Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 7:23a “And then will I profess unto them,. . .”
Jesus, having presented Himself throughout this sermon as ultimate Lawgiver, now claims He will someday be ultimate Judge. On the final, awesome Day of Judgment, He will “profess,” openly declare, a final verdict on every life ever lived.
Jesus, being totally honest and wanting to hide nothing, could not speak of Judgment Day without letting it be known He will be the Judge. A Galilean carpenter, speaking with absolute divine authority, claimed He will judge the whole world.
The ultimate Arbiter of every person’s everlasting destiny will be Jesus, not Mohammed, not Buddha, not Confucius, not even you or me. We are not our own final authority. The last assessment of our lives will fall from Jesus’ lips. When He mounts the throne of the universe, “His verdict will be the final one” (Morgan).
Matt. 7:23b “. . .I never knew you:. . .”
Four words we never want to hear. Jesus is not speaking of people who were once saved, but fell away. He is talking of all who never enjoyed His fellowship, who never were intimate with Him, or never had a personal relationship with Him.
All eternity hinges on knowing Jesus. The crux is, do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? As we stand before the tribunal, what do we plan to plead? I recommend we plead intimacy with the Judge. Plead the precious blood of Jesus, as we often sing, “For my cleansing, this my plea, Nothing but the blood of Jesus” (Robert Lowry). Our only hope is calling on Jesus and receiving His forgiveness.
Matt. 7:23c “. . .depart from me,. . .”
Three words we never want to hear. Jesus will someday separate weeds from wheat, sheep from goats. Jesus is the Heaven of Heaven. To depart from Him is the Hell of Hell, ultimate doom. In His first coming, Jesus called sinners to Himself. In His second coming, He will drive them from Himself. If we do not come to Him now for life and forgiveness, we shall be sent from Him then to death and condemnation. If we do not receive Heaven while on Earth, we go from Earth to Hell.
If the gentle voice of God in the cool of the day was so frightening that our first parents hid in fear (GN 3:8ff), and if Paul’s sermon on judgment to come made Felix tremble (AC 24:25), what shall it be like when the Lion of the tribe of Judah roars out this verdict? If soldiers collapsed before Him in the Garden when He said, “I am He” (JN 18:6), how will the wicked stand before Him in the Judgment?
Jesus, the dear Savior of the world, spoke our text. There is no way to sugarcoat it. These are not the words of a raving lunatic preacher. They are rather the insights of One who knows the facts, and who cares enough to issue a warning.
One of the most difficult barriers the Christian message has to overcome is people’s false conceptions of God. Counterfeit ideas of deity range from the gross ones of the animists to the more refined ones of Western Culture. Both extremes are equally false. One sees God as capricious, the other deems Him Santa Claus.
The West has created a god of permissive love who thinks lightly of sin. Wanting to sin without guilt, people concoct a god who does not count sinners as guilty. Instead of man made in God’s image, we have god made in man’s image, reminding of God’s rebuke, “You thought that I was just like you” (PS 50:21 NAS).
Many believe in a god who exists solely as a figment of their own imaginations. The Bible says “God is love” (1 J 4:8), but we are to define love by what God is; not God by how we define love. The Bible also says “God is a consuming fire” (HB 12:29). Heaven is a statement as to what God is like. Hell is, too.
People want to convince themselves God is more merciful than Scripture pictures Him. A word to the wise–don’t try to be more Biblical than the Bible. Do not portray God as kinder or harsher than Holy Writ does.
A. W. Pink vividly and succinctly presents a Biblical view of God. Yes, God is merciful, but for one sin He banished Adam and Eve from Eden. For one sin, the curse fell on Ham, Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt, Achan and his whole family were stoned to death, Gehazi was smitten with leprosy, and Ananias and Sapphira became corpses. The God of mercy destroyed the world with a flood, rained fire on Sodom, slew the firstborn in Egypt, and drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea.
The Heavenly Father of mercy allowed His only begotten Son to die a cruel death on a cross. God took our sins seriously. He put them into the body of Jesus that we might be saved. To reject a God like this, what else can there be but a Hell?
Matt. 7:23d “. . .ye that work iniquity.”
Preaching, casting out demons, and doing wonderful works (v. 22) are “iniquity” when done to earn merit or to compensate for evils. Such lives are unreal and untrue, for they do not flow from a pure, unselfish, spiritual source within.
Rather than yield their entire life to God, people often volunteer part of their time as a way of bartering. They do good in an effort to buy off God. Many hope to go to Heaven by balancing things out. Instead of forsaking a pet sin, they seek to balance it out by doing enough good deeds to counteract it, as if a positive can cancel out a negative. This cannot be, for every second of life is to have its own positive work done. We can’t take goodness from one moment and apply it to another.
Also, since God gives us the power to do good works, why should He merit us for what He does through us? Every good deed ever done is performed through a body He provides, based on breath He gives, and done in time He allows. There is no logical reason for God to credit us for what He causes.
Also, why should God reward us for deeds we do for the benefit of our own selves? No one rewards policemen or firemen who spend all their time looking out solely for their own safety and benefit. Doing good deeds in order to earn Heaven is a very selfish motivation. Why should God reward it?
Do not try to buy off God. We do not want our text, the epitaph of a wasted existence, carved on our tombstone. We need to retreat to some lonely place and make sure all is well between God and us. Have we entered the strait gate? Are we walking the narrow way? Is intimate fellowship flowing between Jesus and us?