By using the word “counterfeit” relevant to Christianity, it is specifically meant that often Christians embody and present a “sham” or “phony” testimony to others of their relationship to/with Jesus Christ. Whereas the word “counterfeit” may also mean “fake” or “false” within a different context, it here speaks of the “pretentious” and “insincere” way many true Christians live their lives for Christ within this present world.
And frankly, this author does not feel qualified to thoroughly represent this topic, since so much of his past Christian involvement embodied and demonstrated this hollow and pompous experience. To be clear, to become a Christian, the recipient of God’s permanent gift of eternal life, one needs only to come to the realization that Christ alone executed the payment for one’s sins on the Cross and to then make the decision to accept Christ’s payment by placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ for one’s own personal eternal salvation.
But upon becoming a Christian by faith alone in Christ alone, Scripture clearly explains that one is only a babe in Christ and that to become mature in Christ, i.e., a Christian that truly honors God in word and deed, one must consistently digest spiritual food, God’s written Word (Hebrews 5:12-14;1 Peter 2:2). And as the Apostle Paul found in the Corinthian church (assembly), this is often not the case (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). And with this author, this spiritual growth and maturity has become a protracted experience, which is still incomplete.
Nevertheless, while again feeding on God’s Word, specifically the book of Matthew, it became apparent that Jesus Christ took great effort in explaining how Christians, particularly those who claimed spiritual worth, could misrepresent Him throughout their lives. Regrettably, such inappropriate spiritual activity, if never recognized and confessed (1 John 1:9), will eventually result in judgment and loss (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Revelation 20:11-15) during the coming Millennial (1,000 year) Kingdom of Christ upon this earth.
In today’s world, the Christian experience as seen in countless local and public (social) outlets is often characterized by superficial and emotional conduct. Frequently, the true message of the Gospel (the good news of God’s salvation through Christ) is cloaked in countless requests for money, disguised as Biblical “seed” required for spiritual growth or simply countless offerings of various books and other related materials.
The bottom line appears to be the accumulation of wealth by various ministries throughout the land. Additionally, often the Christian experience is promoted only through emotional displays and passionate orations rather than through the unwavering and comprehensive studying of God’s Holy Word.
It should also be noted that much of the criticism shared by Christ was directed at the “religious elite.” During the time our Lord walked the earth these individuals were as follows:
- The best known of religious leaders. The word “Pharisee” literally means “Separatist,” the name given to them by their opponents because of their “holier than thou” haughty attitude. Their claim was that they strictly followed both the written and oral law.
– Individuals who held a religious office and whose job was to study and expound the law. Most of the scribes belonged to the Pharisaic party, whereas not all Pharisees were scribes. Scribes claimed positions of first rank, sought public acclaim of the people and wore long and expensive robes.
- Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, the Sadducees were a political party favorable to the Roman government. They were priests of Jewish aristocratic class. All Sadducees were priests, but not all priests were Sadducees. They accepted only the written law and rejected the traditions of the Pharisees.
As one reviews the religious sphere of today’s world, one might come to the conclusion that there are many “religious leaders” in various denominations that could qualify as Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees. But then, as the readers of this document, that conclusion is solely yours to make.
That is all this author is asking you to do. First, under the title “The Sham”, please read the passages of Scripture presented by our Lord that evidenced a “sham” or “phony” (counterfeit) Christianity. And second, at the end of this document under the title of “The True”, please read a few passages of Scripture that describe what should characterize all Christians, especially those who endeavor to lead others in the Christian faith. In brief, it is up to you to make the determination in light of God’s Word what is real and what is not, in yourself as well as others.
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. (2) Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (3) But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (4) that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (5) And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (6) But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (7) And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (8) Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. (2) Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. (3) And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, (4) and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” So they went. (5) Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. (6) And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” (7) They said to him, “Because no one hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.” (8) So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, “Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.” (9) And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. (10) But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. (11) And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, (12) saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.” (13) But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? (14) Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. (15) Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” (16) So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, (2) saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. (3) Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, which observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. (4) For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (5) But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. (6) They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, (7) greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ (8) But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. (9) Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (10) And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. (11) But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (12) And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (13) But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. (14) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. (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. (16) Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ (17) Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? (18) And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ (19) Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? (20) Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. (21) He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. (22) And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it. (23) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (24) Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (25) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. (26) Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. (27) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. (28) Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (29) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, (30) and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ (31) Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. (32) Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. (33) Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (25) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (26) For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (27) For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (2) Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, (3) and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (4) Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” (28) So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (29) And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. (30) But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. (2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (4) Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (5) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; (6) does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; (7) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. (9) For we know in part and we prophesy in part. (10) But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. (11) When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (12) For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (13) And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.