Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Note on Hypocrisy

Isaiah 29:13
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Mark 7:6
He answered and said unto them [to the Pharisees and scribes], Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Jesus’ words in Mark 7:6 were directed to the Pharisees and scribes of His days. They were severely rebuked for being religious hypocrites (Matt. 23:13-33). While we will not dwell upon the specific reasons as to why the Pharisees and scribes were called hypocrites, it is timely to reflect upon this allegation of hypocrisy.

Let us be honest with each other. As sinners saved by grace, we all are hypocrites to a certain degree. And I believe that, next to pride, hypocrisy is probably one of the most hateful sins in the eyes of God. As legalists, the Pharisees were straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel (Mt 23:24). They fussed about every fine point of the law, but they missed the entire message of the Old Testament - the Messiah.

Some churches in our days may occasionally fall into the fallacy of being too moralistic in their preaching i.e. they preach against issues that ought to belong within the bounds of Christian liberty. But probably a more common error amongst Reformed, Evangelical churches is that of intellectual preaching. This is the fallacy of preaching academically on specific areas of fine doctrine without applying such doctrines to the believers’ lives. As a result, some believers have merely an intellectual grasp of the gospel, without its sanctifying grace on their lives. I do not want to go further and speculate about the salvific status of such professors of Christianity, but what I want to bring out is this: Christians are not meant to be mere intellectuals in theology.

Has the church become a theological training institution, whereby members come in simply to imbibe doctrines from the Sunday School, and to learn practical points about life from the sermons? We go to church on Sunday, get smarter in Bible knowledge, and leave the church the same person. We profess to know Christ, but our neighbors can never know Christ from our lives and speech.

Do our lives attract people to the gospel of Christ? Can we say that our colleagues and friends know that we are Christians because we live, behave, and speak like one?

The ability to argue for or against infralapsarianism, process theology, or Charismatism is laudable. Precision in theology is one thing, and we know that the Pharisees were likewise precise theologians. But please do not misunderstand my point. I, for one, am strongly for good, sound doctrine and theological training. But having an extensive, working knowledge of the Bible is not enough. Is your theology reaching and changing your life and that of others around you?

It is true that theology is not only for theologians, but also for the average layman belonging to any church. But has your theology made you a somewhat spiritually isolated, intellectual elitist? In fact, the Pharisees had become so elite, so professional that they are irrelevant to the spiritually dead people in the world. Let us ask ourselves this question, “Are we spending all our time dotting our ‘I’s and crossing our ‘T’s that we have made ourselves irrelevant to the work of the gospel?”

Take for example, the issue of evangelism. We say that we want to reach out to people who are not saved, but what are we doing in terms of evangelism? When was the last time we invited our loved ones to church, or when was the last time we shared the gospel with our neighbors? We are, indeed, called to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), and not only in our ecclesiastical, but also in our personal capacities.

If we have become so inward looking in our church life that we have no time to be ambassadors for Christ in the secular world, then we are treading the path of hypocrisy. Our doctrine is useful only for the edification of the saints, but not for the extension of His Kingdom. Worse, doctrine becomes merely a tool whereby the clergyman or the laity tries to outdo one another so as to impress the rest of the church as to how knowledgeable one has become in his command of the biblical languages and theology.

The church is not meant to be a small package all wrapped up with itself and its problems. I have known small churches that survive on a shoestring; yet, by the grace of God, they are able to reach out to the outcasts of society e.g. the drug-addicts, ex-prisoners, the orphans, and widows. Remember the words of our Savior, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32).”

Finally, let our theological knowledge be made useful for the Kingdom of God, and especially to those who are perishing. Let our lives be a living epistle, a light on the candlestick, and the salt of the world. And most of all let us not be guilty of spiritual hypocrisy. Our spiritual statuses are not measured by how other men see us, but by how the Lord perceives us. If our Savior is to return today, how will He rate our walk with Him? Will it be one upon ten, or ten upon ten?


Jenson's Blog said...

Welcome back.

Good post, as usual.

ddd said...


I'll second Jenson's post.

Mike Messerli said...

me too...good to have you back, and I alway enjoy your thoughts.