Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto Me,
Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in
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, you that work iniquity (lawlessness).
When Jesus said, Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, He is speaking of Christians. Non-Christians do not say unto Jesus, “Lord, Lord.” Neither do non-Christians prophesy, cast out devils, or any other wonderful works. So Jesus is speaking of Christians who call Him Lord, but do not do the will of His Father.
Christians can be grouped into three divisions. There are those who have repented and received forgiveness, but live their lives according to the dictates of their own hearts. They are usually faithful to attend church services, but away from their church they have their own goals and pursuits. Leading morally good lives is their idea of being good Christians.
The second group is dedicated to working for God. They carry their religion outside of the church doors and become very involved in doing what they consider the will of God. They are working for the Lord. The problem is that they are making the decision of what is the will of God and carrying it out using their own wisdom and energy. They are doing “good works,” but they are only good works in their own sight. Jesus calls them “workers of lawlessness,” because they are only doing what is right in their own sight.
The third group consists of those who have learned to give their lives to the Lord, so that He might work through them. Instead of working “for” the Lord, they are working “with” the Lord. Their lives and His life are meshed together, and the Lord works through them. While the mechanics of both groups may seem very similar, or even the same at times, their ministry is entirely different. For example, they will also prophesy, cast out devils, and do many wonderful works. But it will be Christ working through them.
I heard a preacher say recently that a prophet was one who spoke in behalf of God. That is a concept of the second group. A real prophet does not speak in behalf of God, for that would mean that his life is separate from the Lord’s. Speaking for God is the same as working for God. A real prophet is one in whom the Lord lives and speaks through. There is only one prophet – the Lord Jesus Christ. And the one He ministers through as a prophet has a prophetic ministry. Peter confirms this in his epistle. Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. I Peter 1:10-11.
The first and second groups say, “Lord, Lord,” but do not do the will of the Father. What is the will of the Father? This can be determined by viewing the ministry and life of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. Jesus said, I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. John 6:38. Normally when one is sent to do something, it means that he leaves the one sending him and does a particular thing for, or in place of, the one who sends him. However, that is not the case when doing the will of God. So lest we think that Jesus functioned separately from the Father, He said, I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me (John 8:16). Again, He said to Philip, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father…I am in the Father, and the Father in Me…The Father that dwells in Me, He doeth the works (John 14:9, 10). So we see that doing the will of God means giving your life as a channel for Him to work through. It is working “with” Him, not “for” Him.
Another aspect of the will of God is seen in John 12:24-27: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honor. Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.
All the miracles of healing, casting out of devils, raising the dead, etc., were side issues. Jesus’ main dedication was to do the will of the Father, for the salvation of His people. He wasn’t interested in starting a little local church in Jerusalem. Neither is He interested in little local churches today, per se. He was dedicated to being a planted seed that would bring forth a many-membered Body of Christ. They would be the means by which God would bring forth a new heaven and a new earth, and the final result would be God tabernacling with man (Revelation 21:1-3).
The third group will enter the Kingdom of heaven, because while they may minister to local churches, bless and deliver many people, their main concern is the will of God for this earth. What are you doing? Are you doing works for God or with God? Is your life caught up in local church ministry only or are you dedicated to the will of God for the whole earth? And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matthew 24:14.
In John 12:24, Jesus likens Himself to a corn of wheat that must be placed in the earth and die in order to bring forth much fruit. If it does not die it remains alone, but if it dies it multiplies. This is prophetic, speaking of Jesus’ death and its purpose. His death on the cross, then, makes it possible for bringing “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). Christ ceases to be an individual only and becomes a many-membered Body. Then in verse 27 Jesus says, For this cause came I unto this hour.
Now let’s look at the two verses sandwiched in between verses 24 and 27: He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honor.
The will of God could not be done without Jesus dying. It was the only way a many-membered Body of Christ could come into existence. And neither can we do the will of God without dying to self. As we die to self, His life comes forth within us. Until this process begins, we remain alone, apart from His life. We may be Christians that do many wonderful works, but until we die to self all our wonderful works are works of lawlessness. The work of the cross in our lives is the only way His life can be worked in us (Matthew 16:24-25).
The first group of Christians has not died to self. They live morally good lives, but they are still caught up in the life of this world. Their interests are worldly pursuits such as education, careers, a good name, etc.
The second group is more zealous and religious. Some of them have even received the Holy Spirit and some of His gifts. They prophesy, cast out devils, and do many wonderful works for God. But they have not experienced the work of the cross in their lives. So it is not the Lord working through them. It makes no difference how good the works seem to be. Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Psalm 127:1.
The third group are those who have experienced or are experiencing, the work of the cross. The Lord is ministering through them bringing forth His will. They are like Paul who said, I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20.
Matthew 7:22-23 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.
The Greek word for “iniquity” is anomia, and its literal meaning is “lawlessness.” The term lawlessness refers to those who have not yielded to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Most particularly does it refer to Christians, for it is common practice for them to repent of their sins, accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, and still maintain lordship over their lives. Though the first group lives morally good lives, they also determine their own course. They maintain the right to worship as they choose and to order their steps as they see best. Usually they do not purposely reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ but have not been taught and do not understand what it means for Him to be Lord.
The second group, while doing many good works for the Lord, makes their own rules and regulations on how to worship and serve the Lord. Consequently, they are doing their own thing and are not subject to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. So we see that the “workers of lawlessness” that the Lord is most concerned about are those He has redeemed but have not yielded to His Lordship.
Some have not understood what Jesus meant when He said, “I never knew you.” There is no one that the Lord is not aware of. However, there are different realms of knowledge, and to a great extent we determine how the Lord knows us, and how He responds and relates to us. For example, if we are forgiving to others, then He is forgiving to us (Matthew 6:14); how we judge others determines how we are judged (Matthew 7:1-2); if we draw nigh to Him, He will draw nigh to us (James 4:8); and to the merciful He will show Himself merciful (II Samuel 22:26).
The Lord is aware of everyone. Yet there is a way in which He knows us according to the way we know Him. We cannot say that the Lord does not relate at all to the first and second groups of Christians we have described. I am sure that in whatever way they are open to Him, He ministers to them and endeavors to draw them into a closer relationship. But He cannot relate to the first group in the same way He relates to the third group, because they have not opened up to the level of the third group. That realm is closed to them. They have not been exposed to the way the Lord manifests Himself on the higher realm. Consequently, they do not know Him in that way and neither does He know them in that way.
In verse 21 Jesus said, Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord…. In verse 22 He said, Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord. Jesus is talking about a day, the day of the Lord. That day is not just related to a period of time as we know it. The reference point concerns relationship more than it does time. So Jesus is not saying to those workers of many wonderful works that He has no knowledge of them at all or that they are not Christians. He is saying that He has not known them in the realm of His Lordship, which in verse 21 He calls the Kingdom of heaven (or, the Kingdom of Spirit). They cannot rule and reign with the Lord because they have not entered into that kind of relationship with Him. So He said, “I don’t know you on this realm.”
Copyright © 1996 by Henry DuBose