The word “hypocrite” comes from a Greek word meaning “to answer” “then, play-acting, as the actors spoke in dialogue.” Vine says, “It was a custom for Greek and Roman actors to speak in large masks with mechanical devices for augmenting the force of the voice;” so hypocrisy is “putting on a show” of something we are not. It is a particularly ugly word, for even the hypocrites do not like hypocrites, although many seek shelter behind them– blaming them for their own lack of faithfulness.
Hypocrisy is defined in the New Testament by such phrases as “outwardly appear righteous…but within…iniquity;” “honor with lips…heart far from.” (Matt. 23:28; Mark 7:6) Even more pointed are the examples of hypocrisy in the New Testament; for in them we may see ourselves, and make application we might otherwise ignore.
In Luke 12:54ff, Jesus upbraided the people who could fathom weather signs (predicting showers or heat) yet the obvious signs of divinity in their midst they could not or would not see. Do you know people today who are quick to see everything except that which they do not want to see? Jesus called such people “hypocrites.”
Jesus shamed the people who pretended great concern for the Sabbath, objecting to His healing a woman on this day; but saw nothing wrong with caring for their stock on the Sabbath. (Luke 13:11-17) Do we freely criticize others with rules we would not think of applying to ourselves? Jesus said this is hypocrisy. Blinded by a beam, we search for the other fellow’s speck.
Even Peter “dissembled” (Gal. 2:11-21) and this is from the same root word as “hypocrisy.” He would not associate with gentile Christians in Antioch, pretending loyalty to the Law of Moses; when in reality he feared the scorn of prominent Judaizers. Other Jews, including Barnabas, were led astray by this dissimulation; even today many weak people may be adversely affected by well-known people who sacrifice conviction for popular approval. Hypocrisy is devilish. And even if no other parties are involved, hypocrisy does something to the hypocrite that is devilish.
Folk “depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” (1 Tim. 4:1-2) The “lies” one tells in hypocrisy (by word and deed) have a poisonous effect upon the “actor”– so that he comes to believe his own false face, and his former moral conscience is so seared that it no longer can be pricked. Now he sees only the make-believe mask he has painted for himself– with angelic smile and shining halo– and it is difficult (if not impossible, 2 Peter 2:18ff) to renew him again to repentance. He has become a victim of his own lies, and may go to hell proclaiming his righteousness.
Now let us not confuse weakness, spiritual immaturity, or lack of knowledge with hypocrisy. there are no absolutely perfect Christians in the world– all are subject to error in faith and practice. But all can and must be honest with themselves, with others, and with God.
Article by: Robert Turner