Holy Conversation and Godliness

“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” —II Peter 3:11

THE SECOND COMING of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom was one of the chief sources of inspiration for the Early Church. While the Apostle Peter did not look for these blessed events in the Divine plan to occur prior to his death, yet it was his hope that they were near at hand. The establishment of Christ’s kingdom—the ‘new heavens and a new earth’—meant, of necessity, that the heavens and the earth over which Satan is the prince would have to be dissolved.

This vital truth was emphasized by Peter to impress upon the Lord’s people the worthlessness of all hopes, ambitions, and joys which have their foundations and their associations in the things of this world. The fact that these things were to be dissolved, and that the followers of Christ were looking forward to having part in the new heavens and the new earth, should have been a great incentive to them in giving all diligence to make their calling and election sure.

“What manner of persons ought ye to be,” Peter inquires, “in all holy conversation and godliness?” If this question was a serious consideration in his day, how much more weighty it is now when we stand at the very threshold of the new dispensation, and are in the very midst of the disintegrating influences bringing to an end a decadent world.


A few more years, and Satan’s world will be fully ended, and the people of earth will stand face to face with the actual conditions of the established kingdom of God! Within a comparatively short time, the true church is to finish her earthly course. How important it is that we properly ‘redeem the time’, zealously carrying out in our hearts and lives the Divine will for us in these evil days.

And it is not merely a fanciful notion, a pleasing illusion of the mind—what the world calls ‘wishful thinking’—that we are living in the Day of the Lord, the “day of his preparation” (Nahum 2:3), when the old order is actually passing away. Indeed, the more we study the prophecies of the Word pertaining to this time, the more vividly do we realize the importance of the days in which we are living. Truly, we stand all astonished with wonder when we realize that it is the blessed privilege of the saints today to see the mighty events of prophecy, long awaited by the faithful throughout the centuries, actually transpiring.

Time prophecies of the Bible show clearly that we are now very close to God’s kingdom, wherein the world shall find rest and peace, health and life. The 1335 days of Daniel 12:12 have been fulfilled, and the ‘blessedness’ which was then due to come to God’s people is being abundantly realized by those whose “lamps” are properly “trimmed and burning.”—Hymns of Dawn, #230

The foretold increase of knowledge and running to and fro which would precede the climax of a great time of trouble, as prophesied by Daniel and Jesus, would mark the time of our Lord’s second presence. (Dan. 12:1-4; Matt. 24:21,22; Luke 21:25-28) In this event we see fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy of the distress of nations and the roaring of the sea and waves, with men’s hearts failing them for fear, accompanied by cries of “peace, peace,” are all signs which the watchers in these days have been, and are, privileged to behold.—Jer. 6:14; 8:11

The foretold shaking of the powers of the symbolic heavens (Matt. 24:29), and the mourning of the tribes of the earth because of Christ’s presence, are also events marking the end of the age. The successive spasms of “travail” (I Thess. 5:3), and the “clouds” (Matt. 24:30) of trouble amidst which Christ was to come, together with the ‘melting’ (Ps. 46:6) of the elements of the earth and heavens as the result of the uttering of his “voice,” are also being fulfilled before our enraptured vision.

The Apostle Paul prophesied that Christ would descend from heaven with a “shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” (I Thess. 4:16) This ‘shout’ has gone forth, and is still going forth. The ‘voice of the archangel’ is still being heard, and the ‘trump’ of God is sounding.

While in Paul’s day he explained that the development of the Antichrist must needs intervene before the return of the Lord, and the establishment of his kingdom, the bright shining of Christ’s presence at this time has now revealed to the faithful watchers that the great Antichrist system has been developed, and soon this “mystery of iniquity” will be consumed “with the spirit of his mouth,” and will be destroyed “with the brightness of his coming [presence].”—II Thess. 2:7,8

The prophecies also clearly point out the revival of Jewish hopes through the establishment of the nation of Israel, and the return of God’s typical people to their homeland. The experiences of this new nation and its people have been dovetailing with all the other events to give us the complete and unquestionable testimony that Christ has come, and that Satan’s kingdom has but a short time to remain.

Best of all, to those who have been blessed with present truth, has been the fulfillment of Jesus’ own words that when he returned he would gird himself, and serve his people with meat in due season. (Luke 12:36,37) We are now rejoicing in the fulfillment of this promise. The truths of the Divine plan in all their glorious brilliancy are bringing to our attention not only the meaning of the times in which we are living, but also the glorious hope of restitution for the world and the privilege which we now have of suffering with Christ that we may reign with him.—Rom. 8:17; II Tim. 2:11,12


In seeking an answer to Peter’s question, “What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” (11 Pet. 3:11) we are reminded of Paul’s practical application of dispensational truth: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (I Thess. 4:18) ‘These words’, which the apostle suggests be used for the comforting of the brethren, are the ones immediately preceding which tell of the coming of the Lord, his descending from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God; also that the dead in Christ rise first, and that those who are alive and remain are to be exalted together with him in the ‘air’—the spiritual phase of the kingdom.

To those unacquainted with present truth, the dark age conception of Christ descending from heaven with a shout and with a trumpet surely would not be very comforting. But to those who understand the real meaning of these symbolic expressions, and the glorious truths which they set forth for the enlightenment and encouragement of the saints at this time, they are indeed comforting. In fact, all the truths pertaining to the end of the age are of vital importance to the people of God now, because we are living in the Day of the Lord, in the day when the prophecies pertaining to the time of Christ’s presence are being fulfilled in a glorious panorama of events unfolding before us day by day.

Our life of holy conversation and godliness should, therefore, be one filled with thoughts, words, and activities in keeping with the glorious fact of Christ’s presence and the end of the age. We are to comfort one another with these thoughts. We are not merely to learn about them and then keep them to ourselves. We are not to be ashamed of our knowledge of Christ’s presence, nor think it unimportant and therefore relegate it to an obscure place in our belief and ministry.

As the glorious truths pertaining to Christ’s return and the establishment of his kingdom constituted the inspiration of the Early Church, still more should it be the basis of our rejoicing now, when we see so many evidences all around us that the elements of this world are in the process of ‘melting with fervent heat’, and that soon the new heavens and the new earth will be established.


Examining ourselves with the thought that no promise of the Lord, nor any requirement of his, should be overlooked in view of the importance of the times in which we are living, we are reminded of the apostle’s lesson in I Corinthians 13 on the importance of love. Paul reminds us that even though we may have faith sufficient to remove mountains, and have not love, it profiteth us nothing. It would be of no avail for us to be aware of Christ’s presence, and the imminence of his kingdom, and by faith accept these fundamental truths, if they did not inspire within us that burning love for God and his people which will cause us to devote our all to the Divine service, laying down our lives for the brethren.

The Apostle John reminds us of the vital test of love, saying, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren … and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (I John 3:14-16) In the light of this inspired testimony, we can see that love is not to be viewed as merely a negative goodness. We are not to suppose that the true love of God is really in our hearts simply because we have no animosity toward others, hence would not knowingly do them injury. The love which is the true motive of ‘holy conversation and godliness’ is a principle that will move us to lay down our lives for others. The practice of justice will keep us from injuring our brethren and our fellow men, but love will prompt us to serve them.

Our love for the brethren should include all. While the Apostle Paul says, “The Lord knoweth them that are his,” our knowledge is not so complete and comprehensive as his. (II Tim. 2:19) Our knowledge of them is limited. (Matt. 7:16,20; John 13:35) Our service for the brethren, therefore, should not be limited to those few with whom we may be immediately associated, but should reach out in an effort to acquaint all who may have a hearing ear with the glorious truths that have been such a comfort and encouragement to us.


The Lord could have made it easy for us to serve the brethren had he so desired. He could in his own way let us know exactly who the individual brethren are in our territory, and arrange matters so that all we would need to do is to call upon them with the truth. They, in turn, would accept and we would rejoice in the privilege of thus being used of the Lord to communicate his message to his people.

But the Lord, in his wisdom, and as a test of the genuineness of our love, arranged that it should be done the hard way—the way which calls for self—sacrifice and labor and reproach and persecution. That is why the apostle, in Hebrews 6:10, refers to our ministry on behalf of the saints as a “labour of love.”

Unless we are willing, yea, rejoice in the privilege of laboring on behalf of the brethren for the Lord, we can seriously question just how much true love of God has filled our hearts. In response to this labor there may be little apparent results. We may spend weeks or months, or even years in ministering the truth to others, yet seldom if ever be rewarded with a certain knowledge that our efforts have really borne fruit in the enrichment of other hearts and lives.

But thereby God tests our faith, as well as our love. After all, the principal result of what we do is the preparation of ourselves for joint-heirship with the Master. If faithful we will later have the privilege of sharing with him in the enlightenment and blessing of all mankind. How profitable, indeed, will be our efforts for a few fleeting years this side of the veil, if thereby we are found faithful unto death, receive the crown of life, and are privileged to share in bestowing God’s blessings to all the sin-cursed and dying race!

After all, we should learn to view matters from God’s standpoint. The apostle says that “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love.” (Heb. 6:10) What does it matter whether men hear, or whether they forbear, whether they appreciate our efforts or are indifferent to them? What does matter is that God does not forget. Because God does not forget we enjoy the rich blessings of faith and hope now, and will be rewarded with all the superlative joys of the kingdom in his glorious presence by and by. What more could we ask?

Despite the fact that in these last days we have witnessed outstanding fulfillments of prophecy to reassure us of the verities of present truth, it seems more difficult than ever to maintain a burning zeal for the truth and the brethren. There are various reasons, no doubt, which contribute to this, not the least of which is the fact that today our zeal for God and his service has become more than ever before an individual responsibility. Undoubtedly, in the former days the zeal of many was quickened by the momentum of being associated in a group movement. It is always easier to go along with the crowd than to walk alone.

The Lord has permitted conditions to arise among his people which are calculated to test their individual loyalty to him. How are we meeting this test? Are the beauties of the truth still an inspiration to us, an inspiration that will carry us on to self-sacrifice in making known its glories to others? Or were we zealous in the past merely because others were zealous? The truth today is the same, and should be just as vital an influence in our lives as in the past. Jesus is still the Captain of our salvation, and the truth which he served to his people through “that servant” (Matt. 24:46) is still the Master’s representative in our hearts and lives. We still should be singing today, even as in the past, “Send out thy light and truth, O Lord; Let them our leaders be.”—Hymns of Dawn, #260

If our faith in present truth is what it should be, then it becomes a reality to us—something which actually leads us in the footsteps of the Lord, irrespective of how few or how many may similarly be walking in the same narrow way. We are to forget some things which are behind. Paul said he was doing this. (Phil. 3:13) On the other hand, we can with profit look back to some of the former days, if thereby we can be inspired to return to our “first love” and enthusiasm for the Lord and his truth.—Rev. 2:4

In Hebrews 10:32, Paul admonished those to whom he was writing to do this very thing. According to this text and that which follows—and also chapter 6, verse 10—they were at one time zealously engaged in a ministry of love to the saints, but they had seemingly permitted a spiritual lethargy to creep over them. In his effort to revive that first love, Paul admonished them to “call to remembrance the former days.” True, their zeal in the former days had led to a great fight of affliction; they had been “made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions,” yet had taken the spoiling of their goods joyfully.—Heb. 10:33,34

Here is a lesson—a vitally important lesson for any who for one reason or another may have permitted their ‘first love’ zeal to slacken. It is a mistaken notion that God wants his people to outgrow that wholehearted and irrepressible enthusiasm with which they responded to his love when he first shone into their hearts with the Gospel. What God particularly wants is to see that zeal continue until it consumes our lives even unto death in his service. May we not all, then, with profit, call to remembrance the ‘former days’, not merely as a pleasant memory, but with the view of having our zeal rekindled thereby, that we may continue our labor of love faithfully to the end.

Jesus sets forth signs in his ‘great prophecy’ that would indicate his second presence and the end of the age. He warns us that because iniquity would abound, the love of many would wax cold. (Matt. 24:12) Here, then, is another reminder that we should especially be on guard that the conditions to which the Master refers should cause a cooling off of our love and zeal. Surely, if we are giving proper consideration to what manner of persons we ought to be, we will not only avoid iniquity in our own lives, but will not permit the iniquitous influences with which we are surrounded to turn us away from the course of sacrifice.


And what is this iniquity to which the Master referred? As a practical lesson we can think of it as applying to anything that may be out of harmony with the Lord and his truth. Iniquitous practices of false leaders in the church have contributed to the dampening of zeal on the part of many. This should not be so, because our relationship to God through his truth should be so independent of others that even if they turn aside from the narrow way it would not influence us.

Our belief in the truth should not rest upon our confidence in men!

Many are the tests today—fiery darts of the Adversary—which tend to dampen the zeal of the Lord’s people if their eyes are not steadfastly fixed upon him and their hearts filled with his love. Ingenious, for example, are the arguments presented from various sources as to why the Lord’s consecrated people should now hide their light under a bushel. Sometimes a personal grievance that a brother may have toward someone in the ecclesia is permitted to influence his reasoning, until he justifies his position of antagonism toward the entire ecclesia and the activity of the ecclesia. Here is a case where iniquity is permitted to enter into a brother’s own heart and his love waxes cool.

Let us seek to rise above petty personal things that have no real bearing on the truth and our relationship thereto. What does it matter if someone may say something which does not please us? What if something is said purposely to injure us? Isn’t the Lord able to overrule and to cause such things to work together for our good? Let us not permit iniquity to enter our hearts and take us away from the Lord and the truth and the brethren.

As we give closer consideration to what manner of persons we ought to be, let us remember that first and foremost we should try to be like Christ. If we are truly endeavoring to follow his example, we should remember that he was tested in all points like as we are. He was reviled, he was persecuted, he was finally put to death, and yet in his dying moments, Jesus continued to be a faithful ambassador of the truth. Let us remember that the servant cannot expect to be above his Master, and that if we are true servants we will daily strive to be more like him.


‘Holy conversation and godliness’, if genuine, is not something that we can wear merely as a veneer. True godlikeness springs from within, and is based upon our habits of thinking. Peter’s question, ‘What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness’ will be answered according to the manner in which our thoughts are controlled. True Christian thinking is beautifully outlined by Paul in Philippians 4:8, where we read, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

There are many good and praiseworthy things with which we are surrounded, and upon which our minds could profitably dwell. But we believe that, as Christians seeking to have our minds filled with the things which truly pertain to life and godliness, we will do well to give special thought, first, to our Heavenly Father and his beloved Son, then to the truth in all its resplendent glory, and finally, to the brethren. If our hearts and minds are filled with things pertaining to God, to his plan and to his people, these pure, noble, praiseworthy, and virtuous thoughts will be constantly overflowing for the blessing of others. By holy conversation and godliness we will be used of the Lord to comfort the brethren and be able ambassadors of the new kingdom.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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