C. David Ragland, Jr.
December 26, 2015
The Hypocrite’s Hollow Hope
The hypocrite has no more hope of salvation than he who openly reviles Christ. His false professions are hollow and without substance. Many ask, “Can we not simply acknowledge God and live as best we can to obtain salvation?” The hypocrite seems to think so, but relying upon human effort saves no one; and one is fooling himself by hiding behind a patina of pretense. The hypocrite is no more able to escape God’s judgment than the vilest of reprobates (Gal 6:7,8). Belief in God’s existence and hollow confessions are meaningless without true regeneration (James 2:19).
We begin to understand why the hypocrite is lost by learning precisely what hypocrisy is.
Merriam-Webster’s Full Definition of hypocrisy1
1: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion
2: an act or instance of hypocrisy
Even within secular references, one learns that hypocrisy is synonymous with pretense. The Greek word for hypocrite is “hupokrités” and is defined as “actor” or “pretender” (see Strong’s 5273). The English word “hypocrite” is used to identify a person who is not a true believer, but an actor playing the part of one. The term does not apply to a Christian who, on occasion, is guilty of lapsing into sin. It is properly applied to a unregenerate person who unvaryingly sins, yet pretends to love and belong to God.
The path to damnation is broad
The road to perdition is indeed broad and the hypocrite travels it alongside the reprobate. An unrepentant sinner, in his arrogance, has a delusional view of himself. His carnal mind makes him an enemy of God’s law (Rom 8:7). Therefore, he does that which is right in his own blind eyes. Without Christ as his Lord and Savior, such a person lives his life as a willing victim of his own folly. He perverts free will at his peril until the end of his days unless his pitiful path be changed by God’s grace. To his detriment, sinful man destroys his hope of Heaven by either ignoring or defying God’s precepts. If not for God’s willingness to reconcile man to Himself, eternal damnation would be the just punitive consequence of his actions. By God’s grace, some will be saved, but those who refuse to repent and believe the Gospel are already damned (John 3:18 ).
We look at the reprobate and are not in the least doubtful regarding his path; he is on the broad path to destruction (Matt 7:13). The hypocrite is not always so easy to identify but his path is no different. Though he may portray himself to be a paragon of Christian virtue, he is no more reconciled unto God than the worst of sinners. Hypocrites may go to Church, but are not true members of it. Many are those who make public proclamations of faith in Christ with no intention of ever submitting to His authority. A false profession and engagement in religious activities provide nothing more than a vaporous facade; for the blood of Christ, there is no substitute.
Coming to terms with the gravity of the hypocrite’s predicament
Anyone who doubts that God hates feigned pietism, needs only to examine how Jesus addressed Pharisaic hypocrisy (cf. Matt 23). While the Pharisees had a handle on the law, they were known for speaking it far better than actually abiding it. They also tended to be very judgmental of others and often brutally enforced laws they themselves did not keep. In Matthew 23, Jesus referred to the Pharisees as hypocrites, fools, and even serpents.
Crucial lessons to be learned
While the hypocrite has hollow hopes, they often do possess knowledge of scriptural truths. And when a person speaks the truth, we are to take heed of the message even if we have ought against the messenger (Matt 23:1-3). This demonstrates how hypocrisy can complicate the Christian life. Religious leaders who harp upon God’s word with no intention of living by it, foster a disdain for all spiritual authority amongst unbelievers and novice brethren. So, we are to search our Bibles daily to ascertain that we’ve heard the truth; we are to look beyond the messengers and examine the message.
From the hypocrites, we can learn very well how not to act. We also learn to know them when and where we see them. Not only did Jesus publically reprove the Pharisees, he addressed the multitude and openly warned them against following their erroneous examples (cf. Matt 15:10). One must take to heart our Lord’s admonitions regarding false casuistry. Hypocrites are perhaps difficult but not impossible to identify. Just as they bore certain identifying markers in Jesus’ time (Matt 23:5), we can know them today. Who amongst us in modern times has not intuitively rolled our eyes at the charlatan televangelist(s)? We are to be wary and remember Christ’s words when He said, “But all their works they do for to be seen of men:” (Matt 23:5).
Hypocrisy’s harmful effects on ministry
The Great Commission, Christ’s command to preach the Gospel to every creature, is improperly handled by the hypocrite (Matthew 23:15). What discerning student will receive instruction from a teacher who doesn’t take God’s admonitions seriously? How can a hypocrite show one the way to the Kingdom of Heaven when they have no hope of entering in themselves (Matt 23:13)? How can God’s commands have any effect when spoken the lips of a hypocrite (15:3-6)? The lips of a hypocrite may draw close to God, but his heart is far from Him (cf. Matt15:7-9). An effective teacher must embrace and walk in God’s truth; otherwise his work does no good for himself or his student (cf. 1Tim 4:16).
The hypocrite is notorious for misusing religion to take advantage of the weak and impress his cronies (Matt. 23:14). The Apostle Paul warned Timothy and Titus of such teachers (2Ti 3:4-6; Tit 1:10-11). A true Christian has been regenerated and loves godliness; he is contented by the blessing of the new birth and shuns the world system (cf. 1Ti 6:3-8). We are to honor God’s dictates in all we do in the eyes of both God and man (cf. 2 Cor 8:21)
God’s standard for salvation is absolute; it is through Christ alone that we receive God’s saving grace. And is it through abiding in God’s precepts for living that we abide in God’s standards of morality. The hypocrite manufactures his own standards and becomes a law in his own eyes. A minister is a servant of God and is expected to assist his disciples in improving their lives. The hypocrite does quite the opposite (Matt 23:15).
A hypocrite is a counterfeit Christian, an actor playing a part for his own purposes (Matt 23:5-7). He has no love for God and seeks only to please himself by being a wolf among God’s sheep (Matthew 7:15-20). Whether he thinks of himself as being on solid ground is not a matter about which we ought to be concerned. Our focus should be upon avoiding hypocritical behavior and being wary of true hypocrites (Luke 12:1). The hypocrite is ultimately his own worst enemy in that his mask won’t hide him from God’s judgement (Hebrews 4:13). God’s truth is not something we merely speak out like a parrot, it is something we live (Matt 15:8; James 1:22-25).
1. “Hypocrisy.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2015.