"The Church is Full of Hypocrites"
This is a very popular objection that has been around for a long time. Unlike some other objections that find very little basis in truth, this one actually has some merit to it, depending on how we define our terms.
Far too often Christians begin to engage on issues and enter into discussions, some of which can be quite volatile, without ensuring that everyone involved is using the same terminology, and more importantly, using the same definitions for those terms. As we discuss our spiritual convictions with others we should make every attempt to first define our terms so that we can keep our assumptions to an absolute minimum.
Having said that, let’s define what it is meant by the word hypocrite.
hyp·o·crite: A person who indulges in hypocrisy. ...thanks for that Google... :-|
Let’s try this:
hy·poc·ri·sy: Claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform.
How about this more accessible definition:
Hypocrite: Someone who says certain things that don’t support what they actually do.
Notice in both definitions above there is a claim being made. In order to answer the charge of hypocrisy in the church, it must be understood what the alleged hypocrite is claiming. In other words, what is their message?
For example, if a professing Christian says that he/she doesn’t sin and always follows the Bible’s teachings with all they think, say and do, then that person is a hypocrite. How do I know that? Because no one can and does follow the Bible 100% in all thought, word and deed.
However, if a professing Christian says that they strive to obey all of God’s commands as laid out in the Bible (and teach others to do the same), yet they fail to live up to that standard, that doesn’t necessarily make that person a hypocrite.
So my point is this, everyone agrees that part of the definition of a hypocrite is someone who says certain things. Because we all agree on that definition, it then depends upon what a person is saying in order to determine if one is being hypocritical.
I’ll use myself as an example. If my message is this: Mike Bongo is an unruly law breaker who deserves nothing from God but to receive His wrath in hell for my disobedience and rebellion. But God, in His mercy, saved me from that fate by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die in my place as my substitute. By faith, God has granted me eternal life, when all I deserve is death. Now, as a Christian, I seek to obey God’s Word, and to walk in obedience to all of His commands for the rest of my days. That’s my message.
If you now find me to be engaging in thoughts, words, and/or deeds that are inconsistent with the Bible and my profession of faith, that doesn’t necessarily prove anything – other than what I have already stated. I already told you that I am a rebellious lawbreaker. I never claimed to have attained any level of sinlessness or moral perfection. I seek to achieve that (and according to the Bible) I should be growing in that direction, but I will never arrive there this side of the grave.
In order to determine if someone is a hypocrite, it depends upon the claim they’re making.
There is more to this objection than meets the eye though. We must define one more term…the church. If someone says the church is full of hypocrites, what do they mean by the church? It’s not as simple as we might first think.
There is the visible church and the invisible church. The visible church are the people who attend church services and we can see them doing so. However, the invisible church is a different category of people who are most likely part of the visible church, but these people are the “called out ones”, who have been born of the Spirit, regenerated, Spirit indwelt believers who are “invisible” because unlike the visible church, we can’t see exactly who’s a part of this church.
If the claim is that there are hypocrites in the visible church, I could see how someone could come to that conclusion. However, I am much more reticent to agree with that charge when it comes to the invisible church. Why? Because as a Bible believing Christian, I do maintain that Jesus does in fact change people. Over time, true Christians should be growing in holiness. True Christians should be progressing in sanctification. True Christians should look more and more like Jesus and less and less like the world as time marches on.
Again, if I use myself as an example, if that is my message, and that isn’t a reality in my life, then there’s a problem. I must figure out what the problem is and then deal with it appropriately. I do think Christianity, especially American Christianity, does have a problem, and it contributes towards the objection at hand.
The reason hypocrisy in the church is such a prevalent objection and is regularly leveled against Christians is because of something called false conversions. The visible church does have a problem; it is people who profess to be Christians, who aren’t.
Not everyone who attends the “visible church” is part of the “invisible church”, and not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually is one.
If you haven't noticed already, much of BringingTRUTH.com is dedicated to addressing the issue of false conversions. I happen to know false converts exist from personal experience (I was one myself for many years). But more importantly, we know they exist because the Bible tells us they do.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus states, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23
We read in the Gospel of Luke, And someone said to Him (Jesus), “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’ Luke 13:24-27
Lastly, we know that false converts exist because the charge of hypocrisy gives evidence to their existence.
A false convert can be hard to identify. They may say all the right words. They may do good deeds. But the questions that we should all ask ourselves are:
· Am I born again? (John 3)
· Am I a new creation? (2 Corinthians 5:17)
· Do I have a new heart with new desires? (Ezekiel 36:26)
In America most people call themselves Christians, and I simply want to ask those individuals to do what the Bible says, examine yourself.
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13:5
For a solid biblical test to whether or not you are in the faith, click here.
If you are professing believer, please don’t compare yourself with the rest of the professing believers, but look to the Word of God. Seek out what God has to say on the matter. Ask Him to reveal to you the true state of your soul. The last thing you want is to be surprised on the Day of Judgment.
If you are a non-believer, don't let hypocrites stand between you and God. I could understand if you reject Christianity because you found hypocrisy in Christ. But I can say with all confidence, look as hard as you want, you will never find any hypocrisy in Jesus because it isn’t there. If you are looking to Christians (like me) for the standard of holiness, I’m sorry to tell you, you will be greatly disappointed. Rather look to the only perfect One, Jesus Christ, and don't get sidetracked by some of His supposed followers.