I do not like to worship with hypocrites, do you? They are such, well hypocrites! I like to worship where everyone is sincere, always practicing what they preach, don’t you? I have never liked to worship with sinners. It is so much more pleasant when everyone is always friendly and considerate and makes me feel at home, know what I mean? And it is always great when every worshiper is as pure at work, play, school, at the restaurant, at the bar (bar?), or wherever, as they are at church, isn’t it? Sure. Then we agree. I wonder where that might be? Well, nowhere! Oh! Well, I guess we will just stay home, right? We might as well. Christians are no better than non-Christians.
If you agree with the statements above, stay with me. Let us think about that for awhile.
What Is a Hypocrite, Anyway?
Like you and me, Jesus did not much like hypocrites, either. In Matthew 6:2, He said:
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men…
Hypocrite is from a Greek word which means, “An actor under an assumed character (stage player), that is, (figuratively) a dissembler (‘hypocrite’),” according to Strong. Jesus gives us a picture of hypocrisy in Mathew 23:27 where he tells the hypocritical Pharisees that they are “are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” (See also Acts 23:3).
The hypocrites that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:2 pretended to be godly men by doing alms, but they were really seeking the “glory of men,” rather than sincerely helping the needy out of compassion, which is the meaning of the word, alms. (See also Matt. 6:5, 16).
Please read Matthew 15:7-9. Here, Jesus addresses another hypocritical act that the Pharisees were guilty of. They taught the “commandments of men” as if they were the commandments of God. He had already rebuked them for transgressing the commandments of God by their traditions (Matt. 15:1-6). He did not condemn them for practicing tradition per se, but practicing traditions, as if they were commandments, instead of obeying the commandments of God. Now our Lord illustrates their hypocrisy by using an Old Testament prophecy (Is. 29:13) and applying it to them. They showed their hypocrisy by honoring God with their mouths while teaching false doctrine. They pretended to be honoring God while at the same time setting aside His commandments and replacing them with men’s traditions. Hypocrisy!
So hypocrisy is pretending to be one thing but teaching and/or doing things that are contrary to what you pretend to be.
Often Christians are accused of hypocrisy when they fail to live up to God’s commandments. While this can be evidence of hypocrisy, it is not always such. There is a difference between committing a sin out of weakness, ignorance or forgetfulness, and habitually teaching one thing and doing another. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes.
Are There Hypocrites in the Church?
Are there hypocrites in the church? Certainly, there are! The church is an organization that is made up of people. As such it has people in it that are not what they pretend to be. There were hypocrites in the church to whom Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:1-2.
The church is designed to be a place where sinners who are saved from their sins help each other to grow to be as God would have them to be. Peter urged his readers, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever” (2 Pet. 3:18). Paul writes about this in Ephesians 4:10-24, and church members are urged to “grow” (Eph. 2:21; 2 Th. 1:3; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). So the church is made of growing Christians, not perfect Christians! So there are going to be people in the church who are not in every respect what they ought to be.
Hypocrites Will Go to Hell
Hypocrisy is a sin. Jesus warned the Pharisees in Matthew 23:15:
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.
The Lord pronounces woe on these hypocrites twelve times in Matthew chapter 23. In 1 Timothy 4:1-3, Paul warns of those who will “…depart from the faith…speaking lies in hypocrisy…” According to Revelation 21:8, “…all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
So there will be no hypocrites in heaven! That is why Peter urged his reders in 1 Peter 2:1 to “lay aside…all hypocrisies.”
The Hypocrisy of Staying out of Church Because There Are Hypocrites in It
Should you refrain from attending worship services to avoid worshiping with hypocrites?
Remember, hypocrisy is pretending to be one thing but teaching and/or doing things that are contrary to what you pretend to be. If you are a Christian and refuse to attend worship services because there are hypocrites in it, are you doing God’s will?
Christians are God’s children. As such, we strive to do his will as perfectly as we can. We are not perfect, we make mistakes. But when we do make mistakes, we repent and work on doing better (See 2 Cor. 7:9-10; Acts 8:18-22; Rom. 2:1-4; Rev. 2:5). We are commanded to be faithful (1 Th. 5:21; 1 Timothy 1:13; Heb. 10:23; Rev. 2:10). That includes faithfulness in assembling with the saints (Heb. 10:25). If we profess to be Christians while forsaking the assembling with Christians, are we not hypocrites!?
Each person is responsible for his own salvation. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). No one can believe for us! No one can be saved for us. No one can cause us to be saved or lost but ourselves. We are not responsible for the hypocrites in the church. They are responsible for themselves! We cannot blame them for our unfaithfulness. Each of us must decide for ourselves if we are going to be faithful or unfaithful.
We cannot blame our own hypocrisy on the hypocrisy of others!
We will not be lost or saved based on whether or not there were hypocrites in the local church. Our eternal salvation depends on our own sincere obedience and worship to God. In the day of judgment, the King will not ask us, “How many hypocrites were in the local church where you lived?” (See John 5:28-29; 12:48-50; Matt. 25:31-46). Rather, He will ask, “Have you obeyed the gospel? Have you attended to the needs of your fellow man? Have you faithfully served and worshiped God? If your answer is, “Yes,” then the Lord will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord (Matt. 25:21, 23).
By-the-way, there may be a few hypocrites in the church, but the world is filled with them!
Will those hypocrites in the church cause you to go to hell? Only if you allow them to! Why not be faithful in your attendance and worship, and help hypocrites become sincere Christians? Why not help the hypocrites become former hypocrites and go to heaven, rather than allowing the hypocrites cause you to go to hell? After all, if you allow the hypocrite in the church to cause you to go to hell, they will be with you in eternity! Would it not be better to spend a short time on earth with a few hypocrites and eternity in heaven where there will be none?