Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 7:22a “Many will say to me in that day,. . .”
Gazing down the corridor of time, Jesus sees the great Judgment Day looming ahead. He sees multitudes gathering. We are all heading to a rendezvous where we each must “sit down to a banquet of consequences” (Robert Louis Stevenson).
Jesus is still dealing with security, with our being absolutely sure we are going to Heaven. Having established the importance of confirming works (verse 21), Jesus now establishes the importance of a personal relationship with God. In verse 21, faith is no substitute for works. In verse 22, works are no substitute for faith.
Matt. 7:22b “. . .Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?. . .”
Many eloquent preachers do not know Jesus. It is possible to help others find Heaven and yet miss it ourselves. How sad to go to Hell passing by Heaven’s door.
In verse 22, the bottom line is, the claimants’ whole emphasis is on seeking to earn God’s favor by what they have done. We like to attach merit to what we do.
Many perform religious deeds to help earn their own salvation. Judgment Day will be disastrous for all whose works did not proceed from a renewed heart.
I have always embraced the doctrine of eternal security. In earlier years I said, “Once saved, ALWAYS saved.” In later years, I say, “ONCE saved, always saved.” Do not miss the “born again” step. With regard to our everlasting destiny, everything hinges on whether or not we have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Justification, sanctification, and glorification are prongs of the same salvation. If any is missing, the other two are. If there is no sanctification, no ongoing work of God in us, there was no justification, and will be no glorification at death. If there was no justification, there is no sanctification, and will be no glorification.
No good deeds can substitute for knowing God. With regard to salvation, it is far more important to speak with God in private than to speak for Him in public.
Matt. 7:22c “. . .and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done
many wonderful works?”
Even the ability to perform spectacular miracles does not prove one is truly converted. This warning is much needed, for people tend to be addicted to Adrenalin. Hating boredom, we are overly enamored with the spectacular. Since the multitudes love signs and wonders, miracles have huge potential to help and to harm.
Everywhere we turn, we seem to hear of miracles. They are suddenly a hot topic of discussion among believers, but supernatural occurrences are actually not new to Christianity. Roman Catholicism has long practiced exorcism, Episcopalians have long had healing services, churches of all denominations have long prayed for rain, healings, anointing, changed hearts, and have seen miraculous answers.
Our new interest in the supernatural is largely due to Pentecostals. They took the miraculous out of the closet and put it on the front burner. Since Charismatics are growing rapidly all around the world, I do not foresee a lessening of interest in miracles soon. Thus, we need to pause a moment and reflect on this modern phenomenon in light of what Jesus said here. What about all these miracle workers?
First, some are satanic. It is amazing what non-Christians can do. The spiritual realm has a dark side. Evil super-human strength is available for those willing to sell their soul to get it. I don’t understand it, and speak of it rarely, but it is real.
Second, some are shams. When doctors declared my deaf sister past hope, my parents tried to take her to a few well-known faith healers of the day. None of them would get close to her. We learned the hard way about frauds and charlatans.
Healings can be staged. Even if they are real, they can have nothing to do with the faith of the healer, but rather of the one healed, or of another intercessor.
Third, some are real. Reports of miracles among believers are too frequent and witnessed by too many to deny. Many have enough evidence to stand up in a court of law. God does seem to be moving in His people in extraordinary ways.
I am of a growing conviction we Baptists need more signs and wonders. Some of the extreme fringes of the Charismatic movement may have gone too far and jumped overboard, but many of us Baptists haven’t even gotten in the boat yet.
Christianity is growing at an accelerated pace, and society is growing worse at breakneck speed. As we approach “high tide at midnight” (Patrick Johnstone), war in the spiritual realm seems to be intensifying and spilling over into our world.
As miracle workers increase in number, how can we know they are of God? First, trust them only if their character is pure. It is possible to do impressive things for God and yet not be right with God. Unspiritual people can do spiritual tasks.
Second, trust them only if their teachings are true. Truth is more important than phenomena. If their teaching contains error, neither support nor follow them.
Third, trust them only if their ministries are leading people to conversion. The Biblical purpose of signs and wonders is to capture attention, and then to be consummated with God’s Word preached and people saved. In the early church, miracles were servants of proclamation. They provided conclusive evidence that the kingdom of God was invading another territory in the kingdom of darkness.
Fourth, trust them only if they emphasize the most important miracle of all, the born again experience. For salvation, only one miracle is needed, the re-creating and re-making of a person’s heart. A conversion which keeps an unbeliever out of Hell is more important than a healing which keeps a believer out of Heaven.
Verse 22 reminds me of my new birth. At age six, after hearing of Jesus’ death and having John 3:16 explained to me, I was in the bedroom praying. Dad came in and asked what I was doing. I replied, “Getting the devil out of my heart.”
Fifth, trust them only if they prioritize holiness. Being saved matters most. After that, personal holiness has priority. We can mistake the supernatural for true spirituality. Success-oriented spectacular events are often deemed more important than routine details of daily discipleship. Rather than focus on sin and remove anything that hinders our personal walk with God, we look to the spectacular, to miracles, and to other externals for evidence of salvation. Beware nominal holiness wed to the spectacular. The latter can be a smoke-screen hiding failure in the former.
As believers, we must confirm our faith by our works. At the same time, we must be sure our works are built on a foundation of faith, of believing in Christ.