Matthew records Jesus saying:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’—Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

Meanwhile, Peter (in Acts 2:21) and Paul (in Romans 10:13) quote Joel:

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.—Joel 2:32 (ESV)

Did Jesus mean something different than Joel (and Peter and Paul), did he disagree with the prophet, or did he not know (or remember) the prophecy?

  • Calling someone (by a name), and calling upon someone (for help), are two very different expressions, as far as I am able to tell.
    – Lucian
    Jul 30, 2017 at 5:14

4 Answers 4


Your question seems to be rhetorical. Most likely, of course, Jesus knew the prophecy of Joel. Did he quote it? Very likely, even if we can not pin it down. Not all is written down. The book Revelation quotes it often. (It is said to be inspired by him. Apk 1, 1)

There is a difference between the two situations in which persons would call on the Name of the Lord:

With Joel in a situation of distress and great danger. (Darkness and blood. Joel 3, 4)

With Jesus in situations of opportunities to impress other people. (Prophesying, casting out demons, doing mighty works.)

Hypocrisy only makes sense in the situations Jesus was talking about, not so much in the tribulation of Joels prophesy.

So Jesus - even if using similar words - meant something entirely different from what the prophecy of Joel was talking about.

  • I like what you're saying here, Hannes. Joel referred to those who mean it when they cry out "Lord, Lord." Jesus meant that those who give Him lip service wouldn't be saved. And I really like how you have brought the context of danger vs. impressing others. Good work!
    – Frank Luke
    Apr 25, 2013 at 14:24

The OP is right - it appears Matthew 7:22 implies:

Those who have invoked the power of God for prophecy, exorcism and miracles may still be condemned on the day of Judgement.

And from that one can conclude...

Therefore, NO assurance of salvation can be given, even when invoking the powerful name of Jesus Christ.

And even more scandalous in this verse is the use of the Greek word... “polloi” (“multitude”, “great in number”, “numerous”, “many”).

If Jesus is speaking of false-Christians or pretend-Christians, the use of “polloi” insinuates that the church contains a “multitude”, “great in number”, “numerous” amount of imposters.

However, drawing such implications puts Matthew 7:22 at odds with Joel 2:32 and contradicts most of the Gospel narrative. Therefore there must be more depth in the meaning of this verse.

Seeing as how the Gospel of Matthew is primarily a message to the Jews. And the sermon on the mount is during the start of Jesus’s ministry, a time that was exclusively focused on ministry to the Jews. And since Jesus’s sermon on the mount is delivered to a Jewish audience and primarily deals with refuting and correcting the false teachings of the Jewish religious leadership.

It is reasonable to contextually assert that this verse, with other verses in this discourse, are addressing directly the “Old Covenant People.”

Interpreting the “polloi” multitude to be a “multitude of those who rely on diligent law-keeping for salvation (ie Pharisees)” the next verse makes this declaration:

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ - Matthew 7:23 (ESV)

In the Greek, the word translated “lawlessness” is the cognate “anomia” made up of...

  • 1 “a” which means "no" and
  • 3551 “nómos” which means "law"

Literally it means "no-law"

So in this context (Jesus addressing the Jewish establishment) this passage declares:

...depart from me, you workers of
[imperfect law-keeping, that is in effect]

A teaching similar to Mt 7:22 is given by Jesus in Luke 13...

“Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, then you will stand outside and start to knock on the door and beg him, ‘Lord, let us in!’ But he will answer you, ‘I don’t know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know where you come from! Go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves thrown out. - Luke 13:24-28 (NET)

If this is the same teaching, we know for certain it is specifically directed at the “Old Covenant People” because in the very next verse Jesus shifts the subject to speak of the “New Covenant People”...

Then people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and take their places at the banquet table in the kingdom of God. - Luke 13:29 (NET)

Paul re-affirms what Jesus says about the failure of those seeking justification through the law…

For there is no partiality with God. ...and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. ...on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus. - Romans 2:11 - 16 (selected)

And Paul further says this...

...You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who tell others not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by transgressing the law! For just as it is written, “the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:21-23 (NET)

Clearly Jesus is directing His admonition squarely at the religious who try to earn salvation through law-keeping, as the Mt 7:22-23 warning would have no application to a people who live by faith under a Covenant of grace and mercy.

Joel too prophesies of this future Covenant of grace when he speaks of a “future time,” saying...

“And it shall come to pass....” Joel 2:32

Before his prophecy continues with...

“...everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” Joel 2:32

  • Neville - +1"the Mt 7:22-23 warning would have no application to a people who live by faith under a Covenant of grace and mercy." I am not certain if this is intentional or not; but at least indirectly, your conclusion seems to be: "trusting in the covenant of grace and mercy, by demonstrating trust, grace, and mercy" is how one "truly" calls on the name of Jesus. Which is pretty much what I was trying to say - but far more efficient. Thanks! Jun 22, 2017 at 23:48

Did Jesus mean something different than Joel (and Peter and Paul)?

Yes, He did mean something different.

He is referring to 'nominal' or 'talk the talk' Christians (James 1:22). Poeple who claim to follow Christ yet do not “keep [His] commandments” (Matthew 7:21; 19:17; John 14:15).

To understand this a bit better, we only need to look at one of Our Lord's parables:

Luke 6:46

Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?

Jesus here distinguishes the mere profession of faith, acknowledgement of His being Lord, with true belief which is not superficial but implies adherence to His commandments—“the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), that is, 'doing what He tells us' to do in His various teachings.

Contextually, He compares two men who build on either sand as a foundation, or Christ:

Luke 6:47-49

Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them . . . is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.

Similarly, the false Christians who say but do not do what Christ teaches,and are not Christians in practice, since “faith without [the] works” that it requires and produces, was no faith at all: Matthew 25:14-30; 25:31-46; John 15:1-6. There is no such thing as 'dormant faith' for Christ, its an oxymoron, according to Scripture (James 2).

i.e. You cannot say you believe in Christ (Lord, Lord!) but not believe Christ (in that He says "unless", "if you would enter [heaven]" etc.) It's a contradiction.


1. Question Restatement:

Is a verbal formulation of calling on the name of the Lord sufficient for salvation, or not?

Did Jesus mean something different than Joel (and Peter and Paul), did he disagree with the prophet, or did he not know (or remember) the prophecy?

ESV, Matthew 7:21 - Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven ...

2. Answer - Matthew had Knowledge of Joel:

It is not at all probable that "Matthew" did not have knowledge of "Joel".

NASB, Acts 2:16 - but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

If Peter's sermon was given before the writing of Matthew, and if the writer of Matthew himself was an apostle, and if "Matthew" was indeed present as Acts states - then the only conclusion is that Matthew had knowledge of Joel.

Further, Matthew makes a reference that wouldn't have significance, or even make sense - without knowledge of Joel:

NASB, Matthew 27:45 - Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour, (from Joel 2:31).

At the very least - Matthew might have been trying to express Jesus' own interpretation of Joel.

Note: The authorship of "Matthew" is irrelevant, if the text itself is referencing Joel.

3. Answer: Calling on the Name of the Lord is Much More than a Verbal Formula:

There is actually a lot about this throughout Scripture, but "Calling on" is a lot more than just "saying a name".

Baptism is a method of calling on the name of the Lord:

NASB, Acts 22:16 - Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

Baptism is a Legal Appeal:

Calling on the name of the Lord is more, or less, a "Legal Appeal": to "Appeal to the name of the Lord - as and for - the legal merit for salvation."

NASB, 1 Peter 3:21 - Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

The Evidence of Submitting to the Law of Mercy:

The "caveat" is: a person cannot be justified (righteous) to appeal to the name of the Lord for mercy, if they do not also advocate for the mercy of others - "in the name of the Lord".

NASB, James 2:13 - For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

"Calling on the name of the Lord" always entails much more:

NASB, Zephaniah 3:9 - “For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, That all of them may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.

NASB, Zechariah 13:9 - “And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

NASB, 1 Corinthians 1:2 - To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

NASB, Romans 10:12-15 - For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

  • I don't find your restatement of the question to be very enlightening. I don't have a theological problem with the two passages, but rather a textual one. It would be more useful to argue from Matthew that Jesus meant that something more was required than simply saying a name. I think the theory has textual support, but you haven't really given that here. Jun 22, 2017 at 23:19
  • @JonEricson - I tried to show that Matthew absolutely had knowledge of Joel. But, Are you saying you would like more textual support specifically from either Matthew or Joel, showing that "calling on the name" is more than a simple verbal formula? Also, I updated the "Restatement" - which is only intended to confirm (or not) if I am understanding the question properly. Sometimes, I completely misunderstand. Jun 22, 2017 at 23:36
  • 1
    Restating the question isn't a bad idea. I think my core difficulty is that the answer doesn't seem to show your work. I can sort read between the lines and see where you came from, but I don't have any real sense that Jesus (or Matthew) intended your suggested meaning of the text. Jun 26, 2017 at 22:00

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