Question: "What does it mean to be ungodly? What is ungodliness?"
Answer: The Bible talks of “the ungodly” as those who are separated from God. Ungodliness is the condition of being polluted with sin. To be ungodly is to act in a way that is contrary to the nature of God, to actively oppose God in disobedience, or to have an irreverent disregard for God. The Bible often speaks of “the flesh” in reference to things that emanate from our sinful natures. The acts of the flesh and the desires of the world fall under the category of ungodliness.
Second Peter 3:7 says that the ungodly will face judgment. Revelation 20:14–15 says, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Ultimately, those who reject God—the ungodly—will be separated from Him forever.
Jude refers to false teachers as ungodly. His description contains these characteristics of ungodliness: they pervert the grace of God into a license for immorality, and they deny Jesus Christ as the only Sovereign and Lord (Jude 1:4). Later, Jude mentions the “ungodly acts” of the wicked and “defiant words” that the ungodly speak against God (verse 15). The ungodly are also characterized as “grumblers and faultfinders” who selfishly follow “their own evil desires,” boast and flatter (verse 16). The ungodly scoff at the truth of God and attempt to divide churches (verses 18–19).
Amazingly, Jesus sacrificed Himself for the ungodly. Romans 5:6 and 8 says, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5), clothing them with the righteousness of Christ and enabling them to “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way” (Colossians 1:10).
Our sanctification is progressive. That is, even though we are saved and justified in Christ, we sometimes still act in ungodly ways. We are still in the process of being transformed into His image (Romans 8:29–30; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 1:6). We are declared righteous before God but are still being made holy in practical terms. In short, we still sin. Scripture says we should confess our sin and trust God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:8–9). Nothing can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ (Romans 8:31–39). We are no longer numbered among the ungodly, even though we still fight our fleshly urges and sometimes act in ungodly ways.
Generally speaking, the ungodly are those who do not know God through Jesus Christ. They have rejected God’s Son and remain in their sins. Those who are in Christ have their sins forgiven and are becoming more godly. Believers naturally seek to remove all ungodliness from their lives (1 John 3:9).