When people take the character of another, acting either in a play or in life, and they speak or act in character, they are a form of the original meaning of hypocrisy as used in the Scriptures. Vine defines the primary meaning as “a reply, an answer,”…as the actors spoke in dialogue, “play acting” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 316). The term is defined in Merriam-Webster’s Pocket Dictionary as “feigning to be what one is not” (p. 163). In the same family is the word for hypocrite, which is defined similarly and can refer to acting on a stage. So it can be understood that hypocrisy is one in the state of acting. The term translated “dissimulation” is very close to the term “hypocrisy” and is used that way (Gal. 2:13); it means acting like someone other than yourself, playing the part of someone you are not.
Can one be like the above defined terms? Listen to the words of the Lord to the “Scribes, Pharisees, Hypocrites” of Matthew 23:28: “Even so ye also appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” Jesus said those religious leaders were appearing to be something they were not. Notice the Lord, who could see the hearts of men (John 2:25), said they acted like righteous men but were really full of iniquity. It is evident to anyone observing both the world and the church that hypocrisy, especially in religious people, is hard to discern for many. Why? Well, for one thing, we all want to believe the best about a brother or a sister. In this non-judgmental society of 21st century America, it is even harder to get folks to see the truth about a religious individual because they “don’t want to judge…it’s not loving.” But our Lord spoke to that also – He said, “judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement” (John 7:24). Jesus instructed his disciples to judge the fruit of an individual (Matt. 7:16, 20). Did the Lord contradict himself? No. He said to judge properly, look at what the individual says and see if that is what he/she does. That is the very point where Jesus began his condemnation in Matthew 23:3; he said to do what the Pharisees taught, but don’t do as they do because “they say and do not.” That is hypocrisy defined by the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When men say, “I love the Lord” and they can’t even find four hours a week to meet with the saints, their fruit of apathy and neglect declares them to be in hypocrisy. Far too often today the problem of marriage, divorce, and remarriage is the root of many problems in the church. Those guilty of violating God’s marriage law don’t want to be seen as bad people, so they excuse sinful, destructive, impenitent behavior of the past and live in defiance to the clear teaching of Matthew 19:9. Though living in adultery, these people say “we are dedicated Christians, and we love the Lord.” Sadly, their adulterous life declares otherwise. And in the liberal movement of the day, examine the swollen, large congregations of the digressive movement and see for yourself the percentage of divorcees making up the membership. Further, see how they respond to the Lord’s teaching of Matthew 19:9. Now, if individuals will thwart clear Bible teaching on one subject, what is to keep them from rejecting the words of God on any other subject. Instrumental music? No problem. Dancing, partying, social drinking? No problem for them. Why? Because they pick and choose the teaching they wish to follow, acting like someone they are not – hypocrisy.
Society is certainly dealing with the results of the broken marriages, and that has come into the church. Preachers, who know what the Bible teaches and refuse to proclaim the clear truth on marriage, adultery, dancing, drinking, purity, and worship while claiming to stand for the truth are play acting; they are living in hypocrisy.
Some preachers and elders say that they are against every false way, yet they fellowship false teachers in gospel meetings, youth programs, special lecture programs, pulpit exchanges and encampments. Yes, even at Christian camps, they are playing the part of a hypocrite; therefore, they are in hypocrisy (II John 9-11, Rom. 16:17-18).
You see the subject is not and should not be the outward appearance, but rather the righteousness of the individual. What are they really? Can one judge in this matter? Jesus said we could and we should if we would be His disciples. The bottom line is there is a high price to pay immediately, but if we refuse to serve the Lord and pay that price now, a higher price will be paid in eternity. I am afraid that with the powerful influence of Hollywood on society and on the church, many like the actor better than the real thing – that’s hypocrisy.
-David Hill