Matthew 7:21–23: Knowing the Lord
If we have listened to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount with half-hearted disinterest, Jesus now makes the weightiness of his words abundantly clear. He has not been teaching merely pious advice that we may evaluate for ourselves, to accept or to reject at our pleasure. Rather, Jesus has been teaching us exactly how we will be evaluated on the last day. Furthermore, he here reveals the reason that he can make such pronouncements: because he himself will be the Lord, the Judge of all the living and the death. As Jesus begins to close this great Sermon, he impresses upon us a crucial point that we must consider if we are to be saved: neither words nor works can atone for your lawlessness.
1. How does Jesus contrast the “sayers” and the “doers” in v. 21? Why does Jesus say that calling him “Lord, Lord” will not be sufficient for salvation on the last day? How does doing the Father’s will relate to the fruit that Jesus exhorted us to produce in Matthew 7:16–20? How do those who say “Lord, Lord” without doing the Father’s will relate to the false prophets that Jesus warned us about in Matthew. 7:15?
2. If Jesus tells us in v. 21 that doing the Father’s will is essential for salvation, why does Jesus reject those who do great deeds in his name in vv. 22–23? Why are good works insufficient for our salvation? Why are we so tempted to believe that words are magical, and that works are meritorious for our salvation? Why does Jesus say that our words and works are actually powerless to save, regardless of how impressive they may be?
3. What does Jesus mean when he says, “I never knew you” (v. 23)? What does it mean for Jesus to “know” us in the way he speaks about there? How can you know whether Jesus knows you? Why does Jesus describe those who do such great miracles as “workers of lawlessness” (v. 23)? What is lawlessness? Why does lawlessness have such a powerful, condemning role so as to outweigh the best of our words and works?
4. In what ways are you tempted to trust in your words for salvation? How might you be tempted to trust in your confession of faith more than you trust in Jesus, whom you confess? In what ways are you tempted to trust in your works for salvation? What is the difference between seeing our words and works as the roots of our salvation, and as the fruits of our salvation? At the end of the day, what are you leaning on for your salvation?