Matthew 7:21-23 NIV

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Mark 9:38 NIV

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

In one text Christ rejects those who had been casting out demons and performing miracles in his name but on the other hand he says no one who does a miracle in his name can also say something bad about him

How can these texts be understood?

  • Aren't you ignoring the context in Mark? Does it do justice to what Jesus is saying to stop at v. 39? Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 8:04
  • @ Revelation Lad,i did consider the context,seemingly those who were rejected claimed to be performing miracles to help those who were oppressed of the devil which is more or less like giving a cup of water to his disciples. Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 9:35
  • Does a claim to have done a good work mean that a good work has been done? I think Jesus will be unimpressed with the claims of many people, which is why, when all is concluded, he will judge according to, "those things which were written in the books, according to their works.". Jesus knows!
    – enegue
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 12:13

5 Answers 5


The difference between Matthew 7:21-23 and Mark 9:38-39 is a matter of timing: when to do what, as explained later by Jesus in Matthew 13:

24Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28“ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29“ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

True Christians and false Christians can be separated at harvest time.

OP: he [Jesus in Mark 9:38-39] says no one who does a miracle in his name can also say something bad about him

I.e., while they were doing miracles in Jesus' name before the end-day (harvest day).

OP: Christ [in Matthew 7:21-23] rejects those who had been casting out demons and performing miracles in his name

I.e., on that end-day (harvest day).

Before the last day, let the Lord-Lord Christians perform their miracles in Jesus' name. On the last day, they will be gathered and burned.


How can [Matt. 7:22-23 and Mark 9:38-39] be understood?

Answer: Both refer to casting out demons or performing miracles in the name of Christ.

This is a very important question, because it specifically addresses true salvation in Christ. Note that the gifts were received only through Christ: "in my name" (Matt. 7:22, Mk. 9:39).

We should understand that, while "casting out demons" and "performing miracles" are both highly commendable acts, doing only these things is not enough! We absolutely must obey Christ's commands! Otherwise, all else that we do profits us nothing.

First, God desires obedience to His Word above all else:

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

What are these commandments? In the N/T, they are comprised of — yes, works:

  1. Hearing the Word, "[Faith] comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17).
  2. Believing that Jesus is Lord, "[Jesus] answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent'”" (Jn. 6:29, emphasis added).
  3. Repenting of sins, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38).
  1. Confessing Christ as Lord, "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32). We do this as we are,
  2. Baptized — immersed in pure water — into Christ's death and resurrection:

Romans 63-4: "[Do] you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore 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).

It is likely that everyone understands this last one: 6) We must live godly lives in Christ, "walking in the Light" (1 Jn. 1:7). Through this obedience to the Gospel, we become "children of God":

Philippians 2:15: "[So] that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world"

It is imperative to recognize that all steps to salvation are "works", just as the passages read. However, note that baptism — our spiritual cleansing — is actually a divine act of forgiveness as we emerge from the water.

While these obedient actions seem trivial compared to performing miracles and casting out demons, they are far more important to God, and that is what counts.

Matthew 7:22-23 and Mark 9:38-39 are extraordinary examples that, while other works may be admirable, they will not get us to heaven. That is why these are such stark examples of those who acted in the name of Christ in vain: "Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matt. 7:23).

James tell us: "Faith without works is dead" (Jas. 2:26). What works? The works outlined above.

If we do these simple works, we will receive Salvation, Forgiveness, Justification, and Newness of life in Christ.


The answer is that anyone casting out devils by the name of Jesus, or doing miracles in His name, are at that time in good standing with God. They really cast out devils, and they really did perform miracles. God only gives this power to those who are approved of God. God doesn't hear those who hate Him in this way.

However, one can fall away from faith in Christ, which is the other side of the "persevere to the end" (Matthew 24:13) coin. The implication is that some can have faith, but it will "grow cold," (ibid. 24:12) or or they will have it only "for a time" (Luke 8:13), thus allowing for a scenario where someone who has cast devil out of someone or performed miracles can recieve the sentence to hell — because by trampling the grace of Christ (Hebrews 10:28-31) under foot, they have forfeited heaven and opted for hell. For there are only two destinations. Because they were the friend of God, and then departed from God.

2 Timothy 2:12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us;


There are many such contradictions which are intended to be used as teaching tools -- e.g. to specify contrast between two different things, and they only appear as a contradiction if you assume they are referring to the same thing.

Here is another example:

1 John 1.10 "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."

1 John 3.6 "Everyone who resides in him does not sin. Everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him."

And you can resolve this tension with the dualism of the old man and the new man. The new man is born from above and cannot sin, and the new man is within us. The new man cannot sin. The old man can only sin and can do nothing but sin. Thus these passages apply to two different "ones", the one from above and the one from the earth.

And I think the point here is the one born of the flesh also does good deeds, but these do not profit us at the end because the flesh always points things to itself, either praising itself for doing a good work and thus lifting ourselves up in such a way as the good work does not result in an eternal reward.

This is a theme started in Matthew 5 and continues up to the final parable in Matt 7. For example:

"Whenever you fast, do not be sullen like the hypocrites, for they make their faces unrecognizable in order that they may be seen fasting by people. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward in full!" Matt 6.16

"Therefore whenever you practice charitable giving, do not sound a trumpet in front of you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, in order that they may be praised by people. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward in full! But you, when you practice charitable giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, in order that your charitable giving may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Matt 6.2-4

So these examples of works that do not survive to Judgement Day culminate with the devastating "I never knew you" in the final parable of this sequence.

Now contrast that with the parable of sheep and goats in Matt 25:31-46, where Jesus praises the sheep for things the sheep didn't even realize they did, and he condemns the goats for things the goats didn't even realize.

So there is a message here that those things that make us satisfied on earth as to our good works are not going to be the ones that benefit us in the life to come.

2 Cor 4.7 "For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus. For God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” is the one who has shined in our hearts for the enlightenment of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthenware jars, in order that the extraordinary degree of the power may be from God and not from us."

Now contrast this with Mark 9:41

For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name because you are Christ’s, truly I say to you that he will never lose his reward.

Here, the good deed is happening not because the person wants to benefit themselves but because they see a need and respond to it, that is, there is an element of selflessness to giving this cup of water, which is different from doing the good deed in order to be seen doing the good deed or to obtain some kind of personal benefit. That creates a mystery, in that it's hard to do a good deed without trying to benefit yourself, which I think is why the deeds the sheep are praised for are the ones they didn't know they did, while the deeds that we believe benefit us are the ones that we don't profit from. The deeds we do out of seeing a need and responding with a selfless desire to meet a need outside ourselves, those are the ones that survive

And if I parcel out all my possessions, and if I hand over my body in order that I will be burned, but do not have love, it benefits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous, it does not boast, it does not become conceited. 1 Cor 13.3-4


The passages are speaking to different events:

21Not 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. 22 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?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7 ESV)

This is speaking to a judgment which will allow or deny entry into the kingdom of heaven. Also it is not all inclusive: some will be told to depart from Jesus.

On the other hand, in Mark, Jesus is simply correcting the disciples' attempt to interfere with someone casting out demons solely on the basis they were not also following the disciples:

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. (Mark 9)

There is nothing to indicate the one casting out demons will be told Jesus does not know them. The only aspect which Jesus addresses is after they do a work in His name, they will not be able to speak evil of Him.

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