Sincerity is honest authenticity and genuine wholeheartedness. It is freedom from hypocrisy and is often a pleasure to see. What is the relationship of this wonderful attribute to the salvation of the human soul?
Sincerity is required by our Creator. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands (obedience in the outer life), and a pure heart(sincerity in the inner life) Psalm 24:3,4. Amaziah the king did the external acts that were right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart (II Chronicles 25:1, 2). God places great importance on sincerity.
God spoke to his children about the sacrifices they were offering, and told them he couldn’t stand it. “Bring no more vain ablations” (Isaiah 1: 13). They were obeying after a fashion, but it was just a series of perfunctory acts. It meant nothing to them, thus they stood condemned. We see this in the Old Testament time and again.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8). Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned (I Timothy 1:5). Sincerity is necessary. God required it from the beginning and still requires it today. Nobody can successfully approach God though a legalistic form to be justified by the deeds he does, without regard to how his heart is toward God. An honest mind set on pleasing the Lord is essential.
It seems that no matter what God requires, somebody adds that little four letter word: “ONLY.” We often hear of one who has not obeyed the gospel, but he’s sincere. “He’s trying to do his best. Surely he’ll be saved.” That’s salvation by sincerity only. The truth is that God has never set forth any one thing as a human response that we could say is the only thing necessary to salvation. We’re saved by faith, but not by faith only. We’re saved by works, but not by works only. We’re saved by hope, but not by hope only. By love, but not by love only. By grace, but not grace only. By baptism, but not baptism only. By sincerity, but not sincerity only. Sincerity is essential, but in itself, insufficient.
We all understand the consequences of being sincerely wrong (“I didn’t think the gun was loaded.” ” I didn’t think there were any cars coming.”) until we get to the area of salvation. Then some say “Its alright as long as you’re sincere.” Where is the indication that Cain was not sincere in his offering? Yet he was condemned because his sacrifice was not by faith. Where is the indication that Naaman was not sincere in his belief that the prophet did the wrong thing? If he’d gone home and washed in the better rivers of Syria, sincerely believing, would he have been cleansed? He was still a leper until he obeyed God.
“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25). That’s a blatant condemnation of sincerity only. It’s a warning against it. If that verse does not teach you can go forth with assurance of mind believing that you’re doing right and still stand condemned in the eyes of God, it teaches nothing.
God has given us a standard, so that we don’t have to rely on our own thoughts. His thoughts are higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isaiah 55:8, 9). The world by wisdom knew not God (I Corinthians 1:21). O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. (Jeremiah 10:23). God loves us so much, he gave us his word. We can in this all-sufficient standard find the narrow path of which our Lord spoke. (Matthew 7:14). We need to leave the idea of sincerity only behind us, and bring our sincerity to a search of God’s word.
The people in Athens were so sincere they built altars to every god they thought existed, and thinking they must have missed one they erected an altar to the Unknown God. But Paul in declaring the Unknown God to them, preached to them as lost and dying sinners, just as Paul himself had been when he was killing Christians, sincerely believing that he did God service.
Conscience is a function of education. If the education is faulty the conscience will be skewed. We dare not let conscience alone be our guide. Still, we dare not go against conscience, for then we are not sincere. The only solution is to let our sincerity lead us to the word of God, and then let God’s standard educate our conscience.
~ Rick Sparks