Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1–2—NKJV)

Worse than an out-and-out liar is a masquerading liar, the hypocrite. A blatant, bald-faced liar is despicable because he does not value you enough to be honest with you. At least a liar, no matter how “good” he is at lying, can be caught in the web of his lies often enough that he may be recognized for what he is. But the hypocrite, now here is a bird of a different feather! He is a little more difficult to recognize and thus to avoid his artistry. Those who are charitable find it the most difficult to recognize the hypocrite, for they are easily persuaded to give him the benefit of the doubt. The hypocrite will winsomely protest his innocence and mightily declare the offense of his imagined integrity while hardly noting the factual evidence presented against him.

The faker may be in high dudgeon when he is called to account, but he must be reminded that God will not abide the lying hypocrite (Revelation 21:8). Our Lord uses the term some fifteen times in the book of Matthew alone (6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 15:7; 16:3; 22:18; 23:28; 24:51)! Jesus Christ never shied away from identifying fakery wherever it was found. The hypocrite can never hide from the eye of God. As difficult as the faker has being honest with others, he is most assuredly the biggest hypocrite to himself. Proverbs 26:23–28 bears this truth out, “he who hates, disguises it with his lips, and lays up deceit within himself” (Luke 11:44).

The old King James English provides an interesting perspective on the Greek word hupocritos. It is translated by two other words as well as hypocrite—dissemble and dissimulation. They both come from the same Latin root similis, meaning like. The prefix dis is the negative. Dissemble is “not like.” It is to conceal under a false appearance; to resemble falsely, simulate, feign (e.g., “vice sometimes dissembles virtue”); to pretend; not to observe; to conceal ones true feelings and motives; pretense; hypocrite.

The “hypocrite” in the Greek and Roman world was an actor on the stage who played his part among the other actors, often wearing a large mask with some sort of mechanical apparatus so that his voice could be magnified for the sake of the audience. Interestingly, the term is found in Galatians 2:13 concerning Peter who was a faker among the believing Gentiles by refusing to eat with them for fear of the Judaisers: “and the rest of the Jews played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.” Paul says he withstood Peter to his face, because he was to be blamed! Peter had mimicked the self-righteous errorists and multiplied their evil among the disciples.

Dissembling hypocrisy is found in Joshua 7:11 where Achan sinned and pretended to be righteous and paid a very heavy price, as did Israel along with him. Such lying behavior is fundamentally offensive to authentic believers. David indicates as much in Psalm 26 where he says, “I have walked in my integrity…examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart…I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, nor will I go in with hypocrites…I will wash my hands in innocence…that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works.”

When a man is authentically born from above, he inherits his heavenly Father’s disdain for fakery. 1 Peter 1:22–23 along with 2 Peter 2:1–2 enjoins, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as new born babes.” In general, there are three areas that this detestation of hypocrisy will be observed in any real Christian’s life: in the area of unfeigned love—authentic investment of your heart (2 Corinthians 6:6, Romans 12:9), unfeigned faith—authentic doctrinal integrity (1 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 1:5), and unfeigned wisdom from above—authentic application of divine truth (James 3:17).

Our passage of 1 Timothy 4:1–2 expresses the teaching that the latter days of the church age will be characterized by religious people playing the hypocrite. Do not be one of them! Do not be a faker, a dissembler, a dissimulator (Luke 12:1–3). Be fastidiously real in your love, faith, and wisdom. Invite God’s judgment of your integrity, and neither a deceiver nor deceived be! Let the “new born” style faith flow through you. Honesty with yourself before God equips you for honesty before men. Trust and obey.