Summary: Many skeptics use Christian hypocrites as an excuse for rejecting Christ. In this sermon, we make the distinction between sinners and hypocrites. Everyone in church is a sinner, but not everyone is a hypocrite.


A. One day Robert Redford, the famous actor, was walking through a hotel lobby, when a woman recognized him and ran over to him.

1. With great excitement, she gushed, “Are you the real Robert Redford?”

2. As the doors of the elevator closed, he replied, “Only when I am alone.”

B. How hard it is to be the real me and the real you at all times.

1. How hard it is to be our best selves at all times.

C. I was fascinated by the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., whose story was told by Steven Speilberg in the movie Catch Me If You Can.

1. Before his 19th birthday, Frank Abagnale, Jr. had successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan Am airline pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor.

2. His primary crime was check fraud, and he became so skillful that the FBI later employed him to help in catching other check forgers.

3. Frank Abagnale, Jr. was a real life pretender, or another description we might use is “hypocrite.”

D. By definition a hypocrite is “an insincere person; one who pretends to be what he is not” (Webster’s New Concise Dictionary).

1. The word hypocrite comes from a Greek word that literally means “one who hides behind a mask.”

2. In the ancient theater, actors often played multiple parts and wore different masks that went with the part they were playing.

3. Spiritually speaking, we would say that a hypocrite is a person who pretends to have beliefs or practices which he or she does not actually possess.

4. In other words, a hypocrite is someone who not only does not practice what one preaches, but is a person who actually does the opposite of what one preaches.

E. So what does this subject have to do with the faith questions that we have been trying to answer?

1. Well, we find ourselves at a time in our nation when church attendance and involvement is at a very low point.

2. When surveyed as to why they don’t attend church or have dropped out of church, many have replied that they often don’t see Christ in those who claim to follow Him.

3. Their responses often go like this: “There are too many hypocrites in church” and “If Christianity is real, why doesn’t the church look more like Jesus?”

4. Now when we consider the way the popular media has portrayed Christians and Christianity in recent decades we should not be surprised at the negative attitudes that many people have.

5. At the same time, we must acknowledge that many churches and Christians have given the media a lot of ammunition to use against us – everything from child sex abuse in the church, to high profile Christians getting caught up in sex scandals and money schemes, and churches burning copies of the Koran and protesting at military funerals.

6. All of this leaves many skeptics wondering: “If Christianity is real, then why are there so many hypocrites in the church?”

F. So how do Christians, answer this question?

1. First, we begin by admitting that certainly there are some real hypocrites in the church, but the vast majority of people in the church are real, faithful Christians.

2. Let’s spend a few minutes discussing what I mean by real, faithful Christians.

I. Real Christians Are Forgiven Sinners.

A. Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker that reads, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”

1. The Bible never claims that followers of Christ are perfect.

2. It does say that those who surrender their lives to Him and walk with Him will be perfectly forgiven.

3. See there’s a big difference between being a sinner and being a hypocrite.

4. All hypocrites are sinners, but not all sinners are hypocrites.

B. For many people in the world, there is the assumption that a Christian is someone who no longer sins.

1. But nothing could be further from the truth.

2. The Bible says just the opposite.

3. Look at some verses from 1 John: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 Jn. 1:8-2:2)

4. The hypocrite is the one who wears a mask and claims to be without sin.

a. The real Christian, is the one who freely admits that he or she is a sinner.

5. The true follower of Christ may struggle with sin, but when they recognize their sin, they seek forgiveness and they turn away from their sin.

a. They admit to God that they have sinned, and that this is a weakness in their life, and they ask the help of God and God’s people to overcome their sin.

b. God welcomes such prayer and promises to help us.

6. The hypocrite, on the other hand, doesn’t really struggle to overcome his sin – he just tries to hide it.

a. The hypocrite says, “When I’m in church, I’ll behave like a Christian. I’ll say the prayers and sing the songs, and obey the rules. But when I’m out in the world, I’ll do what I want to do and behave as the world behaves.”

b. The hypocrite is the one who is attempting to live two different and separate lives simultaneously.

c. The Bible gives us instructions for how to discipline a Christian who is living as a hypocrite in hope that they will repent.

C. So what I am trying to say is that there is a difference between committing sin and living in sin.

1. One is hypocritical and the other is not.

2. Christians aren’t perfect, but we are forgiven.

3. It is interesting to realize that one of the requirements for admission into the church is the admission of our sinfulness.

4. So the church is not a temple for super saints, but a hospital for sick sinners seeking forgiveness and transformation.

II. Real Christians are Not What They Used To Be.

A. When a person looks at members of the church and still sees sinners, one thing they often fail to take into consideration is how far each of us has come.

1. The transformation process is not instantaneous – even though we might wish it were.

2. So outsiders might look at a Christian and say, “A real Christian shouldn’t lose his temper, or use bad language, or struggle with alcohol or pornography, right?”

3. And it is true that our calling as Christians includes putting all those kinds of things behind us.

B. But think about how things would look different if rather than focusing on how far people fall short, we think about how far they have come.

1. How much have you changed for the better over the years since you became a Christian?

2. How many of the sins of your past have you been able to put behind you?

3. So if any of us could look back in time at each other’s lives, we would be able to clearly see how much progress has been made.

4. So the truth of the matter is – all of us are in process, and even though we have a long way to go, we’re not what we used to be. Amen!

III. Real Christians Are Becoming What They Will Be.

A. So we have seen that real Christians are forgiven sinners who are growing and changing as time passes, but there is more to the story.

1. Real Christians will be transformed completely and will be made perfect some day.

2. We know that when Christ returns we will be instantaneously and radically changed, and we will be taken to that perfect place where we will spend eternity with God.

3. The Apostle John beautifully expresses these truths in this way: 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 Jn. 3:2-3)

B. So as we await that glorious day, we strive to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our purification.

1. Real Christians are committed to ongoing divine housekeeping.

2. As the Holy Spirit makes us aware of our sin, He prompts us to confess it, and He gives us the power and courage to overcome it.

3. As we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, the character of Christ develops within us and the fruit of the Spirit begins to ripen in our lives.

4. What Paul said was true of the Philippians is also true for us: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

5. That’s why being a Christian gives us such hope – We know that God is not finished with us yet.

a. I have always liked the children’s song: “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be, cause He’s still working on me.”

6. We are in process – we are not what we used to be, and we are becoming what we will be.

7. Hopefully, each one of us can see how God is helping us narrow that gap between what I should be and what I am, between how I should be living and how I am presently living.


A. Let’s bring the focus back to the skeptic or the seeker and ask them a question: “So while it is true that there are some hypocrites in the church, is this a valid reason for your unbelief or disobedience?”

1. One person said their favorite response to the statement, “I don’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites in the church,” is “You can go to church with a few hypocrites, or you can go to hell with all of them.”

2. I certainly wouldn’t suggest that that is the best response to a skeptic, even though it is true that if we let a few hypocrites stop us from following Christ, then we will end up spending eternity with them.

B. I do think it is helpful to point out that Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted throughout history or are acting today.

1. Rather, Christianity stands or falls on the person of Jesus, and Jesus was no hypocrite.

2. Jesus consistently lived what He taught.

3. Even Jesus’ greatest critics agree that His character and teachings are among the greatest in history.

C. Whether people practice Christianity sincerely or not, the truth about Jesus is still the truth.

1. D. Collins wrote: “I have been a Christian for near on twenty-five years and in this time I have known Christians who were liars, thieves, drunkards, etc. Yet such hypocrisy has never led me to say that what Jesus teaches is untrue or invalid. If all who claim to be Christians are hypocrites and I am the only one who is sincere, then so be it. I will remain faithful to God until I draw my last breath. I cannot deny truth simply because others do not practice it.”

2. We must not let other people’s failings discourage us to the point of unfaithfulness.

D. In a way, the hypocrisy objection backfires on the skeptic.

1. The accusation of hypocrisy assumes that there is a moral standard that hypocrites break.

2. But where does that moral standard come from?

3. In this sense, the hypocrisy objection supports the reality of a transcendent, moral lawgiver (that is, God), rather than argue against Him.

E. I would like to finish up today’s lesson by focusing on how each one of us can avoid hypocrisy.

1. Jesus reserved some of His harshest words for hypocrites.

2. Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Mt. 7:3-5).

3. In Matthew 23 contains the 7 Woes that Jesus leveled at the Jewish religious leaders.

a. Here is just a sampling: Jesus said: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

4. In those verses, we find a number of important principles that can help us avoid hypocrisy.

a. The first important principle is to focusing on fixing yourself, rather than others - Before we try to straighten up anyone else’s house, we better make sure that ours is in order.

1. We should strive to practice what we preach.

b. A second important principle is to implement the important – we must be sure that we don’t neglect the most important commands of God as we try to carry out any minor or specific command.

1. For example, although regular worship attendance on Sunday is important, it doesn’t make up for a lack of love, humility, or truthfulness every other day of the week.

c. A third important principle is to focus on the internal as well as the external.

1. We should be as concerned about inner righteousness as much as outer righteousness.

2. Certainly this is important because God can see both the inner and the outer.

3. But it is also important because the outer springs from the inner, and if we don’t master the inner, then we will have a hard time mastering the outer.

d. A final important principle that will help us avoid hypocrisy is to be more concerned with what God thinks than with what people will think.

1. Ultimately, we are supposed to be God-pleasers, not people-pleasers.

F. While Jesus may have been hard on the hypocrite, He always welcomed the repentant sinner.

1. Here is Jesus’ wonderful invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30).

2. Jesus is always ready to receive those of us who are weary and broken and burdened.

3. Even those of us who have been Christians for many years have experienced times when our guard was down and Satan caught us in his sinful trap.

4. It is not hypocrisy to fall into sin, but it becomes hypocritical when we stop struggling against sin, and decide to live in sin, while pretending that we are not.

5. Praise God that we don’t have to hide our sin, but that we can confess it and receive forgiveness, and also receive assistance to overcome temptation and sin.

G. May God help each of us to be a real Christian and more and more as we see the Great Day approaching.


Why are There So Many Hypocrites? Sermon by Brian Bill,

The Church is Full of Hypocrites! Sermon by Melvin Newland,

Why are There so many Hypocrites in the Church? Sermon by Paul Wallace,

Why Are There So Many Hypocrites? Sermon by Bruce Shields,

All Christians Are Hypocrites, Sermon by David Cambridge,

What About Hypocrites in the Church? Article by Robert Velarde,

Why are there so Many Hypocrites in the Church? Sermon by Gary Buchman,

There Are too Many Hypocrites in the Church!