The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word “hupokrites.” It is defined as “the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess,” or “an actor under an assumed character.”
Brennan Manning has said that “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Oswald Chambers said, “The world is glad of an excuse not to listen to the gospel message, and the inconsistencies of Christians is the excuse.” In essence, “hypocrisy” refers to the act of claiming to believe something but acting in a different manner. The word is derived from the Greek term for “actor”—literally, “one who wears a mask”—in other words, someone who pretends to be what he is not.
The Bible calls hypocrisy a sin. There are two forms hypocrisy can take: that of professing belief in something and then acting in a manner contrary to that belief, and that of looking down on others when we ourselves are flawed.
The prophet Isaiah condemned the hypocrisy of his day: Isaiah 29:13 (ESV)“The Lord says, ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men’”. Centuries later, Jesus quoted this verse, aiming the same condemnation at the religious leaders of His day Matthew 15:8-9(ESV)“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”. John the Baptist refused to give hypocrites a pass, telling them to produce Luke 3:8(ESV)8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Jesus took an equally staunch stand against sanctimony—He called hypocrites “wolves in sheep’s clothing” Matthew 7:15(ESV)15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves., “whitewashed tombs” Matthew 23:27(ESV)27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness., “snakes,” and “brood of vipers” Matthew 23:33(ESV)33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Jesus uses harsh words to describe how wicked the scribes and Pharisees are. While he’s calling them snakes, he’s specifically using vipers as the best metaphor everyone listening will understand. Everyone knows the viper is the most dangerous and worst in terms of looks, with double-forked tongues and venomous fangs, but also in what they do. When they aggressively attack and bite to give venom, they don’t let go. Their poisonous bites often lead to painful deaths. Furthermore, they multiply quickly.
Genealogies are, if you will, a kind of a map for the whole community – describing exactly where in the scheme of things you fit.We’re not often aware of it when we read the English Bible but Jesus is extremely skilled at insults. Matthew, Jesus calls his opponents – It’s translated in the English – “A brood of vipers.” That is not exactly what the Greek says. The Greek says, “You snake-bastards” Now think about that in honor-shame culture. If you get your honor ranking from your family, to call some of the illegitimate son of a snake – that is the Mediterranean equivalent of a dirty mouth. Double insult is calling a Pharisee an unclean animal and an illegitimate child.
In other words, the closest English equivalent would have been for Jesus to call the pharisees “sons of bitches”, except this modern insult probably isn’t as offensive as the one Jesus used.
Craig Keener,PHD Expertise in Historical Jesus and the New Testament studies argues that viper at that time carries reference to murdering one’s own mother, the “worst conceivable crimes” in the ancient world. It is hard to find a modern equivalent to the term “brood of vipers” to bring out its semantic significance since our English language and context does not have the words to express the equivalent weight of moral wrongness with mother murderer and bring out the equivalent social disgust. Some historians and theologians of modern day equate Mother F****r to brood of vipers.
“Brood of vipers,” as a condemnation, has layers of poison. We can match John for crudity, but our insults lack his sophistication; we underestimate the seriousness of life, and the dangers Jesus saw for his church.
Can we feel the forcefulness of Jesus’ perception of the Pharisees now?, Can we get a better picture of how much Jesus disliked the hypocritical Pharisees? Ephesians 4:29(NASB)29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Like I said last week well placed words at the right moment mean alot, regardless of what we think about them.
Hypocrisy is not the same as taking a stand against sin. For example, it is not hypocrisy to teach that sexual immorality is a sin, unless the one teaching against immorality gets looks at porn and cheats on their spouse—that would be hypocrisy.
Genesis 3:1-7(ESV)Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Notice that their first reaction to sin was to manufacture a coverup. When sin entered the world though their disobedience, Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover their shame. Fig leaves whither pretty quickly. Before sin, they had never seen anything die, so when they plucked the fig leaves from the tree, I’m sure they expected longer-lasting results.
When God spoke to Adam and Eve, He explained that in order to cover their sin, something besides fig leaves would have to die. At this point, God established the sacrificial system. Genesis 3:21(HCSB)21 The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.
To get those skins, some animal had to die. In other words, God sacrificed an animal to cover their sin. From the beginning, God has declared the payment for sin is death, and so blood must be shed to cover sin:
Leviticus 17:11(NASB) “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”
Hebrews 9:22(NASB) “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
Early in the Old Testament God introduced this idea of one innocent being shedding its blood in place of the sinner’s.
However the solution of sacrificing bulls and goats and lambs for the sins of each person’s sin was a temporary fix. The next year, another animal would have to be sacrificed for the same person. A more permanent solution was needed, as noted in Hebrews 10:4(NASB)For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
That meant a human was needed to die for humans’ sin. But all humans are sinful, so another sin-filled person dying for us just wouldn’t work. A human without sin was needed.
But ever since Adam, every human born is sin-filled, so how could a sinless man happen? The only way was if a perfect man was born, Jesus.
Adam and Eve made belts of fig leaves, but God gave them robes of skin, thus symbolizing that Jesus would have to die to cover the sin and nakedness of the lost. When we sin, one of two things will happen. We either start looking for fig leaves to make our own flimsy coverup, or we look to Jesus for His robe of righteousness.
Throughout the Bible, fig leaves are a symbol for man-made religion and false righteousness. Man has never been able to make a “fig leaf” that will cover his sin. We try “fig leaves” of good religious works, church membership, baptism, confirmation, tithing, the sacraments, religious philosophy, new age movements, philanthropy, etc. But we still cannot escape our guilt.
All outward acts of religion without the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins are withered “fig leaves.”
Luke 13:6-9(ESV)6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
One week before His death, Jesus cursed a fruitless fig tree to illustrate what was going to happen to the Jewish nation and the apostate church.
Matthew 21:18-20(ESV)18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?”
Why would Jesus curse a fig tree? Surely the Lord was not so petty as to retaliate against a tree because it didn’t give Him breakfast! We need to examine this story closely, because it is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus is credited with being directly responsible for killing something.
Fig trees are unique in that both mature leaves and ripe fruit appear at the same time. The tree Jesus cursed had all the outward signs of bearing fruit, yet the tree was a hypocrite. It was a fitting symbol of the Jewish nation. With its temple, priesthood, and sacrifices, Israel had all the trappings of true religion, but the genuine fruits—justice, mercy, and faith—were missing. Matthew 23:23(ESV)23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Remember that withered fig leaves are a reminder of man’s failed attempts to cover his own sins.
Notice the sequence. The same day Jesus cursed the fruitless fig tree (Matthew 21), He later had a showdown with the phony Pharisees and exposed their hypocrisy.
Matthew 23:1-23(ESV)Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Christ’s illustration of the fig tree that put forth leaves but no fruit is also a very plain prophetic sign for the last days. In the same way that literal Israel had all the outward forms of true religion before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, so spiritual Israel (the church) will in the last days put forth leaves but no fruit. There may be all the outward appearances of revival—lots of praise, miracle-healing services, big attendance, and talk of love and acceptance, but no fruit of the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:1-7(ESV)But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
Jesus is calling us to lay aside our filthy, self-righteous fig leaves and put on the royal robe of the Father. Only then will the fruits of the Spirit be evident in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23(ESV)22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. There will be no people in God’s kingdom who are merely ornamental trees. Ornamental trees just look pretty but have no fruit. Everyone must have fruit, God didn’t call us to look pretty, He calls us to produce fruit.
Hypocrisy hurts the church, and it hurts us. Many hypocrites have been acting for so long that they have come to believe their own performance. We have a tendency to mold our faces to fit our masks. The longer we are hypocrites the less we know who the “real” us are. We start to believe our own lies we tell ourselves and we start to believe the enemy. But God wants us to be honest with others and ourselves.
Don’t try coming to God with your “fig leaves.” They may be in fashion, but they are inadequate. God will not accept them; they can never please God because no death has taken place. The penalty for sin must be paid. You will pay it, or your divine Substitute must pay it. God has dealt with our guilt in the death of Jesus Christ. Christ died for our sin as our substitute. The penalty for our sin has been paid in full.God fully clothes every individual who believes in Christ with the perfect righteousness of Christ. The nakedness of your sin must be covered. Are you covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ? Either you will stand before your eternal Judge in the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, or you will stand naked in your sins. This is called Justification, Romans 3:23-24(HCSB)23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
This righteousness we receive is imputed righteousness–that is a theological term which means removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time declaring a sinner righteous through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. God legally declares us to be righteous because of Christ’s work on the cross.
This is Justification, to stand before God with all debts paid, and clothed in the righteousness of His only Son, Jesus Christ. To be able know that you have “peace with God”–there is no more war between you and the Almighty.
Romans 5:1(HCSB) Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Justification We are saved from the PENALTY of Sin.
Sanctification We are being saved from the Power of Sin
Glorification We will be saved from the presence of Sin
Justification begins our sanctification. We are both Justified (a one time event) and in the process of being sanctified(on going). Sanctification begins with our justification, it is a process that conforms us to Christ’s likeness. Justification is a legal declaration of a sinner being righteous before the Father, it does not make us self-righteous.
Romans 8:29(HCSB) For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Someone who is a Christian for 10 years is no more justified than when the first became a believer. It is through the process of our dying to self and being obedient to the word and the Spirit we are daily changed, in God’s eyes we are completed and accepted because of our faith in Jesus’ work on the cross.
John 17:15-19(ESV)15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
Justification is a pronouncement to clear the guilty. When one is justified, he is declared right before the Lord; he is pardoned and cleared of any violation. “Romans 8:1(NLT)So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” To have “no condemnation” declared means to be found innocent of the accusation, to have no sentence inflicted and no guilty verdict found. By the grace of God, believers in Jesus Christ will not face the condemnation of God.