by Carl MacAulay

What does it say?

Matthew 7:21–23 (ESV) 21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On 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 mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Matthew 7:21 (NLT) 21 “…Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”

What does it mean?

This portion of scripture is one of the most sobering passages in all of the Bible. It can be down-right intimidating. One reason for this is that the passage is coming straight from the lips of Jesus himself. Another reason is that Jesus says this sobering pronouncement “on that day” (vs 22) which is the day of Judgment (see Matthew 24:36) which means this is it. Lastly, not all, but many on that day of judgment who think they know Jesus, will hear Jesus say, I never knew you though they prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and did many mighty works. You would think, after all that, they would have a saving relationship with Jesus, but Jesus says to them “depart from me for you are workers of lawlessness.” It was lawlessness because what was done, no matter how good it may have appeared, was not the will of the Father. The tragic result was that they could not enter the kingdom of heaven,which means that the lake of fire was their eternal home.

Jesus is saying that it is not enough to make a one-time confession of faith in Him or even to go through life referring to Jesus as Lord, Lord and not do the will of His Father. Repentance is to radically change your mind or to do an “about face.” John the Baptist (Matt 3:2) adds that true repentance is to be accompanied with fruits “in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8 ESV), which is a change in behavior. If our repentance was really an about face, we are no longer walking after our own will, but after the will of the Father. Jesus modeled this radical lifestyle over and over again as He said “… not as I will but as You (Father) will (Matthew 26:39)”. To do otherwise is to follow the sin of the first Adam.


What does it mean to us?

We do not want to be fooled on this issue. It governs our eternity. Satan, this world, and our flesh will attempt to fool us by lulling us into thinking what we are doing, saying, and thinking is okay but the question is “is it the will of God for us?”  Are we constantly checking in with Father God, His word, and the Holy Spirit to know the truth that will set us free? Are we becoming more like the world in which we live or more like Jesus? Have we been around sin so much that we do not smell its stench? Are we calling what the Bible says is evil good, and what it says is good old fashion?

Working and performing for the Lord may mean nothing if it is not prompted by the right attitude and a desire to sincerely please our Lord and to strive to be in the center of His will. Like Martha, we can work for the Lord and find that all the working we do is not what He wants, but spending time with Him like Mary did is what He is after (Luke 10:38-42). It is in those moments that we get to hear and learn His voice. If we are not attentive to our relationship with the Lord and not just our working for the Lord, we could find we are far from Him and what He desires.

We cannot judge our relationship with the Lord by our own standards. Only He can tell us and does so by His word and Spirit.  Keep in mind that in the parable of the Sower and the seed, only 1 out of 4 soils was good enough to be fruitful (Mark 4). With the 10 virgins, only the 5 wise went in, but to the unwise 5 virgins the door was shut and it was said to them “I do not know you” (Matthew 25:10-12).



This passage can be very discouraging but it need not be.

  • First, Jesus is letting us know about this horror before it happens so those who want to do something about it have time to do it. – Psalm 137:23-24
  • Second, Jesus is letting us know how our obedience to the will of the Father is evidence of our faith and true repentance –  Matthew 7:21-23.
  • Third, Jesus is letting us know that true salvation is about having a personal relationship with Jesus. – Revelation 3:20 (NKJV) 20 ”Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Let’s come before the Lord and ask him to help us be honest about ourselves before Him. Let’s have Him show us our heart and where we are, even if our hearts our desperately wicked and we do not know Jesus the way He wants us to know Him and the way we need to. It is the love of God that shows us where we are and if we will listen and see what the love of God shows us we can repent from (radically change our thinking and subsequently our behavior). Where you need to repent, do repent, and in faith believe for His mercy and the full completion of the work He has started in your life. Commit to letting God do all He wants to do with you, for you, and by you. Present your desires, needs, and sins to Him. Declare these words: “though my flesh longs for things it should not have, by faith I crucify it and with my mind and my spirit. I declare I only want God’s way. Let Your will be done in my life. Help me to keep You and Your word ever before me that I will become more like you and can hear You call me Your child. I commit that whatever You show me, I will receive, accept, and act on, no matter the cost.”