Scripture of interest
“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?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
This is one of the most famous and harshest passages in all of scripture (in my opinion). I’ve heard it in many sermons, poems and quoted by well-known theologians. What exactly does it mean? A scripture as alarming as this caused me to geek out and break it down as follows;
The Will of God
The Will of God requires much more than a few sentences to explain, however the following scripture provides great insight concerning this topic.
3 For this is the will of God, our sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
The word sanctification means “to make holy, set apart as sacred; consecrate” or “to purify or free from sin”
The Greek word ‘hagiasmos’ literally translates to “holiness”
Based on this scripture, God’s will is for Christians to be set apart and made Holy.
Therefore those who practice holiness (or are sanctified) will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Knowing Christ & Fulfilling God’s Will
So far I’m thinking, “All you gotta do is a bunch of good things to inherit the kingdom of Heaven, cool”. Verse 22 quickly brought me back to earth.
The people who were crying out to the Lord in verse 22 were genuinely doing good things based on their testimony. However, Christ responds in verse 23 by saying “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness”.
Notice that Christ did not say, “You never did my Fathers will, depart for me” but he rather rebuked them by saying “I never knew you”. In other words, without knowing Christ, we cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, it is impossible for us to fulfill the will of God – or practice holiness as mentioned in 1 Thessalonian 4:3 – without knowing Christ. Otherwise Matthew 7:21-23 would be contradicting itself.
This means that over all things, Christ desires a relationship from us (for us to know him) not a bucket list of good Christian things we’ve done to prove to him we’re worthy of entering his kingdom. Doing “good things” or “trying to be holy” will not inherit you the kingdom of heaven, because in the eyes of God there is no good or holiness in you, regardless of what you do (click here for post concerning this topic).
A few things to take away so far:
- We must do the will of God to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Mat.7:21)
- We must know Christ to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Mat. 7:23)
- Likewise, people who do the will of God know Christ, and people who know Christ will do the will of God (1 John 2:4) (it is impossible to have one without the other)
The Significance of Knowing Christ
The bible confirms that those who know Christ, will be obedient in keeping God’s commands (1 John 2:4). Furthermore, obedience leads to righteousness (Romans 6:16), which then leads to sanctification (Romans 6:19). And those who are sanctified (made Holy) fulfill God’s will as described in 1 Thessalonian 4:3, henceforth inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Our assurance of knowing Christ will be made evident based on the fruit of sanctification.
Now before asking ourselves 1000 questions like “What does it mean to know Christ?” or “How do I get to know him?”, (which are both great questions nonetheless) we should first ask ourselves this:
Do you genuinely want to know Jesus Christ?
Do you really want to be friends with him & maintain a relationship with him?
Think about it
A wife is not forced into knowing her husband in the same way a husband is not forced to know his wife. But they desire an intimate relationship with each other because of their love, thus increasing their knowledge of both respective partners. There will be many points in their relationship where things are rocky, but despite the hurt, they will always end up working it out, if there love be genuine.
In the same way, Christ wants us to truly love him, which will in turn lead us into knowing him. The mercies of God seen through the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ is the reason why we should love him (1 John 3:16&19; Romans 12:1). This truth is presented to all people, but only those who are willing to believe it will reciprocate this love.
Those who love him pursue a relationship with him, those who pursue a relation with him will know him, & those who know him will enter into his kingdom.
Do you love him?
Soli Deo Gloria