Matthew 7:21–23 (NKJV)

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.

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?”

23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

I explained this passage a little bit in the previous section where I talked about the ten virgins, but here we will look at the same verses from a slightly different angle. Christians may disagree over what constitutes the scariest passage in the Bible, but most would agree Jesus’s concluding words in the Sermon on the Mount rank near the top. It’s frightening to think about going to hell. It’s more terrifying to find out too late that you are going to hell when you thought you were going to heaven. And it is even more alarming to think that not just a few but “many” will have this experience. This is one of the reasons some people use this passage to threaten Christians with the possibility of losing their salvation if they practice lawlessness and don’t do the will of the Father. They preach something along these lines: “You can be a genuine born-again believer in Christ who calls Jesus ‘Lord,’ and you can even prophesy, cast out demons, and perform many wonders in Jesus’s name, but if you are not careful to do the will of the Father all the time and if you practice lawlessness, you might have the big unpleasant surprise not to enter the Kingdom of Heaven when you stand before God on judgment day.” Is that so? First, let’s think about what Jesus means by the will of the Father and who are those who do it. Judging by the context, it must mean more than simply saying “Lord, Lord” and doing mighty works in Jesus’s name.

Today, one popular view suggests that by the expression “the will of My Father,” Jesus meant a life characterized by obedience to all the Father has commanded. Thus, those who do the will of the Father will be those who live godly and holy lives. There are several problems with this interpretation. First, God is perfect, and one cannot enter His Kingdom without becoming perfect like Him (Matthew 5:48). Second, one cannot be said to have done the will of the Father unless he does it entirely, 100%. To violate even just one of God’s commands is to break them all (James 2:10). Third, even if these first two arguments are not valid, this view leads to the unbiblical conclusion that no one can ever be sure they are saved, except at their death. No one could ever know if they have obeyed enough. Yet, the Scriptures are clear that the apostles knew with absolute certainty they were saved and they wanted their readers to know this as well (1 John 5:13).

There is another view of what Jesus meant by the expression “the will of My Father.” When Jesus spoke of doing the will of the Father to obtain Kingdom entrance, He had one act of obedience in mind: believing the Gospel. Jesus says in John 6:40,

John 6:40 (NKJV)

40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Then, in John 6:29, He tells us plainly:

John 6:29 (NKJV)

29 Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

This is the Gospel, this is doing the will of the Father. Jesus also said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:9). What was that will Jesus had to fulfill? It was to die for our sins and bring us into His New Covenant of grace. The same verse tells us, “He takes away the first (old covenant) that He may establish the second (new covenant).” So, what Jesus was saying in Matthew 7 is this: “Not all who call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ in that day are saved, but only those who fulfill My Father’s will, which is to believe in Me.” This is the will of the Father concerning eternal salvation. He is not saying that the moment you make a mistake in thought or deed He denies you and you have lost your salvation.

Yes, there is also a will of the Father concerning our way of living after we enter the Kingdom of God, but this is His will for our life on earth, which is to be lived according to the new position of holiness into which He brought us. It is not a condition to remain in the Kingdom but rather to take advantage of all the benefits of the Gospel, fulfill our God-given destiny, and make Him proud in front of people so they will give glory to God. This second will of God is revealed in 1 Thessalonians 4:3–7:

1 Thessalonians 4:3–7 (NKJV)

3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;

4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,

5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.

7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but to holiness.

So, we are to walk in holiness not so we remain saved, but because He already made us holy. He brought us into the realm of holiness. In our initial scripture, notice that our Lord Jesus says, “I never knew you.” This cannot be applied to born-again believers who have a relationship with the Lord. It refers to people who never had a personal relationship with the Lord. That is why Jesus could say to the latter group, “I never knew you.” This passage is to be used as a warning only to professors of the Christian faith, not to those who have genuinely accepted Jesus as their Lord in their lives.

You may wonder, “Then who are these people who do not belong to God and never did but still can perform miracles? Can those who do not have the Spirit cast out demons, perform miraculous healings, spectacular signs, and wonders?” As I already described in detail in the section about the ten virgins who these people might be, there are roughly two possible explanations for the ability of the ungodly to perform such acts. One is that some miracles are done by the power of Satan and his demonic host (Matthew 24:24; 2 Corinthians 11:13–15). We know Satan is very crafty. There may be times when Satan “stages” an exorcism or healing in which an unbeliever commands a demon or a sickness to leave and the demon pretends to comply to create fear in onlookers and cause them to trust in herbs, incantations, talismans, holy water, and relics rather than in God. Second, God may empower unbelievers temporarily to perform miraculous deeds because of His love for people and for His purposes. Such an example is Judas Iscariot, who, along with the other disciples, preached the Gospel and, we assume, healed the sick and performed other miracles. There is nothing to indicate that Judas didn’t have the same power as the other eleven disciples, although he was never a true disciple of Christ. He was a deceiver and the “son of perdition” (John 17:12). If Judas did perform miracles, despite the condition of Judas’s heart, it was only because God saw fit to use him for His glory.


Listen / Watch / Download

You can listen to the audio message of this article, watch the video message or download it in different formats (mp3 / mp4 / pdf) from the following link:

Session 7 – The Ten Virgins (Saved for Eternity) – November 29th, 2023

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