Many who have invited friends to visit their church have heard this excuse: “I don’t go to church because it has too many hypocrites!” We may feel defensive at that accusation. Perhaps we feel our church is different, more genuine than the churches our friends have attended.
Today’s parable, might make us reconsider this criticism. There are hypocrites in the church. One reason is the mysterious way the gospel of the kingdom spreads. According to Jesus, the final manifestation of the kingdom will not come until the end of the age (v. 39). But those who believe the gospel are already people (literally “sons”) of the kingdom by faith. They have been rescued from the dominion of darkness (Col. 1:13).
Jesus warned that some who appear to be His servants are impostors (Matt. 7:21–22). These false Christians are sometimes hard to distinguish. Some who we think are people of the kingdom may not be. Others that we think are not genuine children of God may only be young in their faith or immature.
“So long as the Church is on pilgrimage in the world, the good and sincere will be mixed in it with the bad and the hypocrites,” the Reformer John Calvin cautioned. “So the children of God must arm themselves with patience and maintain an unbroken constancy of faith among all the offenses which can trouble them.” We accept those who claim to be Christ’s based on their profession of faith. This does not mean that we should turn a blind eye to sin or inconsistency. “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’ ” (2 Tim. 2:19).
>> After reading this passage, we may be tempted to scrutinize our fellow church members. Instead, perhaps we can turn the spotlight on our own lives and commitment to God and submit to the transforming work of His Spirit.