(Continued from The Remnant, November-December, 1996)
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 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? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7.21-23)."
In our introduction to this subject we pointed out how that these words of our Lord, when applied to the understanding by the Holy Spirit, were sufficient to stagger our entire frame. The message is clear and positive; not every one that entertains a prospect of heaven will be there at the last. Especially will those that base their hope of heaven on supposed good works be disappointed. "Not every one" clearly distinguishes between those that shall, and those that shall not, enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus destroyed every vestige of claim that workers of iniquity may possibly imagine they have for heaven with the words contained in this text. But someone might feel these sober words apply only to the wicked, that the saints, washed in the blood of the Lamb, need not be bothered or alarmed. True enough; what was said applied to the reprobates, yet the awful prospect of self-delusion is at least one of the things that come to mind when musing on the words our Lord spoke. "Not every one!" Solemn indeed!
Unthinkable as it may be, some shall find that boasting "Lord, Lord" and claiming union with the Lord, will result in the solemn denunciation, "I never knew you." For ourselves, it strikes fear into our soul. Could we perhaps, be among those whom the Lord denounced? Are we resting our claim to eternal felicity on any of the false claims the Lord denounced? In musing over these possibilities, we are led to inquire "Lord, is it I?"
We mention concerning this text that there is an error of interpretation sometimes proposed as being the sense of the Lord's words. It is not promoted widely, so we give it only brief recognition. It is the notion that the expression here, kingdom of heaven, means the church. But there is not a single word in the context that would support the idea. He would build His church with far better material than workers of iniquity. Each would be called lively stones, not workers of iniquity. When He used the expression, kingdom of heaven, there is little doubt He spoke of all those that profess His name, both the true and the false. While the view that the kingdom of heaven means the church may have its sincere defenders, we believe they cannot find support for such a view in the Word of God. The Lord's design in the text is far more wide reaching than supposed by those that feel He meant the church.
The workers' profession
"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?"
The manner which the workers spoke reeked with self-satisfaction: "Lord, Lord!" It was unthinkable to those workers of iniquity that their credentials would fail to favorably impress Him Whom they addressed with lofty tones of "Lord, Lord." However, the unthinkable would seize their attention shortly.
Their haughty claim of a coalition with Christ consisted of what they perceived as very noble endeavors. Those endeavors were, in order, 1) prophesying; 2) casting out devils; and 3) many wonderful works; all this in the Name of the Lord, no less. These boasts were not made by a minor fringe group of religionists; there were many that so argued their case before the Lord. "Many will say to me in at day..." What seems so striking about this whole episode is, the things this many claimed they had done in the name of the Lord were things that were elsewhere in the Bible approved by the Lord.
First, our Lord Himself had given the gift of prophesy to His disciples, as recorded in I Corinthians 12.10 and Ephesians 4.11. Centuries prior to the establishment of the church there were many prophets God had sent to His children, Israel. Clearly, then, the Lord is not here condemning the gift of prophesy and its use.
Second, the disciples were sent out early in the ministry of Jesus to labor among the lost sheep of the house of Israel. "And as ye go, preach, saying The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give (Matthew 10.7, 8ff)." That the disciples did indeed exercise power over devils is beyond reasonable dispute. "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name (Luke 10.17)." When the seventy thus proclaimed to the Lord this power they employed over devils, He provided them at least a hint of warning similar to that found in our text at the heading. "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven (Luke 10.20)." Whatever power the disciples exercised over foul spirits would be of no use to them in that final day; all that would matter then was, were their names written in heaven? If their names had been recorded in the book of life, it was before the world began, and thus they had been forever known by the Lord.
Third, it is manifestly clear from the New Testament that works - at least good works - are an integral part of the life of believers. "In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works; in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity (Titus 2.7)." "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2.14)." "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men (Titus 3.8)." "And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful (Titus 3.14)." These texts, along with countless others, should satisfy the honest soul that good works are surely ordained, and thus honored by the Lord. In fact, the Scriptures instruct us that good works are imperative, since ordained. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2.10)." Since God has ordained good works, it must be concluded that they are a necessary portion of that which shall positively be fulfilled by His children. Lest, however, anyone is drugged with the popular Arminian notions so prevalent now days, we offer this additional text from the book of Titus: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3.5)." Hopefully this will rid the air of the noxious fumes created by the works for salvation doctrine.
Even though the workers of iniquity practiced the same things the Lord commanded His disciples (and later all the church), still they were condemned. Their deeds were not honored by the Master. Rather, their deeds were repudiated as false. Unthinkable as it was, these Arminians were commanded to depart from the company of the Lord; the very Lord Whom they sought to impress with their works.
The Lord's profession against the workers
"And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
The workers of iniquity were given liberty to make claims before the throne of righteousness; then the final, dreadful words on the matter would jolt them from their sand foundation. The blessed Lord left this solemn business of condemnation to no one else; He addressed those poor blind Arminians Himself. The Bible does not reveal just how they reacted to this startling intelligence they received from Him; however, it must have shaken them violently.
"I never knew you!" Unthinkable! Unthinkable! Those proud religionists had come before Jesus, cloaked in the finest garments false religion could fabricate, yet the Lord disowned them with "I never knew you." All their pomp, their pious claims, their air of sanctity; none of this could stay the Lord's stern charge. They were to Him as if they had never existed. Our Lord's limitless wisdom and prescience of all things is not in question here. It was His intimate personal knowledge and love that did not extend to these wretched miscreants.
"Depart from me." Mark! These words come from the meek and lowly Lamb of God. How different He appeared from the distorted idea that fleshly religion paints of Him. Unthinkable as it may be to deluded free-willers, the Lord shall certainly denounce all whose petitions for heaven rest on what they have done. All the "Lord, Lord" bellowing shall avail the non-elect nothing. When the Lord sits in judgment, when the sheep and goats are separated, then will the workers of iniquity hear distinctly the voice of the Son of God. Having never heard it in their hearts, they shall hear it in thundering tones in their conscience. "Depart from me!" Then shall the false doctrine of universalism be exposed for the fraud it is. Multitudes that sought refuge in creature efforts will be stripped of all hope and ordered to depart. "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25.30)."
The Father's will
If crying "Lord, Lord" cannot gain a petitioner entrance into the kingdom of heaven then how may one enter? Jesus said "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Plainly, neither doing the deeds held so sacred by the workers of iniquity, nor their lofty cries of "Lord, Lord" could usher them into the kingdom of heaven; it required doing the will of the Father. If then, they could not enter the kingdom with such highly esteemed deeds, how should we now expect to enter? What could be the will of God if those good things the workers of iniquity embraced were not? Well, the Lord did plainly say, "But he that doeth the will of my Father," so the Father does, without question, will for some to enter the kingdom by a way other than what the workers of iniquity thought.
As we have previously seen, it is not by works of righteousness any are saved. We see also that "Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2.9)." Paul wrote the Ephesians that salvation was by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. This matter even became so narrow with Paul he lamented to the Romans that, "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do (Romans 7.19)." So then, what can be the intent of our Lord's words, "but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven"? Can we possibly do that which Paul could not do? Dare we hope to enter the kingdom of heaven if those that prophesied in His name, cast out devils in His name, and in His name did many wonderful works could not? They were denounced as workers of iniquity. Yes, we can have hope. But that hope rests not in ourselves or our doing. It rests in the will of God being accomplished for us by another, even Jesus our Lord. It is called imputed righteousness.
It is to us amazing that so many religionists claim to believe in the imputed righteousness of Christ, yet also contend we must "do something" to please God, above and beyond that perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to us. We humbly ask: can God be more pleased with us after imputed righteousness than when we first stood complete in Jesus? It is a certainty, the Father either is, or is not, satisfied with what Jesus did for the elect. If He is satisfied with what Jesus did then certainly we cannot do anything to make Him more satisfied than He presently is. If He is not satisfied with us, then we must fall in rank with those miserable characters, the workers of iniquity.
Of this one thing we may be sure: if we serve our Lord in good works, or obey in any fashion, it must be the working of the Holy Spirit within us. This is just what is meant by the apostle when he wrote, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2.13)." It is not us working in ourselves; it is God working in us. That truth will stand when the last Arminian has been silenced in outer darkness.
The Lord clearly enunciated the will of his Father with the following: "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6.38-40)." Is God's will plainly spelled out in those few words or not? God wills that all He has given His Son will see Him and will believe on Him. Sinners do not possess in nature the power to see and believe on Jesus. If God's will is accomplished, according to the words of this text, it must be accomplished by Jesus in behalf of the sinner. All praise is due Him Who loved us, gave Himself for us, and washed us in His own blood.
First, last, and always, Jesus is the fulfiller of the will of the Father for the elect. It must be in that sense we understand the Lord when He said "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." So Paul understood the matter when he wrote "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man (Romans 7.22)." "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin (Romans 7.25)." What mind was it of which Paul spoke? It was the mind he spoke of to the Corinthians. "We have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2.16)."
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25.1)." We offer a few comments here upon the ten virgins for three reason, though there are more. First, the period of time covered was future as may be seen by the "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto...." This corresponds to the "in that day..." portion of our text in Matthew 7.22. Second, the subject is the same kingdom of heaven as found in our text. Third, there were those among the ten virgins that employed the same pitiful, "Lord, Lord" used by the workers of iniquity in Matthew 7. The similarities are too great to be ignored.
The midnight cry was heard: "Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him." The five foolish virgins sought oil, for their lamp of profession had gone out. Ever swayed by their Arminian temperament, they went out to buy, no doubt from the many religious hucksters who had swindled them originally. Upon returning empty yet, they found the door was shut against them. Their appeal? "Lord, Lord!" The answer from within? I know you not! The unthinkable had swiftly doomed them. It was the voice of the Son of God. He rejected them, and that without end. How could this be? None of the foolish virgins would have ever dreamed, not in their wildest imaginations, that this unthinkable action could befall them. Why could they not enter with the other five? For the best of all reasons. It was the same reason for which the workers of iniquity could not be accepted. They sought to enter on the basis of their supposed grand endeavors. But fleshly works had no place in the presence of the Lord of glory, then or now.
There may be the appearance of contradiction here with the ten virgins and what is recorded in the latter verses of Matthew 25. There, the Lord described the separation of the sheep and goats. There is no contradiction, however. Jesus bid the sheep on His right hand, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25.34)." Startled, they responded with seeming consternation. They were totally unaware they had done those things for which He commended them. "When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee (Matthew 25.38,39)." Of one thing we may be certain. The sheep were not attempting to curry favor with the Lord by boasting what great things they had done. The Lord then graciously explained to them the deeds in which they were accepted. "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25.40)." The sheep had no idea that their loving attention to fellow believers was the same as attending to the need of the Lord Himself, had He been in need. This mystery of the union of Christ and His sheep is one Arminians can never comprehend. Neither could the sheep, except by grace.
The sheep were secured. Then the unthinkable sentence was passed on the goats. "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not (Matthew 25.41-43)." Their answer was much like that of the sheep, except they were unaware they had ever had the opportunity to do service to the Lord, whereas the sheep had served the Lord and yet knew it not. "Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee (Matthew 25.44)?"
There were two great companies. On the right hand of the throne were the sheep; on the left hand were the goats. Who made them to differ? He, Who gave them existence, made them to differ. The sheep were born sheep; they lived as sheep, and they finished their course as sheep. The goats were born goats; they lived as goats; they heard the unthinkable doom pronounced on them as goats. The sheep were blessed. "Come ye blessed of my Father." The goats were cursed. "Depart from me, ye cursed." The sheep entered a kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The goats departed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (Matthew 25.46)." This brings us back to a previous position regarding the sheep. They were righteous because the righteousness of Christ was imputed unto them. Thus, when they waited on those least disciples our Lord mentioned they were in reality waiting on the Lord. When the goats spurned the least disciple, they in reality spurned the Lord our Righteousness. We may fairly say then that the doing of the sheep or the goats was but so much evidence of their natures with which they were born, lived and died.
To return to our text in Matthew 7.21-23, we see that when Jesus ended all these sayings, "the people were astonished at his doctrine." To those with no eye to see nor an ear to hear these astonishing things, they were unthinkable.
J. F. Poole
Volume 11, No. 4