Christ speaks some very harsh words in the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 7:21-23: “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. 22Many 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?’ 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’"

"Sin" is defined in John's First Letter as follows:

1 John 3:4: "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness."

Therefore, it logically follows that sin is lawlessness. The passages from Matthew's Gospel above tell us that even those who prophesied in Christ's name, those who cast out demons in His name, and those who performed many miracles in His name might one day hear the words: "I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness [disobedience]."

How might we recognize such lawlessness -- disobedience, in our everyday walk of faith?

  • 1
    (Up-voted +1.) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold (or 'grasp') the truth in unrighteousness; Rom 1:18.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 6:36
  • As far as prophecy itself is concerned, see, for instance, John 11:49-52.
    – Lucian
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 14:40

13 Answers 13


In medieval philosophy, scholastics, there was a category of causa finalis, the final cause, which semantically is the same as the final purpose, for the vision of the final purpose is the cause of our actions.

Now, given this, what should be a driving force, the causa finalis of a Christian when he preaches Christ? When he prays? When he invokes His name? It should be his, this man's, formation as a citizen of the eternal Kingdom of God, in which truth reigns (2 Peter 3:13) and in which only those are citizens who develop two necessary and indispensable features in themselves - mercy and truth (Psalm 85:10) - which he must cultivate together, for God needs those two; does not He say that He wants mercy and not sacrifice? (Matthew 9:13). But not all Christians do so, for we know that many preach Christ out of envy and vainglory (Philippians 1:15); or many pray for earthly things, or for heavenly things but without real desire and devotion, for which reason they do not get what they ask in lukewarm, albeit even frequent and ostentatious, hypocritical prayers (cf. Matthew 6:5).

Even miracle-working can be granted by God to such a wrong-headed Christian with an aim that he may understand the main thing in being a Christian, that it is not miracle-working but joy in Holy Spirit, a joy of being co-Heir with Jesus Christ, through Him, of His Kingdom (cf. Mark 9:39).

Thus, many wrong headed Christians, with record of long prayers, miracle-workings, will find themselves divested of mercy and truthfulness, to which they paid no attention out of vainglory or love of power and esteem, and thus, will not fit into the eternal Kingdom. They will found themselves in a far more miserable state than non-Christians. And this holds for all epochs.


1 John 3:4:

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

Romans 14:23

But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Not every seeming good work comes from true faith.

Matthew 7:

21“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. 22On 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?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

2 Corinthians 11:14

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

How might we recognize such lawlessness -- disobedience, in our everyday walk of faith?

Do not be impressed by the appearances of the works. Do not be impressed by their apparent callings in the name of Jesus. Focus on the source: the faith. I agree that this is not easy.

  • 1
    But just before that in Matthew 7 it says "15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." How then can we recognise a true prophet from a false?
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 2:27
  • 1
    Works alone do not imply faith, and could be out of formalism or other motives. But just faith without works is also not enough (James 2:14-26). "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."(vs 24). For us humans it is difficult to recognize if there is faith behind the works of other people. But it is also not our task to judge that Jesus just warned not to look and think to superficial about works and apparent faith.
    – Hjan
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 13:24

It is difficult to write down all the commandments here but a sincere study of the Gospel and also the epistles of the apostles makes it clear what are those basic moral commandments we ought to follow in order to obtain eternal life. The commandments are mentioned in details in the old covenant, however legalism or sinfulness of men made it into outward righteousness of rituals and status of religion rather than focusing on the spirit. But the problem does not lie in the old law of Moses, since the same legalism and arrogance of fake righteousness status is found in the church of the new covenant as well. Nothing is new under the sun. But Jesus has revealed the truth of the kingdom of heaven in great details and clarity in his parables that nobody can make any excuse to ignore them for; however still many disregard Jesus and his commands as obsolete Old Testament teachings by twisting the teachings of apostle Paul regarding the freedom in the new covenant or the grace of God by sending the Son for the sacrifice, as warned by Peter in 2 Peter 3:16-17.

I suggest search and study the passages pertaining "according to work(s)" and how the "doers" of the law or word are justified rather than the "hearers". Start with the parables of Jesus, then move to James, John, Peter and then Paul.

WEB (Matthew 7:24-27) “Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

(Matthew 7:13-14) “Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it."

Religion or faith without works is dead. God judges everyone impartially according to their works. (Romans 2:6-14)


The answer is right there in quoted verse. Only those who do the will of the Father will (law) enter heaven.

Matthew 7:21-23: “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. 22Many 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?’ 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’"

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

Psalm 119 is a poem by David about how beautiful the law of G-d is


I come from a Messianic Synagogue background, so this question will be answered from that perspective. The word "Torah" in Hebrew means "Law", so when Jesus says in verse 23 ... DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS, it can be also be said "DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE TORAH-LESSNESS." Torah is the old testament in general, the first 5 books specifically. In that light, who is this person Jesus is referring to in this verse? The one who isn't obedient to Torah. God tells us how he wants to be worshiped. Everything else is strange (unauthorized) fire (Leviticus 10:1).

In relation to 1 John 3:4, The greek word Anomia for law (G458) is a compound word, "A" (without) and "Nomia" (Law) to mean "violation of the law". In the Septuagint, Nomia is the Greek word used for Torah.

The torah is the foundation for which the entire Bible is built on, including the New Testament. Per the Companion Bible the first 5 books are referred to no less than 1,531 times in the other 61 books of the Bible. The New Testament as we know it, was not fully formed until at least 300 years after Jesus was crucified (SOURCE: see "Early collections"). Nonetheless at the time of the disciples preaching, all they had was the Old Testament to go by so the audience would either have known exactly what the Law was, or they were educated on the Mosaic Law if they weren't.

Does it apply to us today? If you're a believer in Jesus, absolutely. The original disciple/apostle could preach Christ solely from Old Testament - can you? Me? Once one understands how that was done, one will understand Jesus's words in Matthew 5:17 - Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. In other words, I didn't come to get rid of the TORAH (first 5 books) or the Prophets (the rest of the Old Testament), but to give it meaning, depth.

My point - No Torah, no foundation. No foundation, no house. And per Matthew 7:24-27, no house meant you were foolish. And interestingly, the Greek word for foolish is Moros, which means to have no knowledge of God.

  • I believe we agree that the Word of God is the Law, both in the O/T as well as the N/T. Many reject that idea, insisting that "in Christ" there is no law. I vehemently resist that position since Christians now live under the "Law of Liberty" -- in my case, N/T Scripture. However, Paul repeatedly tells us that we are not under the Law of Moses, that it is of no effect (cf. Col. 2:14). James 2:11-12 reads: "For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT COMMIT MURDER.”... So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty."
    – Xeno
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 21:43
  • @Michael16 - Nobody is 'hijacking' this site - BH.SE is a Q&A format dedicated to Biblical Hermeneutics. It is not a Christian site, nor a secular site, and its community is made up of a wide variety of perspectives. This answer does have a hermeneutical basis, and so if you find it unhelpful I would encourage you to downvote it. If you find it misleading, please feel free to offer specific constructive criticism, or open a Chat with the user to engage in discussion.
    – Steve can help
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 7:31

I agree that half the "answer" is as Yeddu says. In the same text Jesus said, "but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter". The other half is also in the text, and I'm surprised it has been overlooked so far (unless I missed it!) . . . Jesus rejects the person in question because, "I never knew you". Ouch!

The new life - and new way of life - that Jesus introduced was truly a new paradigm, and one that was anticipated in the Jewish prophecies of Jeremiah. In 31:31-34 of that book, the prophet recorded:

31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

(If this is familiar, it may be because it is wonderfully addressed in the New Testament book of Hebrews.)

Jesus introduced a new way to relate to God, the New Covenant way: God writes his law within his people. These people know him, and discern his will for them. As Paul said in Romans 12:1-2 . . .

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is hard stuff, because reading a command like "Do no murder" seems so straightforward. Deciding for yourself also seems easy and straightforward, eg I will only watch wholesome TV shows, smile to every stranger, and visit the hospital and pray with the patients. The trouble is, where's God in all this? If watching wholesome TV, smiling, and visiting is what he told you do, then fantastic, I'll support you! But what if he is calling out your name, taking you by the hand, and giving you totally different things to do . . . Again, Ouch!

Jesus knew his Father, knew what his Father wanted of him, and he did it. If you read through the Gospel of John you'll be amazed at what Jesus did, simply because he prayerfully and mindfully sought to perceive God's will for him - what God was saying to him, in that Jeremiah 31 kind of way. He was unique, he was special, he had a "natural" relationship with God. That's why he could discern God's will for him as part of his loving relationship with him. And that is why we can follow suit and do the same, because having established that new life of new obedience, Jesus now gives it to everyone that trusts him for forgiveness of our sins in his death and resurrection. Read Romans 6 to understand all this - Paul wonderfully explains our new life there.

I've said enough except to answer "how do they apply to us today?" Actually that's been answered too: because we are called to embrace what Jesus has said and done for us, to embrace Jesus himself in a genuine relationship, as also with God. The rest flows from there.

Thank you. :)


Doing the will of the Father, and being known by Jesus . . . the two go hand-in-hand, do they not?

Paul, throughout Romans 4, emphasised God's consistent attention to faith as the criterion for forgiveness and other blessings. Before the Law, Abram's faith in God would bring him the whole world as an inheritance (4:3). David, after the Law, was also known and blessed by God for his faith (4:6-8). Abram heard the voice of God and responded with trust - he knew God and placed himself in God's hands by leaving the rich places and wandering homelessly all his life. We also know David yearned for God, because he knew God as his delight. And a slow read through Hebrews 11 opens to us that God called people to do all manner of things that were unrelated to the Law: they saw life through his eyes, trusted him, and did his will. And he knew them even before they obeyed, and he loved them.

We love to read and learn all God's revelation, from Eden to Sinai to Jerusalem to Golgotha, not because of the ink or the letters or the parchment or the stone, but because HE said them to us - the One we love spoke to the ones He loves. In whatever form the Father calls out to us - to do our share for his Kingdom - we act, because we love him. Else we spit on the ground, curse him, and then it does not really matter if we do it or not.

To do his will as he wants us to do, is always a trusting response to him, no matter what it is (again, Hebrews 11). As Romans 6:16 say "if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey". We submit to Him in his majesty, and with trust in His integrity of promise - he forgives our sins - and we humbly do his will.

  • I may be wrong but the other half is about prophesying, casting out demons, performing miracles in Jesus's name. None of these are in of the law. I think all we need is very clear in Tanakh. Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Ezekiel 18:32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 9:24
  • Jesus prophesied, Jesus cast out demons, Jesus performed miracles. The apostles are recorded in Acts as doing those things too. Prophesying, casting out demons and miracles are not bad, or wrong, or the cause of being dismissed by Jesus. You and I and every Christian ever has a lot to worry about if the New Testament - especially Romans - were written by people Jesus will reject and condemn! If we listen to Jesus' words here, we can know that being known by Jesus is the critical point of decision for Jesus' action toward a person - even if they were emulating him and his apostles.
    – grannux
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 13:27
  • If we do as Jesus says "but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter" we will be known to Jesus. That is what I read from this verse.
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 16:08
  • I have written a comment too large to save or edit as a comment. I will save it as an answer, if i am allowed. I hop it is a blessing. :)
    – grannux
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 1:49

John's lawless person is someone who is not a true child of God. Such a person is recognized because he does not behave righteously and does not love his fellow Christian. Matthew's lawless person is one who violates certain commandments in the Jewish Law including specifically the laws dealing with adultery, murder, bearing false witness, honoring one's parents and loving one's neighbor.


In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is pro-Law. So the translation of the phrase "you who practice lawlessness (ἀνομίαν = anomian)" is more appropriate than "you evildoers." This is not merely a distinction without a difference, because earlier in the text - which is part of the Sermon on the Mount - Jesus is adamant about the importance of keeping the Jewish Law:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 20 I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5)

Viewed as a concluding passage in the entire Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:23 portrays Jesus as admonishing his hearers to follow the Torah more assiduously, even going beyond its requirements, as opposed to preaching the Law but not practicing it.


John's portrayal of lawlessness is somewhat different. In effect, he reverses Matthew's formula. For John, sin = lawlessness; but in Matthew law-breaking = sin. John's formula is more "Pauline" in the sense that he portrays sin as a general condition of humankind, while Matthew presents it as an action, namely breaking the commandments.

In terms of the OP's question, recognizing lawlessness in John's formula is a matter of adherence to Christ. Those who are in Christ do not sin. On the other hand, those who behave badly and do not love their brothers are clearly not true Christians. From the same chapter:

No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot sin because he is begotten by God. 10 In this way, the children of God and the children of the devil are made plain; no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother.

In the case of Matthew, one needs to look more at the details. Exactly what Matthew means by "whoever breaks the least of these commandments" has been much debated. Matthew, like John, emphasizes the importance of loving one's neighbor, but he also stipulates several other cardinal commandments which must be obeyed:

(Jesus said) "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He asked him , “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; 19 honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mt. 19)

Conclusion: In Matthew, a lawless person can be recognized by certain sinful actions, including but not limited to murder, adultery, false witness, no honoring one's parents and not loving one's neighbor. In John, lawlessness is recognized by not being truly begotten as a child of God, which means behaving unrighteously and not loving one's brother.


This question makes a very important link between Jesus’ words here, and how some claiming to be Christians turn out to actually be antinomian. ‘Anti’ is against, and ‘nomos’ is law. So, an antinomian is someone who is lawless; against law; without law; yet appearing to conform to how God and Christ would have them act, in this example. 1 John 3:4 absolutely does apply to those whom Jesus casts away as those “who practice lawlessness” or, “workers of iniquity” (K.J.) What they do in the name of Jesus absolutely is sin, and all the more reprehensible because they appear to do good deeds in Jesus’ name. Sin is lawlessness, without question.

Application is vital today, for antinomianism is on the increase, not only in the nations at large, but in Christian gatherings where claims are made to perform miracles in Jesus’ name when, actually, sin is at work, not only in deceiving on-lookers, but in harming those who are being told they have had demons cast out of them, or they have been healed of some disease, when they have not. Some notorious cases have resulted in children dying, or in adults being deeply damaged, and government legislation then being proposed to stop such activities wholesale. This all brings the name of Christ into disrepute.

The reason why antinomianism can be hard to spot amongst some professed Christians is that they give the impression of being keen on observing such things as The Ten Commandments; of being tax-paying, law-abiding citizens – “good eggs”. But there’s another aspect of antinomianism that exposes it: Antinomians will unlawfully misuse God’s law.

On one hand, they appear to be decent, law-abiding people, while at the same time they take aspects of God’s law to twist into their own man-made laws or regulations. I will avoid giving political examples of this today, in America, or religious examples of this today in Britain. But once you grasp that antinomianism is also unlawful misuse of law, the lid is lifted off this Pandora’s Box. Then your eyes are opened, and you start to see it skulking under cover of being an oh-so-law-abiding group in the Church.

False prophets, false healers, false casters-out-of-demons… they often give themselves away, not in those areas, but in being sexually licentious, of liking porn, or violent films, or swearing, or controlling the lives of those who admire them. That sort of thing. They keep those things under wraps in the congregation or in public, but their lawlessness is not far under the surface of their respectability. Jesus isn’t fooled, of course: ‘I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness.’


The actions (prophecying, casting out demons, performing mirracles) mentioned in Matthew 7:21-23: are by them selve not bad or lawless. But even when they are performed with the help of God, they do not automatically declare those wo performed the works automatically righteous or „saved“ for the rest of their lives (1 Corinthians 9:27).

One of the related bible scriptures that could help to recognize „lawlessness“ or actions that might lead to Jesus saying „I never knew you“, is:

Matthew 25:31-46. Specifically When the son of Man separates the sheep from the goats says tot he goats: Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

The context of the sections in Matthew 7 and 25 appear to emphasize that the invitation to come and inherit the kingdom is not based on formalistic actions or appearant works.

Besides works (James 2:14-16) it is necessary to have:

  • Faith

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

  • and love

1 Corinthians 13 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,a but have not love, I gain nothing.

It might be difficult to recognize faith and the true inner motives of others. It is also not our job to judge (Matthew 7:1-5), but if the sins of persons are obvious (2 Timothy 3:1-4, 1 Corinthians 6:9,10) and known we should protect ourselves and others from bad influences (1 Corinthians 5).

  • I added to my answer - Jesus never stated he made a New Covenant or new laws. Paul and Luke his follower say these things after Jesus. As rightly commented above the disciples followed the OT and were Jewish and Jesus clearly mentions only coming to the 'lost sheep of Israel'. There is only 1 teacher - Matthew 23:8–12 - that was Jesus. Commented May 17, 2021 at 9:23
  • @anothertheory 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:20 I believe the new covenant in Jesus's blood would be a new covenant. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. Here I believe that Jesus communicates that all nations are to follow him.
    – Austin
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 2:51
  • @Austin 1) This is Luke a follower of Paul, after Jesus. 2) Matthew 28:19-20 a number of issues, appears to be a copy of Mark 16:15, with an addition Father/son/HS. Its generally accepted as I understand it scholars accept that Matthew and Luke come after and copy Mark with a twist and John comes after with a bigger twist. See link hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/60694/33268 which gives more evidence to following the law that came before. There is much more. Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 14:14

Jesus clearly states follow the laws of before, he has not come to change them. so follow the teaching of Jesus not of others such as Paul who changed the laws.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." [Matthew 5:17-20]

Paul changes the Law

Romans 9:16 - 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

Acts 13:39 "Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses

Romans 3:20 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Galatians 2:16 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:15 by abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments and decrees. He did this to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace

Galatians 3:19 Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions, until the arrival of the seed to whom the promise referred. It was administered through angels by a mediator. - Jesus arrived and gave the same Law as before.

I could mention so many verses could write a book, but I will end with the below;

There is only 1 teacher - Matthew 23:8–12 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

"But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Matthew 15:9 "`How can you say, "We [the Jews] are wise, for we have the law of the LORD," when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?' Jeremiah 8:8)"

  • "I don't like what Paul says so I'll ignore his half of the new testament" is a surprisingly common, but meaningless, position. When you decide to believe the parts of the Bible you agree with, but ignore the rest, then you aren't really learning from the Bible: you're just using it to justify your position.
    – conman
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 0:09
  • Which, BTW, Paul explained perfectly, and Paul's explanation also jives perfectly with Jesus' comment about fulfilling the law. The purpose of the law was never to bring salvation. The purpose of the law was to be a tutor to bring us to Christ. Once we belong to Jesus, we have graduated from the law. We are no longer "under" the law, but rather under the charge of the King. That doesn't meant that the law has been abolished, anymore than high school teachers are no longer necessary just because I graduated high school.
    – conman
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 0:12
  • G-d said --- Leviticus 18:5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. Paul said -- The law only shows you that you have sin ...... Between G-d and Paul, I will pick G-d. This a no-brainer. G-d Bless.
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 7:52
  • In that case, I'm looking forward to your sacrifice on the brazen alter and cleansing with the ashes of the red heffer the next time you have a skin disease.
    – Robert
    Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 17:49

How do Jesus' words in Matthew 7 apply to us today?

Answer: John 3:5, 1 Cor. 11:24-26 (per Lk. 22:19-20).

It took me quite a bit of study to finally understand what Christ is saying in the passage below. I've finally come to recognize what He was proclaiming (I've paraphrased):

John 3:5: "[Unless] one is born of water and [born of] the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (emphasis added).

I. Since the words of the Son of God are absolutely paramount: What does it mean to be born of water? While many may deny this as unnecessary, there is really only one answer to the question: baptism — water immersion into Christ.

I won't take the time here to enumerate the dozens of passages that speak to baptism other than to suggest that it is a crucial mistake to believe that water immersion, baptism, is merely "an outward sign of an inner grace." The simple reason is that such claims advance the false notion that baptism is optional: it is not. The idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply nowhere entertained in the New Testament.

The reason that baptism is so important is that upon submission to this rite, we are cleansed of our old selves: that is how we crucify ourselves, to then be resurrected just as Paul explains:

Romans 6:3-4: "[Do] you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (emphasis added).

Note this too: It is God Who performs the spiritual cleansing. The cleansing is an act of God (1 Jn. 1:7, 9). All we are doing is obeying Christ's commandment.

II. Another question then arises: "What does it mean to be 'born of the Spirit?'" There is an answer to this, but it is not the same thing as that which occurred on Pentecost in the first century.

Let us understand that the Spirit is illuminated in the Bible. While Scripture was written by men, it has been infallibly delivered to us by the Holy Spirit. Once we understand that "the Spirit" in John 3:5 is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, then it follows that we must immerse ourselves in the words, the revelation from the Spirit of God. This, I propose, is how we are "born of the Spirit."

As we do this, we are internalizing the Mind of God, replacing our old worldly mentality with the Mind of Christ. Paul articulates this renewal of our minds in his Letter to the Romans:

Romans 12:2: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (emphasis added).

When we do this, and we arrive at a crossroad where one path leads to sin, and another leads to righteousness, because we possess part of God's Mind through the Spirit, we know how to avoid "grieving the Holy Spirit" (Eph. 4:30) by choosing the path that leads to righteousness — something that we heretofore may never have understood, being overwhelmed by worldliness.

III. How does Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians apply to the question?

1 Corinthians 11:24-26: "[When Christ] had given thanks, He broke [the bread] and said, 'This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes" (cf. Lk. 22:19-20, emphasis added).

Are these mere suggestions by Christ? Most will recognize such commandments as the Lord's Supper, communion, which consists of 1) unleavened bread, and 2) fruit of the vine (grape juice). This rite represents a "common union" with Christ and the rest of the saints on the Lord's Day (Sunday).

These too are not optional as many suppose. This is direct proclamation by the Son of God, something that we may often dismiss or even reject entirely as part of our worship — to our peril. Too often, we like to have everything our way, to have our "ears tickled" rather than to submit to God's desires for us:

1 Timothy 4:3: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires."

Many will claim that they "feel" the Spirit within them. I have no desire to begrudge anyone of their peace and happiness in Christ. But if we do not obey the simple commandments spoken by Christ in John 3:5 (and Lk. 22:19-20), how is that not sin, disobedience, and lawlessness?

If we neglect these vital aspects of salvation, we are no better off than those who prophesied or cast out demons or performed miracles in the name of Christ and were subsequently rejected by Him. God is only impressed with our obedience to the Gospel:

John 14:15: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."

To love Christ is to obey Him. This verse might otherwise be rendered: "If you do not keep My commandments you do not love me."

And, in that case, Christ may well proclaim: "I never knew you; Depart from Me!"

  • Jesus's teachings mainly targeted and condemned the legalistic pharisees for their outward religion and status and the arrogance and hypocrisy, he basically taught against religious rituals and proclaimed that even pagans like Samaritans will be righteous if they follow the will of the father. Moral works matter not rituals and religion.
    – Michael16
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 3:34
  • Question on just the first part - the thief on the cross, who mocked Christ initially before coming around, professing belief, and being promised eternal life. Was he baptized? Commented May 13, 2021 at 6:39
  • @Hammer We don't know. We do know that he died before the Gospel came into effect because Christ had not yet died and been resurrected. We also know that he believed in Jesus, repented of sins, and confessed Jesus before men: he had both faith and works. Lastly, the thief could receive a special dispensation because Christ had the power to forgive sins. Naturally, this did not typify our expectations, but it serve to demonstrate Christ's authority.
    – Xeno
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 7:29

Matthew 7:21-23 reveals a situation that many Jesus followers who believe deeply that they did the right thing for God, found themselves didn't pass the final trial. What did they go wrong?

Even Jesus gave an answer in Matthew 7:23, that their sin is lawlessness, may not be helpful. As Matthew 7:22, the plea from those people would say, "I prophesized in your name and many people believed; I drove out demons in your name and it worked; I performed miracles in your name and it happened. So what did I go wrong?"

The reality is, there are many who listen to the words of God, but distort the words according to their personal interest and go astray. There were many examples in the scripture, such as

  • those false prophets who bewildered the kings
  • the Pharisees who thought themselves authority of the law
  • Ananias and Sapphira who offered their wealth with secret agenda (Acts 5:1-11)
  • Simon the Sorcerer who sought for magical power (Acts 8:9-24)

Even Paul at his early time as a Pharisee persecuted Jesus believers due to his zeal to God. In his retrospect, he said;

6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. (Philippians 3:6 NIV)

To discuss what is lawful and what is lawless may be missing the focus of the question. We may see Paul and other writers in NT strongly rebuked the Jewish Christian who emphasized works according to the law, they should put their faith on Christ. This requires His true believers who hears His words and put them into practice. The correct answer is given right after Matthew 7:21-23

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24 NIV)

There are a few more words from Jesus that help us to understand how to put his words into practice;

Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matt 11:15 and 14 other places in NT)

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29 NIV)

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23 NIV)

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)

So first preparing a gentle and humble heart for our ears capable to hear and understanding the whisper of the Holy Spirit. Love God truly and practise love to people who are needy, as Peter said;

8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8 NIV)


When Matthew quotes Jesus using the phrase “never knew you” in Matt 7:21 the Greek word for never is Strong’s #3763.

Matthew uses the same word when He cites Jesus’ statement asking the Scribes etc. have you never read… in Mt 21:16 and Mt 21:42.

Mt 21:16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never (3763) read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

Mt 21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never (3763) read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same has become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?

The experts in the Law had most certainly read these verses before, and this suggests that Jesus was using the word “never” in order to remind them of certain truths.

In turn, it also suggests that when Matthew uses the same word in Mt 7:21 the translation is not exact and that He is not saying that Jesus never knew them at any point in their lives.

It may not imply that Jesus “Never” knew the people who called Him Lord, but instead that they were not obedient at that time.

The translation of the Greek in Luke 13:25 is more accurate in this situation than that of Matt 7:21 since it does not convey the idea of “never having known people who call Him Lord”. Instead, it conveys the idea of Jesus not recognizing where they come from, as Luke 13:27 infers. 

We know that Jesus will not reject anyone who comes to Him, Jn 6:37.

John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Lu 13:25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:

Lu 13:27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.

A Christian can be sent into the presence of the Devil and his angels (Hell) and they can come out upon repentance from the activity that prompted Jesus to send them there as Matt 5:26 and Luke 12:59 illustrate.

Just as God used Satan to discipline Job, Jesus used the devil in this situation and Paul used it in 1 Cor 5:5.

1Co 5:5 To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Jesus is not telling people who call him Lord that He never knew them at any time and that they would not be saved, He is sending them to Hell for correction.

As we can see from Matt 25:23 some people enter the kingdom (righteousness joy and peace) to a greater degree and some go into the fire, and are saved through the fire, 1 Cor 3:15.

Mt 25:23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

1Co 3:15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Jesus refused to allow some people who called him Lord into the kingdom of God in Matt 25:41, and yet He also said I will reject no one who comes to me in John 6:37.

Jesus did not allow these Christians to enter the kingdom of righteousness joy and peace in the Holy Spirit because they had not been taught to deny ungodliness yet.

Mt 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Mt 5:26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Lu 12:59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.

  • When you say "Jesus did not allow these Christians to enter the kingdom," should not the adjective 'professed' be inserted before 'Christians'? No genuine Christian will be kept out of God's kingdom. And given that Jesus spoke of their judgment happening "in that day" when they are told to depart from Christ, there is no way they can actually be Christians, surely? There's no hint of more time to give them a second chance.
    – Anne
    Commented Jan 19 at 16:33
  • Incorrect, the day of the Lord is a time of judgment and Christians sre judged to avoid condemnation. They are sent into hell or outerdatkness and pnly come out after repentence - Mt 5:26. rumble.com/v462s9u-the-day-of-the-lord-explained.html
    – brmicke
    Commented Jan 20 at 17:19
  • The greek word translated as Never = Strong's 3763. The roots of 3763 are 3761 translated 14 times as "never" in the kjv. The other root of 3761 is Strong's 4218, translated 3 times as "sometimes".
    – brmicke
    Commented Jan 21 at 15:56

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