1 Peter – Chapter Two III

by Ed Urzi

“So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1 NET).

Hypocrisy is the third characteristic listed for us here in 1 Peter 2:1. A “hypocrite” is someone who pretends to be someone (or something) he or she is not. In the New Testament era, a hypocrite was synonymous with “one who wears a mask.” This term described a professional actor who employed a mask to portray different emotions. That led to a natural association with those who differed from what they seemed to be.

A hypocrite, therefore, is not someone who makes an error or struggles to do the right thing. A hypocrite is really a “mask-wearer,” or someone who knowingly and intentionally differs from what he or she claims to be. One source offers a technical analysis of this word that helps expand upon these differences…

“The word ‘hypocrisies’ is the transliteration of the Greek word hupokriseis which means literally ‘to judge under,’ as a person giving off his judgment from behind a screen or mask. The true identity of the person is covered up. It refers to acts of impersonation or deception. It was used of an actor on the Greek stage. Taken over into the New Testament, it referred to a person we call a hypocrite, one who assumes the mannerisms, speech, and character of someone else, thus hiding his true identity.” (1)

The New Testament Scriptures clearly denounce hypocrisy, beginning with the following quotes from Jesus Himself…

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven… And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:1, 5).

“Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28 NET).

Finally, the Apostle Paul offers a sobering reminder concerning hypocrisy in his New Testament letter to the church in Rome…

“Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3).

(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Peter 2:1-5] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.