Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen. (Ephesians 6:23–24—NKJV)

Many uninformed, yet sincere, people believe that God values personal sincerity enough that He is willing to overlook their other shortcomings and, on the basis of sincerity alone, award them eternal life—the theory being that if a person is sincere before God then he is going to heaven. A study of the word’s use in the Bible quickly settles the matter. A person may be sincere and yet “sincerely lost.”

Please do not misunderstand me; sincerity is a highly commendable trait and an important component of the Christian life, just as our verse teaches. The dictionary definition of sincere is rooted in the idea of “without decay and rottenness.” It means to be without deceit, pretense, or hypocrisy; truthful; faithful; straightforward; honest. It is to be the same in actual character as in outward appearance; genuine; real. Synonyms include unaffected, unfeigned, heartfelt, hearty. Christianity without sincerity is a flimflam and sincerity without being an authentically converted Christian is merely a courtesy to your fellow man. Never think for a moment that God is fooled in either case.

The Bible has several Greek terms which get translated by our word sincerity. One is found in 1 Peter 2:2: “As newborn babes, desire the pure (sincere, guileless) milk of the word that you may grow thereby.” Another is found in Philippians 1:9–10: “And this I pray that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere (pure when held to the sunlight) and without offense until the day of Christ.” Unadulterated purity is the very sincerity possessed by God and must be mirrored in the life of His saints (1 Corinthians 5:8, 2 Corinthians 1:12, 2:17).

Our text above uses a word, that occurs eight times in the New Testament, which emphasizes the root concept of our English word sincere. The Greek word is aphtharsia, meaning imperishable. It is the word “to corrupt, destroy” with the negating prefix—not decayed, not perishable, not mortal. Biblical sincerity is a form of purity that is uncontaminated with anything that can lead to its decay. It must be sincerity which does not contain anything that can breed corruption. For this reason, the Greek word is used no less than four times in the Great Resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 (verses 42, 50, 53, and 54). It is used to describe the resurrection state of the New Testament saint raised by the mighty hand of God in “incorruption.” 2 Timothy 1:10 and Romans 2:7 translate the Greek word to mean immortality.

You will notice that both incorruption and immortality take the root concepts of corrupt and mortal and negate them. This illustrates the limits of human language. There are things we have never seen about eternity and so, in order to describe them, we must resort to something we know and put a negative in front of it. For instance, one of the beauties of heaven is the blessed state of inexpressible joy that must be described by “no more tears.” The light of heaven (Revelation 22) will be given by God, but it is described as “no night,” and “need no candle, neither light of the sun.” In just this way, incorruptibility is freedom from decay but to its most superlative extent.

This is the word chosen by Paul to describe the loving sincerity genuine believers are to exercise before their heavenly Father and before a lost world. It is a requirement of a love that is free from the seeds that will lead to decay, no source of change and corruption within it. It is this type of love which the Lord counts dear, highly prizes, and fully rewards with the experience of His daily grace.

Do you love your God with a love that is free from the corrupting seeds of self-centered worship, biblical ignorance, blind unbelief, and cherished sin? Trust and obey.