One of the beauties of Scripture is that the Spirit often reveals aspects of the text we had not considered before. We may be looking at a passage we’ve read several times in the past, but He shows us a nuance, a connection, a point we had previously missed. This happened to me recently while reading through the Gospel According to Matthew.
At the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus makes some profound statements. However, I don’t remember seeing their connection before. Jesus has just spent the last three chapters describing what it is like to live in the Kingdom. Yet before He closes, He wants us to understand that simply trying to obey all these commands is not what will save us.
He says, “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 will enter” (Matthew 7:21). Now, notice what He immediately follows this up with:
“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 7:22, 23).
All of the things these individuals said they did seemed good, godly, and amazing. They seemed to be pleasing the Father by their actions. Yet notice Jesus’ rebuke: “I never knew you” (v. 23). So in other words, the “will” of the “Father” is that we know Jesus (v. 21). Jesus said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
And that is what these people in Matthew 7 did not get. They trusted in their own works for entrance into the Kingdom. In other words, their response to the question of why they should be allowed into heaven was, “Look at all the marvelous and godly things I have done.” They even seemed to acknowledge Jesus with their words, but they did not know Him. Later in this Gospel, Jesus condemned the Pharisees by saying, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me’” (Matthew 15:7, 8). The Lord is after our hearts, not just our deeds.
To drive home this point, Jesus told the parable of the two builders (Matthew 7:24-27). He said that though great storms and tempest came upon the house build by the wise man, it remained standing. And then He gave the reason why it stood. Jesus did not say the house stood because of the quality materials, or by the skill of the builder, or even by the design. Rather, He said, ‘It did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock” (v. 25). The rock He was referring to was Himself.
And this was the encouragement the Spirit showed to me through these verses. Because our salvation depends upon Jesus Christ alone, our salvation does not depend upon our works. He holds us firmly in His “hand” (John 10:27-29). When we fail, He is our “Advocate,” and we have faith that He satisfied God’s wrath for us (1 John 2:1-2). On the other hand, when we are being faithful but we don’t seem to be doing amazing things, we can take comfort in knowing that our spirituality is not determined by how impressive our lives are to other men. Prophesying, casting out demons, performing miracles—those all sound pretty amazing, but I’ve never done them, and I know very few who have. But what others find impressive is not the point. What matters is that we know Jesus.
So be encouraged that our faith rests firmly upon Jesus alone. We were never worthy of His love to begin with, and we cannot maintain a level of worthiness. We are saved by His grace alone. He holds us, and we can rest firmly upon Him. Also be encouraged to study the Scripture and even read larger passages, such as a few chapters at a time. As we do so, the Holy Spirit can show us the flow of thought that we may miss if we only look at smaller chunks of the Bible. There are certainly times for us to examine individual verses, but there are also times for us to get more of the “big picture.”
To bring this to a close, remember that our salvation rests upon Christ alone. This doesn’t give us license to go and do whatever. Rather, it motivates us to praise Him and live for Him all the more. We have been bought, are held securely, and promised an eternal home with Him. He has done all this and is still doing this because of His great love. Let us live for Him in gratitude as a response and rest in His grace.