While it is certainly true of all Christians that we all do things that are hypocritical of what we otherwise practice and teach in our everyday lives, this does not make one a hypocrite. We all on occasion will slip and fall into temptation and commit sin; a sin that we all teach against and refrain from on regular circumstances. But again, committing an act that is hypocritical of what one stands for does not make them a hypocrite. It does however make one an individual who does make mistakes and knows that they do make mistakes from time to time that is against all that they live their lives for. While this is illogical and not sensible, this is the goal of temptation, to attract us toward doing the very things that we hate. Paul speaks of this issue somewhat (while not purposefully within its original context) when he says in Romans 7:15 “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” We all do things that we hate when we give into sin. It is hypocritical. But the bible teaches that it is he that lives his life in the state of hypocrisy who is a hypocrite. John makes three statements in his first epistle that applies to this subject:
- 1 John 1:6 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
- 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
- 1 John 1:10 “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
These statements speak of the hypocrite, who is the one who says that he is one thing, yet walks in a different direction. John used the word “walk” in that first statement as a synonym for one’s way of living. Similarly, today we use the term “walk of life” to describe the type of lifestyle that an individual has chosen. John describes an individual who “says” that they are one thing, while LIVING another thing. John’s conclusions are these: 1. They lie and do not practice the truth; 2. They deceive themselves and the truth is not in them; 3. They make God out to be a liar and God’s word does not dwell within them. While John does not use the term “hypocrite” we can all conclude that this is the individual that John is describing.
In the same passage of scripture, John speaks of another kind of individual, one who is not a hypocrite. This is what he says about them:
- 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
- 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
This person’s life is described as “in the light,” that is, the light of God’s way (vs. 5). They are living a lifestyle that is in accordance with the commandments of God. An important thing to notice about this individual is that they are not sinless. They have committed sin, but they confess their sin unto God and they walk in the light. The idea that they are still walking in the light even after they’ve sinned demonstrates the truth that this person has repented of the sin and has come back to living the godly life as they normally do. So it is understood from this these scriptures that one is not a hypocrite for missing the mark on rare occasions; one is a hypocrite when they live their life in the darkness while saying they are people of the light.
Now it may be that the idea behind this question is because of the people who are living in darkness but claiming to be in the light. I imagine that this could be a very big problem within the church, and it may be that every one of us has even experienced someone like this. However, is this a justifiable reason not to assemble to worship as God commanded? Is this justifiable for one to not become a Christian? Let’s say, for the purpose of the argument, that everyone going to church was a hypocrite. Knowing this, what is that knowledge to you? How does that affect your responsibilities to rightly fulfill the commands of God to assemble to worship and to lead a godly life in His light? The question of “why go to church when everyone is a hypocrite” is faulty; it has been born from individuals who want to excuse themselves from doing something right just because others are not doing it right. It runs similar to the idea of the old saying “if everyone jumped off a cliff would you?” Even if you were the only person left on the earth that did the right thing, you are not excused from doing the right thing. We will all be judged by the words of Christ (John 12:48) against our works, and not anyone else’s works (1 Peter 1:17). So let’s always be cautious to do the right thing, even if everyone else is a hypocrite.