Worship Times

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Today's Verse


Christ's Definition Of An Hypocrite

by Don Snow

There is no personal enjoyment that I get in writing this article about hypocrites, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). However, this message is important because the loving Savior defines an hypocrite’s actions as: harmful to the church of Christ, as well as ‘condemning’ to the hypocrite’s own soul.

Before we consider the irreverent and godless side of an hypocrite, let’s remind ourselves that God loves all mankind (John 3:16), He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Christ, the Word, came down from heaven to do the Father’s will in providing mankind’s salvation (John 1:1-14; John 6:38-40; Philippians 2:5-11). Then finally, the sinless Christ (Hebrews 4:14-15; Heb. 7:26; 2 Cor. 5:21; I Peter 2:21-25; I John 3:5; John 8:46) sacrificed Himself and paid the ransom for our sins so that "He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14; Galatians 1:4-5; Ephesians 2:10; Hebrews 10:24-25; I Peter 2:12; and I John 2:3-11).

The word "hypocrite" is used eleven times in the Bible, "hypocrites" is used twenty times, and "hypocrisy" is used six times. Yet not once is the person, or his actions, described favorably by God. The Hebrew definition for an hypocrite is: profane and impious. The Biblical Greek definition is: dissembler (one who camouflages, masks or fakes), and is a pretender. The literal description of an hypocrite is: "play acting, the acting of a stage-player". Webster’s Dictionary defines an hypocrite as: "one who pretends to be what he is not; and one who pretends to be pious, virtuous, and better than he really is." Of course, an hypocrite’s stage-playing and evil actions can be endless.

In Proverbs 11:9 it reads, "An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered." A murderer usually destroys people with a gun or a knife, but an hypocrite destroys with his mouth. Peter, however, admonishes Christians in 1 Peter 2:1-3, "Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious."

A lack of humility is usually at the center of most problems with an hypocrite’s actions. The arrogant, proud hypocrite who is striving for power and advantage, usually stands squarely in the middle of many problems and divisions in the Lord’s church (see III John 1:9 thru 11; & I Tim. 1:20). It was obviously pride that caused Satan to fall into condemnation and sin (I Tim. 3:6). And through pride, Satan holds countless souls of this world in captivity to do his will. While pride may indicate a proper respect for oneself and a feeling of satisfaction, yet its evil side indicates a person who is "full-of-himself", conceited, egotistic, greedy, and haughty.

Hypocrites can be found in politics, business, and every phase of life. However, turn with me to Matthew 23, and let us have the Lord Jesus Christ define some "characterizations" and "actions" of the hypocrites who were among the religious circles of the scribes and Pharisees during the Old Testament period.

I. An hypocrite shuts the door of heaven to many people.

In Matt. 23: verse 13, Jesus says: "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." ["Woe" means: grief or denunciation].

Hypocrites cannot stand for others to appear better than themselves, but neither do they see their selfish behavior nor acknowledge their deceitful actions. Through play-acting, binding personal opinions and false doctrines of men, along with a holier-than-thou-attitude, an hypocrite keeps many from accepting Christ, and obeying the gospel of the Savior. While most people do not usually allow hypocrites in politics, education, and other endeavors to deter them from doing what is right, many will allow an hypocrite in the church to keep them from attending the worship of the church and obeying Christ.

II. An hypocrite devours the property of others under a holy pretense

In verse 14, Jesus says: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation."

The hypocrite makes merchandise of people by convincing individuals to send their money and resources to him for so-called "God’s work" (2 Peter 2:3). Under the pretense of religious zeal and long prayers this person is able to prey upon unsuspecting people for their goods. To me, personally, there is nothing more detestable than to see or hear of so-called preachers on television, radio, and in a church who use good words and fair speeches to deceive and entice widows, elderly, and the unwary to send or give them money and property so that they can, in the name of religion, occupy the lifestyle of the rich - with fancy clothes, hair styles, Rolex watches, large homes, air-conditioned dog-houses, and fancy cars.

Don’t misunderstand! I am not discouraging Christians from giving to the cause of Christ. Each Christian is instructed in I Cor. 16:1-2, "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come." "On the first day of the week" is referring to the Lord’s Day, the day that commemorates the Lord’s resurrection, the day that the Lord’s church began on earth, and the day of divine worship observed by faithful Christians. But, concerning our giving it reads in 2 Cor. 9:6, "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." This giving is done so that each congregation of the Lord’s church may proclaim the gospel-truth of Christ to people of the community and the world. Also, Christians give so that needy saints may be helped in life’s hardships. But, the church’s benevolence is not for the lazy and those who won’t work (2 Thess. 3:10-12). However, everyone is free to give personal gifts to whomever they wish. Yet, when you hear these so-called preachers asking for your "seed of faith money" to be sent to them, while they relish in luxury, glamour, and entertainment then LOOK OUT. You are about to be taken. Also, compare their teachings and doctrines with the blood-sealed Covenant of Christ (John 8:32). Because many false prophets and teachers are gone out into the world - (2 Peter 2:1; I John 4:1-6; Matt. 7:15; Matt. 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26). .

III. An hypocrite spares no efforts in making disciples, but the ‘followers’ end-up in worse condition than they were at the start.

In verse 15, Jesus says: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."

A "proselyte" is a person who has been converted from one religion, party, or opinion to another. While the Lord does not condemn the making of proselytes to God and His Word, Christ does condemn the making of proselytes to human doctrines, man-made creeds and opinions, or to religious parties and sects. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 15:7-9 and Mark 7:6-7, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." (NKJ) [See Isaiah 29:13; Colossians 2:22; 2 Tim. 4:14].

THINK ABOUT IT! The Jewish Pharisees were converting the Gentile proselytes to Pharisaism instead of God’s Old Testament law. And, as a result, the poor "proselyte" only left idols and idolatrous worship to accept false, human doctrines and commandments of men, which just made him twice more a child of hell than before. But, today, has the picture changed? Notice the words of the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:15-16, "Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation--as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." [Please, observe the LORD’S instructions to elders of the church in Titus 1:10 thru 16].

IV. An hypocrite foolishly twists the word of God for his own benefit.

In verses 16 thru 22, Jesus says: "Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon."

While there were Israelites who faithfully served and worshiped God according to the Old Law of Moses, yet the Lord is here dealing with religious parties, among which were the Pharisees (who had their lawyer-like scribes), and the Sadducees (who did not believe in the resurrection). However, the Pharisees bargained in trivia and silly pettiness. In fact, one Bible commentator writes: "It is grievous enough that men should be encouraged to think that there are two kinds of truth, one of which is important, and the other which is not important. In other words, that which is sworn to, and that which is simply stated without an oath. This leads men to think that unless they take an oath, they may tell lies with little or no blame. But to tell men that, even when they have sworn, they are not bound to tell the truth or abide by the promise, unless their oath is taken in a certain way or certain manner. This then becomes far worse, and far more destructive of men’s sense of honor and love of truthfulness." [Observe the Lord’s statement on swearing in Matthew 5:33 thru 37].

V. An hypocrite has unbalanced thinking.

In verses 23 & 24, Jesus says: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel."

The first thing the Lord says about the weightier matters of God’s law is "judgment". The Greek word for "judgment" in this verse means: "what is right, just and having justice".

The second word is "mercy". Mercy means: "ready to help those in trouble, having compassion, love, kindness, sympathy and forgiveness when the person repents and turns his life from evil, and demonstrates God’s goodness and righteousness."

The third word is "faith". This word, according to Greek Lexicons, means: "fidelity, faithfulness, and the character of one who can be relied on."

Yes, the hypocrite is a specialist in looking for specks in others - not himself. So then he can "nitpick" everyone’s life. When the Lord came to this world, as promised, He did not object to the Jews obeying the Old Law of Moses in their paying tithes (including giving potting herbs of mint, anise and cummin). This did not affect the spirit of God’s religion under the first covenant. However, these Pharisees failed miserably in the nature of God’s religion because they neglected Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness, which have always been a part of God’s rules. And Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness are certainly a part of Christ’s New Testament rules for service and "spirit and truth" worship to God. Yes, the hypocrite is conscientious and careful about small, petty things - but is lax and unprincipled about the weightier matters of God’s law.

VI. An hypocrite is big on outward forms, but neglects a pure heart.

In verses 25 & 26, Jesus says: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." [In Mark 7, verses 1 thru 23 we learn where the ceremonial washing of cups and platters came from].

Here is another imbalance in the thinking of the hypocrite. The Lord does not condemn one’s outward cleanliness. Christ’s supreme concern is a person’s "heart" and "spiritual cleanliness". This is accomplished, not by outward ceremonies, but by righteousness, honesty, self-control, truthfulness, and fairness, which are in harmony with the word of God.

While the hypocrite may be careful in keeping "an outward ceremony", yet he thinks nothing of robbing widows and orphans, dealing deceitfully with others, defrauding people of money, nor of changing, or violating God’s moral code – the word of Christ (I Timothy 4:1-11; James 3:13-18).

VII. An hypocrite outwardly appears righteous, but he has a heart and behavior of deceit and iniquity.

In verses 27 & 28, Jesus says: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."

Although an hypocrite may have physical pomp and earthly glory, yet he is morally and spiritually dead. But his life is not hidden from the vision and knowledge of the Lord, who knows all hearts (Hebrews 4:11 thru13; Luke 16:15).

Even though the hypocrite be quick to say "I have sinned", yet repentance and turning from sin usually play little or no important roll in the hypocrite’s life. However, the Bible conveys the Lord’s command of repentance to mean sorrow for one’s sin (2 Cor. 7:10), and calls for a change of heart and life of the Christian – (Romans 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:19; and Titus 2:11-14).

VIII. An hypocrite speaks notably of the Lord, praises His teachers and applauds His righteous followers. But he, himself, refuses to follow the Lord’s blood-sealed Covenant.

In verses 29 thru 31, Jesus says: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets."

It’s reported that Herod the Great, a beast-like-monster of wickedness, rebuilt the tomb of the Psalmist David. And Josephus, a Jewish historian, records that the third temple in Jerusalem, which was used during the days of Jesus, was begun and largely built under the order of Herod the Great.

Yes, the hypocrite often thinks and articulates that if he’d been in the days of the Lord, he would not have acted toward Jesus as did many of the Jews. But, when one rejects the gospel of Christ, tramples under foot God’s truths, does despite to the Spirit of God’s grace, loves sin, forsakes a spirit-and-truth worship to God, and scorns the Lord’s followers, how can he be anything less than a murderer of Christ? This is an hypocrite.