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Hypocrites in The Church

Are there hypocrites in the church? Surely, there are some. Paul dealt with such in his
day for he said in 2 Cor. 11:13, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers,
disguising themselves as apostles of Christ." (NASU) In Gal. 2:4 he speaks of "false
brethren secretly brought in." (NASU) Hypocrisy is thus an age old problem and one we
will never rid ourselves of in this life.

There are hypocrites about everywhere you look so why be surprised or shocked to find
some in the church? There is a good chance you work with one or more hypocrites - a
man or woman who claims to be laboring but simply does not in reality do the job that he
or she was hired to do. They are slackers on the job but the pretense is that they work
hard.

There are men who are pretending to be husbands but are not, women pretending to be
wives but are not, men pretending to be fathers but are not, there are women pretending
to be mothers but are not. One could go on and talk about politicians, friends, you name
them, but the question to be dealt with in this article is what shall we do about hypocrites
in the church?

There are some people who lay all the blame for their own failure to obey the gospel on
hypocrites in the church. They talk as though they want nothing to do with such a bunch
of hypocrites and it is beneath them to associate with such. They are better than that.

Certainly, the Bible condemns hypocrisy. What may surprise the reader is that the actual
word "hypocrisy" is found only in 9 verses of the New American Standard Bible Update
edition and the word "hypocrite" is found in only 2 verses of the same translation. Does
that mean there is not a lot written on the subject? Not at all.

One has to remember that in defining a word one learns much about that word by
studying carefully words that are the antonyms of the word being defined. We all know
that one who is guilty of hypocrisy is one who pretends that which is not true, to be what
he is not, he is a pretender and deceitful. Well, what is the opposite of that? The
antonyms for hypocrisy given by the Merriam Webster Dictionary are genuineness and
sincerity. Thus every time your Bible commands honesty and sincerity of heart it
condemns hypocrisy.

One needs to read no further than Matthew to get Jesus' take on hypocrisy. He calls the
Pharisees and scribes hypocrites and then says to them, "you, too, outwardly appear
righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matt. 23:28
NASU) When Jesus calls a man a hypocrite as he did the Pharisees and scribes in verse
27 he did not mean it as a compliment. It is a condemnation.

In Luke 12:1 he says, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
(NASU) He goes on then to say they will not get by with it for "there is nothing covered
up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known." (Luke 12:2 NASU)
What was true for them will also be true for you and me if we do not guard our hearts
closely and act out of sincerity. It is easy, for example, to worship out of duty rather than
sincerely from the heart, out of obligation versus desire.

Peter says to all Christians that we are to put "aside all malice and all deceit and
hypocrisy and envy and all slander." (1 Peter 2:1 NASU) The words Joshua spoke to the
children of Israel in his day are just as applicable to us as they were to them. He said,
"Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth." (Joshua 24:14
NASU)

Paul's desire for the Philippians (and for us) was that they might be "sincere and
blameless until the day of Christ." (Phil. 1:10 NASU) The writer of the book of Hebrews
instructs us to draw near to God "with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having
our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure
water." (Heb. 10:22 NASU) Enough has been said without going further - God demands
of us honesty, sincerity, and not hypocrisy.

No one can defend a hypocrite nor would it be right to try and do so but to those who
complain about hypocrites in the church and use them as an excuse to not obey the gospel
we ask this question, can you live the Christian life better or will you even try? Do you
know that it is easier said than done? Do you know that the apostle Peter himself was
guilty of hypocrisy for a time? Are you making claim to be better than Peter?

Paul said of Peter, called Cephas in this passage, that "when Cephas came to Antioch, I
opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain
men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to
withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the
Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by
their hypocrisy." (Gal 2:11-13 NASU)

Did David not for a time after committing adultery with Bathsheba and after having her
husband killed act as though (pretending) he had done nothing wrong? Was he not being
a hypocrite? It took Nathan the prophet with a direct message from God to get him to
face up to his own hypocrisy.

I wonder, will either of these hypocrites be in heaven? Since one does not want to be
with hypocrites in the church one supposes that one feels the same about being with them
in heaven. Yes, we are sure that these men repented of any and all wrong doing but the
point is that for a time they were hypocrites. Just because a man is a hypocrite today
does not mean he will be one tomorrow or that he will never repent. Maybe if you would
become a Christian and play the role of a Nathan you could save him. Do you care
enough about him to try?

Another point that needs pursuing is this - the fact that a man is in sin does not
necessarily imply that he is a conscious hypocrite. It would be easy to look at a church
like that at Corinth in the New Testament and read about all of the sins in that
congregation and just say that church is full of hypocrites and sinners. I want nothing to
do with them. Does that attitude save them?

What if Paul had felt that way about them - just a bunch of hypocrites that I want nothing
to do with? Would they not all have been lost who were caught up in sin there? Instead,
what did Paul do? He says he wrote to them in tears (2 Cor. 2:4), speaking of his first
Corinthian letter, teaching, begging, pleading, exhorting them to repent. Did any of them
do so?

Paul says in his second letter, speaking of the results wrought by his first letter, that
"though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it--for I
see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while--I now rejoice, not that you
were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for
you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss
in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a
repentance without regret, leading to salvation." (2 Co 7:8-10 NASU)

When we say we will have nothing to do with hypocrites we are really saying we have no
concern about them, we do not love them as people, let them go to hell, I don't care.
Love does not run away from people but rather toward them.

There are probably not too many Christians who have lived so faithfully for a full
lifetime that they can honestly say there was never ever any hypocrisy in their lives. It
may be that the public did not see it but in our inner man we have known we were not
right with God. We were tempted for a time and fell. Can you do better than we have
done? Great, time to get started.

Have you ever thought about the fact that while you might have to live with some
hypocrites in the church that if you stay outside the church, the body of Christ of which
he is the Savior (Eph. 1:22-23, 5:23), you will get to live with all the hypocrites that have
ever lived on earth for all time together in hell for eternity? Better to suffer with a few
hypocrites now than with them all eternally. Of course, all hypocrisy will be unmasked
there.

Finally, and I think I will make this my last point, where is the compassion? A lot that
passes for hypocrisy is merely ignorance of Bible teaching. True, given time, we ought to
study and gain knowledge on our own but it takes time. Add to that the fact that Bible
teaching and preaching has generally been very weak for decades now (and the world is
full of false teaching) we ought to have some compassion on many who are involved in
things they ought not to be. Many simply do not know better.

Learning is not always as easy as we think either. Having been around public schools for
a few decades I can vouch for the fact that many cannot read. They are barely able to get
by. Not everyone is born a great natural scholar. I only argue for a bit of patience and
compassion on all of these hypocrites that it is said the church is full of. There are a lot
of people you may call hypocrites that you could help if you cared enough to give it a try.
You want nothing to do with them but they need you. But, again, you want nothing to do
with them.

Yes, we all despise the idea of hypocrisy and do not have any desire whatsoever to defend
true hypocrites. Much of my arguing in this piece has been for the purpose of showing
that there is room for love and compassion and that even good and great men are capable
of falling into hypocrisy for a time.

But, are we not hypocrites ourselves when we say we are too good for all of them, when
we say we are too good for the gospel, when we say we are too good for the church? Are
we not pretending to be better than we really are?

In closing I want to mention the conversation Jesus had with Peter after his resurrection
when he found Peter and a few of the disciples on the sea having fished all night and
caught nothing. You will find the account in John chapter 21 beginning in verse about
15. We have earlier in this piece talked about Peter's own hypocrisy but if you will read
closely verses 18 and 19 you will see that Peter was to die a death that would glorify
God. He would die a saved man so hypocrites can be saved, can repent and be saved.

But, my point is not that. It is rather this. When Jesus told Peter about what kind of
death he Peter would die Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved and
said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" (John 21:21 NASU) Please hear Jesus'
response. "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!"
(John 21:22 NASU)

My final words in this piece - if there are hypocrites in the church what is that to you as
regards your own salvation? You follow Jesus. I think that is exactly what Jesus would
tell you. What do you think he would say to you?