By Neal Griffin
Perhaps before we consider this statement we should consider its contextual setting. It is obvious that Jesus was addressing hypocrites who professed to be His followers, and not to the Pharisees who denied Him. These men to whom the remark was directed would do several things "in His name". How then could there be anything wrong in them that would evoke such a railing condemnation from the Author of salvation?
The answer is cloaked in their reply. The word, "we", exposes their attitudes. They were trusting in their own efforts and not in the blood of Jesus. Their intimacy was with their own works. They never were "in" Jesus nor He "in" them. They never credited Jesus with doing the saving work. Their trust for salvation was misplaced. They were very much as the rich young ruler of Matthew Chapter 19 and the Galatians of Galatians Chapter 5 who were about to shift their trust from grace to law-keeping. "Haven't WE done many things--"
At this juncture I would predict that when the final bell has rung there will be a very similar scenario, but perhaps with different excuses. "Didn't WE confess your name before the entire congregation and submit to baptism?" Didn't WE place membership in the right Church, faithfully attend its services, and worship according to its dictates?" WE, WE, WE. Didn't WE do-----. And again the reason for His answer will be cloaked in their reply. Again it will be bound up in the word, "we". Their emphasis will be on what THEY did, as if salvation had been their accomplishment. Their reply will expose where they put their trust. What was their grounds for claiming salvation? It was not what Jesus had done but rather what THEY had done. Therein is the lesson of Matthew 7:23, and the reply comes, "I never knew you".
"I never knew you", reaches out to all ages. In our age many there are who proudly perform religious rituals thinking that they have "somewhat of which to boast". Smugly they do their religious things and look down on all the "lost souls" who are not in their camp. They teach for doctrine the commandments of men and exclude all who do not comply. Yes, they will have done great works in the name of religion. They will have built great cathedrals. In His name they will have formed great religious organizations and hired large staffs to manage them---hiring and firing. Yes, in the name of religion they will have done many great works, but He will know the intent of their hearts and if their trust was not in Him His reply will be, "I never knew you".
May the Lord give us ears to hear and eyes to see the lesson of Matthew 7:21. Let us attribute to Him all the glory for our salvation, and not insult the Host of heaven by trying to pay Him for His free gift.
Please consider these thoughts in light of the what the Incarnate Word has said!
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