Matt 7:21-23

Miracles without Righteousness

The Insufficiency of the Charismata

The Narrow Gate

(Lk 13.24)

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

A Tree and Its Fruit

(Mt 12.33; Lk 6.43—45)

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Concerning Self-Deception

(Lk 6.46; 13.26—27)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

This passage in Matthew is puzzling for many people and for some a source of self condemnation and doubt. It leads many to think that there is a possibility that they might be one of those who do these things, prophesy etc, and yet in the end be declared unfit for eternal life.

I think that the answer might be relatively simple though, when we reads this passage. It’s not as bad as it looks.

The first thing to note about this passage is that it seems to be at the end of a sermon given by Jesus. This means we must also take into context what has come directly before it, as most sermons have a direction, with one point leading to another in logical sequence. Or at least that’s the idea.

Directly before this, we are warned about the narrow way. Following the will of God is the hard way, the narrow way, the road least walked. We are told that many take the road to destruction.

Directly after that, we are given an idea how to detect false prophets, which in this sense it means ‘those who share the good news’. It’s not necessarily in the sense of an oracle or future telling.

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.

They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. This indicates that on the surface they appear to be typical congregation members, teaching and preaching the truth. But underneath and evident by the way they live their lives, they are far from that.

This leads us to the practical example of these false brethren. They are able to make amazing claims; prophesy, casting out demons, deeds of power. And yet they are lacking.

There are a few things here in this passage to help us to understand. They are parallelisms or contrasts. Firstly in verse 21 there is ‘the one who says’ who contrasts ‘the one who does’. There are their words, ‘they will say to me’ contrasting Jesus words, ‘I will say to them’. Then of course there is the Lord, Lord, which is repeated twice.

This itself is very interesting as it only appears in one other place apart from this and its parallel account in Luke. This is the story of the bridesmaids in Matt 25:1-13:

25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaidsa took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.b 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaidsc got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaidsd came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

What is clear in this passage is that some of the bridesmaids appeared to be bridesmaids, but by their deeds they were shown to be not bridesmaids at all. They were not obedient to the will of the Bridegroom. The wise bridesmaids were prudent and obedient, and the foolish were not. Similarly in this passage the false brethren are not obedient at all.

The one central point of the whole passage seems to be related to obedience. Is it obedience to the Law; to Jesus’ teachings; What is obedience? What obedience Jesus is referring to, I believe, is the obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. This is the call to believe that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. Remember He is talking to the Jews here, and they know He has claimed to be the Messiah.

The Messiah is the King, the Anointed one, the one who would set God’s people free, and usher in the Kingdom of God for Humanity. This is the good news about Jesus, that He is the one whom the Law and the prophets said would some, the Messiah. Paul writes this good news that the Messiah has come, was proved by His death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven. Therefore every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord.

The false brethren have confessed. They have said called Jesus Lord. You might say that they have partaken of the Truth. Not only have they called Jesus Lord, but they have prophesied. Prophecy in Matthew can mean either speaking the truth to people, about God, and about Jesus, and it can also mean a spectacular oracle, a future prediction or some such thing.

In the context of this passage, it would seem that they have, as wolves in sheep’s clothing, probably offered future predictions which were disguised as legitimate fore-telling from God.

They have also cast out demons, and done many deeds of power. Its important to note that there are many deeds done, as that echoes Matt 24:11, where Jesus says:

11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Many false prophets will lead many astray, leading to an increase of disobedience and a falling away from God. According to the experts I was reading, these deeds are similar to the deeds done by the Disciples, and by Jesus, and which probably continued in the early Church, when this gospel was written. They were probably miraculous healings.

The phrase ‘in your name’ appears three times. They seem to be using it to affirm that it must be ok because Jesus let it happen. It happened in His name, so that’s all well and good. It teaches us one important thing, the power of Jesus name. These things, these mighty deeds, oracles of the future, and exorcisms of demons occurred despite these people being false brethren. Jesus is the King of all Creation, and the authority that His name has is far beyond anything that can be imagined.

We discussed it at home group the other day, and we talked about the fact that when someone orders something done in the name of the King, it gets done. Now, when the King finds out, and realizes the person was not really his representative at all, and did not have the right to use the authority, he would severely punish them. This is what we are being told here.

Its clear that there is no problem with the deeds themselves, the miraculous things, exorcism and prophesy. The problem appears to be reliance on these things rather than on obedience, which is believing into Christ. They have relied on the deeds and the authority of the name of Jesus, but have no entered into a relationship with God which is evidenced by good fruit, that is, a changed life. They are not representatives of God, because they don’t know God, and God, of course, knows that. They have used His good name falsely. They then are punished for that. They never did participate in the Kingdom of God.

The Lord and Judge, Jesus, knows in the sense of Election that He does not know them. Jesus tells us himself in John:

63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”


       Jesus knew from the first that is, that they were not of the Elect, and so when they come to Him, He can say He does not know them, that is, He does not know them in the sense of them being elect.

       This brings us to the point of assurance that I have found in this passage. It seems to me that there is a sense of assurance here for the listeners. There is a sense of assurance and a grave warning. The warning is fairly obvious, and usually what we pick up on, but the assurance isn’t.

       The assurance is this, and I believe it is simple. We know Jesus. We know Jesus called us. I know for myself that I didn’t just ‘choose’ to become a Christian. I know that Jesus chose me. I know that Jesus knows me in the sense that I am of the elect. I also know that my own life has completely and utterly changed from what it used to be. This might be a bit harder for those who have been Christians all their lives, but I think its generally true for most people.

       I have borrowed from Wayne Grudem 3 things that might help us have assurance that we are in fact elect.

The first is ‘ Do I have a present trust in Christ for salvation?’ Do you believe that Jesus has forgiven your sins and restored you to relationship with God? Do you still believe? Col 1: 21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciledj in his fleshly bodykthrough death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— 23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

Secondly, is there evidence of a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in your heart? Do we have a witness within us that we are God’s Children (Rom 8: 15-16)? Do we produce any or some or all of the fruits of the Spirit? (Gal 5:22) Do I strive after them? Do I struggle with them? Do I feel convicted when I don’t display them? Have I changed and produce them more?

Do I still believe the word? Do I believe and accept sound teachings about God? (1 John 2:23-24)

Do I still seek after, or feel convicted about a lack of relationship with God? We aren’t of course talking about perfection here, but a process of moving in a direction towards God, even if it seems like 1 step forward and half a dozen backwards.

Thirdly and finally, do you see a long term pattern of growth in your Christian life? Can you see any development in the things of God over time? In your ministry, fruits, relationship with God, etc?

Remember perfection is to be strived for. These questions do not demand you be perfect, but on the way. It’s a scale, and everyone is on the left of the middle point which is ‘perfection’. Some are a lot further to the left than others, but there is only one in the centre, and that is Jesus.

Hopefully this passage might be clearer, and less problematic, and I pray you go away and think about these 3 questions. Ask them of yourself. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t as good as you should be, but remember that if you are working on these things, growing in these things, struggling and wrestling with these things, then you are one of the Elect.

a Gk virgins

c Gk virgins

d Gk virgins

j Other ancient authorities read you have now been reconciled

k Gk in the body of his flesh