As we come to chapter 3 of 2 Timothy, Paul will look through the years and with the eyes of a prophet tell us what to expect as Christians. But as you read verses 1-5 it really sounds like he is describing our present age. There isn’t one item on the list that makes you think, ‘That doesn’t describe our culture.” It all looks like a picture of the world in which we now live.
Perhaps one of the scariest descriptions comes in verse 5 where Paul says that people will “have a form of godliness but deny its power.” That’s a frightening picture of many churches today. On the outside they seem to be godly, saying the right things and knowing the right things. But if you look beyond the surface their lives deny the power of God. They are being deceived and deceiving others.
Today we would call such people hypocrites. The word hypocrite comes from the world of stage and it means to play act, it refers to an actor pretending to be a certain character. So to be a hypocrite is to say one thing but do another. They are like the teachers that Paul speaks of in Romans 2:20 – they had the “law – the embodiment of knowledge and truth” … but they failed to apply what they taught to their own lives. (Romans 2:21-29) Worse yet, they believed that simply having this knowledge and a few superficial outward signs of “Jewishness”, (such as circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath), meant that they were truly approved by God. Paul says that a true relationship with God is not a matter of knowledge alone but of knowledge and obedience.
We cannot read this without asking ourselves some hard questions. It’s so easy to point to other churches and other people and say “they have the form of godliness but deny its power” – it’s a whole other thing to look in the mirror and ask, “Do I have a form of godliness but deny its power? Am I a hypocrite, merely playing a Christian? Do I rely on my keeping the rituals of the faith to get God’s approval?”
Some people come to the stunning realization that they are indeed hypocrites and in response – they leave the faith. But that’s not the answer. The answer is to repent! When looking at the reflection of hypocrisy we are meant to fall on our knees and go to the cross. See Jesus hanging there for your sin and ask God to forgive you, to cleanse you and by the power of his Holy Spirit enable you to live a life that agrees with your profession. Abandon any thought of seeking to win God’s favor through keeping the rituals of the faith and cling to Jesus who alone is our righteousness.
If you feel you are living a life of the hypocrite, if you are saying one thing and doing another, come to God and know that in his grace he will enable you to live a life that truly reflects his love and goodness.
In thanksgiving for you, Pastor Tom.