Those “Hypocrites” In The Church
With the operation of spiritual gifts, the vast majority of the time the person operating a spiritual gift was a godly, praying saint. However, at times someone who was the biggest trouble-maker in the church would appear to ope- rate in a vocal gift. I can remember thinking, “How can God use this person when they’re not only a trouble-maker, but the are mean- spirited toward their wife and children, and run off every minister sent to the church?” We were being taught that the holy Spirit only works through a clean, sanctified vessel (Acts 20:32, Romans 15:16), and there stood “Brother Hypocrite” appearing to exercise a gift from the blessed Holy Spirit.
When this happened, it caused some to question any operation of the Spirit as they were unsure who was real and who was not. We could not understand how God could or would use a “two-faced hypocrite” to speak to the body of Christ. I am sure you have heard people talk about “these hypocrites in church,” using that comment to avoid attending church or even serving the Lord.
The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word “hypocrites,” which has the general meaning of a “play actor.” According to W.E. Vines, “It was a custom for Greek and Roman actors to speak in large masks with mechanical devices for augmenting the force of the voi- ce; hence the word became used metaphorically of a dissembler, a hypocrite.”
A hypocrite is a person behind a mask. The modern word means a person who professes one thing, but in secret lives the opportunist of what they profess. The politician who preaches a family values platform but is cheating on his wife would be an example. A minister who emphasizes freedom from addictions but is a “closet alcoholic” would be another. In the church, it would be a person who outwardly appears to live a godly and pure life, yet outside church they live opposite of what they teach to others. These types of people often do more to hinder others from coming to Christ than outright sinners who pull them away from the truth (Luke 11:52).
It seems like more people leave church because someone they trusted failed them than because they fell into sin.
People God Uses For His Purposes
In a church setting, we expect our leaders to live exemplary Christian lives. Yet in the Bible, we see so many times when God would use someone to perform His work who battled a weakness or personal struggle. For example, Sampson was a Nazareth, set apart by a Nazarite vow to refrain from wine and strong drink, frown touching a dead carcass, and from cutting his hair (Numbers 6:1-8). His gift was supernatural strength to de- liver Israel from her enemies. But he was continually hanging out with Philistine women and once even touched the carcass of a dead lion and picked up the jaw- bone of a dead donkey, both for- bidden by the Nazareth vow (Judges 14:9, 15:15). Yet, the Spirit of the Lord continued to come upon him until he broke the third part of the vow, which was when the Philistine harlot Delilah cut his hair. Sampson assumed the Spirit of the Lord could come upon him again, but the Lord departed from him(Judges 16:16-20). Sampson was living a dual life, claiming to be in covenant with God, yet visiting harlots in Gaza. The Lord continued with His Spirit coming upon Sampson, but only for a season.
Eventually Sampson went too far and ended up bind, bound and in a Philistine grinding house going round and round (Judges 16:21). God extended His grace as Sampson began breaking the vow, but when the third part of the vow (cutting the hair) was broken, God lifted His blessing. Sampson thought he would “shake himself as in times past,” but God had de- parted from him.
Sampson is only one example of a man separated for ministry and anointed who thought he could publicly operate a gift and privately live as he chose. The book of Numbers tells a story of a man named Balaam, a true prophet with the ability to speak words that would come to pass. The King of Mo-ab told Balaam that if he would stand on a mountain, look into the valley and curse the Hebrew nation, the king would greatly reward this prophet for using his gift. But Balaam was actually abusing the gift as he journeyed to a high mountain to curse God’s chosen people (Numbers 22-23). On three occasions, Balaam tried to pronounce a curse, but he only spoke a blessing. However this man’s name became a curse amount the Hebrews due to what he later did. Balaam confessed that he could not curse what God had blessed (Numbers 23:8). Thus he conspired with the king and told him to send his most beautiful women from his kingdom to the tents of the young Hebrew men to seduce them. Afterwards, the Hebrew God would be angry and bring a judgment upon His own people. Balaam knew he could not cure Israel, but God would become angry if Israel sinned (Numbers 25:1-2; 31:16). Thus, a prophet with a true gift corrupted himself, abuse his spiritual authority, and throughout Biblical history now carries a negative name (Joshua 24:10; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14).
The lives of Sampson and Balaam expose how anointed and gifted men can sometimes compromise their convictions for the lust of the flesh and the pride f life, which cost them their anointing, gift and relationship with God. For a season, God is merciful and continues to use the person, as the “gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). However, the Bible is clear that if a person continues in their iniquity without repenting and turning from it, they will experience the Lord’s chastisement in some manner (Hebrews 12:6).
The Gifts Are Perfect, But The Vessels Are Flawed
I once asked a great man of God why God uses people who sometimes seem to struggle with weakness of the flesh. He answered, “The gifts come from the Lord and they are perfect, but the vessels are flawed.” In history, there were men who lived a near perfect life in obedience to God. It is written that Joshua “left nothing undone of what the Lord commanded him to do” (Joshuah 11:15). Daniel had no blemish when he was before the king (Daniel 1:4). Noah was just and perfect in his wicked generation (Genesis 6:9), and Job was “upright, feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). However, God used many others who had some type of weakness they dealt with.
Think for a moment about Simon Peter. On one occasion, Peter announced that Christ was the “Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus then revealed that Peter had received this revelation directly from the heavenly Father (Matthew 16:17). Christ then began warning His disciples that He would one day suffer in Jerusalem, be killed, and be raised on the third day (Matthew 16:21). Peter began rebuking Christ saying, “Be it far from You, oh Lord; this shall not be done unto You!” Jesus stopped the conversation cold when He said, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:22-23). Peter was not “Satan.” In fact, the word “Satan” is both the name of the fallen angel Satan (Luke 10:18) and can also simply mean “an adversary.” Christ knew His purpose for coming to earth was His death and resurrection to introduce the re-redemptive covenant for all man- kind. Peter was rebuking Christ for predicting His death in Jerusalem, and Christ knew this word was not from the Lord, but was the enemy planting a mental seed to block God’s will. Peter was a disciple, anointed to heal and expel spirits (Matthew 10:1). Peter was certainly chosen for ministry, but at times he did not discern the correct voice!
A second example is when a married couple in the early church, Ananias and Sapphira, sold property with the original intent of giving the proceeds to the church. Instead, they withheld a portion of the income. When the offering was being received, Peter asked Ananias why has “Satan filled your heart to lie against the holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3). This couple were believers, but made a terrible choice to lie, and their deception cost them their lives.
These examples of Satan interrupting God’s plan serve to illustrate how good people can actually open the door to the enemy. Peter later denied the Lord, but over 40 days later on the Day of Pentecost, he was the keynote speaker who led 3,000 souls to salvation in Jerusalem (Acts 2). I’m glad the other disciples didn’t say, “How can he preach to this bunch, that old hypocrite!” Once Peter repented and was restored, no one brought up his past failure again.
The Hypocrite And The Gifts
How can a Christian go from being pure and operating in a gift to being a hypocrite and still appearing to operate in that gift? Years ago, a noted minister who preached heavily about sin was caught with a prostitute. When the story hit the news, the church was disappointed, new converts were disappointed, and sinners were disillusioned. The unsaved would comment, “The old hypocrite. He was preaching against what we do and doing it himself.” Yet here is the part of that minister’s life that only a few knew. After this man would commit an immoral and sinful act, he would return home and pray for hours for forgiveness. Before his large meetings, he would pray for hours in his hotel room. God being merciful, for- gave this man and continued to anoint him. However, he did not get a victory over this fleshly sin, and the Bible says, “Be sure your sins will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). The gift operated through the grace given him. His continual repentance and desire for help is why the grace of God was extended for him. Individuals in the body of Christ with any sin are given a “space to re- pent” (Revelation 2:21), which is a time frame designated only by the Lord Himself. If true repentance and turning from sin does not occur, then God lifts His hand of favor and blessing, which can initiate chastisement or judgment.
It is possible that the “hypocrite” you think is in the pew next to you struggling with anger, fleshly temptations, or even pride, may spend private time seeking God and asking for His help, and this is the part you cannot see or do not know. Thus, after spending time with the Lord, they are moved upon in a church service and the gifting within them begins to manifest. You know their public weakness, but God sees their private humility.
Willing, Not Perfect, Vessels
God does not use perfect vessels, but He does use willing vessels. If He waited until each believer was completely and to- tally mature before using them, then most of the men God used to see and perform miracles in the Bible would never have experienced God’s blessings. We must never judge God’s gifts by the vessels being used, but realize that without the vessels, the work of God would be null and void. God uses ministers to preach, teachers to teach, believers to lay hands on the sick and minister to the community. We must assist one another in spiritual growth and maturity, and when someone is a hindrance in the church, then confront them face to face with elders and the leadership. This will help keep confusion out of the congregation.