MT 7:15-23

FALSE AND TRUE TEACHERS:

BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL KNOW THEM

I) INTRODUCTION

Matthew 7:13-23 is often cited to support the false doctrine that one must evidence one's salvation by works in order to prove that one is saved or even to do such works as part of what one must do to be saved; otherwise one is not truly saved at all. Let's examine this passage in Matthew to determine what it really is saying.

II) [MT 7:13-14]:

(Mt 7:13 CBL) "Enter in through the narrow gate; for wide [is] the gate and broad [is] the way... leading to ... destruction, and many are [those who] enter through it:

(Mt 7:14 CBL) for narrow [is] the gate and having been made narrow [is] the way leading to ... life, and few [there] are the [ones] finding it."

A) [SUMMARY IN CAPS]:

(Mt 4:23 NAS) "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. (Mt 4:24 CBL) And the report of Him went out into all Syria. And they brought to Him all the [sick] having various diseases and torments, [oppressed with sicknesses], demon possessed, [epileptics], paralytics; and He healed them. (Mt 4:25 HOLMAN) [And] large crowds followed Him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. (Mt 5:1 YLT) And having seen the [crowds], He [Jesus Christ, (v. 4:23)] went up to the mount, and He having sat down, His disciples came to Him, (Mt 5:2 YLT) and having opened His mouth, He was teaching them, saying: (Mt 5:3 NKJV) 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:4 NKJV) Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. (Mt 5:5 NKJV) Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. (Mt 5:6 NKJV) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. (Mt 5:7 NKJV) Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. (Mt 5:8 NKJV) Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (Mt 5:9 NKJV) Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. (Mt 5:10 NAS) Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:11 ASV) Blessed are [you] when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. (Mt 5:12 NAS) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.... (Mt 5:48 NKJV) Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.' " =

Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God and healing every kind of disease and sickness among the people to the extent that the report of Him went out into all Syria. People brought to Him all the sick, those that had various diseases, torments, the demon possessed, epileptics, paralytics. And He healed them all. Large crowds followed Him from Galilews, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and beyond the Jordan.

As crowds of people followed Jesus, He went up on a mountainside, (evidently near Capernaum, {cf Mt 4:23-25)}. There He began to teach His disciples, (those individuals in the crowd who followed Him in the sense of their deciding to adhere to what He taught them - which number is not limited to the Twelve. Note that not everyone in the crowd mentioned in Mt 5:1 was a disciple; and not every disciple of His believed in Him unto eternal life). In this sermon on the mountainside, Jesus taught His disciples about the perfect life of godly righteousness that one should have, (Mt 5:6, 10, 20, 48), in order to (1) receive God's temporal blessings, (Mt 5:3-11, 6:25-33; 7:7-11), (2) be an example to the world of God's righteousness, (Mt 5:14-16); (3) enter the eternal kingdom of God as sons of God to see God, (Mt 5:8-10, 19-22, 29-29); hence not go to eternal destruction in hell, (Mt 5:20-22, 29-30, 7:13-14) and (4) receive eternal rewards such as inheriting the earth and the Kingdom of Heaven, i.e., Kingdom of God, (Mt 5:3, 5, 5:10, 12; 6:1-8, 16-21). On the other hand, Jesus taught that His disciples were to be as perfect as God is perfect, but this is evidently impossible with man and implied that it was from God that man would receive God's perfect righteousness, (Mt 5:3-9; 19-48; 19:25-26); yet Jesus, in this sermon on the mountainside, gave no further specifics as to how to attain these temporal and eternal goals only what was expected of them.

So with the context of Jesus' sermon on the mountainside, (Mt 5:1-7:27) in view; Jesus stated in Mt 7:13-14, "Enter in through the narrow gate; for wide [is] the gate and broad [is] the way... leading to ... destruction, and many are [those who] enter through it, for narrow [is] the gate and having been made narrow [is] the way leading to ... life, and few [there] are the [ones] finding it." In view is the going to eternal destruction vs receiving eternal life.

Relative to the matter of getting into the eternal kingdom of God, the Greek word "tethlimmenE," (Strongs #2346), in Mt 7:14a can mean "narrow" in the sense of it being compressed so that there is limited access of some kind or "afflicted" / "difficult" in the sense of being faced with difficulties and tribulations in some manner. It all depends upon the context of the passage. In Mt 7:14, the word appears as a nominative singular perfect participle; literally "having been made narrow," according to the Complete Biblical Library, Springfield, MO, 1986. Furthermore, the word "tethlimmenE," in Mt 7:14 is rendered "narrow" in most versions in the sense that the path leading from the narrow gate has been made narrow so that few individuals may pass through relative to the wide gate, [NKJV exception: "difficult"]. Since a parallel comparison is being made between the wide and narrow gates and paths; and since the road leading from the wide gate to the wide road is designated as broad in Mt 7:13b - a spatial concept which affords for the passage a great number of individuals at a time; then the road leading from the narrow gate must also be a spatial concept but in this case affording for few individuals relative to the broad or wide gate / path, in order for the passage to be parallel. Furthermore, since this passage relative to the wide gate / path does not have in view the kind of lifestyle that is to be typical to it, and since all individuals on both wide and narrow paths experience difficulties and tribulations in life of one kind or another, then the Greek word "tethlimmenE" in Mt 7:14a cannot mean "difficulties" or "tribulation." It must mean "narrow" to be parallel. It cannot mean "afflicted" or "difficult" in the sense of being faced with difficulties and tribulations and perserving through them sucessfully in order to truly be saved unto eternal life, as some contend.

Furthermore, if being faced with difficulties and tribulations and perserving through them sucessfully in order to truly be saved unto eternal life is in view - and it is not; since every individual - wide or narrow path - faces varying amounts of difficulties and tribulations in their lives with no one perfectly persevering through them all without failure because all mankind is flawed, yet God's standard is perfect, (Mt 5:48); then no one would be saved.

So the wide gate and broad path are compared to the narrow gate and narrow road in such a manner that only a relatively few individuals will choose to take the narrow path with no demand for a particular lifestyle stipulated and many individuals will choose to take the wide path with no demand for a particular lifestyle stipulated. This implies an acceptance in the sense of believing that the narrow gate and narrow path of having God's perfect righteousness attributed to them in some manner over the wide one which rejects the perfect righteousness of God is the one through which one must choose to receive eternal life.

1) [Compare Mt 5:6]:

(Mt 5:6 NKJV) "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled"

Those who hunger and thirst for God's righteousness in the sense that they express and be treated with the perfect righteousness of God, will be themselves filled with the perfect righteousness of God in the sense of being credited with it; not in the sense of earning it, for doing deeds is not in view.

III) [Mt 7:15-16]:

(v. 15) "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

(v. 16) You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thornbushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?"

A) NOTICE THAT THE SUBJECT OF MT 7:15-23 IS FALSE PROPHETS AND HOW THEIR LIFESTYLE PROVES OUT THEIR FALSE TEACHING

You will know them - the false prophets - by their fruit, their works. Divine good works do not come out of a lifestyle which is out of fellowship with God. False prophets, i.e. false teachers, the subject of this passage, will not produce divine good works. Their lifestyles will prove out their false beliefs - sooner or later as it states in the next verse.

[BKC, cont.]:

"After presenting the true way of access into His anticipated kingdom, Jesus gave a warning about false prophets. He referred to these advocates of the broad way as ferocious wolves who appear harmless as sheep. How can one determine the character of false teachers? He need only look at the fruit they produce. Grapes and figs do not grow on thornbushes or thistles. Good fruit trees produce good fruit, but bad fruit trees produce bad fruit. In Jesus' evaluation, the Pharisees were obviously producing bad fruit; the only thing to do with bad trees is to cut them down and destroy them. If they do not fulfill their purpose for existence, they should be removed."

[Expositers Bible Commentary, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan,Vol 8, 1984, p. 191]:

"Warnings against false prophets are necessarily based on the conviction that not all prophets are true, that truth can be violated, and that the gospel's enemies usually conceal their hostility and try to pass themselves off as fellow believers. At first glance they use orthodox language, show biblical piety, and are indistinguishable from true prophets (cf. 10:41). Thus it is vital to know how to distinguish sheep from wolves in sheep's clothing. Jesus does not explicitly say who will have the discernment to protect the community but implies that the community itself, by whatever agency, must somehow protect itself from the wolves.

Neither the damage these false prophets do nor their brand of false teaching is stated; but the flow of the Sermon on the Mount as well as its OT background suggest that they neither acknowledge nor teach the narrow way to life subject to persecution (vv. 13-14; cf. Jer 8:11; Ezek 13, where prophets cry 'Peace!' when there is no peace). They have never really come under kingdom authority (vv. 21-23); and since the only alternative to life is destruction (vv. 13-14), they imperil their followers."

IV) [Mt 7:17]:

"Even so every good tree bears good fruit; but the rotten tree bears bad fruit."

A) EVERY BELIEVER WHO IS IN FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD WILL LIVE A LIFESTYLE WHICH BEARS GOOD FRUIT, BUT THE ROTTEN TREE - CARNAL BELIEVER, UNBELIEVER GROUP INCLUDING THE FALSE PROPHET WILL BEAR BAD FRUIT

Even so every believer who is in fellowship with God will live a lifestyle which bears good fruit, i.e., divine good works; but the rotten tree; i.e., the lifestyle of the unbeliever, the carnal Christian as well as the false prophet - bears bad fruit.

V) [Mt 7:18]:

"A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce good fruit."

The lifestyle which is a result of a believer being in fellowship with God cannot produce bad fruit nor can the lifestyle which is a result of an individual being out of fellowship with God, (could be carnal believer or unbeliever), produce good fruit. This does not say that believers will always act like the good trees of this parable.

A) THE GOOD TREE REPRESENTS THE LIFESTYLE NOT THE ETERNAL DESTINY OF FAITHFUL BELIEVERS, THE ROTTEN TREE THE LIFESTYLE OF UNBELIEVERS AND UNFAITHFUL BELIEVERS

The key to interpreting this passage correctly - is to determine the meaning of the symbols of the good and rotten trees. The good tree must represent the lifestyle of in-fellowship believers because clear passages elsewhere indicate that spirit controlled believers are the only individuals who can produce good fruit, (cp. Gal 5:16-25). Otherwise, it's just the opposite:

1) [Compare Ro 8:7]:

"because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the Law of God, for it is not even able to do so."

That is to say, the lifestyle of the individual who is carnal - which could be an unbeliever or an out-of-fellowship, carnal believer cannot please God and so produce good fruit.

If, according to faith + works salvationists, the good tree is to represent only the true Christian who is destined for eternal life, then if an individual brings forth anything at all in the way of bad fruit, then that individual cannot be destined for heaven.

("A good tree cannot produce bad fruit", Mt 7:18a)

However, no one in Scripture except our Lord Himself, demonstrated such a perfection! Not one of us can say that we did not produce bad fruit at one time or another in our Christian lives, (1 Jn 1:8, 10, Romans chapter 7).

So the rotten tree represents the lifestyles of unbelievers and carnal Christians who are not able to produce good fruit and not the individuals themselves.

VI) [Mt 7:19]:

"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire."

A) EVERY LIFESTYLE DEVOID OF GOOD WORKS IS DESTROYED, BURNED UP, BUT NOT THE INDIVIDUAL HIMSELF

Every tree that does not bear good fruit - (Every lifestyle which is not acceptable to God, which does not produce divine good) - every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. In other words, every lifestyle devoid of good works is judged as unacceptable and burned up just as is the 'hay, wood and straw' in 1 Cor 3:11-15 which also represents the fruit of the unacceptable lifestyle of the believer. The rotten fruit tree could not represent an individual believer himself who is cast into the Lake of Fire because one is not condemned to the fires of hell for producing bad fruit. One is condemned to hell for not placing one's faith in Christ as Savior, (Jn 3:18). Furthermore, eternally secure believers cannot say that they do not produce bad fruit, i.e., sins, cp. 1 Jn 1:8, 10.

VII) [Mt 7:20]:

"So then, you will know them by their fruits."

"them" = the false prophets - the subject of this passage, (v. 15), who could be unbelievers or believers who teach false doctrine.

A) SO THEN YOU WILL KNOW THE FALSE TEACHERS FROM THE TRUE ONES BY THE LIVES THAT THEY LEAD

So then you will know the false teachers, i.e., that they believe in and teach false doctrine from the true ones by the lives that they lead. Teachers of false doctrine will inevitably reflect their false belief system in their lifestyle - often a lifestyle reflecting a system of legalistic rules which favors the lust patterns of their particular sin natures.

1) [Compare Titus 1:15-16]:

(v. 15) "To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.

(v. 16) They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed."

B) HOWEVER, IT OFTEN TAKES A DISCERNING BELIEVER WHO KNOWS THE WORD OF GOD IN ORDER TO DETECT THE ROTTEN FRUIT OF A FALSE PROPHET'S LIFESTYLE

However, it often takes a discerning believer who knows the Word of God in order to detect the rotten fruit of a false prophet's lifestyle, (Heb 4:12 + 1 Cor 2:15a). Furthermore, people do not have privy, all of the time, to the thoughts, words and deeds of an individual which would indicate the kind of lifestyle that they actually lead - be it fruitful or unfruitful.

C) AN UNFAITHFUL LIFESTYLE IS NOT ALWAYS AN INDICATOR OF AN UNBELIEVER, BELIEVERS CAN ACT THAT WAY TOO

If the false doctrine which people often attribute to Mt 7:15-23 is true - that believers must continually prove out their salvation or not be saved at all then Scripture is in error when it exhorts believers not to behave like the world, teaching that believers can seriously fall away from the faith but still be saved unto eternal life. (Compare Eph 5:1-17; 2 Tim 2:11-13). God's Word teaches that believers do sin, (1 Jn 1:8, 10), and may not show much evidence of being a believer yet still make it to heaven, (1 Cor 3:11-15). Therefore, one cannot stretch this passage to say that one can detect whether one is a believer or an unbeliever by one's lifestyle because Scripture does indicate that believers do have the potential at times of carrying on a lifestyle that does not reflect the fact that they are saved, (Eph 5:1-20; Gal 5:16-25; Ro 6:1-23, 8:1-4).

D) JUST AS THE FALSE TEACHER WILL BE KNOWN BY HIS LIFESTYLE SO WILL A BELIEVER'S CHOICE TO BE UNFAITHFUL BECOME EVIDENT

On the other hand just as the false teacher will be known by the fruits of his lifestyle, in the same manner will the faithful or unfaithful lifestyle of a believer be proved by the content of that believer's works.

1) [Compare Jas 2:18b]:

"Show me your faith without the works, [which is impossible] and I will show you my faith by my works."

And at those moments of unfaithful lifestyle, the believer - the one who is saved and secure unto eternal life - is actually reflecting, by his actions, a mental attitude of unfaithfulness - of disbelief - of denial of his relationship with Jesus Christ. He may be a believer but one would not know it unless he, at the moment, is leading a lifestyle that produces good fruit, i.e., divine good works.

E) ASSURANCE TO THE BELIEVER OF HIS SALVATION IS NOT A GUARANTEE OF A FAITHFUL LIFESTYLE

Finally, Scripture teaches that one can know that one has eternal life at the point of believing in Christ as Savior before one has had a chance to begin a fruitful or unfruitful lifestyle. So when James says that faith without works is dead" or that "a man is justified by works", this does not always indicate a condition of NOT being saved unto eternal life if one falls short in the works department.

F) COMPARE 1 JOHN 5:9-13 WHICH TEACHES THAT ONE CAN KNOW THAT ONE HAS ETERNAL LIFE AT THE MOMENT OF FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE BEFORE ANY WORKS ARE PERFORMED - WHETHER GOOD OR BAD

Compare the passage in 1 John 5:9-13 which teaches that one can know that one has eternal life at the point of trusting in Christ as Savior at the beginning of an individual's Christian walk - before any works at all are performed, whether good or bad!

1) [1 Jn 5:9-13]:

(v. 9) "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for the witness of God is this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son.

(v. 10) The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him [God] a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son.

(v. 11) And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life................

[notice that eternal life is a gift from God, (cp. Eph 2:8-9]

(v. 11 cont.) And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (v. 12) He who has the Son..............

[Recall from verse 10 that to have the Son is to just believe in Him]

(v. 12 cont.) He who has the Son has the life..

[He who believes in the Son has the eternal life which God has made available as a gift through faith alone in His Son alone, v.11 above, (cp. Jn 3:16)]

(v. 12 cont.) He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

[And here is the part which indicates that at the point of trusting alone in Christ alone as Savior - at that point you can know - you can be absolutely assured that you are going to heaven no matter what. Even at the time when you are a brand new, born again believer with your old habits still fully intact and your sin nature still out of control - having had no time to grow in spiritual maturity]:

(v. 12 cont.) He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

(v. 13) These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life."

G) SCRIPTURE THEREFORE DOES NOT TEACH THAT IF ONE DOES NOT SHOW EVIDENCE THAT ONE IS A BELIEVER THEN ONE IS NOT SAVED

These verses which John wrote were written by him so that all who have believed at some time in their lives may know NOW for sure that they have eternal life no matter what. For to believe in the name of the Son of God is to receive and have eternal life forever! So if Scripture teaches that one can know now that one has eternal life at the point of believing in Christ as Savior, then how could Scripture also teach the opposing and false doctrine that if one doesn't show evidence that one is a believer then one is not saved? Surely one cannot know in the present that one is saved if later on one can possibly act like one is not thus negating or falsifying one's eternal destiny in heaven.

H) THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT ALL CHRISTIANS SIN AND NEVER DO REACH A POINT IN THIS LIFE WHEN THEY CAN SAY THAT THEY DON'T SIN OR ACT UNCHRISTIANLIKE

1) [1 John 1:8, 10]:

(v. 8) "If we [believers, v.2:2] say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

(v. 10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him [God] a liar, and His word is not in us."

I) THE FALSE DOCTRINE THAT A BELIEVER MUST PROVE OUT HIS SALVATION IS UNSCRIPTURAL, CAUSES JUDGMENTALISM AND CONTRADICTS THE TRUE DOCTRINE OF THE EXCLUSIVE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN THE SALVATION OF MANKIND

If the false doctrine that a believer must prove out his salvation in order for it to be real is true, then how much sin is permitted before a person is proved NOT to have eternal life? How perfect must he be to be assured that he is saved? This kind of reasoning is unscriptural, nonsense and creates judgmentalism within the body of believers of who is saved and who is not when God is totally responsible for our salvation and no one else, (Ephesians chapters one and two, Romans 3:21-24). Scripture states that one can know that one is secure in one's salvation forever at the very point of trusting alone in Christ alone, (1 Jn 5:9-13; 3:16; Eph 1:13-14; Ro 11:29, 8:1, 8:38-39).

VIII) [MT 7:21]:

(v. 21) "Not every one 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."

A) TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT ONE MIGHT CONCLUDE THAT DECLARING JESUS AS LORD IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, BUT WORKS ARE THE KEY

Verse 20 of Matthew 7, ends the section on knowing the false prophet by the fruit produced by his lifestyle, but there are some who maintain that the next three verses say that one must produce fruit in order to be saved.

If one were to take verse 21 out of its context, one might say that you can't just say, 'Lord, Lord', in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must do the will of the Father, i.e., deeds are key to eternal life. But this stance has two misconceptions:

1) This passage is not talking about the lack of deeds as the next verse, (v. 21), clarifies.

2) The will of the Father re: entering the kingdom of heaven is not by works but by a moment of faith alone in Christ alone + nothing else to which Scripture testifies.

[John W. Robbins states:http://www.trinityfoundation.org/reviews/last.asp]

"At first glance, verse 21 seems to be saying that the decisive difference between those who are excluded and those who are admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven is the difference between empty professors and actual doers of the Word. It is not those who say, 'Lord, Lord,' but those who actually do the will of the Father, who are admitted into Heaven... Jesus does not explicitly mention belief in verse 21; he mentions doing and saying, asserting that doing the will of the Father in Heaven is required to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but saying 'Lord, Lord' is not enough."

B) BUT HE WHO DOES THE WILL OF GOD RELATIVE TO THE RECEPTION OF ETERNAL LIFE IS HE WHO TRUSTS ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE

And what is the will of the Father - what must a man do to attain eternal life?

1) [Jn 6:27-29]:

(v. 27) "[Jesus answered] Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.

(v. 28) Then they asked Him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?'

(v. 29) Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent'"

a) THE WORK THAT ONE MUST DO FOR ETERNAL LIFE IS EXCLUSIVELY A MATTER OF FAITH ACCORDING TO JOHN 6:27-29

In John 6:27-29, our Lord explicitly states that the work that one must do for eternal life is exclusively a matter of faith. So to obey the Lord unto eternal salvation must necessarily be to obey His command to trust alone in Him alone for eternal life, no deeds required:

Our Lord picks up on the word 'work' which the disciples were mindful of; but He used it not in a literal sense but a figurative one and provided the answer which is no work at all: but to simply believe in Jesus Christ as Savior = the One that God sent: Faith alone in Christ alone.

IX) [Mt 7:22-23]:

(v. 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?'''

(v. 23) And then I will declare to them, '''I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.''' "

A) IN VIEW ARE MANY INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE ACTIVE IN PERFORMING NUMEROUS DEEDS, OFTEN MIRACULOUS AND SPECTACULAR - ALL IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, YET ALL ARE CONDEMNED FOR PRACTICING LAWLESSNESS

[John W. Robbins states,

http://www.trinityfoundation.org/REVIEWS/LAST.ASP]:

"Now the fact that many people will have done these things on Earth implies several things.

First, it implies that these people are not mere professors, without works and without practice, as we may have concluded from our superficial reading of verse 21. They are not pew warmers; they are not spiritual spectators; they are not churchgoers who show up only on Easter and Christmas; they are not those who have no works. These people have many works, and they will call on Jesus himself to testify to their works on Earth. Theirs is not mere lip service; theirs is not an empty profession. They will have been very active in church and in other religious endeavors.

Second, not only are these people active in the churches, they are church leaders. They prophesy, they preach, they proselytize, they teach; they cast out demons, they exorcise; they perform many wonders—not just a few, but many wonders. These are things publicly done, not things done in a corner or in the privacy of one’s own home.

Third, they will do all these works in the name of Jesus Christ. Notice that the defendants will use the phrase 'in your name' repeatedly: They will prophesy 'in Jesus’ name;' they will cast out demons "in Jesus’ name;' they will perform many wonders 'in Jesus’ name.' They will be leaders in professedly Christian churches. They are not Buddhists, performing these things in the name of Buddha. Nor are they Hindus, performing these works in the name of Shiva or some other Hindu god. Nor are they Muslims, doing these things in the names of Allah or Mohammed. Nor are they Jews, doing these things in the name of Abraham. These are not pagans ignorant of the name of Jesus; they are professing Christians who will do all these works in the name of Jesus Christ.

Because they were doing these things in the name of Jesus while on Earth, they must have known something about Jesus, perhaps even that he is God. Some demons know no less, such as the one whose conversation with Jesus is reported in Mark 1:24: 'Let us alone! What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!'

Did these defendants know as much as that demon? They were as lost as that demon. This implies, among other things, that simply acknowledging Jesus as Lord, as the Holy One of God, is not sufficient for salvation. Do not the Scriptures say that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord? And do not the Scriptures say that some people will not be saved? It therefore follows that confessing Jesus as Lord is insufficient for salvation; one must also confess him as Saviour. Now, consider the irony of the exegetical situation. Proponents of 'Lordship Salvation' such as Shepherd and MacArthur appeal to this passage in Matthew 7 to support their view that belief alone in the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough for salvation, that we must also practice the Lordship of Christ by faithfully performing works in order to be saved. Yet this passage clearly teaches that some of those who confess Jesus as Lord and perform amazing works will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, one may acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, perform many wonderful works, and still go to Hell. Jesus himself here warns us that 'many' who confess his Lordship and perform many works will go to Hell. Obviously the passage does not mean what the Pope, MacArthur, and Shepherd think it means. It is not a contrast between mere believers (who are lost) and workers (who are saved), for Jesus himself says that the workers are lost.

Fourth, because these men were visible church leaders on Earth, we know that the visible church is not the Kingdom of Heaven, for these men are excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let us turn our attention briefly to the sorts of works these church leaders will have done. They will have prophesied in the name of Jesus; they will have cast out demons in the name of Jesus; they will have performed wonders in the name of Jesus. Now, these are not only works; they are extraordinary and supernatural works. In fact, they are the greatest works done by men and among men, to use John Gill’s phrase. None of us, perhaps a few of us, but certainly not this writer, has done anything remotely as great or as impressive as these works. Our works are ordinary: attending church, being good neighbors, giving money to the church and to the poor, taking care of our families, and so on.

Now here is the question: If none of us has done or will do anything like the works these men will have done, and if these men are lost, then what hope is there for us? If Jesus himself turns these men out of the Kingdom of Heaven—these many men who have performed such great works in the name of Jesus—what hope have we? If these very active, professing Christians, these church leaders, will be sent to Hell, what hope have we of gaining Heaven?

The answer is, We have no hope, if, like these men, we rely on our works. If we believe that our works help obtain our salvation, we have no hope of Heaven, no matter how great our works, no matter how faithful our obedience, regardless of whether we act in the name of Jesus, or whether we confess Jesus as Lord. If we rely on our obedience or our covenant faithfulness or our good works, we are lost.

This is the crux of the passage, and of salvation. When these church leaders give their defense at the Judgment, they will offer their works as Exhibits A, B, and C. Their plea to Jesus will be their works—works done in the name of Jesus, to be sure, but works nonetheless. And far from lessening their guilt, doing their works in the name of Jesus increases their guilt before God.

Far from teaching a 'message of works,' Jesus warns us that anyone who comes before him at the Judgment and offers his works, his covenant faithfulness, or his life as his defense will be sent to Hell. Far from teaching that our works are necessary for our salvation, Jesus here teaches that all our works contribute not one whit to our salvation.

Why will many men not be admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven? What is wrong with their defense? Jesus tells us plainly: They will plead their own lives and Christian works.

What their defense should be is not their works, but the imputed righteousness of Christ. Many will be sent to Hell because they will not mention that they are sinners saved only by the righteousness of the Man Christ Jesus.

They will not mention the perfect life, sinless death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They will not mention the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to those who believe in him. They will not mention the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for his people. They will not mention that Jesus Christ earned their salvation for them. They will not mention that Jesus Christ suffered the penalty of Hell due to them, that Jesus satisfied the justice of the Father in their behalf.

This passage of Scripture is widely misunderstood. The Baptist John MacArthur, the Christian Reformed Norman Shepherd, and Pope John Paul II all misunderstand the passage, and they misunderstand it in essentially the same way. They all—Baptist, Reformed, and Romanist—appeal to verse 21 for the same reason:

It seems to teach salvation by doing, rather than by mere believing. After all, Jesus does say that it is only those who do the will of his Father who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

In his book, The Gospel According to Jesus, John MacArthur cites this passage and asserts: 'Real faith is as concerned with doing the will of God as it is with affirming the facts of true doctrine' (189). Real faith, saving faith, according to MacArthur, is as much about doing as it is about believing, for Jesus brought a 'message of works' (79).

In his book, The Call of Grace, Norman Shepherd tells us that 'The consequence of disobedience is exclusion from the kingdom of heaven' (49). So a believer may be excluded from the Kingdom for his disobedience, because belief alone is not enough. To faith one must add 'covenant faithfulness.'

And the most eloquent statement of the three, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1821, cites Matthew 7:21 as Scriptural support for its statement that 'In every circumstance each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere ‘to the end’ and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ.'

Notice that the Catholic Catechism mentions grace twice in this single sentence. Many non-Catholics labor under the mistaken impression that the Roman Church-State teaches salvation by works apart from the grace of God and Christ. But it does not, and this paragraph reflects its teaching that the good works Christians do are done by the grace of God and Christ. This common misrepresentation and misunderstanding of Romanist doctrine has contributed to (or is caused by) a misunderstanding of Biblical doctrine.

Our works, our doing, the Bible teaches, contribute nothing whatsoever to our salvation. They are neither an instrument for our justification nor a condition of our salvation. The difference between the Bible and Rome is not that Rome teaches salvation by faith and works-without-grace, while the Bible teaches salvation by faith and works-with-grace.

The difference between the Bible and Rome is that the Bible teaches that our salvation does not depend on our works at all (whether allegedly done by the grace of God or not), while Rome asserts that our salvation depends in part on our works. The Bible affirms sola fide; Rome denies it.

But let us return to the text.

Verse 21: "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."

At first glance, verse 21 seems to be saying that the decisive difference between those who are excluded and those who are admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven is the difference between empty professors and actual doers of the Word. It is not those who say, "Lord, Lord,' but those who actually do the will of the Father, who are admitted into Heaven.

In verse 21, Jesus seems to be making the same distinction that James makes in 2:14: 'What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?' The contrast in James is between a person who says something with his lips, but does not give evidence of his faith by his works. But, unlike James, Jesus does not explicitly mention belief in verse 21; he mentions doing and saying, asserting that doing the will of the Father in Heaven is required to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but saying 'Lord, Lord' is not enough.

Again, at first glance, verse 21 seems to contradict verses such as

Acts 16:31: 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…' and

Romans 3:28: 'Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law;' and

Ephesians 2:8-9: 'For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast;'

and scores more verses that deny salvation comes by doing.

This apparent contradiction in the New Testament raises a further difficulty: Does the Bible contradict itself? Many scholars say, Yes, it does. Or if they are coy rather than candid, they say the Scriptures contain 'tensions,' 'paradoxes,' and 'antinomies.' The scholars apparently never consider the possibility that they have misunderstood the Scriptures. They are quick to attribute logical difficulties to the revealed propositions (and they always add that it is pious and humble to do so), but they do not even contemplate the possibility that they might not understand the text. That would be unthinkable!

Imagine! Professors and theologians not understanding the text! Impossible! Therefore, the text itself must be paradoxical. But as Christians we ought to be humble and say, Of course the Scriptures contain no contradictions, no paradoxes, no antinomies, and no tensions. When we come to what seems to be a contradiction in our theology, we must check our premises, return to the propositions of Scripture, and conform our thoughts to what the noncontradictory Scriptures say.

The 'first glance' reading of verse 21 raises still another problem: Does Jesus teach legalism? Here I am using the word legalism in its proper sense: the notion that one can obtain, in whole or in part, salvation by doing, rather than by mere belief. The Pope, Shepherd, and MacArthur all appeal to this verse because they all believe that Jesus does in fact teach salvation by doing here - that he here denies the sufficiency of belief alone for salvation.

The central problem in verse 21 is the meaning of Jesus’ phrase: 'he who does the will of my Father in Heaven.' The Pope, MacArthur, and Shepherd all appeal to this verse because they believe that that phrase means 'works.' But that interpretation, of course, implies that the Bible contradicts itself. And that interpretation of the phrase cannot be correct, because of what verse 22 says.

Verse 22: "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?' "

Now if we understand verse 21 as the Pope, MacArthur, and Shepherd understand it, what Jesus says in verse 22 is both unexpected and inexplicable. If Jesus’ point in verse 21 were that faith is not enough, that good works, or 'covenant faithfulness,' or obedience is also necessary in order to be saved, then Jesus should have said something like this in verse 22: 'Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we trusted in you alone, we had faith in you alone, we believed the Bible and your words.’ ' But of course Jesus says nothing of the sort.

Instead, he reports that many people will appear before him at the Judgment and will talk about their works, not their faith. These people—the ones who present works—will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us examine this verse carefully. First, Jesus says 'Many.' At first glance, verse 21 suggests that there will be only a few among those who will say, 'Lord, Lord' who will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus had said, 'Not everyone,' and, sinners that we are, we jumped to the conclusion that he meant 'almost everyone.' But here in verse 22 he says 'many.' Many will come before Christ Jesus and speak to him, saying, 'Lord, Lord,' and they will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Second, many will speak to Jesus 'in that day': the Day of Judgment, when every person will give an account of every thought, word, and deed done in the body. We each will give an account of our lives to God. There is no escaping this Judgment, no parole, no continuance, no diversion.

The author of Hebrews (9:27) writes: 'It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the Judgment.' Those are two appointments each one of us will keep: death and Judgment. We will be on trial for our lives. We will not be appearing in this court as witnesses, victims, or jurors, but as defendants. Third, each of us will speak directly to Jesus; there will be no attorneys, no priests, no pastors, no bishops, no archbishops, no popes, no confessors, no counselors, no elders, no deacons, no church, no parents, and no friends to represent us and to speak for us. We will each speak directly to Jesus. We will be held individually accountable by God. This is the basis of the idea of individual responsibility, not merely in theology, but in law as well. Individual responsibility is one of the pillars of Christian jurisprudence, and those who rant against the individual and individualism are merely displaying their ignorance of, or their rejection of, what the Bible teaches about the role and the significance of the individual person. We will each be summoned to this divine court to face the Creator of the universe.

What will we say in that Day? Jesus in his mercy tells us what many will say to him in that Day: First, they will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, addressing him as 'Lord.' Not only will they say it once, they will repeat it: 'Lord, Lord.' Recognizing the gravity of the situation, they will plead for their lives. This repetition of 'Lord' may also suggest that they think they are on familiar terms with Jesus. Next, they will ask Jesus a series of questions, calling the Christ himself as a witness in their defense. Notice that they will not directly assert that they have done good works. They will speak in interrogative, not declarative, sentences. Because of this, their defense will actually be much stronger than their own mere declarations would have been: They will call Christ Jesus Himself as their defense witness. They will ask Him to testify to the facts of their lives: their prophesying, exorcising, and wonderworking.

Some commentators have tried to dismiss the claims of these defendants by suggesting that they will lie or exaggerate, that they really will not have done what they will claim to have done. There is nothing in the text that supports such an accusation. That misinterpretation is a desperate device to evade what Jesus is telling us in this passage.

The defendants will make no direct assertions. They will ask questions. They will address those questions to Jesus, whom they will acknowledge as Lord. They will ask him to testify to the truth of their claims. They actually will have done these things on Earth: prophesying, casting out demons, and performing wonders. Now the fact that many people will have done these things on Earth implies several things.

First, it implies that these people are not mere professors, without works and without practice, as we may have concluded from our superficial reading of verse 21. They are not pew warmers; they are not spiritual spectators; they are not churchgoers who show up only on Easter and Christmas; they are not those who have no works. These people have many works, and they will call on Jesus himself to testify to their works on Earth. Theirs is not mere lip service; theirs is not an empty profession. They will have been very active in church and in other religious endeavors.

Second, not only are these people active in the churches, they are church leaders. They prophesy, they preach, they proselytize, they teach; they cast out demons, they exorcise; they perform many wonders—not just a few, but many wonders. These are things publicly done, not things done in a corner or in the privacy of one’s own home.

Third, they will do all these works in the name of Jesus Christ. Notice that the defendants will use the phrase 'in your name' repeatedly: They will prophesy 'in Jesus’ name;' they will cast out demons 'in Jesus’ name;' they will perform many wonders 'in Jesus’ name.' They will be leaders in professedly Christian churches. They are not Buddhists, performing these things in the name of Buddha. Nor are they Hindus, performing these works in the name of Shiva or some other Hindu god. Nor are they Muslims, doing these things in the names of Allah or Mohammed. Nor are they Jews, doing these things in the name of Abraham. These are not pagans ignorant of the name of Jesus; they are professing Christians who will do all these works in the name of Jesus Christ. Because they were doing these things in the name of Jesus while on Earth, they must have known something about Jesus, perhaps even that he is God. Some demons know no less, such as the one whose conversation with Jesus is reported in Mark 1:24: 'Let us alone! What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!' Did these defendants know as much as that demon? They were as lost as that demon. This implies, among other things, that simply acknowledging Jesus as Lord, as the Holy One of God, is not sufficient for salvation. Do not the Scriptures say that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord? And do not the Scriptures say that some people will not be saved? It therefore follows that confessing Jesus as Lord is insufficient for salvation; one must also confess him as Saviour.

Now, consider the irony of the exegetical situation. Proponents of 'Lordship Salvation' such as Shepherd and MacArthur appeal to this passage in Matthew 7 to support their view that belief alone in the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough for salvation, that we must also practice the Lordship of Christ by faithfully performing works in order to be saved. Yet this passage clearly teaches that some of those who confess Jesus as Lord and perform amazing works will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, one may acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, perform many wonderful works, and still go to Hell. Jesus himself here warns us that 'many' who confess his Lordship and perform many works will go to Hell.

Obviously the passage does not mean what the Pope, MacArthur, and Shepherd think it means. It is not a contrast between mere believers (who are lost) and workers (who are saved), for Jesus himself says that the workers are lost.

Fourth, because these men were visible church leaders on Earth, we know that the visible church is not the Kingdom of Heaven, for these men are excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us turn our attention briefly to the sorts of works these church leaders will have done. They will have prophesied in the name of Jesus; they will have cast out demons in the name of Jesus; they will have performed wonders in the name of Jesus. Now, these are not only works; they are extraordinary and supernatural works. In fact, they are the greatest works done by men and among men, to use John Gill’s phrase. None of us, perhaps a few of us, but certainly not this writer, has done anything remotely as great or as impressive as these works. Our works are ordinary: attending church, being good neighbors, giving money to the church and to the poor, taking care of our families, and so on. Now here is the question: If none of us has done or will do anything like the works these men will have done, and if these men are lost, then what hope is there for us? If Jesus himself turns these men out of the Kingdom of Heaven—these many men who have performed such great works in the name of Jesus—what hope have we? If these very active, professing Christians, these church leaders, will be sent to Hell, what hope have we of gaining Heaven? The answer is, We have no hope, if, like these men, we rely on our works. If we believe that our works help obtain our salvation, we have no hope of Heaven, no matter how great our works, no matter how faithful our obedience, regardless of whether we act in the name of Jesus, or whether we confess Jesus as Lord. If we rely on our obedience or our covenant faithfulness or our good works, we are lost. This is the crux of the passage, and of salvation. When these church leaders give their defense at the Judgment, they will offer their works as Exhibits A, B, and C. Their plea to Jesus will be their works—works done in the name of Jesus, to be sure, but works nonetheless.

And far from lessening their guilt, doing their works in the name of Jesus increases their guilt before God. Far from teaching a 'message of works,' Jesus warns us that anyone who comes before him at the Judgment and offers his works, his covenant faithfulness, or his life as his defense will be sent to Hell.

Far from teaching that our works are necessary for our salvation, Jesus here teaches that all our works contribute not one whit to our salvation. Why will many men not be admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven? What is wrong with their defense? Jesus tells us plainly: They will plead their own lives and Christian works. What their defense should be is not their works, but the imputed righteousness of Christ. Many will be sent to Hell because they will not mention that they are sinners saved only by the righteousness of the Man Christ Jesus. They will not mention the perfect life, sinless death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They will not mention the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to those who believe in him. They will not mention the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for his people. They will not mention that Jesus Christ earned their salvation for them. They will not mention that Jesus Christ suffered the penalty of Hell due to them, that Jesus satisfied the justice of the Father in their behalf. In short, they will not confess Jesus as Saviour, even while they confess him as Lord.

[In other words, they will not insist that a moment of faith alone in Christ alone plus nothing else will provide eternal life]

Jesus in his mercy has told us one thing that will happen on the Day of Judgment. This is not a parable; this is not a metaphor. This is prophecy. It is exactly what many scholars deny prophecy is: future history. When Jesus here uses the verb 'will,' when he speaks in the future tense, he speaks literally, and these events must happen. We ought to heed his warning and realize that if we rely on anything we do—faithful church attendance, tithing, serving as a church officer, writing, speaking, teaching, holding crusades attended by millions, raising money, giving alms to the poor, building hospitals, Christian schools, churches, baptism, participation in the Lord’s Supper—we are lost. All our righteousnesses— Isaiah does not say unrighteousnesses — are as filthy rags. Jesus tells us that many people at the Judgment will argue that they deserve Heaven, that they have a right to Heaven because they have done many wonderful works in the name of Jesus. They will not acknowledge their depravity, for they think they are good men.

They will not acknowledge the Satisfaction and Atonement of Jesus, because they do not believe it. Their prayer will not be, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner,' but, 'Jesus, I did many wonderful works in your name, and now you ought to reward me with Heaven.' Whatever these churchgoers and church leaders may believe about themselves and about Jesus, they do not believe in their own depravity, nor in the imputed righteousness of Christ. They do not believe that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ. In short, they do not believe the Gospel, and that is why they are damned.

The vivid warning that Jesus gives us in this passage is not merely about the futility of working for salvation. It is also a warning about believing some things about God and Jesus, but not believing the Gospel. James tells us that demons believe in one God—and they are lost. That means that monotheism per se will not save anyone. Mark tells us that one demon recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God, and that demon was lost. That means that acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah per se will not save anyone. (And if anyone suggests that it is obedience that makes faith saving, it seems that no one obeys Jesus Christ more quickly in the New Testament than the demons to whom he speaks.)

Paul picks up on this point in Galatians, where he damns everyone, man or angel, who brings a message other than justification by faith alone. Presumably the false teachers in Galatia who were urging the Christians there to supplement their faith with works not only believed in God and in Jesus as the Son of God, but in the infallibility of the Scriptures (the Old Testament) and in Jesus’ miracles as well. Perhaps they even believed in his resurrection. But a belief in Jesus’ resurrection per se will save no one.

That is why unbelieving, apostate churches can recite the early creeds of the church: While they contain some truth (and some error), the creeds do not contain the Gospel. Consider, for example, the Apostles’ Creed. The received form reads:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into Hell; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

What is missing from the Apostles’ Creed? Read it again: There is no mention of God’s law, no mention of Adam’s sin, no statement that Jesus suffered and died for the sins of his people, no mention of his representative obedience and vicarious death, no mention of redemption, no mention of his perfect righteousness imputed to sinners, no mention of justification through belief alone. Jesus’ descent into Hell, an event that did not occur, is mentioned, and the mention of forgiveness of sins is vague enough to leave open the possibility that the Holy Catholic Church forgives sins.

The Nicene Creed (A.D. 325) omits any mention of sin, mentions the word salvation, but can hardly be said to present an explanation of it. The A.D. 381 enlargement adds some explanation, but also adds the error that water baptism remits sin.

What we need to believe was stated by Paul in Romans 3:20-28:

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

IX) [Mt 7:22-23 cont.]:

(v. 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?'''

(v. 23) And then I will declare to them, '''I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.''' '

A) ANY DEEDS DONE TO GAIN MERIT WITH GOD FOR SALVATION ARE CONSIDERED BY OUR LORD AS LAWLESSNESS, WHEREIN HE DECLARES TO THOSE DEED DOERS "I NEVER KNEW YOU". THEY CANCEL OUT GOD'S GRACE AND CAUSE THE INDIVIDUAL FURTHER CONDEMNATION

'I never knew you' = One must trust alone in Christ alone in order to be included in the family of God - and be intimately known by Him. Deeds done in His name even prophecies, miracles and casting out of demons do not result in knowing Jesus Christ unto salvation - faith alone does that:

1) [Jn 1:12]:

'But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His Name:'

Any deeds done by an unsaved individual, (or while a believer is in a carnal condition, cp. Ro 8:8), which this passage in Matthew chapter 7 refers to, come out of the motivation of the sin nature and not God the Holy Spirit. They cancel God's free grace salvation for the unbeliever and put him in the impossible position of having to do works for his salvation, (Gal 3:21-22; Ro 4:4-5; 11:6). These deeds might even be done in the name of the Lord, perhaps water baptism in order to be saved, (and not a testimony of one's already saved condition), or some act of repentance, or to receive the mass or some miracle or prophetic utterance - even witnessing - all intended to be effective to the same end: attempting to do works to receive eternal life with God. These deeds may even resemble true divine good works. Nevertheless they are evil, not being generated under the control of God the Holy Spirit and certainly not in line with what God says in His Word. For the unbeliever who does these things our Lord's response is condemnation unto the Lake of Fire; for that individual never accepted by faith alone the free grace gift of eternal life exclusively through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross: 'depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness'

[John W. Robbins states, http://www.trinityfoundation.org/REVIEWS/LAST.ASP]:

'Notice the 'and then.' Jesus pronounces judgment only after hearing the pleas and defenses of the men on trial. If any judge ever had the right to condemn a defendant without hearing his defense, this judge has. But he is so scrupulous about God’s law—and his law became the model for due process in civilizations influenced by Christianity—that Jesus does not pronounce judgment until after the defendants have presented their defenses.

Jesus’ declaration, 'I never knew you,' eliminates another common perversion of this passage. Some commentators have suggested that the men Jesus will send to Hell were once believers, and they performed their good works while they were believers; but they did not persevere; they were not faithful to the covenant, so they lost their 'final justification.' But that is not what Jesus will say to them: He will say, 'I never knew you.' He will not say, 'I formerly knew you, but you were unfaithful to the covenant.' Nor will he say, 'I knew you once, but you disobeyed my commandments.' Jesus will say, 'I never knew you.'

These people, these church leaders, were never Christians. They were never foreknown, elected, called, regenerated, justified, adopted, reconciled, or sanctified. They may have been baptized, confirmed, chrismated, ordained, and canonized, but they were never born again. They were active churchgoers and church leaders; they did many extraordinary and wonderful works, all in the name of Jesus; but they were never Christians. Christ Jesus never knew them.

This declaration eliminates Romanist and Arminian doctrine, with its 'saved on Sunday, lost on Monday' soteriology, as well as the Neolegalism of men like Norman Shepherd and Steven Schlissel. The final salvation of Christians—their admittance into the Kingdom of Heaven—just like their election, calling, regeneration, adoption, justification, reconciliation, and sanctification, depends not one whit on our good works, but on the perfect righteousness of Christ alone imputed, not infused, to us through belief alone. Believers have salvation—we possess eternal life—at the first moment of belief, and the gift of salvation is irrevocable.

Notice that Christ Jesus is the only door to Heaven; he admits and excludes. Christ Jesus will send these professing Christians to Hell. Notice that Christ Jesus is the only way to Heaven. It is his life, work, and death alone that entitles sinners to Heaven. Notice that Christ Jesus is the only life. When he says, 'Depart from me,' he is condemning these men to everlasting death. That is what Hell is: separation from Christ.

Jesus will describe these people as 'you who practice lawlessness.' Now if we had seen these people on Earth—and perhaps we have seen some of them—we may not have reached that conclusion. After all, we would have seen these church leaders prophesying, casting out demons, and performing supernatural wonders, all in the name of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church-State would have declared them saints. The ersatz Evangelicals would have made them best-selling authors and celebrities. But Jesus calls them 'you who practice lawlessness.' Why?

He has already told us why. All of these extraordinary and wonderful works done in the name of Jesus are lawlessness, because they are done for the purpose of obtaining salvation. These works are lawlessness because they involve an illegal use of the law. The law, Paul tells us, is given for the knowledge of sin. It is not given that we sinners might use it to gain entrance into Heaven. Conviction of sin, not salvation, is the purpose of the law. Legalism, because it is an illegal use of the law, is lawlessness. 'But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully,' Paul told Timothy. But using the law in an effort to obtain Heaven is not lawful; it is an illegal use of the law; it is lawlessness.'

X) CONCLUSION ON MATTHEW 7:15-23

[Bob Wilkin states, ('Is Justification By Faith Alone?', Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society', Autumn 1996 issue, Arthur L. Farstad, editor, Irving, Texas, p. 9)]:

A) JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE IS NOT BEING REFUTED IN THIS PASSAGE

'''To some people this passage [Mt 7:15-23] sounds like it's denying justification by faith alone. After all, Jesus does say that the only one who will enter the kingdom of heaven is 'he who does the will of My Father.'

However, that view of the passage is impossible when put under careful scrutiny. In v. 22 the people who call Jesus Lord and yet are excluded from the kingdom are further identified. They are people who claim the right to enter the kingdom on the basis of having prophesied, cast out demons, and done many wonders - all in Jesus' name.

B) MATTHEW 7:15-23 IS TEACHING THAT NO ONE CAN EXPECT KINGDOM ENTRANCE ON THE BASIS OF WORKS OF ANY KIND

Jesus' point here is that no one can expect kingdom entrance on the basis of his or her works, or deeds. Far from contradicting justification by faith alone, He is proving it.

The only way anyone can enter the kingdom is by doing God's will. In context this is clearly not meant to refer to doing good deeds. The false professors had done good deeds! What they lacked is the one thing that can gain anyone entrance into the kingdom. [Faith alone in Christ alone.

C) THE WILL OF THE FATHER CONCERNING SALVATION THEREFORE IS THAT WE BELIEVE IN HIS SON + NOTHING ELSE IN ORDER TO HAVE ETERNAL LIFE

All of the following verses show that the will of the Father concerning salvation is that we believe in His Son: 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved' (Acts 16:31). 'He who believes in Me has everlasting life' (John 6:47). 'Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life' (John 3:16b). 'For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast' (Eph 2:8-9).

In answer to the question, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus said, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He sent" (John 6:28-29). The only "work"....[required] which will please God in terms of salvation is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone for eternal life [and this is no work at all]." '''