7.3 " I'm a hypocrite" : Christian
7-3-1 Christian Hypocrisy
Any spiritually honest believer will feel like this sometimes;
we examine ourselves, we consider the height and the implications
of the first principles we profess, and we see a wide difference
between them and our real, everyday life. Whether we are hypocrites
in God's eyes or not, I can't judge. It may be that we are. But
the following consideration of Heb. 11 gives encouragement that
Christian hypocrisy was a common feature of past believers, and
yet God sees through the hypocrisy to the good side of us, and counts
that to us as the personality He sees.
There is abundant Biblical evidence that faith and the faith-motivated
way of life are vital to our salvation. Heb. 11:1,2 defines faith
in absolute terms; as the real mental vision of the invisible. This
doesn't just mean occasionally achieving a vivid imagination of
(e.g.) the future Kingdom, or the present bodily existence of the
Lord Jesus. It means living, hour by hour, with these things actually
existing in our mental vision. Without this faith, the apostle reasons,
we cannot please God. He cites a whole string of Old Testament examples,
and then goes on to say that we too, like them, are surrounded by
this great cloud of faithful examples, and therefore this should
inspire us to the life of faith, as it did them (Heb. 12:1).
Moments Of Faith
And yet, to a man, we have a sense of inadequacy; of a separation
between their level of faith and our own; a sense of Christian hypocrisy.
But a closer examination of those examples reveals a feature which
crops up time and again. It's a feature which if it only occurred
once, we might shrug it off. But it is there, time and again throughout
Heb. 11. It's this: many of the examples quoted are moments in the
lives of men when they did not show absolute faith, moments
when their motives were mixed, moments when they had faith, but
not without needing human qualifications. Examples will best show
what I mean:
- Heb. 11:8 (Gk.) implies that as soon as God called
Abram, he got up and left Ur. But a closer examination of the
record indicates that this wasn't absolutely the case. It is stressed
that both Abram and Sarai left Ur because " Terah took
Abram his son...and Sarai his daughter in law" (Gen. 11:31).
Abram had been called to leave Ur and go into Canaan. But instead
he followed his father to Haran, and lived there (for some years,
it seems) until his father died, and then he responded to his
earlier call to journey towards Canaan. The Genesis record certainly
reads as if Abram was dominated by his father and family, and
this militated against an immediate response to the call he received
to leave Ur and journey to Canaan. At best his father's decision
enabled him to obey the command to leave Ur without having to
break with his family. And yet, according to Heb. 11:8, Abram
immediately responded, as an act of faith.
- Abraham's faith in the promises is repeatedly held up as our
example (11:8,12,13 and elsewhere). Abraham " believed in
the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen.
15:6) is quoted three times in the New Testament. But how deep
was Abraham's faith? Straight after Abraham's profession of faith,
God told him: " I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur...to
give thee this land to inherit it" . But Abraham then goes
straight on to ask God: " Lord God, whereby shall I know
that I shall inherit it?" (Gen. 15:7,8). And immediately
before Abraham's oft quoted profession of faith, he had said:
" Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless...behold,
to me thou hast given no seed, and, lo, one born in my house is
mine heir" (Gen. 15:2,3). His faith in the promise of a seed
was surely shaky at this time (1).
Did he not have something of our Christian hypocrisy? Yet, sandwiched
in between these two expressions of his partial faith, Abraham
rises within his heart to a level of faith which so pleased God.
" He believed in the Lord" seems to refer to an attitude
deep within Abraham's heart, as he gazed up at the stars and reflected
in God's promise: " So shall thy seed be" . God saw
that, even if it was only a temporary peak, and was pleased with
it; even though at the time, Abraham was weak in faith and even
in a sense " ungodly" (2).
- " By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things
to come" (11:20). Yet the record of this in Gen. 27 doesn't
paint Isaac in a very positive light. " Isaac loved Esau,
because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob"
(Gen. 25:28). The AVmg. seems to bring out Isaac's superficiality:
" Isaac loved Esau, because venison was in his mouth"
. This seems to connect with the way Esau threw away his birthright
for the sake of food in his mouth. Esau was evidently of the flesh,
whilst Jacob had at least some potential spirituality. Yet Isaac
preferred Esau. He chose to live in Gerar (Gen. 26:6), right on
the border of Egypt- as close as he could get to the world, without
crossing the line. And he thought nothing of denying his marriage
to Rebekah, just to save his own skin (Gen. 26:7). So it seems
Isaac had some marriage problems; the record speaks of "
Esau his son" and " Jacob (Rebekah's) son" (Gen.
27:5,6). The way Jacob gave Isaac wine " and he drank"
just before giving the blessings is another hint at some unspirituality
(Gen. 27:25). Isaac seems not to have accepted the Divine prophecy
concerning his sons: " the elder shall serve the younger"
(Gen. 25:23), seeing that it was his intention to give Esau the
blessings of the firstborn, and thinking that he was speaking
to Esau, he gave him the blessing of his younger brothers (i.e.
Jacob) serving him (Gen. 27:29 cp. 15). Isaac didn't accept the
sale of the birthright, and yet God did (Heb. 12:16,17). And
yet, and this is my point, Isaac's blessing of the two boys
is described as an act of faith; even though it was done with
an element of disbelief in God's word of prophecy concerning the
elder serving the younger, and perhaps under the influence of
alcohol, and even though at the time Isaac thought he was blessing
Esau when in fact it was Jacob. Yet according to Heb. 11:20, this
blessing of Esau and Jacob (therefore Hebrews doesn't
refer to the later blessing) was done with faith; at that
very point in time, Isaac had faith. So God's piercing eye
saw through Isaac's liking for the good life, through Isaac's
unspiritual liking for Esau, through his marriage problem, through
his lack of faith that the elder must serve the younger, and discerned
that there was some faith in that man Isaac; and then holds this
up as a stimulant for our faith, centuries later! Not only should
we be exhorted to see the good side in our present brethren; but
we can take comfort that this God is our God, and views our Christian
hypocrisy in the same way as He viewed theirs.
- " God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived" , to
which Leah responded: " God hath given me my hire because
I have given my maiden to my husband" (Gen. 30:17,18). This
is thinly disguised bitterness against her gracious creator. She
was saying, sarcastically, that God had treated her like a whore
as a reward for the fact she had encouraged her husband to commit
adultery with her maidservant. Yet God saw through this (the bitterness
of post natal depression?), through her recourse to using mandrakes
to induce fertility... and God discerned the real faith in her.
And this God is our God, who likewise bears with our Christian
- " By faith (Moses) forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath
of the King" (Heb. 11:27). But Moses did flee Egypt,
because he feared the wrath of the King (Ex. 2:14,15). It seems
that Moses had at best a mixture of motives, or motives that changed
over time; yet God sees through his human fear, and discerns an
element of calm faith within Moses as he left Egypt. In similar
vein, at the time of the burning bush, Moses seems to have forgotten
God's covenant name, he didn't immediately take off his shoes
in respect as he should have done, and it seems he feared to come
close to God due to a bad conscience, and he resisted God's invitation
for him to go forth and do His work (Ex. 3:5-7,10,11,18; 4:1,10-14)
(3). And yet at this very time, the
New Testament says that Moses showed faith in the way he perceived
God (Lk. 20:37).
- Israel's deliverance through the Red Sea seems to be attributed
to Moses' faith (Heb. 11:28,29; Acts 7:36,38). Yet in the actual
record, Moses seems to have shared Israel's cry of fear, and was
rebuked for this by God (Ex. 14:15,13,10). Yet in the midst of
that rebuke, we learn from the New Testament, God perceived the
faith latent within Moses, beneath that human fear and panic.
He likewise sees beneath our Christian hypocrisy to what true
spirituality there is in us.
- The Israelites who fled to the dens and caves in Jud. 6:2 are
described as heroes of faith because of what they did (Heb. 11:38).
And yet their domination by the Philistines was a result of their
idolatry. They were idolatrous, and yet some had faith; and it
was this faith which was perceived by God.
- Samson killed a lion, escaped fire and killed many Philistines
by his faith (Heb. 11:32-34)- so the Spirit tells us. Yet these
things were all done by him at times when he had at best a partial
faith. He had a worldly Philistine girlfriend, a sure grief of
mind to his Godly parents, and on his way to the wedding he met
and killed a lion- through faith, Heb. 11 tells us (Jud. 14:1-7).
The Philistines threatened to burn him with fire, unless his capricious
paramour of a wife extracted from him the meaning of his riddle.
He told her, due, it seems, to his hopeless sexual weakness. He
then killed 30 Philistines to provide the clothes he owed the
Philistines on account of them answering the riddle (Jud. 14:15-19).
It is evident that Samson was weak in many ways at this time;
the Proverbs make many allusions to him, the strong man ruined
by the evil Gentile woman, the one who could take a city but not
rule his spirit etc. And yet underneath all these weaknesses,
serious as they were, there was a deep faith within Samson which
Heb. 11 highlights. May the Lord likewise have mercy upon our
(1) Abraham's fear that
he would be killed by Abimelech and his willingness to give Sarah
a child by having a relationship with Hagar also seem to suggest
a lack of total faith in the promise that he would have a seed.
(2) It may be that Abraham
realized his own spiritual weakness at this time, if we follow Paul's
argument in Rom. 4:3,5: " If Abraham were justified by works,
he hath whereof to glory...(but) Abraham believed God, and it was
counted to him for righteousness...to him (alluding to Abraham)
that worketh not, but believeth (as did Abraham) on him that justifieth
the ungodly, his faith (like Abraham's) is counted for righteousness"
. Surely this suggests that Abraham felt ungodly at the
time, unworthy of this great promise, and yet he believed that although
he was ungodly, God would justify him and give him the promise,
and therefore he was counted as righteous and worthy of the promise.
There is certainly the implication of some kind of forgiveness being
granted Abraham at the time of his belief in Gen. 15:6; righteousness
was imputed to him, which is tantamount to saying that his ungodliness
was covered. In this context, Paul goes straight on to say that
the same principles operated in the forgiveness of David for his
sin with Bathsheba.
(3) The spiritual weakness
of Moses at this time is discussed in Section 9.