Lord, Lord: Do you really know Jesus?
by Jonathan S Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Denomination: Southern Baptist
Text: Matthew 7:21-23
This passage comes from the final words of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”, in Matthew 5-7. In these chapters, Jesus deals with many topics and themes, but He saves this last scenario for the last. One could say He is ending the sermon with something the people would remember. The text reads as follows:
(Mat 7:21-23 NASB) 21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS' (emphasis added).”.
Words are not enough
Interestingly enough, most of Matthew 7 is about judging. The immediate context speaks of those who would be recognized by their fruits, and Jesus immediately follows with the passage here. This is a message that frankly I don’t want to hear, and I hope nobody whom I know will hear these words, either.
Let’s take a look, first, at what Jesus says in verse 21. He’s speaking of the kingdom of Heaven, which was something most Jewish people wanted to see and be part of. All we need do is look at John 6 to see a picture of their expectations.
It goes without saying that there were and are many prophecies of the Kingdom which have never been fulfilled. Isaiah’s prophecies of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks; Jeremiah’s prophecy of the righteous Branch; and Daniel’s prophecies in chapters 2 and 7, mentioning the King and the Kingdom quite clearly, are just a few that are still awaiting fulfillment.
What exactly the average Jewish person thought, when he or she heard Jesus speak these words (and this was early in His ministry) is anybody’s guess. The Gospels record several vignettes or “snapshots”, perhaps we could say sound bites, but these certainly were samples and not necessarily the thoughts of all. We could easily surmise that some were excited about the prospect of the Kingdom and others were apparently not.
But something that I’m sure caused everyone who heard this part of the Sermon on the Mount to pay deep attention was the first part of the verse: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of Heaven”. This tells me that some were perhaps expecting entry, but perhaps were caused, further, to think if they would actually enter the Kingdom. After all, they could lay claim to a verse from Joel, that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32)” but Jesus plainly said that wouldn’t be enough.
Calling someone, even Jesus, “Lord” is not the same thing as calling on the NAME of the Lord. I believe that’s the first lesson Jesus wanted the disciples to grab onto, something to remember. Again, we don’t know how many people who heard the Sermon on the Mount were genuine believers, or who became believers as time went on. Incredibly, some who heard one of the greatest sermons of all time may have rejected the message and died without salvation.
The second lesson Jesus wanted the people to learn and remember was the second part of that verse, namely, that those who did the will of the Father would enter the kingdom. There is something else that Jesus didn’t say: He didn’t explain in any detail (at least in the text of Scripture here) just what the will of the Father was. Later, Jesus did explain clearly what was included in doing the Father’s will: Matthew 12:50 and 18:14, and John 5:30 give some examples. O that we, even today, would seek to know and do the Father’s will.
Deeds are not enough
We look now at the next two verses, and we can take notice of some contrasts. In verse 21, Jesus said, “Not everyone . . . will enter” and in verse 22, He says “Many will say . . .. Verse 21 mentions words but not deeds, verse 22 speaks of several types of actions or deeds. Jesus made the transition because, we might say, He’s changing the focus from what people said to what they allegedly did.
The first thing He mentioned was some would appeal to their prophesying. That God did and still had prophets at this time (John the Baptist, for one) is clear. That there were false prophets was also clear. The Jewish people must have heard time and again about the various false prophets who plagued Israel for most of their existence! Balaam was one such false prophet; the lying prophet at Bethel, who tricked the true prophet into eating, drinking, and losing his life was another; Zedekiah, who made horns and prophesied of victory when Micaiah spoke God’s true message is still another; and there was Hananiah, who contradicted Jeremiah’s prophecy. He may have been sincere, but he wasn’t expecting the Word of the Lord when Jeremiah told him, “This year you are going to die! (Jer. 28:16)”. And they surely remembered all the prophets of Baal and the prophets of the groves when Jezebel and Ahab reigned in the northern kingdom.
But the people who were going to stand before Jesus would have probably thought that they were prophesying in the name of the Lord. Sadly, what we think is right may not be right except when God gives His approval. Even Judas Iscariot was one of those who prophesied, no doubt in the name of the Lord, but there is no way he would ever enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Another thing Jesus mentioned was casting out demons. This apparently was seldom done in the Old Testament, but Jesus would later cast out many demons. He gave this power to different groups of disciples and they later would report that “even the demons are subject to us in Your name (Luke 10:17).
This, however, was no guarantee of salvation, as Jesus later told the Pharisees, “If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges (Matthew 12:27).” Even in Acts 19, there were seven sons of Sceva, who tried to cast out a demon and got the surprise of their lives (!) and there is no mention as to whether or not they were ever believers in Jesus.
The final thing they would appeal to was the miracles they had performed. Miracles were not very common in the Bible. Take away the miracles during the Exodus and journey to Canaan, and the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, and we can find very few miracles in the Old Testament. Even Jesus Himself hadn’t performed a miracle at this time—John chapter 2 says the first miracle Jesus ever did was changing the water into wine in Cana of Galilee.
Regardless of any or all of these, the result is the same: Jesus will say to them, and to everyone, for that matter, who refused to accept the gift of salvation, “I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
So then, just like the people who heard the Sermon on the Mount for the first time, or anyone who has heard it any number of times, it comes down to this. It isn’t the words that we say, calling Jesus Lord. Anyone can say that but unless that person is genuinely sincere and genuinely repents of his or her sins, it’s just talk, and talk is not enough. Period.
Any number of people may be deceived by the deeds they’ve performed or accomplished. It’s no secret that there are false prophets today, even as there were in the days when Jesus walked the earth. People may have the ability to be good orators, swaying emotions and even belief systems; some may be able to lay claim to performing great and mighty deeds; others may have the ability to cast out demons (again, Judas Iscariot had that power when he was a disciple—but he was never saved). They may think that all these good deeds, or great accomplishments, would account for something. No, unless they know Jesus, He won’t acknowledge them, and they will face a Christless eternity.
Please examine your own heart and make sure—TODAY—that you are indeed born again, and have genuinely repented of your sins. Don’t risk it: wouldn’t you rather hear Jesus say, “Enter into the joy of your Lord” than “Depart from Me?”
God bless you and may He guide you into the right choice.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. http://www.lockman.org