The Sincerity and Sacredness of a Christian Speech-Act

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The Sincerity and Sacredness of a Christian Speech-Act

The Sincerity and Sacredness of a Christian Speech-Act

Hypocrisy is the negative expression of performatives. It’s a subtle form of speech-act. In the Bible, the Scribes and Pharisees were the expert performers of religion. But in Jesus’ strong polemical address to them in Matthew 23, he revealed their true colors by using strong word pictures of condemnation. He said,

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:25-28)

Outwardly and ritually, these religious leaders were zealous devotees to their religion. To be a Pharisee carries a dignity of spiritual purity and separation from the world. Their commitment to the Mosaic Law was so strong that because of their zeal, they were honorably called Rabbis, Fathers, and Masters of Religion (Mt. 23:7-10). However, their zeal, according to Jesus, was a ritualistic act. They forgot and neglected the heart of their religion.

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “’This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:7-9)

Thus, even though their religious statements expressed strong performatives, deep inside, they were hypocrites. There was no spiritual and moral weight in their speech-act in the sight of Yahweh. Of course, the Scribes and Pharisees were sincere performers of their religion – no question about that. But because they’ve removed the heart of the Law by their self- made doctrines, they’ve established a heartless religion. That’s why in a confrontational debate with them, Jesus exposed their true nature by saying,

I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. (John 5:41-42)

In other words, even though these religious leaders follow the jot and tittle of the Mosaic Law, their motive in doing so is not God-centered. They do it because they gain a praiseworthy and powerful position in the sight of the people. Religion is a powerful tool in the hands of manipulators.

With this principle in mind, we can say then that the moral weight of human performatives comes from a sincere heart founded on the truth. Specifically, from a Christian perspective, the sincerity of Christian performance is to be “a man after God’s own heart.” Christian performance is primarily a “state of being” and secondarily “a state of doing.” This is the reason why the Gospel is so fundamental and motivational in Christian speech-act.

Considering the words of Jesus, if the love of God is not yet poured out in the human heart by the Spirit, the possibility and ability to perform sincere and sacred speech-act is impossible (Rom. 5:5; 8:1-11). Why impossible? We must understand that a Christian is a new creation – a born again person (Jn. 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17). Thus, compared to the moral quality of religious human speech-act, the Christian speech-act declares spiritual realities and possibilities that the non-Christian moral ideology can’t receive and understand (1 Cor. 2).

Spiritual realities refer to the invisible and supernatural existence, while spiritual possibilities point to the promises and privileges that we have in Christ (Eph.1). Of course, the religions and moral ideologies of the world can produce a human-level kind of sincerity and sacredness – although in the final analysis, they are actually borrowing the fundamental-moral concept of the Ten Commandments. Yet, only the heart indwelt by the Spirit of Christ can produce a divine-level of sincerity and sacredness that are pleasing in the sight of God (Col. 3:15-17; 4:6). God is pleased because the heart communicates to Him through the redemptive mediation of Jesus Christ.




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