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.

  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.

  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.

  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

  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”.

  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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. This was a very interesting read for me, I think many people still have that mindset that if they do the bare minimum or put on the act or portray themselves as real believers to others then they can just skate their way into heaven unnoticed. This goes with what I talked about last week in one of my blog posts and people play church, they are holy on Sundays and put on a good show but don’t live that lifestyle Monday through Saturday. I used this very same verse that’s talked about in this post, Matthew 7:23 “And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you..” you can fool everyone around and even fool yourself into believe you are truly doing God’s work but you fool Him, you can’t pretend and act like you’re a servant because God knows and He knows your heart so even if you do certain things just because you’re told to or have to that isn’t good enough we are supposed to have hearts of servants and do things out of love. McKnight talks about the deceived, which is pretty much what I was speaking about people following themselves into believing they are doing God’s work. McKnight says that on the day of judgement false prophets will go to Jesus pleading and trying to prove to Him their works but He knows who his true followers are. Mcknight says “The will of God is far more often works of compassion” (McKnight, 268) just as I said doing things out of love not because we are toldt to or have to. You can be a follower of Jesus and not a real disciple and must be careful that the things you do are done out of love and compassion.

  11. Matthew 7:21-23 has been on my Facebook feed lately and it has been misused in so many ways. The most common that I have seen lately is that someone will show a political candidate that they disagree with and they will say they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. I don’t think that Jesus intended us to throw this verse around at people we disagree with politically. I think this does more harm to the severity of this verse than anything. This verse should wake us up to the importance of growing and developing fruit in our lives not to prove how wrong others are. Another movement in the Christian faith that has surfaced in response to those who go around pointing out everyone else’s sin is the movement of faith alone will save you so, therefore, you can go and do whatever you want to do without consequences. Romans 6:1 addresses that this is not a good way to live. Rather we should find joy in our salvation that comes through faith and strive to live in righteousness to the best of our ability.

  12. When thinking about who will be entering the kingdom of God and who will not be, it is easy to simply think- “those who follow Jesus will enter the kingdom of God, and those who do not follow Jesus will not”. However, as this text illustrates it is not that simple to understand. There are people who you might think are true followers of Jesus because of what they claim, but only God can truly be the judge and know their true hearts. Talking about fake disciples and the analogy of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” reminds me of the analogy in Revelation which says “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth”(Revelation 3:16). I think there are many people in the world like this who are somewhere in the middle. Perhaps they believe that God exists, but instead of living a life for God, they choose to live how they want to and still convince themselves that they are followers. Furthermore, there are also people who claim to be followers of Jesus but are in fact hypocrites as well. This can be difficult to distinguish, because of the fact that to most- these people would seem like true believers. However, God is the only one who will know if they are truly followers- or just putting on an act.

  13. Jesus has many enemies. None of those enemies may be as harmful or damaging as a false believer. Some people may say they are believers of Christ but then as soon as no one is watching, spit upon the very essence that is believing. These people hide amongst the believers. They blend in with the crowd pulling us away one by one slowly leading us into sin. Once they have us in their clutches, it is hard to get out. They commit the same sins that they say we should not be committing, a form of double standard that can lead to an eternal death. This temptation can be avoided though. As McKnight states on page 268, we must observe the fruits to discern between what is right and what is wrong. Using this principle can be, in itself, a way to stay away from being one of these false believers. It is hard to avoid sinning as it is, however, we must “practice what we preach.” In doing so, we may just save ourselves from being someone who says they are a follower of Jesus, but actually is not.

  14. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35, ESV). “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV). If a person really knows God, they will be love. They, just as Christ, will embody love. They will embody love as Christ did because they will truly understand the love of God that exists through His person Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice He gave of Himself for us. These false prophets, teachers, Christians, will be spotted because praise will follow them around, they do acts of service, and evangelize looking for attention and seeking adoration of people, not understanding that true reward awaits our good deeds that are seen by no one but the Father. God isn’t concerned with the extent to which we are following the law, and showing others how religious and obedient we are, he looks deeper through that facade to our hearts. As McKnight says, “First, Jesus doesn’t know them…” (McKnight, 268). If you don’t know Jesus, you haven’t experienced love, and you therefore cannot show what real love looks like to others.

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