One of the most common criticisms of the church today is its hypocrisy. Before we jump to defending that it’s not, we should realize that Scripture confirms it to be as well. The claim of hypocrisy is a valid one.
The Greatest Apostle, a Hypocrite
Paul, the greatest of the apostles, says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom. 7:15). Paul was one of the greatest evangelists of all time, spreading the gospel to some of the first places it ever went. He also had an undeniable first-person encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. His dramatic life change and continuous profession of Christ, despite unfathomable persecution, was clear evidence that Paul absolutely believed that living the Christian life in pursuit of holy living was so important it was worth suffering and dying for. And yet Paul himself states that he often didn’t do what he knew he should do. This is the dilemma known as “already but not yet.” If we have been born again, we have been made alive in Christ, and our sins are paid for, but our sanctification will not be complete until we reach heaven, where there will be no temptation or sin.
Are Christians the Greatest Hypocrites?
In one sense, yes. We know who the Lord is and we know how we’re to behave, and yet like Paul, we do what we don’t want to do. Paul actually called himself the “greatest of all sinners” at the end of his life (1 Tim 1:15). James reminds us that he who knows what he ought to do but doesn’t do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17). Bible-believing Christians have explicit instructions concerning what we’re to do and the Holy Spirit to empower us to obey and convict us when we go off course. We have no excuse to continue in sin, yet we do.
The Attitude Reflects Our True Position
Yet it’s the attitude toward our hypocrisy that makes all the difference. As a Christian with the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of me, I can no longer be ok with remaining in sinful hypocrisy. My position as a Christian requires me to hate my sin and seek to actively crucify it daily. But if I am aware of my hypocrisy and claim it to be ok I’m a liar and there is no truth in me (1 John 1:8). The difference is that the first position has me conforming to the image of Christ. The other attitude has me growing apart from Him.
Am I a Hypocrite?
Am I a hypocritical Christian? Do I do what I know I shouldn’t do? Yes. But I have a gift that others just won’t understand without knowing Who is doing my perfecting. The Holy Spirit is making me aware of the hypocrisy of my actions and words. He’s showing me the division in my heart. He’s showing me the reality of my sin, and He keeps pointing me to The Way, who gives me power to overcome that sin. I might be an unintentional hypocrite for now, but someday I won’t be. And the pursuit of that holiness is only by the grace of knowing the one true God. No action, no word, and no thought of mine can ever take away my inheritance in the Kingdom because I know to Whom that Kingdom belongs.
Joanna Sanders is a graduate of Villanova University and Moody Theological Seminary. She’s also the founder and head writer of Colossians46.com, which provides biblical content support, writing, and editing. Most importantly, she is wife to Geoff and mom to three godly men-in-training. Her blog name “The Landing” comes from the account of the Ark resting on the mountain, creating a settled place — a landing — for man to start over, which echoes her new life in Christ.