When you hear the word “sincerity,” what comes to mind? We speak about sincere people, sincere motives, sincere promises, and sincere confessions. In simple terms, “Sincerity is the quality of being honest, true and real” [www.yourdictionary.com].
In the religious realm, a sincere person is one who does what he does from the heart, thinking that he is taking the right course of action. One’s sincerity is not determined by the object of service or worship, but the state of the person’s heart. Sincerity is not about one’s location or religious background, but rather whether or not he is being “honest, true, and real” in what he says and does.
In God’s sight, are sincerity and obedience of equal importance, or is one of greater value? If I want to please the Lord, can I just choose one of the two – either obey Him or be sincere, but not both? Would it be possible to please Him if I have neither sincerity nor obedience? Does He require that I be both submissive and sincere? Such questions are not minor matters.
Sometimes the idea is expressed that in the Old Testament era, Jehovah did not require sincere service; He was only looking for obedience. Those who believe the Bible do not question the fact that obedience was required under the old law. The need to submit to the God of heaven was repeated over and over to the Israelite people (Deuteronomy 6:1-3,18,24,25). But, the notion that sincerity was not really all that important under the first covenant is a false one. The truth is, the Lord God called upon the Israelites who lived under the law of Moses to serve Him and love Him with all of their heart (Deuteronomy 10:12; 6:5).
Serving and loving God with all of one’s heart sounds like sincerity to me. Do you recall Joshua’s moving appeal to his fellow Israelites? “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!” (Joshua 24:14). So, it is clear, is it not, that under the old covenant both obedience and sincerity were required by God?
What about under the teaching of the Christ? Does sincerity matter? It sure does. When it comes to worship, we must offer our worship to the Father “in spirit” (John 4:24) – with the right attitude and, yes, sincerity. It is great to honor the Lord, but when our lips speak words of praise while our heart is far from Him, such a lack of sincerity in our speech is an abomination (Mark 7:6).
When Paul wrote to exhort the church in Corinth to assist the poor among the saints who lived elsewhere, he told them, “I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love . . .” (2 Corinthians 8:8). The same apostle later closed his epistle to the Ephesians with these words: “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen” (Ephesians 6:24). Let us all take note of these inspired instructions and appeals and remember this truth: just going through the motions in our service to our Lord is not acceptable. We must serve Him sincerely.
What about obedience? Does sincerity remove the need for obedience? It does not. When Jesus asked the question, “But why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46), what was He implying? Simply that those who claim Him as Lord are obligated to “do” what He says – that is obedience. Jesus is described as “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). So, to whom does our Lord grant salvation? Those who obey Him. Must they obey Him from a sincere heart? Of course, but being sincere does not negate the necessity of obedience.
What will be the eternal condition of those living in the new covenant era who do not obey the gospel? The Christ will act “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord . . .” (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9). But what if those same people are sincere? They still will be lost. Why? Not because they are sincere, but because sincerity is not sufficient. People who do not obey the gospel from the heart (Romans 6:17,18) remain in sin, and their sin keeps them separated from God.
So, which is more important in God’s sight: being sincere, or obeying Him? As we have seen, both obedience and sincerity are required. One of them without the other “will not get the job done.” Neither sincerity nor obedience eliminates the need for the other. The Lord God wants us to have both.
— Roger D. Campbell