“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we force out demons and do many miracles by the power and authority of your name?’ Then I will tell them publicly, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.’ Matthew 7:21-23

The Matthew 7 text has the potential to be one of the scariest, most intimidating teachings Jesus ever uttered, reflecting the reality that it is possible to appear to be practicing in the power of religion, while simultaneously on a road to utter and ultimate rejection by Jesus.

This eternal conflict between what appears and what is was on Paul’s mind in part of his instruction to Timothy.

You must understand this: In the last days there will be violent periods of time. 2 People will be selfish and love money. They will brag, be arrogant, and use abusive language…  …They will be traitors. They will be reckless and conceited. They will love pleasure rather than God. They will appear to have a godly life, but they will not let its power change them. Stay away from such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-2, 4-5 (emphasis added)

In Matthew 7:23, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter and reason for his rejection: “I’ve never known you.”

The Greek word used in that key phrase for “known” is ginosko, a word that carries with it much more than our word “knowledge.” It really means, to come to know, to become deeply connected. One commentator called it one of the most intimate words Jesus ever used while on earth. The implication results in this paraphrase of the text.

“Then I will tell them publicly, we weren’t friends.”

The text can be intimidating, obviously, because we don’t want to be ones who do religious works only to experience such heartbreaking rejection in the end.

Yet, we need not be intimidated at Jesus’ words. The Lord’s warning appears in the text so as believers we can be alert, pursue Christ and, through faith, be His friend. Indeed, in the Matthew 7 text, there is detailed instruction for response (7:5, 7, 12, 21b, 24).

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