Are We Hypocrites? Part 4 of 4
Verses 27-28 - 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
This woe is very similar to the last one. Again, we see the Pharisees looked good on the outside but inside they were spiritually dead. But what I want us to see here is that unsaved people don’t all look the same.
So often when we think of people who are not saved we think of someone who never goes to church and who is engaged in all kinds of immorality.
But it can also be true that someone who looks like a Christian, talks like a Christian and does all the Christian things can still be unsaved. The scribes and Pharisees were religious leaders. They followed all the rules. Everyone thought they were very righteous people. And yet, Jesus says to them in verse 33, ‘You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?’
Why? Because salvation is not in following all the rules and looking good, it is by faith alone in Christ alone. In Philippians 3:8-9 the Apostle Paul, who was a Pharisee, talks about his good works and says that he counted, ‘…everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—' Only Christ’s work for us on the cross can cover our sin. And only His righteousness given to us is good enough for a perfect and holy God. No amount of following the rules and no amount of looking good can ever save us, only Jesus Christ can.
So, before I said that if anyone sees sin inside themselves they should ask God and He will forgive them. But it’s also true that if you look at yourself and you think that you are following all the rules. If you think that you are doing everything right and God will accept you because you are a good person.
That’s exactly what the Pharisees thought and Jesus can only say to them, ‘woe to you’ ‘what sorrow awaits you’.
So, stop trying to do it on your own. Stop trying to earn God’s favour. Stop thinking you’re good enough. Because you’re not and you never can be. (That’s a great message for your self-esteem) Only Jesus is good enough. Only His sacrifice for us is good enough. So, stop, and place your faith in Jesus and rest in His forgiveness and righteousness given to you by God through faith.
And then, with the power that God provides, grow in true holiness that comes from the heart. Not so that God can accept you, but because God has already accepted you in Christ. We are saved by faith alone but true faith is never alone.
So, we see the Pharisees’ hypocrisy in three ways in these verses. Firstly they didn’t have their priorities right. They focused too much on less important things and not enough on more important things. Secondly they focused too much on external things and not at all on the sin inside the heart. Thirdly they looked righteous on the outside but they were actually spiritually dead inside.
Let us not slip into the same errors as the Pharisees. Let us focus on what is really important: the gospel of Jesus, love for God and love for neighbour. And let us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, deal with the sin inside of our hearts so that our actions will flow from clean hearts. And let us take hold of the true righteousness that comes only from faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 3:20–21 (ESV)
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.