New Webster’s Dictionary & Thesaurus of the English Language define “masquerading” as “to wear a disguise, to put on a false outward show.” This word, along with the closely related word “mask,” both etymologically descend from Spanish derivatives. Thus, the familiar “masquerade ball” is an event where the participants all wear masks, such as became a popular scene in the infamous musical, “Phantom of the Opera.” For practical meaning, it alludes to “a false show for pretense or concealment of the truth” (p. 614). While masquerading might be fun recreationally, it becomes a serious problem when it enters the spiritual realm. The Bible describes those who spiritually masquerade, which causes terrible problems. Let us identify several cases.
Sinners masquerade as saints. It is very unfortunate that so many use the word “Christian” so loosely today. The term initially given to the saints at Antioch (Acts 11:26) was to describe those who followed the teachings of Jesus Christ and threw off the shackles of Judaism and Gentile heathenism. Yet, today so many sinners masquerade themselves as saints by wearing the divine name given to those who solely obey God and his word. Jesus said,
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt. 7:22-23) The difference between the true Christian and the masquerading Christian is in obedience (Matt. 7:21, 24-27).
The Old Testament taught in principle that unless a Gentile conformed in every way to the one true and living God, the Israelites were not to act as if they were one of the chosen people of God with all of the blessings and benefits found therein. They were to treat them with kindness and generosity, as they would have liked Pharaoh and the Egyptians to treat them when they were slaves in Egypt. Yet, at the same time, conversion was necessary before God gave privileges. The same thing is true today. Sinners must be converted to become saints—they should not simply masquerade as such by wearing names and worshipping falsely. Therefore, we are not to treat masquerading sinners as if they were saints. Only when they obey the gospel of Jesus Christ do we treat them as fellow saints.
False teachers masquerade as innocent lambs. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-16). “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). They “have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray” (2 Pet. 2:15). Through deception (Matt. 24:4-5), they masquerade innocently with the motive of destroying the flock. This is one reason Christ left elders to oversee and protect His flock, the church.
Hypocrites masquerade as righteous children of God. They pretend to worship God righteously, but instead put forth religious performances (Matt. 6:2-5, 16-18). Such worship was vain (Matt. 15:7-9). Jesus did not hesitate to pull the masquerading mask from the scribes and Pharisees of His day (Matt. 23:13-29), knowing how destructive they were to the people.
Lukewarm Christians masquerade as hot Christians. Jesus sternly rebuked the church of Laodicea for masquerading as hot Christians, when they were nothing more than lukewarm (Rev. 3:14-22). Such a position made Christ utterly sick. He would rather His people be either hot or cold, but not lukewarm, and urges them to repent. We need to throw off this mask concealing apathy for souls and our work for the Lord and become a people once again described as “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:15). There is no greater work than the work of our Lord in evangelizing precious souls. Therefore, let us all seek to refrain from any form of masquerading!