May the grace and peace of God our Father, and of Jesus-Christ our Lord, be with you. One of the most famous, albeit controversial statement by Jesus is recorded in Matthew 7:21-23. The objective of this letter is to provide some light, by the grace of God, on what Jesus meant.
Matthew 7:21-23 – 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. 22 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? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
In this passage, Jesus gives in no uncertain terms the criteria for entering the Kingdom of Heaven. But if you think that you already know what those criteria (or that criterion) might be, then I plead with you that for a moment, you place that knowledge on the side, and meditate on this passage.
In the passage above, Jesus states that the only people who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven are those who are doing the Will of His Father (verse 22). This is as clear as a statement can ever come. But what is the Will of His Father?
If you look at the context, you will realize that Matthew 7:21-23 comes at the end of a long sermon that Jesus gave, commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount, which started two chapters earlier in Matthew 5:3. From Matthew 5 up to the passage above, Jesus taught the people precisely on the Will of His Father. He then confirmed, in his concluding remarks, that what He taught them is indeed the Will of His Father by stating.
Matthew 7:24 – Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock
One MUST hear the words of Jesus AND do them TO enter the Kingdom BECAUSE what Jesus says IS the Will of His Father. Do you see the link?
Now, Jesus did not stop there in Matthew 7:21-23. He also said “I never knew you”. How are we to understand that statement? I submit to you that the first error one should avoid is to take that statement in isolation. Instead, one should consider the whole statement.
Matthew 7:23 – And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Consider the following: If Jesus professes that He never knew us, then how does He know that we worked iniquity? This paradox alone should tell us that when Jesus tells us that He never knew us, He is not meaning it in the literal sense of the word, and that is, because He clearly indicates that He knows something about us…that we work iniquity. Jesus knows us very well actually, all of us! Those of us who work iniquity are very well known by Jesus indeed.
Therefore, irrespective of whatever experience you’ve had in your life with Him, the only conclusion I believe we can reach is that when Jesus says “I never knew you”, He simply means that He only identifies, He only relates, with those who do NOT work iniquity.
Although He knows everyone – He is Jesus – He only identifies with those who do the Will of His Father. These are who His friends are, these are those He knows and spend time with, and these are those He will gladly present and acknowledge to His Father on that day.
It should be also noteworthy from the passage that Jesus did not say that those people who made these claims of doing many wonderful works…IN HIS NAME by the way…were lying. No…what disqualify them is that iniquity will be found in them.
In other words, your good works (even if they are legitimate) do not make up for your evil deeds. Your good works and praise of Jesus are not some credits that you can use as a pass to disobey God. We may infer therefore, that one is prohibited access to the Kingdom of Heaven not because of his lack of good works (although good works are expected), but because iniquity is found in him. One who will be found to be a worker of iniquity, yet who did things in Jesus’ name (as in this passage) will be guilty of attempting to serve two masters, something that Jesus warned about, right here in this sermon.
Matthew 6:24 – No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
It is a sobering realization that Jesus Himself says that many will be found in that situation, and therefore be denied access to the Kingdom. It is impossible to achieve “balance” between obeying God and serving the flesh.
A balance that makes us a “cool” Christian.
There is no balance with God. The flesh must die. God MUST be honored. The ONLY way to honor God is by obeying Him! Try to be a cool Christian, and you will find yourself denied access to the Kingdom.
Note as well that it is Christians who address Jesus as “Lord”. It is Christianity that acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus. Hence, many “Christians” will be denied access, because they were foolish into thinking that they could serve two masters.
Matthew 7:24,26 – Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock….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
How much more can Jesus warn you, my friend! How much more? When that day comes…where will you be? Let us strive to obey! To OBEY!
May the Lord Jesus work in our hearts, that we may obey His voice, to the Praise and Honor of His Father, the God of Heaven.
In Jesus’ Name. AMEN.