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“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” – Matthew 7:21-23

      “I NEVER KNEW YOU” – can you imagine the horror which engulfs those to whom these dreadful words are directed? They thought they were intimately acquainted with Jesus, for they dedicated their lives to his service and followed him as their “Lord”. They preached in his name, and cast out devils in his name, and performed many wonderful works in his name. They devoted themselves to the study of his word, to the proclamation of his grace, to the exultation of his goodness. Perhaps they even wore out the carpet of their closets, being so often on their knees in prayer!

And yet, now, when their days are complete, and they stand before him, how different is the reception they receive, from the one they supposed they would receive! They expected a great reward awaited them in heaven, a mansion replete with treasures immune to the corruption of moth and rust, and secured from the thievery of wicked men. They anticipated crowns of glory and life and righteousness would adorn their venerable heads. They presumed that the Prince of peace would welcome them into his everlasting kingdom by commending their labors, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

But how terribly mistaken they are. For rather than lauding their life of service, Christ instead informs them that they cannot enter his kingdom! When they address him as their “Lord”, and list the many ways they served him with their lives and fortunes, he simply replies, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Then, he directs these pious religious people to “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

“How?” the many wonder in despair as they are cast into the Lake of Fire. “How can this be? I was a faithful Christian! I prayed, and read my Bible, and went to church, and tithed, and told others about Jesus, and did so many wonderful works! I should be going to heaven! How am I going to hell?”

Implicit in these questions is the assumption that salvation is dependent upon one’s obedience of the Scriptures. It indicates that the path to paradise is blazed by our service to God and our faithfulness in keeping his commandments. It supposes that how we live, and what we do with our lives, will be the determining factor in where we spend eternity.

But this is simply not true, dear reader. The blood of Jesus Christ is the only thing which can cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Our religious habits, or lifestyle, or dedication to Christianity, or any other thing to do with ourselves, are powerless in this regard, because our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). They can never make us holy, much less justify us before a holy God. All the good works in the world cannot earn a man salvation, because salvation is a gift, and a gift cannot be earned. I have many times heard the truthful maxim: “Salvation is not a reward for the righteous; it is a gift for the guilty.” Indeed, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23) – eternal life through the precious blood he shed for us at Calvary (1 Peter 2:18-19).

Now, proponents of works salvation – in all of its diabolical manifestations – may point to the phrase, “he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” as “proof” that works are necessary for salvation. Stripped of its contextual baggage, this Scripture would seem to imply that man must earn his salvation by doing “the will of my Father which is in heaven.” But when we compare spiritual things with spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:13), we find John 6:28-29 defines what “the will of my Father which is in heaven” actually is:

“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

Once more, we see that the Bible is its own dictionary. This passage from the gospel of John – which might well be classified as God’s gospel tract to mankind (John 20:31) – identifies exactly what the will of God is, and explains how it can be satisfied. The answer is simply to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). There is no mention of surrendering to Christ as “Lord” of your life, or pledging to follow him no matter the cost, as so taught by “Lordship Salvation” and fellow accursed damnable heresies which masquerade as “the gospel.” If you will simply acknowledge that you are a guilty sinner who deserves to go to hell because you have sinned against a holy God, and believe that Jesus Christ – the only begotten Son of God – died at Calvary to pay for your sins with his blood, was buried, and bodily resurrected three days later, you will be saved immediately and irrevocably. For Christ says of those who have believed on him, “they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

In the case of the damned religious people portrayed in my text Scripture, it is evident they went to hell because they trusted too much to save them. They were not content to simply rely upon the merits of a bleeding Savior to wash away their sins and make them righteous before God. Instead, they persisted in believing that they must contribute something to their salvation – something more than the faith required to receive Christ as Savior. And so, they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3). The grace of God which bringeth salvation, rather than being able to set them free, instead became a stumblingblock when they sought it not by faith, but by the works of the law (Romans 9:32). A futile endeavor, “for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

Sadly, hell is full of these devout religious people who were never washed in Christ’s blood, because they never believed that only Christ’s blood can reconcile man with God. Instead, they trusted their personal self-reformation to save them, or they trusted their good works to save them, or they trusted their faithful discipleship to save them. Yet, all the while, as they prayed, and attended church, and were baptized, and studied the Bible, and told others about Jesus, they themselves had never been acquainted with Jesus! They had never actually decided to trust him as their Savior, to rely entirely on what he did for them at Calvary as their only hope for heaven.

And so, when they stood before God, and the books were opened (Revelation 20:12), they were exposed as counterfeit Christians, imposters who named the name of Christ, but were nevertheless workers of iniquity. They were revealed as thieves and robbers, who had attempted to enter heaven some other way but through the righteousness of Jesus Christ (John 10:1). Too late, they learned they had trusted the wrong things to save them. And, while they were cast into hell, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth as the dreadful reality of their error – and the permanence of their punishment – became horribly known.


Dear reader, it is my fervent wish that you finish reading this article with the knowledge that it is not your works of righteousness, or church membership, or baptism, or “inviting Jesus into your heart”, or surrendering to Christ as “Lord”, or beginning a relationship with Jesus, or any other such thing which saves you. It is the blood of Jesus Christ, which he shed on the cross to pay for your sins, which is the only thing that can wash your sins away (Ephesians 1:7), and it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is imputed on your behalf when you receive Christ as your Savior, which is the only thing that can make you righteous before God (Romans 4:6).

Please, I beseech you, do not trust your “many wonderful works”. Do not trust your surrendering yourself to Christ’s “Lordship”. Do not trust turning over a new leaf. Do not trust your self-reformation. Do not trust your changed life; trust the Savior. Seek not reformation through dead good works, but regeneration through the Holy Spirit of God in response to your faith in the gospel. For you cannot be justified by your works (Galatians 2:16); you can only be justified freely by his grace (Romans 3:24).

Have you been washed in the blood of Christ? “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Is your name written in the book of life? “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). If you are fastening your hopes for heaven to your faithfulness to Christ and obedience of his commandments, you will one day hear those horrible words: “I NEVER KNEW YOU: DEPART FROM ME, YE THAT WORK INIQUITY.”

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