We see hypocrites in all walks of life. People are constantly pretending to be something they are not. Salesmen pretend to be your friend in order to sell you an item (house, car, clothes, etc.). Politicians pretend to be just like you in order to gain your vote. False teachers pretend to be servants of God in order to cause those weak in the faith to give them money (Rom 16:17,18).
What is a hypocrite? It is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense. In the religious sense, it refers to the person who pretends to be righteous when in essence they are wicked.
Examples of Hypocrisy
1. Peter (Gal. 2:13). This passage records the conduct of Peter while he was in Antioch. In the early church, Antioch was one of the first congregations to overcome its Jewish background sufficiently to break down the middle wall of partition which separated the Jews and Gentiles. In Antioch, the two groups had fellowship with each other; they ate meals together. When Peter came to Antioch, he joined right in with the two groups. He ate with Gentiles on the same basis as he ate with Jews. Soon, however, some men from the Jerusalem church arrived in Antioch. The Jerusalem Christians apparently still clung to their Jewish heritage. These men would have considered it a sin to eat with a Gentile. Consequently, they would disapprove of what was going on in Antioch. When these men arrived in Antioch, Peter put on his mask; he pretended to be what he was not. Whereas he had been eating with the Gentiles, when the men from Jerusalem arrived he ceased to have anything to do with the Gentiles. Therefore, he was playing a part, pretending to be different to what he really was. Consequently, we read this report of what happened in Antioch:
“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy” (Gal. 2:11-13).
This example from the New Testament illustrates what a hypocrite is; he is a man who pretends to be something he is not.
2. Matt. 23. Consider the various passages in this chapter which illustrate to us what the hypocrite is. Here is Jesus’ description of the hypocrisy of the Jews; He said:
“The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do sad observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men” (vs. 1-5).
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive a greater condemnation” (v. 14).
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (v. 23-24).
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also (vs. 25-26).
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (vs. 27-18).
These passages very well portray the nature of hypocrisy. Like the beautiful mausoleum which is very beautiful on the outside but full of decaying bodies on the inside, the hypocrite puts on a front which is very attractive but inwardly he is full of wickedness.
Hypocrisy Still In the Church
I have known businessmen who use their money to gain rule over the church. Whenever threatened, they threaten to leave and go to another church. They pretend to be faithful Christians who have the best interest of the church, but in reality, they are vested in self-interest.
I have known preachers, elders, and deacons to have had sexual affairs with women of the church while at the same time condemning such things as sin. They pretend to be good husbands and law-abiding Christians, but in essence, they use the church to fulfill their fleshly lusts.
I knew one preacher who was living in an adulterous marriage as biblically defined. During his tenure with this local church, he had convinced nearly the entire congregation that his marital situation was right with God. This caused many to be lead astray and commit adultery.
The man who pretends to be righteous but who cheats on his income taxes is a hypocrite. The man who portrays the image of a faithful Christian while loafing on the job which he is being paid to perform is a hypocrite.. The man who waits on the Lord’s table but lies when asked about the condition of the car which he is selling is a hypocrite.
Not All Sinners Are Hypocrites
None of us who claim to be Christians can live a perfect life. Consequently, we are going to be guilty of sin from time to time. The man who, when guilty of sin, falls down on his knees, prays to God for forgiveness, and honestly tries to cease practicing the sin of which he is repenting is not a hypocrite. This man is not trying to put on a cloak of righteousness to cover the wicked conduct in which he is engaged; he is a man who openly admits his guilt and asks God’s forgiveness. The hypocrite is aware of his guilt but has no intention of quitting his sinful conduct. Rather, he only wants to retain the respect of God’s people while following the Devil.
Conclusion: The hypocrite has the ability to hide his devious deeds from the sight of men, at least some men on some occasions. However, he can never conceal his conduct from God. Though the hypocrite might have a good reputation among men, his character is rotten and God knows it. The hypocrite is, therefore, a man who cares more about what men think of him than what God thinks of him.
God has revealed to us that all hypocrites will be exposed. Jesus said,
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Lk. 12:1 3).
The hypocrite will be exposed by God at the judgment. At that time, God shall tear away the cloak of righteousness with which the hypocrite hides his wicked heart underneath. Every idle word (Mt. 12:36) and every evil thought (Heb. 4:13) will be exposed for what it is.
Are you ready to stand before the judgment seat of Christ? Only the man who is protected by the blood of Christ can stand before God. Having had his sins washed away, this man is acceptable to God Almighty. The hypocrite, on the other hand, will be cast into Hell. Let us be sure that our righteousness is genuine and not feigned. Let those who call themselves a Christian, let as a Christian. Let the preacher, the elder, the deacon practice what they preach (Rom 2:21,22).