Not Every Who Follows Jesus is a Real Disciple – Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus warned his followers to be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-20). In 7:21-23 Jesus takes this warning a step further: not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord, Lord” will enter into the kingdom of heaven. For example, In Matthew 25:11 the five foolish women who were not prepared to wait a long time for the bridegroom call out to the groom “Lord, Lord” when they want to enter the wedding feast.

Hypocrite SelfieThe warning is clear. People are not “right with God” and true disciples of Jesus by acknowledging that God exists or that Jesus was a good teacher or even by trying to live the words of the Sermon on the Mount (those “Red Letters”). Some people will claim to follow Jesus and do miracles in his name, ye ton the great day of God’s wrath, they will be outside the Kingdom because they were never really followers of Jesus.

“On that day” refers to a judgment prior to entering the kingdom of heaven. John Nolland suggested the phrase “on that day’ (ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ) can be a fixed eschatological expression.” The Body of Christ is judged at the judgment seat of Christ prior to this general judgment, we do not need to worry about being sent away when the kingdom comes. However, the warning is still important, at the rapture many who were thought to be Christians will not be raised to new life.

These false disciples claim to have prophesied, done miracles and cast out demons in the name of Jesus. If they were not true followers of Jesus, how did they do miracles in the name of Jesus? Lying signs and wonders are common in descriptions of the last days prior to the return of Jesus.

Jesus reverses the expectations of these reputed followers of Jesus: “I never knew you” (v. 23). Although they thought they were doing the very things that merited their inclusion in the kingdom, their deeds were actually fruitless.

This conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount is similar to the conclusion of the Olivet Discourse, the other “sermon on a mount” in Matthew’s Gospel. In Matthew 25:31-46 many will stand before the throne of the Son of Man and find out they will not enter the kingdom of heaven, but will go to “eternal punishment” (25:46), where there is darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth (25:30). The Son of Man also says to the goats “depart from me” in Matthew 25:41. In this case the dismissal is to eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  A similar phrase appears in Psalm 6:8 (LXX 6:9): “Depart from me, all you workers of evil” (ἀπόστητε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, πάντες οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν, LXX Ps 6:9).

The shocking moment for these false disciples is Jesus calling them “evil doers.” This is another phrase which turns up in the conclusion of a speech in Matthew. At the end of the Parables of the Kingdom the day of the Lord begins with God sending his angels to gather up all the causes of sin and law-breakers (τοὺς ποιοῦντας τὴν ἀνομίαν, 13:41), a similar phrase as Matthew 7:23 (οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν).

It is unlikely these false disciples were sinning as pagans, like a modern televangelist who preaches against the very sins he is committing. But their failure to uphold the whole law is shown in their treatment of the poor and needy.

The follower of Jesus must make a faith commitment, believing Jesus’s death on the cross pays for their sin and his resurrection gives them new life (2 Cor 5:17). This new life ought to natural grow and develop over time, there ought to be a maturing process similar to a child growing and developing normally. Jesus’s call to his disciples at the end of the Sermon is to “be what they are,” growing and developing fruit in their personal lives and living out their faith through concrete actions directed at people who are in genuine need.

16 thoughts on “Not Every Who Follows Jesus is a Real Disciple – Matthew 7:21-23

  1. Even the demons believe in Jesus because they have seen Him; but they don’ follow Him. In the same way, there are those who say they follow Jesus but don’t exercise their right and gifts for the Kingdom. Throughout our world there are many who pretend to follow Jesus to blend in, be comforted and receive help and prayer but don’t truly follow and believe. Sadly, this could be a self check for us to make sure that do truly believe in Jesus and aren’t just going through the motions. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the “role” and become complacent and get to comfortable. Jesus asks us to be on fire for Him and to shine our light bright. We can’t do that if we aren’t truly believing and following after Him everyday. Daily we must be striving to follow completely and believe with our whole heart — following Jesus with our whole hearts and motives. In when it comes down to it, in the end, we will reap our reward when we enter into Heaven. But for those who didn’t truly believe, they will be cast out because they were not apart of the family. Even though they did everything, went to church and prayed, because they didn’t believe and truly follow after Christ, nothing they did mattered because the intent of their heart wasn’t in the right place. Because there are those who say they follow and are a disciple, we have to keep each other accountable and make sure that every day we are following God’s will for us exactly and doing what He says, because after all, a true follower of Jesus Christ does what He says and lives by His words and we were created to follow after Jesus Christ and to bring Him glory.

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    • Good post I think it is really important where you point out how important it is to follow Jesus with all our hearts and motives. Especially where you mention where they did everything like go to church and prayed but they actually did not believe Christ that is something that stuck out in this article. Good ending a true follower of Jesus does what he says and lives by his words.

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  2. As a false believer of Jesus, How would you define this in current times? “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” The first people that comes to mind are those who uses the Lord’s name for profitable gains because they are well aware of the way people responds to the hope the Lord Jesus provides for people. Although it’s hard to really say who genuine and not so genuine, all of it will depends on how much people know their word and where they at in their faith with God. As McKnight explained in his book Sermon on the Mount, “Jesus teaches his followers observe their fruits so they can discern true from false” (McKnight, 268). Therefore, you can know if various preachers are being legit coming from God’s word or not. Benny Hinn is a big example of this. 2Pet. 2:1 but there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.2Pet. 2:2 and many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. Benny Hinn explained that “There was just one problem: We weren’t preaching the same gospel as Paul.”( Hinn, 2017) The gospel that Benny is pitching only covers the grounds and according to the Word of God that is very false.

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  3. As a false believer of Jesus, How would you define this in current times? “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” I think that as a believer its hard to not be of this world and this generation. its hard to not form to worldly things. But God says to not be of this world but instead follow him whole heartedly and “Die to self” I believe that in our generation its hard to not think about the way people will view you and that’s the biggest obstacle with being a Christian. But with that being said just claiming you are a Christian or attending church here and there wont cut it because God will say he does not know us come judgement day. To follow Jesus and be a Christian is much more than attending church but more of Doing the right things out of the love from your heart. Following Jesus should be out of Love and not of glory and all things should be done to glorify him.

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  4. I find it interesting how P. Long stated that they were not sinning like the pagans, but they were not following the entire law. I think this was difficult for me to wrap my mind around because, today, we may have one particular area where it is more difficult for us to refrain from sinning than another, so although we have not committed every sin in a day’s time we still sinned against God. But because of his grace, we are still counted righteous. I suppose where the difference comes in is where the Holy Spirit convicts us and we ask for forgiveness but we want to stop sinning. The people who were or are going to be rejected, are those who follow the law in every point but ignore the parts that they do not like or are difficult for them. McKnight points out that these people used a triple emphasis on doing things in Jesus’ name (268). These people knew how popular Jesus was becoming so they used his name to gain popularity as well. I like that you point out that how in the end times Jesus warns us that there will be people performing miracles

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  5. this is a great warning sign that we all need to be careful of. I think that a good point that you made was that some people think that they are saved because they do good things, and also because they believed that Jesus was a good teacher. these are great things to do, and believe, however they are not the thing that gets you to heaven. being a Christian is so much more than wanting to go to heaven when you die. it is about having an intimate relationship with Jesus while you are here on this earth while believing that you are a sinner and that God sent Jesus to be the ultimate atoning sacrifice, that is the way that you get to heaven. It is so sad that some people do not put their faith in Jesus that way, but it is true. McKnight says “These people, in other words, deceive themselves into thinking that they are kingdom people”.

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    • Alan, I really like the connection you made between this being a warning sign of how we are not saved by works or by believing that Jesus is a great teacher and how being a Christian is more than just wanting to go to Heaven when we die. These verses are such a great warning sign about making sure that we are not believing that good works are the way to Heaven. We have to have a relationship with Jesus and believe that He died for our sins as the ultimate sacrifice. Something that is hard for me to think about is how people who are good people and believe that good works will get them into Heaven are just, “deceiving themselves into thinking that they are kingdom people” (McKnight). It is important for us as believers to spread the good news of how to get into Heaven and to make sure that people are forming and maintaining positive and meaningful relationships with Jesus.

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  6. ….. who are false disciples. Because this is prophesied, although it may seem impossible, we should expect that there are going to be people who perform miracles in Jesus name, and that is why they are able to do so. This should be a warning for us today as we do not want to follow false disciples.

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  7. I think that one important point that Jesus made in this section, and that P. Long pointed out was that they failed to uphold the whole law. They instead follow bits and pieces of the law but not the full thing. They think that they will get to heaven and spend eternity with Jesus, but in reality, they cannot. They will spend eternity in punishment. Jesus is very specific when he states that not everyone who calls upon him saying “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). This is actually something that is kind of scary to think about. We have to live with a faith so strong and so reliant on the works of the Lord in order for us to spend eternity with him. McKnight even states that “what is required to enter the kingdom is doing God’s will” (p.268). We have to be willing to give up our own will and to follow after the will of God, and then we will be able to spend eternity with him.

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    • I liked your comment about what McKnight says about the requirements to enter the kingdom of God, which his “doing God’s will” (p. 268). It’s interesting to think about how people that are fake followers of Christ will be called out by God himself in the end. I also like the idea of God’s intentions when he says we are either all in or all out. He dislikes the in-between areas and he is clear about it.

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  8. We know that evil surrounds us. It should not come as a surprise that there will be false prophets, teachings, ideas, etc. and those who are warping the Truth. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 says, “for the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Something that comes to my mind that is extremely relevant today is this idea of “Love is Love.” Some churches embrace this and others don’t. When you look this phrase up online, it says on Urban Dictionary that “love is not about the sex or gender of a person… so as long as you’re getting the love and affection that you need to be happy in love then it doesn’t matter what gender is loving you.” From a biblical standpoint, we absolutely know this is false teaching. So how do we approach this perspective? How do we talk with another individual who believes this false teaching to be true? As hard as it may be, we have to stop and ask ourselves, who is the Judge? Sin distorts our vision and gives us this sense that we have the authority to judge another or speak poorly of others. This is so false and so far from how Jesus calls us to model Truth. Jesus tells us in Luke 6:27-28 to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those you curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” I would add to this that we must also love those who we may not agree with or who lead a different lifestyle than our own. However, that does not mean that we do not stay on our guard to protect, defend, and confirm the gospel. We must stand up for what we know is true, but doing so with a humble heart and pure motives to preserve the gospel. McKnight states that we can see the character of an individual through the fruit they produce (270). Are we aligning our hearts with what God wants or what we want? Are we bearing good fruit or are we selfish in our motives? A huge part of discerning what is false in our world is by intentionally pursuing God and knowing what His word says is true.

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  9. I was finding intrusting when you were talking about how it is not simply enough just to believe that Jesus was a good teacher, and believe that he is even God, even the demons believe that God exists. it is not simply enough to belive all of this. you need to believe that Jesus was sent to earth to die for your sins, and He is the full atoning sacrifice for our sins. another thing that you mentioned that I thought to be interesting is that these people were not sinning pagans that Jesus was talking about, but rather people that just were sinning in a few areas of there life. I think that this is the case for us today, a few of us claim to be good and awesome Christian people, but we struggle in certain areas of sin in our life I think that Jesus is making the point here that we are all sinners even if we keep all of the law and just break one of them it is the same as breaking them all, and that is why we need the altimint atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

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  10. I believe in the world we live in today and even the churches we go to today that there are many false disciples. The article here presents a lot of solid materiel on false disciples that I could talk about for a long time. However, the article brings up the point that a lot of these disciples had done great things for God, or so they thought. They would drive demons out, or even do miracles. God knew their hearts and then had said, I never knew you. This is HUGE. And SCARY. If we are to evaluate our lives, how many of us can relate? We think we are doing the best, yet we are all nervous that we might miss the point. But with that last statement that I had said, we must check ourselves and make sure that we believe in the core beliefs of Jesus and what makes us Christians. People who are indeed false believers, might not even believe in all of these which is most likely the problem. This is by far the biggest warning sign that we will ever receive, and it should make us a little nervous.

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  11. My pastor told me awhile back that you can tell who the real Christians are by how they act on Monday. True followers of God are suppose to be the same person at home and work or wherever else they are, as they would at church on Sunday. That’s what I think Jesus was teaching about, the people who claim to be Christian but you would never tell it by the way they acted. I am by no means a perfect example of what a Christian should be, but I know what the bible says and try to live as biblically based as I possibly can. “Thus, you can tell the true charismatically gifted leader from the false by their fruit (obedience to Jesus) (McKnight pg. 270).” I would agree with this statement. A true follower of Jesus would know and obey what the bible has to say.

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  12. This is a tough one because it raises a lot of questions internally and externally, but in a good way. Just like it has been stated before throughout the class, when Jesus came and clarified what each law actually meant, it was because people were doing the bare minimum that was necessary to be classified as following or abiding in the law. For people today who claim to be a Christian, I think it kind of comes down to that. I accepted Christ when I was a junior in high school. While I was excited about this, I always did the bare minimum that was needed of me so that I could look at myself in the mirror and say that I was a good Christian. In that point in time, I do not believe that I actually knew Jesus. I was just trying to earn love and salvation by my actions and reputation. I think that the world has this skewed view of salvation. It’s like people see it as a bicycle wheel or something close in resemblance to that. The world, including people who claim to know the Lord, often times think that all of these different things and ways lead to salvation just as all the spokes on a bicycle wheel lead to the center point of the wheel. None of those ways means that we actually know Jesus. This leaves room to get off track and become the very person that was addressed in this blog. It’s incredibly sad to think that there will be people that we thought we would see one day in eternity, not there. This is also incredibly sobering.

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