Hypocrites in the Church
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree in Mark 11? Jesus, among other things, was a prophet. One of the most graphic forms of prophetic communication in the Old Testament was the object lesson. The prophet would take something from nature or everyday life, as Amos did with a plumb line, and use it to communicate God’s truth. Here Jesus found an object that illustrated the sin of hypocrisy. It had the appearance of fruitfulness, but it was actually barren. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus strongly denounced the sin of hypocrisy. That was His basic critique of the Pharisees of His day (Luke 12:1). On several occasions, Jesus chastened religious leaders for their show of spirituality and righteousness despite their underlying lack of fruit.
That should be a lesson to us. One of the top ten objections to Christianity that one evangelistic ministry learned over many years is the supposition that the church is filled with hypocrites. People who were watching the lives of church members throughout the week said they were turned off to Christianity because they believed Christians did not live out their profession.
Admittedly, the church is full of sinners. In fact, I know of no other organization in the world that requires a person to be a sinner in order to join it. However, while all hypocrites are sinners, not all sinners are hypocrites. Hypocrisy is just one of many sins. It is unfair of our critics to say, “So and so is a professing Christian, and we saw him sin during the week; therefore, he’s a hypocrite.” That is not necessarily so. If I claim not to do something sinful and then you see me do it, I am guilty of hypocrisy. But if you see me do something sinful that I never claimed I do not do, I am a sinner but I am not a hypocrite. We need to draw that clear distinction.
However, having said that in defense of Christians who by their fallen nature continue to sin even after embracing the Savior, I still urge that we all take care to avoid the sin of hypocrisy. Paul spoke about this when he said, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2:24). Unbelievers see us talking the talk and not walking the walk, and that should not be so among us.
This excerpt is taken from R.C. Sproul’s commentary on John.