Theme: The Second Indictment: Hypocrisy
Because God is the judge of all the earth, our proper response to him is to humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and offer ourselves to him in grateful service.
Scripture: Psalm 50:1-23
With verse 16 there is an unmistakable movement to a second class of people, since the verse begins, “But to the wicked, God says.” However, it is important to see that even here we are not in the presence of the heathen but rather still with the alleged people of God. Derek Kidner calls these “the nominally orthodox,” “hypocrites” and “hardened characters.”5
What is their problem? Their problem is that they are only the alleged people of God. They are unconverted, which they prove by supposing that they can worship God and disobey him all at the same time. In verse 16 we find that they are reciting God’s laws and taking his covenant on their lips. That is, they are mouthing everything they are supposed to. But verse 17 tells us that they actually hate God’s instruction and ignore the Bible’s precepts. The theological term for this perilous state is antinomianism. Antinomianism means “against the law.” It is the religion of those who think they can belong to God and nevertheless sin freely.
Do you know any people like that? The church is full of them, and many even have high levels of visibility. They are fodder for the scandal sheets. They bring discredit to Christianity and dishonor the Lord.
What is even worse, there is a type of evangelical theology that refuses to face the fact that such persons are not Christians and indeed even encourages them in the delusion that they can belong to God and at the same time continue willfully to disobey him. In our day the way this is expressed is to say that it is possible to have Jesus as Savior without having him as Lord. In other words, it is possible to be saved by him without having to follow him in obedient discipleship. Or, as I would also say, it is the mistaken notion that it is possible to be justified without being regenerated or born again. Let me say it clearly: It is possible for Christians to sin; they do sin. But it is not possible for them to be hypocrites. If they are not intending to do the right thing and wanting to do the right thing, as defined by the moral law of God, they are not Christians, any more than the “wicked” people of this psalm were truly God’s people.
This is why the psalm speaks so extensively of the law of God at this point, just as it had spoken against the notion that God needed sacrifices or something to eat in part one. The ritualists of my first discussion needed to be reminded that God is spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23). The hypocrites need to know that God is moral.
As is often the case in such passages, the psalm refers to three of the Ten Commandments as representative of all.
“You shall not steal” (v. 18). The first is the eighth, recorded in Exodus 20:15 and Deuteronomy 5:19. It concerns the property of another. We break this commandment not only in big ways, by robbing a bank or stealing from the petty cash box, for example, but in such small things as wasting our employer’s time or failing to give him our best efforts, which is what we are paid to do. Or we steal spiritually by withholding the worship due to God, using the Lord’s day for our own pleasures rather than for spiritual service and refreshment, or even by refusing to support the Lord’s work. If open unbelievers fail to do these things, it is not surprising. They are not Christians. The scandal is when those who profess the name of Christ refuse to do them. Yet all it really does is show that they are hypocrites.
Describe the second category of people.
What is antinomianism?
Why at this point does the psalm speak so extensively about the law of God?
Reflection: Given the broader implications of the eighth commandment against stealing, are there any ways in which you may not be honoring it?
5Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), p. 187.