QUESTION: Where does Jesus tell some to depart from Him?
ANSWER: Matthew 7:2–23 Jesus said: “21 Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”
This is one of the passages where Jesus tells some to depart from Him. It is also one of the most misunderstood passages in the New Testament. The sad part of this misunderstanding is mostly by good Christians, sensitive to our own weaknesses and failures.
It is often used incorrectly to promote a bondage of fear in believers which is detrimental to true growth in grace. It’s ironic Calvinistic and Lordship Salvation teachers often resort to this passage to promote their views, since these people have works, call Jesus Lord, and yet are rejected! Confession of Jesus as Lord and doing works for Him…such is THE criteria for being a “real deal” Christian in the eyes of all who believe salvation must be accompanied by works or it is not valid.
So let’s look at this passage, not only in it’s immediate context but also in the context of verses dealing with salvation.
Let us note these here rejected first correctly call Jesus “Lord” and then tell Him of all their wonderful works done in His name. We may assume they are not lying about these works, since they are consciously talking to the Lord. However, He points out they have “not done the will of the Father”.
Here’s where we need to ask Scripture; “What IS the will of the Father?” The answer is more complex than most realize but number one is the will of the Father for unsaved, sinful people:
John 6:40: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
For those who first are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, there will be additional expressions of the will of God for us. However, you must believe in Jesus as your own Savior, before you can serve Him. Only the sinless blood of Jesus could ever wash away our sin in the eyes of our Holy God. Faith in Him in this way causes us to be born-again and thus able to know and be known by God.
“In my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling. Let the water and the blood which from Your wounded side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure.” (Rock of Ages by Augustus Toplady)
Salvation is a free gift to believing sinners from the One who paid to make eternal life free to the weakest of believers. Notice these rejected ones are telling Christ of everything they have done for Him? This is because they are relying on their own works to save them! And since they are trusting in this self effort to save them, it follows they are preaching this same disastrous religion to others…in Christ’s name! This is why Jesus calls them “workers of iniquity”!
What are you trusting…better yet…WHO are you trusting for salvation?
Jesus taught the right way to be saved to all people.
John 6:28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”