"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)
A recent internet commentator had this to say about the preceding passage taken from the Lord's sermon on the mount:
"Those folks who cried, 'Lord, Lord' had faith in God's grace and they got bupkis. They got nothing because they... did not live transformed lives." (anonymous)This interpretation is riddled with interpretive problems, IMO. Let's quickly look at five of them:
- First, the claim that "those folks... had faith in God's grace" is categorically false. Any sober reading of their testimony reveals that they make absolutely no appeal whatsoever to the grace of God as a foundation for their eternal standing. Their appeal is made solely on the basis of what they regard as their "many wonderful works." These people are shocked and appalled that the Lord would reject their works which they proffer as the very basis of their justification. There is no reference to the grace of Christ in their defense at all.
- Second, the spiritual capacity of faith is a fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22). Any man who has the spiritual capacity of faith is one who has therefore passed from death unto life by the quickening power of God. He has been given eternal life and shall never perish (John 10:28). The condemnation of the "Lord Lord" Crowd is ironclad affirmation that these people did not have the God-given, spiritual capacity of faith.
- Third, the idea that one gets "nothing" because one does not live a transformed life is a denial of the finished work of Christ on behalf of his covenant people. The bible's testimony is that the "obedience of one" made God's people righteous - the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ plus nothing else (Romans 5:19). If "living a transformed life" is required in order to obtain eternal life, then it took more than the obedience of Christ to make us righteous - and that teaching is an abomination. Moreover, to suggest that adding a "transformed life" was required for eternal salvation is to double-down on the "many wonderful" works that proved incapable of procuring God's favor (Romans 3:20).
- Fourth, living a "transformed life" is undeniably a function of the human will in some respect. Who lives an utterly transformed life while in a state of abject unwillingness to do so? Because living a "transformed life" is a function of the will, it is therefore excluded from having any involvement in the work that brought God's people eternal salvation by the apostle Paul who taught, "it (salvation) is not of him that willeth." (Romans 9:16)
- Fifth, nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). The Lord Lord Crowd is consigned to eternal hell by the Lord's own testimony. It follows that they have the wrath of God abiding upon them. Such wrath is not the result of the everlasting love of God established by covenant from before the foundation of the world that is ordered in all things and sure (II Samuel 23:5). Stated very plainly, those in the "Lord, Lord" crowd were NOT God's people.
The Lord Lord Crowd of Matthew 7:21-23 did not have faith in the grace of Christ, but rather found a false refuge of carnal confidence in their own deeds which they regarded as justifyingly righteous. Such deeds are little more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and vanity (Psalm 39:5) unless they are covered by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:14). Those who look to what THEY do as a basis of their justification before God are seeking some manner of righteousness by the law - and "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight." (Romans 3:20)