Matthew 7:21-23 – “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. 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?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (NKJV)
This is one of the most disturbing verses in all of Scripture in my opinion.
I have often read it and pictured myself standing in front of the Lord saying, “did I not go to church?”; “did I not study my Bible?”; “did not I even write a daily Bible devotional?”; “didn’t I do a lot of works for you?”. And it terrifies me to picture the Lord looking down at me with unknowing eyes and saying, “who are you? I don’t know you. Go away and don’t come back.”
Now many today would call those kinds of thoughts “doubting” or a lack of faith. After all, I’ve prayed a prayer of repentance, I’ve been baptized, I attend church, and I’ve done all the right things that Christians should do. So shouldn’t I just pass over this verse and assume that is meant for other people? Does the Lord’s warning have meaning for every Christian, or just those who have a shallow commitment? Or maybe just the blatant hypocrite?
I believe the first and primary application of these verses is obviously to teach us that our good works will not save us. It doesn’t matter if we cast out demons, or do miracles, or go to the right church, or say the sinner’s prayer, or be baptized… if we believe that these things save us rather than the atoning death of Jesus Christ, we will be lost. No amount of good works or deeds will merit us one single day in heaven.
There is nothing more sad than to see a person sacrifice their entire life in service to God or mankind when you know that they think they are trying to earn their way to heaven. Their end is no better than the most vile and wicked person. Yet to try and tell them that alot of times is fruitless because they are convinced that a “loving God” would never condemn such a “good” person.
What application do these verses have for those who know that works cannot save you? Is there an application for Christians who know and have responded to the true Gospel and don’t necessarily doubt their salvation? I think there are many. First, these verses force us not to take our salvation for granted. They cause us to re-examine our faith and to make sure that our motivation for serving God is on His terms and not ours.
Philippians 2:12 – Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (NKJV)
What does it mean to work out your salvation with fear and trembling? We know without a doubt from other Scripture that this does not mean that you can earn salvation by works. Among other things, it is one of the many Scriptural admonitions for us to never take our salvation for granted, and to routinely examine our lives and search our hearts to make sure that we’re doing things God’s Way.
Now let me stop for a moment and answer the obvious question that will arise at this point. No, I’m not saying that we should live a life constantly doubting our salvation. Do I believe that a Christian can be 100% sure of their salvation? Yes, read the book of 1st John. I also don’t believe that we have to wait until Judgment Day and “hope for the best”. Hopelessness is not a characteristic of true saving faith. But diligence and self-examination in light of God’s Word is.
However, even though we are not to live a life of constant “salvation doubt”, the Bible clearly teaches is that there is no such thing as “Easy Believe-ism”.
It is to our detriment that we have packaged the Gospel in such a way
that we get a lot of people to say “yes”, to walk the aisle, to say the sinner’s prayer,
and to get baptized considering their salvation to be a “done deal”
and move on to the next victim, uh, I mean convert.
Matthew 7:21-23 encourages us to not take our salvation for granted and to examine our motivation for serving Jesus. Another application of these verses is for us to examine the “works” in our life and make sure that each of them are done for the proper reasons, i.e. for God’s glory.
It is profitable for us to diligently examine and discern our true intentions and motivations for those things we do “in Jesus name”. God has promised us through His Word that he will reveal to us whether our motives are pure or self-serving.
Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (NKJV)
Often times, because of these verses in Matthew, I am asked by readers if there are practical ways that we can examine our life to see if our works, behavior and attitudes reflect true salvation. So I want to begin a series on the evidence of true salvation.
I want to look at the things that are the evidence, or fruit, of authentic salvation; and also examine those things that are often mistaken as the fruit of salvation but in reality may or may not be. It is good for us to know these things so that we can live in assurance that we will never hear those dreadful words “depart from me I never knew you”.
In each part of this series, we will look at one characteristic of the Christian life that, when present, is a solid testimony to the authenticity of one’s salvation. We will also look at one evidence that can be present in a Christians life, that may or may not denote true saving faith.
Tomorrow we will look at obedience and morality.
Father, we thank You that You have revealed the truth to us so that we will never have to hear the those terrifying words, “depart from me”. Help us to examine our hearts and lives and work out our salvation with fear and trembling. In Jesus name we ask, Amen.
Contemplation: Have these verses in Matthew ever caused you to wonder about your salvation? Why do you think the Lord left us with such a harsh verse? Do you consider your salvation secure based on the fact that you have done the right steps, or said a prayer, or been baptized? On what do you base your assurance of salvation? Does your life have evidence of true salvation?
Application: This series will require you to look past the surface with me. This is not a series of lessons on the “steps of salvation”, or whether or not Baptism or the “Sinners Prayer” is the moment of salvation. God has given us in His Word some practical and tangible ways to examine and measure the authenticity of our salvation, but like most things Godly, it takes some effort to discover them. But the effort is well worth the pay-off in assurance.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?