I changed our church sign last week.
The feedback was mostly positive. But some may be wondering why or how? So here’s my explanation for “Hypocrites Welcome Here.”
Is the Church Full of Hypocrites?
Most unbelievers, when invited to come to church by their relatives or friends, will balk saying, “I don’t like going to church. It’s full of hypocrites.” The sad thing is that there are many church signs that say, “This Church is Not Full of Hypocrites. We Have Room for More.”
But is the church really full of hypocrites? What exactly is a hypocrite?
The Webster Dictionary defines a hypocrite as “a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.” The English word hypocrite is a transliteration of the Greek word hupokrites, a mask used by an actor in the Greek drama. An actor is someone who pretends to be someone else, someone whom he is not.
So the meaning of a hypocrite in the Bible is someone who professes to be a Christian in the church, but his private life is far from his profession. The idea was already there of Israelites who worshiped with unrepentant hearts (Isa 33:14; Job 36:13). They were “godless,” but the Greek translation also uses hupokrites.
In the New Testament, false worshipers were also condemned as hypocrites. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites” six times in Matthew 23:13-36. They flaunted their good works in giving alms, praying and fasting in public (Mat 6:2, 5, 16), but in their hearts, they were “whitewashed tombs full of uncleanness and lawlessness” (Mat 23:27-28).
Article 29 of the Belgic Confession affirms that “hypocrites are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there.”
But the true Christian in the church who professes to be a saint in Christ and acknowledges his sins is a totally different matter from a hypocrite. Though he continues to commit sins, he repents and turns back to God stronger in the faith because of his repentance. How can he be a hypocrite when he admits being a sinner that he is, according to the Word of God? Unbelievers and professing believers who do not attend church—and there are many—see churchgoing Christians sin, and then conclude that the church is full of hypocrites. Far from the truth!
There is no church that has 100 percent true Christians, even if they have all been baptized as professing adults. All throughout Biblical history, from Adam and Eve down through the two millennia after Christ, there has never been a perfect church. The church will always have false professors—hypocrites—among the true believers. And true believers will still continue to sin until Christ returns to make the church perfect. But again, BC 29 describes Christians as saints, and at the same time, sinners:
They believe in Jesus Christ the only Savior, flee from sin and pursue righteousness, love the true God and their neighbor without turning to the right or left, and crucify their flesh and its works. Although great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their life. They appeal constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of Jesus Christ, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins through faith in Him.
These saints-sinners are not hypocrites. It is the world outside the church that is full of hypocrites! In self-delusion, they present themselves before others and before God that they are “basically good” people. In a recent survey, 65 percent of all Americans agree that most people are basically good, disagreeing with God’s Word that condemns all mankind as worthless and wicked:
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive… Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes (Rm 3:10-18).
Revivalist Billy Sunday once said, “Hypocrites in the Church? Yes, and in the lodge and at the home… Go home and look in the mirror. Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the number one less.” Never believe it! If you’re a churchgoing true believer, you are not a hypocrite!
Is the church full of hypocrites? By no means! There may be a handful, but many of those who have made profession of faith or come regularly are sinners who have been justified and declared righteous saints by our holy God by faith alone in Christ alone. And they show it in their public and private lives.