masks-gary-knight

Is the Church Full of Hypocrites? Part 2: What About the Log in our Eye?

You can read part 1 here

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Two texts that a person could point to–really the only two in the New Testament–to argue that Christians can be classified as hypocrites, are Matthew 7:1-5 and Luke 7:37-42. In both texts, Jesus, speaking to his disciples, appears at first glance to imply that a disciple who does not deal with his own sin before helping another disciple with their sin is not merely guilty of hypocrisy, but is, in fact, a hypocrite (Matt 7:4; Luke 7:42).

These passages are often used as proof texts for how Christians should conduct their ministry of confrontation and restoration. The pattern should be this: before you deal with the little sins in other brothers and sisters, first deal with the big sins in your life. Well and good. As a principle, this approach is certainly valid. But a closer look at these texts shows us that Jesus’ use of the word hypocrite in Matthew 7:1-5 and Luke 7:37-42 is consistent with how he uses it elsewhere. In other words, Jesus isn’t assuming the person with a log in their eye is a genuine believer who simply needs instruction on how to humbly interact with other believers.  Continue reading “Is the Church Full of Hypocrites? Part 2: What About the Log in our Eye?”

masks-gary-knight

Is the Church Full of Hypocrites? Part 1

You can read part 2 here.

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You’ve heard it before.

One reason people give for not being a Christian is that the “church is full of hypocrites.” Why believe the message about Jesus Christ, the argument goes, when that message has no obvious power in the lives of his followers? If Jesus’ professed followers don’t really seem to believe his message, why should we?

The Church is Full of Hypocrites?
Some churches and professing Christians have tried to capitalize on or counter this accusation by simply embracing it. You might even see the following statement on a banner outside a local congregation:

hypocrites-poster

The statement is meant to be inviting and, by dealing with the self-righteousness problem up front, disarm those who typically use the church-is-full-of-hypocrites excuse to avoid Christians and the claims of Christ. I admire the motives behind these statements, inasmuch as those who say them are humbly confessing their unrighteousness and need for grace. But as we all know, good intentions are never enough. We have to ask: Is this true? Is the church really full of hypocrites?

Hypocrite in the New Testament
The Greek word translated hypocrite in the New Testament was used in the first century to refer to play-actors who used masks in their different roles on stage. Who they  were in their true personhood was disguised by a mask that could be exchanged for another mask when the script called for it. A hypocrite, spiritually speaking, is one whose outward life does not match their inward life–who they really are.

More specifically, a hypocrite is one who actively seeks to appear righteous to others–with their words, deeds, and religious activity–for the sake of man’s praise (Matt 6:1ff). The hypocrite is characterized by this incongruence between their inward and outward life (Matt 23:25), between their affections and their actions (Matt 15:7-9), and they are dominated by their desire for man’s praise (Matt 23:1-7; John 5:44). In other words, a hypocrite is a person who is walking in unregenerate, self-righteous religiosity.

A Distinction Between Hypocrite and Hypocrisy
Born-again Christians, by definition, are not hypocrites.Yes, true believers will wrestle with glory-seeking motives and find that their inward lives do not always match their outward actions. But this is called hypocrisy, a sin Christians are called to “put away” in the language of 1 Peter 2:1. Nevertheless, Christians are no longer characterized by these inconsistencies or dominated by them.

Reformation and post-reformation theologians followed this distinction between hypocrite and hypocrisy. It was common among the Puritans, for example, to speak of hypocrites who, despite their religious connection with Christianity, were deluded about their inward spiritual condition, having never really tasted of true godliness. These people possessed the form, but not the power of religion (see 1 Tim 3:1-8). Biblically and historically, the use of the word hypocrite is used to classify someone who is outwardly religious but inwardly dead in sin.

When Christians embrace a kind of language or posture toward unbelievers that implies that the church is replete with hypocrites, we are not only misleading people, we are blunting the sharp contours of the gospel. Jesus saves us from being religious hypocrites and transforms us into those who really do love God, love people, love Scripture, love worship, and so on. By claiming that the church is full of hypocrites–or that it could use some more–we are telling the world that Christians really are, by and large, faking it.

To put it as plainly as possible: according to the New Testament, if you are a hypocrite, then you are not a Christian. Again, this is not meant to imply that Christians will never be found guilty of hypocrisy. Even the apostle Peter garnered a rebuke from Paul for acting contrary to the truth he professed (Gal 2:13). But this hypocrisy was not characteristic for Peter, and neither will it be for any true believer.

But what about Jesus’ command to remove the log from our own eye? Doesn’t this command imply that Christians can be hypocrites? Excellent questions. I will deal with these important issues in tomorrow’s post.

Photo: Garry Knight
mormon-temple

Is Mormonism Just Another Christian Denomination?

Over the years as I’ve witnessed to and talked to Mormons, I have always made it my goal in our conversation to demonstrate that Mormonism and Christianity are two entirely different religions. The reason I take this approach is because Mormons call themselves Christians, use Christian terms, and claim to be the restored (i.e., true) church of Jesus Christ. These claims are confusing, both to practicing Mormons and those with whom they converse.

My goal is the same for this brief article. I want you to see clearly that Mormonism is not a branch or denomination of Christianity, but that it is, in fact, something entirely different. I want you to see that Mormonism is, in the final analysis, a false religion that holds no resemblance whatsoever to historic Christianity. Continue reading “Is Mormonism Just Another Christian Denomination?”

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A Charge to the Bride and Groom

In 2013 I had the privilege to preach my first wedding sermon. For my preparation I didn’t spend much time looking online at sample sermons. My initial Internet searches yielded mostly sentimental froth and wordy collections of benign, man-centered platitudes. So, I decided to write an address from scratch, based on what I saw in Scripture and what I believed was most important to say to a couple about to enter into an unbreakable marriage covenant. Continue reading “A Charge to the Bride and Groom”

20 Books on the Doctrine of Scripture

Historical MattersJames K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary, Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).  This is a collection of articles written in response to a recent book by Kenton Sparks entitled, God’s Word in Human Words. Sparks argues that although much of the Old Testament is not historically accurate, God is still able to speak his word to his people through the Bible. In response, the authors of Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith argue for the historical accuracy of the Old Testament while also demonstrating that Sparks does not understand rightly the nature of Scripture. Continue reading “20 Books on the Doctrine of Scripture”

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Manuscripts and the Wisdom of God: A Brief Essay on the Transmission of the Bible

One of the reasons why Mormons look to revelation other than the Bible is because they believe—and assert in official LDS teaching—that the original content of the Bible has been corrupted over the centuries as the Scriptures have been passed down from generation to generation. Because of this alleged corruption, God’s revelation in the Bible had become tainted and is in need of corrective revelation. Alongside the Bible, Mormons receive The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrines and Covenants as authoritative Scripture.

My goal in this essay is not to examine and critique the claims of these “latter-day revelations” (others have ably handled this issue). Rather, I want to consider the accusation that the content of the Bible has been corrupted over time. If it can be shown that the Bible is wholly reliable and without textual corruption, the basis on which Mormons posit a need for new revelation is significantly undermined. Positively, a fresh look at the reliability of our Bibles can provide Christians with a renewed confidence that what they have in the Bible is the pure and sufficient word of God. Continue reading “Manuscripts and the Wisdom of God: A Brief Essay on the Transmission of the Bible”

sad-smear

Pornography’s War on You and Your Neighbor

Government officials in Ohio are raising an alarm for a new epidemic: heroin use is ravaging the state. In 2015, the state recorded 65 deaths due to overdose. In 2016, that same number was tallied within the first half of the year. If epidemics are defined by their breadth and a government’s present inability to arrest the problem, then Ohio is under the scourge of an epidemic.

But there is an even greater epidemic traversing the American landscape. While its affects are not felt in numbers of fatalities, it is just as potent and dangerous as the heroin problem in the upper mid-west. The epidemic is pornography. Continue reading “Pornography’s War on You and Your Neighbor”