual gifts died out long ago, they are denying the power of God. But I’m not entirely sure that’s what Paul meant.
In his letter to the saints at Rome, Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16, author’s emphasis) The power of God is the gospel. Paul used the same phrasing in his letter to the church in Corinth. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19, author’s emphasis) What is it that is the power of God? “The word of the cross,” the gospel.
So, I would suggest that those who have an appearance of godliness but deny its power, are those who deny the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. To all appearances they are good people. They have an “appearance of godliness.” But their goodness is external only. They have not allowed the power of the gospel to make them new inside.
May God help you and me to radiate His work in us as the power of God transforms us from the inside out.