In this series we’ve been looking at the closing of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7. Jesus has been teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven; who is who in it, how we should live in it and how to get into it. We have looked at His warning about self righteousness, how we should ask, seek and knock, the narrow and wide paths, and how we should watch out for false prophets. Today I want to look at the next teaching in this section.
Here is the whole section for some context
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“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 who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
This final paragraph is in a sense a summation of the first two. Jesus has said that we need to strive for the narrow path. He says not everyone will enter it and in fact most don’t. He then calls out the false prophets – those promising life outside of His teachings even if they say they come in His name or promise similar things. Here in the final paragraph He is reiterating that not everyone who thinks they’re in or who profess to be following Him will be in.
This is kind of a scary warning if we’re honest. “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 who is in heaven.”
Now of course how we get around personally grappling with this is to think of all the people besides us that we think fit this category. We especially like to think of the particular false prophets that we like the least. But I somehow doubt that was what Jesus wants us to focus on.
First of all, He’s already warned us about self righteousness judgment. It is not our job to presume or pronounce who is in and who isn’t. It is our job as we saw to point out truth in love. But at the end of the day we are not the judge.
But you know what? We are also not the judge of ourselves. We don’t get to presume that we are on the narrow path in a particular moment and we for sure don’t get to presume that we have earned our way in on our own power. Saying “Lord, Lord” is not the same as allowing Him to be Lord and therefore doing what He says.
Our job is do His will. So what is His will? His will starts and ends with staking our life on Jesus and striving to enter through the narrow gate. The first work we must do is internal. And it is work. Jesus calls it work. In John 6:29 He says that the work of God is to believe (stake everything) on Him. We can’t do His will without this work. It’s impossible. It is through our submission to Him that we can with His help submit to His path.
The first command is to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind and will. Love is not a feeling. Certainly we can feel love in many cases, but the love that Jesus teaches about is not about feelings. Love is a choice and requires action. You can’t command a feeling. You can, and Jesus is, commanding a choice and action. Love is work.
So we need to do the work of loving and submitting to Jesus. In order to love someone we have to get to know them. The more we love them the better we know them. And the more they know us. This would be my take on why Jesus says “I never knew you.” Because that person didn’t do the work of loving Jesus. Again, not feeling love for Jesus, but actually loving and obeying Him and His teachings.
The way into the narrow gate is Jesus. Giving our lives to Him initially gets us in the gate. Continuing to do the work of God keeps us on the narrow path.