What shall we make of Matthew 7:21-23

One of the most interesting and controversial passages anywhere in the Bible comes straight out of the mouth of Jesus Christ, and is recorded for us in Matthew 7:21-23:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!‘”

Many are teaching that calling Jesus Lord guarantees a person a place in heaven, although Jesus here denies it. According to Jesus, many will call Him Lord, and even have supernatural signs of knowledge and power following their lives, who will not even enter heaven. What a sobering thought!

Some use this passage to condemn everyone in the 20th Century who believes in speaking in tongues, the gift of prophecy, the casting out of demons and miraculous healing being worked in the name of Jesus. Such people would see these practices as sure signs that a person had entered into apostacy, and was a deceiver of the people. I believe that this is a wrong conclusion to draw from the passage for many reasons – not least of all, that it goes beyond what is actually written.

If this was the correct application of that Scripture, then surely Peter, John, Paul and the other apostles were guilty! They did all these things – prophesying, casting out demons and performing wondrous signs in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:43; Acts 16:18). Nor can we say that only the apostles ever did these things, for Philip the deacon (not one of the twelve) preached the gospel with miraculous signs following (see Acts 8:5-8). The Corinthian believers had spiritual gifts and prophesied, and Paul encouraged them to do that! (1 Cor. 14:1; 1 Cor. 1:7). Jesus said that anyone believing in Him would do these things (John 14:12; Mark 16:17,18). Those verses say nothing of being anything other than a believer.

Since church history provides strong evidence that these gifts and operations continued even in the sub-apostolic period and afterward to a lesser extent, we really don’t have any basis – Scriptural or otherwise, for saying that the Words of Jesus changed their meaning after the Canon was put together. Not unless we are prepared to assert that partial knowledge has also passed away and that we see the Lord face to face (see 1 Cor. 13:8-13).

What then is Jesus wanting to say through in Matthew 7:21-23?

We can see from this passage that having the gifts of the Spirit or looking like you’ve got them is no guarantee that you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. We must acknowledge that Jesus said that many would come and claim to know Him on the basis of the fact that they moved in power in His name, and they called Him Lord. Since there have not been all that many who would claim that they have done these things, compared to the total number of professing Christians in history, we must conclude that many of the people doing these things today might well fall into the category of hell-bound sinners that Jesus is talking about.

But just who is Jesus talking about? He says it Himself. He is talking to, “you who practise lawlessness”, “you whom I never knew“, “those who do not do the will of the Father in heaven.”. The problem then is not prophesying, casting out demons and doing the signs and wonders in Jesus’ name: the problem is sin.

Many in the church today believe that they now that they have “believed in Jesus” they can sin as much as they want or more because they are born-again sons of God that can never lose that status with God. They have confessed Christ as Lord with their mouth at some point, and now they are living pretty much as they want to. There is not that true respect for the authority of Jesus Christ in their lives. They are pretty sure the blood of Jesus covers them no matter what they do, say or believe now. Some of them may actually condemn those who teach the need to be faithful to Jesus Christ.

Some have gone a step further and have embraced the things of the Spirit. They have experienced supernatural confirmation of the reality of the Lord – indeed, many of them have not only spoken in tongues, but also prophesied, cast out demons and ministered healing in Jesus’ name. Now all this is commendable and Biblical. But it does not excuse wilful sin.

This passage I see as a warning even to Spirit-filled believers who have seen the power of God flowing in their ministries. Jesus is saying: “Even all that is not enough. I want your heart. You need to put away sin, independence and let me direct you.”

If we have been sinning, or we have not been doing what God wants us to do, the answer is to repent, and renew our love for God. God is willing to forgive – we must be willing to be changed and go in a different way.

Jesus will say to these people, “I never knew you.” They did all these great things, but Jesus did not have that close relationship with them. They weren’t marching to the orders of the Lord. They used gifts received according to their own desires, and not by the leading of the Lord. The using of gifts and power is never a substitute for a loving relationship with Christ, no matter how much appears to be happening through it all for the Kingdom.

That word know, “ginosko” in the Greek, refers in this context to an intimate relationship of union and approval. That is the kind of relationship a believer needs to have with Christ.

Paul said, “But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:3). Jesus will not say those words of condemnation in Matthew 7:21-23 to someone who truly loves Him. God recognizes, approves and truly works together with those who love Him. If we love the Lord, we will be looking to Him for power to overcome sin before we look for miraculous displays of the power of signs and wonders. It is not that the latter is unimportant – it is part of the portion of a true believer. Not all true believers are willing to embrace it though, due to the fear and misapprehension generated by false teachings. However, the most important thing we must have is true love for God. A faith in God that has no love for God in it is not saving faith.

Because of who Christ is, and what He has done for us, we should all be moved to seek after Him and consistently please Him out of gratitude and holy fear. There is an emphasis in the church today which equates any idea of the fear of God with legalism. But someone truly in love with our awesome God will appreciate Who they are dealing with, and if they do sin, will be quick to confess and repent before God.

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, He will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23).

“Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28,29)

What do YOU think?

comments

About Michael Fackerell

The Christian faith is about Jesus. He came to save the lost. About Jesus Christ, Bible teaching, Testimonies, Salvation, Prayer, Faith, Networking.

Comments

  1. First of all, at the time Jesus spoke these words, there were no Christians around. He was talking to people under the Law of Moses given at Mount Sinai. In a sense, what He said could be applied to us today. Salvation must come first, or anything we do for Him outside of that will count for nothing. It will not get us into heaven.

    The things that Jesus mentioned such as prophesying, casting out demons, and doing miracles are things He did himself. These are gifts that He has given His children the ability to do, also. Nevertheless, He did not want the people to whom He was speaking to think that doing these things guaranteed them a spot in heaven. Since He was talking to those under the law, He wanted them to know that observing the Torah teaching continuously was what counted, not these special exhibitions of God’s power that He was doing.

    I imagine that these people were thinking, “If doing these things does not impress God and we’re not always able to keep the Torah, then, how can we get into heaven?” I believe Jesus is trying to prepare these people for the change that is coming. He is preparing their hearts and minds for the New Covenant that He will usher in by His death on the cross. By His teaching and preaching, they will see a need for someone to rescue them from their predicament and He teaches them that He is the One. Of course, most of them rejected Him to their great loss.

    Comments based on: One New Man Bible, pg. 1234, copyright 2011

    Matthew 7:21-23

    7:21. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’[2] will enter the Kingdom of the Heavens,[3] but the one who does the will of My Father, the One in the heavens. 22. Many will say to Me in that Day, ‘Lord, Lord! Did we not prophesy in Your name? And we cast out demons in Your name, and we did many miracles in Your name? 23. And then I will declare to them that ‘I never knew you: you working without Torah (Teaching) [4] must continually depart from Me.’”

    2 ( v. 21) Double Name means there is a sense of urgency in their plea.

    3 (v. 21) Heavens is plural because in the Hebrew Scriptures seven levels of heaven are identified.

    4 (V. 23) Without Torah means to fail to do the things taught in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. (Thank God that believers are under Grace.)

  2. lookinforacity says:

    Michael

    Is there any difference between.
    1) Heaven
    2) Kingdom of Heaven
    3) Kingdom of God

    When you say
    “Many are teaching that calling Jesus Lord guarantees a person a place in heaven, although Jesus here denies it. According to Jesus, many will call Him Lord, and even have supernatural signs of knowledge and power following their lives, who will not even enter heaven.” “What a sobering thought!”

    This is what the verse actually says.
    Mat 7:21
    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    The words used within this verse are “shall enter into “The Kingdom Of Heaven”

    “Heaven” according to what you are saying, refers to “Heaven” after a person dies.
    Was Jesus also speaking about “Heaven” when He spoke the following words?

    Mat. 18:4
    Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

    Mar. 10:15
    Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

    Luk. 18:17
    Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

    The only place in the New Testament where the term “Kingdom of Heaven” is used, is in the book of Matthew.
    Although Matthew does use the Term “Kingdom of God”, it is sparingly, only 5 times, but the usage of both terms, appear to be synonymous.

    Therefore if the premise is wrong, everything that follows that premise, is also wrong.

    Can the same argument be made, that there are those Christians which will not be allowed into “Heaven”, by using another Scripture or Scriptures, which do not use the term “Kingdom of Heaven”?

    JIM

    • Timothy Luke says:

      Jim,

      I agree that the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Heaven are synonymous. I would ask, where in the Bible does it say Christians go to heaven? I see heaven explicitly coming down to earth in scripture.

      Jesus does say there will be those who say, 'we have cast out demons in your name,' etc. and Jesus will say, "I never knew you."

      I am not sure I am following your question, which is Michael's to answer anyway 🙂

      What is wrong with the premise? It may just be that my thinking is cloudy, but I am having trouble processing your thoughts here…

      • lookinforacity says:

        TIM

        You ask two questions.
        1) Where in the Bible does it say Christians go to heaven?

        That would be a question, you should direct at Michael, he made the original statement.
        There have been many, many discussions on this site concerning the subject of Christians going to heaven, and where does the soul go after death, etc.
        Why hasn’t this question of your’s ever been asked before now?

        2) What is wrong with the premise?
        The premise which was put forward was in short, “there will be Christian Believers, who will be refused entrance into “Heaven.”

        Mat 7:21
        Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

        “Heaven,” was not what was being spoken of by Jesus.
        The reason I asked my question at the beginning, – – “is there any difference” – – I was asking for clarification, in order to determine where the misunderstanding took place, because the verse in question is clearly not about Christians being refused entrance into “Heaven.”

        Therefore, the entire teaching which followed the flawed Premise is invalid.

        As a side note to this.

        At another time, Jesus said.
        Mat. 12:27,28
        27) And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
        28) But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.

        Therefore we see that the casting out of devils was not limited to Christians only, and Jesus was not supprised at it.

        JIM

        • Timothy Luke says:

          So I gather your exception is taken to the use of the word "Christian". You have a strict biblical use of it referring to all God calls Christians, whereas Michael was addressing an audience that for the most part considers itself Christian.

          I did not pose the question earlier because I did not think to.  It is assumed on my part that anyone may answer that question.

          As for the casting out of devils not being limited to Christians, I think that is erroneous. I come away with the sense that the gifts of God are without repentance and once gifted, one may operate in that gift beyond what their personal sanctification may be. These were Christian in that they expected to be granted entrance into the Kingdom of God upon Christ's return. They evidently were casting them out in the name of Christ, believing there was power in the name, without necessarily knowing the person of Jesus Christ.

          The casting out of devils is a demonstration that the Kingdom of God is greater than the kingdom of Satan… so it would be by the power of God these were cast out… otherwise, Jesus' statement that there was no way he could cast out devils by the Prince of devils becomes a disingenious statement… and Jesus Christ has no guile or deceit or "marketing techniques" in Him.

          Therefore, I believe the lesson we are to learn is that we are not to judge our own salvation by the works we do in Jesus' name. Rather, we are to walk in obedience to His every word and do the will of the Father until the coming of our Lord.

          Have a blessed day, brother!

          Tim

          • lookinforacity says:

            TIM

            Lets do it this way.

            Here are some other verses which say almost exactly the same thing, what I would like to know is.

            1) Who is being spoken to?
            2) What are they being shut out from, or refused entrance to?
            3) Who are they likened to?
            4) Why are these things happing to them?

            Using this verse from Matthew 7 as the control verse.
            Mat. 7:21
            Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

            Mat. 25:11
            Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

            Luke 6:46
            And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

            Luke 13:25
            When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:

            JIM

          • Timothy Luke says:

            1. Jesus is the one being spoken to.

            2. They are refused entrance into the Kingdom.

            3. They are likened to foolish virgins.

            4. These things are happening to them because they did not take their calling seriously. They believed just having the call was sufficient for salvation, and so they coasted on that while not being about the Father's business, nor obeying the Words of Jesus.

            Are we tracking ok?

          • lookinforacity says:

            TIM

            1) Who is being spoken to?
            Answer,
            The Jewish Nation.

            Luk 13:25-30
            25) When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
            26) Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
            27) But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
            28) There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in (THE KINGDOM OF GOD), and you (YOURSELVES THRUST OUT).
            29) And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in (THE KINGDOM OF GOD).
            30) And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and (THERE ARE FIRST WHICH SHALL BE LAST).

            2) What are they being shut out from, or refused entrance to?
            Answer
            The Kingdom of God, Heaven.

            Mat. 7:21
            Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into ( THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN); but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

            Luk 13:28
            There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, (IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD), and you (YOURSELVES THRUST OUT).

            3) Who are they likened to?
            Answer
            A foolish man, without a foundation.

            Mat 7:26
            And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto (A FOOLISH MAN), which built his house upon the sand:

            Luk 6:49
            But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that (WITHOUT A FOUNDATION) built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

            4) Why are these things happing to them?
            Answer
            The Nation of Israel, did not know the time of their Visitation, they knew Him not.

            Luk. 19:44
            And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because (THOU KNEWEST NOT THE TIME OF THY VISITATION).

            Act 13:27
            For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because (THEY KNEW HIM NOT), nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

            Mat, 23:37
            O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,
            (AND YE WOULD NOT)!

            Rom 10:19-21
            19) But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
            20) But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
            21) But to Israel he saith, (ALL DAY LONG HAVE I STRETCHED FORTH MY HANDS) unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

            The point is, when you understand, the answers to the 4 questions I asked, then there is no way you can then say, In Matthew 7:21 Jesus was speaking to Christians not gaining Heaven when they die.

            Jesus was speaking to the Jewish Nation of that time because THEY, were going to lose the Kingdom He had come to bring them as their Messiah, and they refused to acknowledge Him.

            Joh. 6:42
            And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

            Luk.11:50,51
            50) That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be (REQUIRED OF THIS GENERATION);
            51) (FROM THE BLOOD) of Abel UNTO THE BLOOD) of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be (REQUIRED OF THIS GENERATION).

            Mat_24:34,35
            34) Verily I say unto you, (THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS), till all these things be fulfilled.
            35) Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

            Mar_13:30,31
            30) Verily I say unto you, that (THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS), till all these things be done.
            31) Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

            Luk_21:32,33
            32) Verily I say unto you, (THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS AWAY), till all be fulfilled.
            33) Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

            JIM

          • Timothy Luke says:

            Jim,

            To quote a friend of mine, "Therefore if the premise is wrong, everything that follows that premise, is also wrong…."

            The answer to your question, "who was being spoken to?" is found in Matthew 5:1-2.  Jesus was speaking to "his disciples," not the Jewish nation. Shall I throw out the rest of what you have said then (as you appeared to throw out the balance of Michael's blog)?

            You make an excellent case for broadening the context of these comments, but, in fairness, this blog is, by its title, focusing on Matthew 7, which is a discourse that begins in Matthew 5 with the words “his disciples came unto him, and he taught them saying….

             

             

          • lookinforacity says:

            TIM

            You do err when you quote Matthew 5 1
            Matthew 5 with the words “his disciples came unto him, and he taught them saying….

            Are you saying, that with multitudes of people around Him, everything from Mat.5:1 – 7:21 was only spoken to the disciples?

            You have abridged your quote, in order to make your point, where the actual verse says.
            Mat 5:1,,2
            1) (AND SEEING THE MULTITUDES), he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
            2) And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

            What were the multitudes doing, all the time Jesus was teaching His Disciples?

            In order to understand who Jesus was actually speaking to, all we have to do is go to the end of this contextual exercise and take a look at.

            Mat 7:28,29
            28) And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, (THE PEOPLE) were astonished at his doctrine:
            29) (FOR HE TAUGHT THEM) as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

            At this point I would include in the teaching of Jesus, both the Multitudes, and the Disciples.

            The Blog was not focusing on chapter 7, but only on verses 21, 22, 23.
            But if you take the time, go back to my first post, you will find I asked a question only about what he said in relation to verse 21.

            QUOTE

            Michael
            Is there any difference between.
            1) Heaven
            2) Kingdom of Heaven
            3) Kingdom of God

            When you say
            “Many are teaching that calling Jesus Lord guarantees a person a place in heaven, although Jesus here denies it. According to Jesus, many will call Him Lord, and even have supernatural signs of knowledge and power following their lives, who will not even enter heaven.” “What a sobering thought!”

            This is what the verse actually says.

            Mat 7:21
            Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
            The words used within this verse are “shall enter into “The Kingdom Of Heaven”
            “Heaven” according to what you are saying, refers to “Heaven” after a person dies.

            I was asking for clarification on a statement, that only the person making the statement could answer.

            I then gave examples of where the term “Kingdom of Heaven” was used in other places, in order to show the term used was not speaking about after a person dies and is found wanting then rejected.
            It is only in relation to the “Kingdom of Heaven”, which we as Christians do now live and function in, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

            Jesus Himself said.

            Mat. 3:2
            And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven (IS AT HAND).

            Mat. 4:17
            From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven (IS AT HAND).

            Mat. 12:28
            But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God (IS COME UNTO YOU).

            Jesus then, was the one who determined the time frame for “The Kingdom of Heaven” (God), He was the one which used the term first, telling them it was “NOW”, and that it “HAD COME” unto them.
            He was not talking about the destination of Believers in the future.

            I was not attacking Michael’s Theology, I was questioning his understanding of terminology.
            If his understanding of terminology was wrong, then everything which stemmed from that flawed understanding was wrong.

            I even asked.
            “Can the same argument be made, that there are those Christians which will not be allowed into “Heaven”, by using another Scripture or Scriptures, which do not use the term “Kingdom of Heaven”?”

            In closing, this is my position as clearly as I can put it.

            1) The Kingdom of Heaven (IS AT HAND) in the now, the present, the immediate.

            2) Heaven is the abode of God, the dwelling place of the Father.

            They are not to be confused, or thought of as being synonymous.

            Mar. 16:19
            19) So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received (UP INTO HEAVEN), and sat on the right hand of God.

            Act. 7:55,56
            55) But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly (INTO HEAVEN), and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
            56) And said, Behold, (I SEE THE HEAVENS OPENED), and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

            That friend of yours seems to be very smart{:>)
            JIM

          • Timothy Luke says:

            I abridged the quote because Jesus was known to get away from the multitudes at times. His disciples, not the multitudes, came up to him, and then he taught them, not the multitudes…

            However, you are correct in that by the end of the discourse, it was a multitude… I sit corrected.

          • lookingforhope2011 says:

            Its all bible, sometimes ya gotta think about what your reading.

      • michael says:

        As Jesus said concerning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – "all live to Him".

        The spirit of man does not depend on flesh and blood or even a physical body for its existence.

        To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, said Paul.

        At the second coming of Christ, the saints of God will receive a new resurrected body. Soon after that, I believe that the saints of God will return to a new earth.

        I believe also looking at the context that "great cloud of witnesses" referred to in the book of Hebrews are saints that are watching how well we are doing.

         

         

        • lookinforacity says:

          Michael

          In context, are these Saints of Hebrews 11 the ones to whom you are referring?

          Able
          Enoch
          Noah
          Abraham
          Sara
          Isaac
          Jacob
          Joseph
          Moses
          Rahab
          Gideon
          Barak
          Samson
          Jephthae
          David
          Samuel

          JIM

        • Timothy Luke says:

          Ahh, such are the joys of "figurative" and "literal"! If I take one set of scriptures literally, like "the wages of sin is death" as juxtaposed to "But the gift of God is eternal life," then I must take the verse about "being present with the Lord" in a figurative manner, which is what I do.

          So it is, that we all are to make allowance for others to diverge on points such as these which have no provide no practical insight into "how do I live today?"

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