God has always made his will known to the world through a special group of people. During the Mosaic dispensation, this group was the Israelites, but now that we live in the age of Christianity, the knowledge of God’s will comes through Christians. We have the duty of spreading God’s word so that the world may learn how to receive justification through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:17; 10:17). This great responsibility, however, has to be carried out with care. Christians must have the proper disposition as they seek the lost and show them the path to salvation. If not, we run the risk of doing more harm than good. If our conduct does not align with what we teach, we could be charged with being hypocrites and with causing the lost to move farther away from God.
In Romans 2, Paul touches on this topic as he exposes the sinfulness of both Jews and Gentiles. He points out the Jews in particular for being hypocrites because, historically as God’s special people, they had knowledge of his law but did not live according to it (Rom. 2:17–20). He writes the following in verses 21–22:
21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
The Jews had a problem with hypocrisy, which Jesus pointed out during his ministry. He told the people to observe the things that the leaders taught but not to do as they did (Matt. 23:3). The scribes and Pharisees desired to have the appearance of piety; however, their hearts were not right. They used the law to oppress and take advantage of people, not to build them up with justice, mercy, and faith (Matt. 23:14; 23–28). They sought to elevate themselves, teaching the people to keep the law while they were breaking it.
We as Christians must be careful not to fall into this pattern, because the consequence will be condemnation for us and for those we try to convert. Notice that Paul says in verse 24, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” The people of God had a serious problem with apostasy and hypocrisy, which throughout history has caused the nations around them to stumble (Mal. 2:8). We read about this in the Old Testament. The Israelites were so sinful that even the Gentiles were ashamed of their acts (Ezekiel 16:27:30):
27 “Behold, therefore, I stretched out My hand against you, diminished your allotment, and gave you up to the will of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28 You also played the harlot with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; indeed you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. 29 Moreover you multiplied your acts of harlotry as far as the land of the trader, Chaldea; and even then you were not satisfied. 30 “How degenerate is your heart!” says the Lord God, “seeing you do all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot.
They brought shame to the name of the Lord (Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:22):
5 Now therefore, what have I here,” says the Lord, “That My people are taken away for nothing? Those who rule over them make them wail,” says the Lord, “And My name is blasphemed continually every day.
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.
Jesus accused the religious leaders of converting people and making them even worse than them because of their behavior (Matt. 23:15):
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
These passages clearly show us the influence our behavior can have on the lost. We cannot expect to bring anyone to Christ if we do not hold to the things we preach. Surely, we make mistakes, but our general disposition should be that of godly people in order to be pleasing to God and to not cause others to stumble. Our conduct as a royal priesthood and holy nation must be honorable, so that when people look at us, they will glorify God because of our good works (1 Pet. 2:9–12).