Is it possible for someone to think that they are a Christian but in actuality not be one? For someone to believe that they are saved but be just as lost as the atheist next door? According to the Bible it is quite possible for someone to profess Christ without truly possessing Christ or to play church without really being a part of the church. After all, Jesus Himself said that: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ ” (Matthew 7:21-23).
While there are those who profess Christ as their “Lord” who are genuinely saved, Jesus shows that “not everyone” who does really is. The group of which He speaks both professed His name and even had works they had done which they could report. They bring up the facts that they prophesied, casted out demons, and performed many miracles. They emphasize that they did all of this in Jesus’ name. In fact, these were the same works that His closest disciples did during His earthly ministry. However, notice Jesus’ response. He says that “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Jesus states that He never knew these ones in spite of their profession and works. This group may have been baptized, had their name on the role of a church membership roster, and even had served in some office. Yet Jesus says that none of that guarantees their entrance into heaven nor will He recognize them on account of it.
Now when Jesus states that He does not “know” this group, He does not mean that He didn’t know of the existence of these people. Jesus knows everyone and everything. John tells us that Jesus “knew all men” and that “He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). As God in the flesh, Jesus is omniscient, meaning that He has “all knowledge.” Rather, the idea is that He does not acknowledge them. He does not have a positive intimate relationship with them. I have heard it said before that perhaps the question we need to be asking ourselves is not whether we know Jesus but does He know us. This group that Jesus talks about thought they knew Him to find out that He didn’t know them.
So, why is it that Jesus does not acknowledge this group? Why does He not count their profession and service to their credit? Simply because they do not do the will of God the Father. It is only “he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” that Jesus says will enter the kingdom of heaven. Their mere profession is not enough. The works mean nothing if they are not done in obedience to Christ. This is because a true profession is proved by a proper practice. Scripture is clear that a connection exists between a genuine believer who has repented of their sins and placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation and their living a life in the direction of obedience to Christ’s commands. Jesus had just mentioned earlier how a false teacher can be known by his fruit or actions (Matthew 7:17-128); He says that those who continue to walk in obedience to His word prove to be true disciples of His (John 8:31); and Paul reminds Timothy that “the Lord knows those who are His,’ and “everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness” (2 Timothy 2:19). True faith in Christ that saves is demonstrated by a life that seeks to be obedient to God’s will. In fact, if there is a consistent lack of concern of being obedient to Christ with the motive to glorify God (not to earn salvation as that is a gift to those who look to Christ alone for that) and a constant wayward attitude towards sin in their practice, then their very profession of faith in Christ may be called into question. Their profession then would prove to be nothing more than empty words with their actions just going through the motions.
What Jesus finally says to this group is horrifying. On the day of judgment, “that day,” He will declare to them “depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” They are to “depart” from Him for all eternity. Since they never truly belonged to Him through faith, they will spend eternity forever without Him. The “practicing lawlessness” indicates a consistent working of lawlessness in one’s life; not the case of occasional moments of disobedience to God’s will but of ongoing disobedience (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:5).
If one has been born again and placed their faith in Christ, then there should be evidence of it in their desire to be obedient to God’s will. (They will not be perfect at it but their life should be directed at walking in obedience.) Does your life point to an empty profession of Christ? Do you desire to be obedient to Christ or could you care less about your sins? Those who come to Christ through faith alone will want to be obedient to His commands. Is this true for you? Does Jesus know you?
Love in Christ,
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15
- I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.