Matthew 7:21-23

The text last Lord’s Day was an important one, and it provoked a great deal of conversation in the second hour.  This one probably will too, because it is a continuation of the same subject matter!

And, as we hear what Jesus says, - and, hopefully, submit to that infallible judgment, I have a word of caution for you.  And it’s the same caution I gave you last Sunday in that second hour.  And it’s just this:  reach for what Jesus says, but do not dissect and examine His words to such a degree that His intent is wholly lost!

Let’s find out what the context is, and what the words mean, and then let’s repent and come under His authority!  It’s very clear all through the Gospel that our Lord spoke in figures; and we all know why He spoke in figures – we’ve discussed that a number of times – and there’s a specific format for understanding those figurative episodes.

And if we pharisaically pick at every little detail of His teaching – trying to define things that aren’t there, attempting to make distinctions that aren’t there, trying to fit each word into some secret code scenario, and then developing this system of thought which is highly developed theologically, then we’ll end up being what last Sunday’s text warned us against!  We’ll be placed in that category of false prophets!

Now it is true that the judge of Heaven and earth has made specific judgments about who is pretending to be ministering in the Name of the Lamb of God and who is actually a vicious wolf.  And He has made judgments about who is really the harmless one who wishes to minister in the name of God’s Son.

But that text did not contain a section of instructions which taught us the subtleties of those distinctions!  We don’t have rule one hundred and forty eight which, with all the one hundred and forty seven coming before it, makes a pretty clear list of criteria for preachers and teachers!  And neither do we have a minimum standard that everybody has to believe in order to be acceptable!

Now, certainly it’s easy to spot a pseudoprophet if he comes right out and tells you that he doesn’t believe the divinity of Jesus!  We don’t have to sit down with our Bibles and try to find out whether what this guy is saying is true!  We already know that whoever says that Jesus isn’t God is a liar, and that if he attempts to preach or teach or counsel God’s people he is a pseudoprophet!

But we don’t have this rock-bottom, yea or nay, thumbs up or down rule of judgment all laid out for us by the Lord!  He simply says, “You shall recognize them by their fruit.”

And we examined the Scriptures last Lord’s Day and we found that the prophet’s fruit is his doctrine.  For if he is in Christ, and Christ is in him, and the Word of God dwells richly in him – then he is a good tree.  And good fruit (doctrinal practice) will then result.  But – even though a man looks harmless on the outside (because he’s found a way to seem harmless) if he is not Christ’s, and if the Word does not dwell richly in him, then that is a recognizable thing!  Jesus says here that it’s recognizable!

Then the issue becomes one of the Churches – especially the elders – knowing the Word of God and being able to recognize the evil fruit when it shows up!  So all of us, at least to some degree, have to become watchers for the pseudoprophets and pseudoteachers, for they are rapacious wolves!  In other words they rip and tear and kill.

Eventually the fact that they are rotten will show up in what they do, as our text today says, because they can’t cover up what they are forever, and bad doctrine equals bad practice!

But their doctrine – although seemingly harmless – is not harmless.  Jesus says that the tree is evil and the fruit is evil!  Evil is not harmless!  And last Lord’s Day I illustrated men everywhere dragging their wives and children every Sunday morning out to the dens of wolves and saying, “Here we are, tear us apart!”  And people that’s not an illustration that can be easily ridiculed!  That’s really happening!  I think we need to make that even stronger.  I don’t want my children or grandchildren torn apart even one time!  I don’t want them exposed to a wolf even once!  If Jesus says that the tree is evil – and the fruit is evil – then why would any of us want to be exposed – or have our children exposed – even once?

Would you take your child, or send him, to a palmist, or an Indian guru, or a Buddhist – just one time? – explaining that, “One time won’t hurt.”  Well, those people are open and honest with you about the fact that they are not Christian!  To me it would be better – if something “better” could be seen here – it would be better to consult with a swami (as awful as that would be) – knowing what he is – than to subject your children to the deceptive subtleness of the pseudoprophet!

Jesus says that the pseudoprophet appears as harmless as a sheep, but that he is an evil, rapacious wolf.  In other words he will rip you apart spiritually with evil fruit.  And it doesn’t matter if it’s by ignorance or by designed deception – the ripping and tearing is still the same!  One who has been attacked by wolves doesn’t care whether it’s been by ignorance or by design!

But the pseudoprophet lures the little sheep in by having on this covering which looks as harmless as a sheep.  And people go to him – and send their little ones to him – because he looks to be different from what he really is.  He may put on a show or a carnival atmosphere or have attractive programs.  But he looks different.

And let me just call your attention to the second letter of Peter to the Churches which were out there struggling with the last throes of the Old Israel and the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ.  Some of you might remember what Peter said –


“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who shall subtly bring in damnable heresies… and many will follow their pernicious ways… and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.”


You see, a prophet speaks!  That’s what he does!  And all prophets say they speak for God.  And you don’t judge a speaker by the miracles he performs – the good work he does – you judge him on what he says!  What speaker says is his fruit - his doctrine, his preaching, his words.  A prophet speaks!  He speaks for God.  And that’s how he’s judged.

And since the preaching of the Gospel is the common folly by which God brings His people to Himself and matures them, it is the most critical issue in the Church!  And Peter says in plain words in chapter two that these people who preach false doctrine to God’s people are evil, and they are brute beasts (wolves) to be taken and destroyed!

And Jesus says that they are recognizable.  And just because He said that, it lays a tremendous responsibility upon every one of us to watch for these beasts who try to look harmless – and not allow them in, and not go to them, and not send our children to them; not even once!

Well, let’s go on, now.  Jesus continues His discourse by going a bit further with this in verses twenty-one through twenty-three: 


“Not every one saying to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter in into the Kingdom of the Heavens, but the one doing the will of My Father in the Heavens.  In 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 things in Your Name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you.  Depart from Me workers of Lawlessness.’”


The first question to settle about this is – what does Jesus mean here when He says the Will of His Father.  And He answered that question a number of times during His ministry – a good example occurring in John chapter six, verse forty where He says this:  “This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which sees the Son, and faiths in Him, may have everlasting life.”

You see, the corruption proceeds from pretended teachers – pseudoprophets, and easily finds its way from them into the whole body.  So not only the pseudoprophets are preaching damnable heresies in the Churches, but they are gathering people around them and leading them into idolatry!

On the other hand, “Doing the Will of God” is seen by Jesus as faithing in Him for life.

And there will be many who profess the faith with their mouths but will deny “the faith” – which they profess by their actions!  The false doctrines, which are recognizable according to Jesus, soon degenerate to recognizable patterns of life which deny life in Christ and which deny the faith which is preached and professed with the mouth!

So the Lord Jesus can say, “even though you prophesied in My Name – even though you cast out demons in my name – even though you did wondrous things in My Name – your words are false, you do not faith in Me, I am not in you and you are not in Me, therefore you aren’t doing the will of My Father; don’t say to Me ‘Lord, Lord.’  I am not your Lord.  I never knew you.  Get away from Me.”

“And then I will declare openly to them…”  That verse twenty-three is a stunning statement, for this term “to declare openly” means to confess!  And it’s as if Jesus is saying to the false prophets and their followers – you have openly confessed to knowing Me, you’ve openly professed My Name, you’ve openly confessed Me and then prophesied falsely about Me; now I openly confess that I never knew you!”  You claimed a relationship by using the title, but a claim of a connection doesn’t make the connection so!  Your doctrine is false, your words are false, your preaching to the sheep is false, and now they’re following you and all of you are setting up patterns of life which are faithless – and they corroborate that you are not doing the will of My Father.

Jesus says in verse twenty-one:  “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter in into the Kingdom.”  The false prophets will have importuned Him, and will have prophesied in His Name, and will have worked mighty deeds and wonders, and will have cast out devils.  And they will have appeared harmless doing it!  Because all of them call on His Name, and all of them appear to be harmless, don’t they?  And all of them claim to represent Him.  But the wonders they do are all lying wonders!  Some are truly astonishing, as we saw last Sunday from Matthew twenty-four, but they are all lying wonders.

But not the apparent miracle, and not the great works, and not the references to Jesus Name; but the Word decides who is a true prophet.  The works of evil that a false prophet does are corroborative of his evil doctrine, and he is condemned by those works.  John chapter ten says that he shall be recognized by his speech – judged by the Lord on whether he’s doing the will of God – but recognized by his speech!

In verse twenty three again, the Lord, of course, knew these false prophets and what they were doing – even while they were doing it!  But He never acknowledged that they bore any relationship to Him!  And as they attempt to enter His Kingdom of glory, He orders them away, for they have abused His Name!  “Lord, Lord… in Your Name…!”

“You who always work lawlessness,” as He says here.  And it is clear that the greatest and most fatal work of lawlessness is the perversion of the Lord’s Word in the Lord’s Own Name!  And to foist that perversion off on others!  The antichrist is perversion of the doctrines of Christ.  And antichrist is called “the man of lawlessness” in Second Thessalonians two, verse three.

And, of course, the result of that central perversion is that all works radiating out from that are all likewise perverted!  (avoma is the word – “lawlessness”)  And it doesn’t necessarily mean “setting the law aside.”  Covetousness means, for example, using the Law unlawfully.  And “lawlessness” as Jesus uses it here means simply a perversion of the truth – a using of the truth untruthfully.  A calling upon the name of Jesus when there is no relationship to Jesus.  A using of the term Lord when there is, in reality, no master-servant connection.  They are looking harmless in sheep’s clothing.

It is lawlessness to preach the doctrines of Christ when you’re pretending to be a prophet!  It is lawlessness to call upon the Name of the Lord when there’s no master-slave relationship!  The wolves use subterfuge – such as the Name of the Lord – in order to deceive the sheep for their own gain.  And men and women and children are torn limb from limb by lawless pretenders who claim to be members of the Kingdom of Christ!  What most people think is that they show up looking like the Lamb of God Himself (nice, loving, kind, and personable) – but underneath they are exactly the opposite of the real Jesus!  And they mock Jesus by calling Him Lord, when they don’t comply with the will of His Father!  They aren’t faithing in God’s Son!

You remember from Second Peter the apostle’s reference to Balaam, who spoke great flowing words of truth – except for an occasion of compromise – and he was destroyed by God and forever branded a pseudoprophet in the Scriptures for all the world, in all ages, to read!

And you remember at Jesus’ trial – the high priest Caiaphus spoke in the Name of God, and the second Person in the Trinity was put to death!  And Caiaphus’ name is now forever associated with the term “pseudoteacher.”  Simon Magus, the converted, baptized Jew who had accepted the doctrines of the eastern Magi, would have bought the gift of wonders, giving money for power, prestige, ego, and self-esteem!

But privilege and performance and great works are not the criteria.  God’s Word is the criteria.  Prophets come with abilities gifts and tongues and magic and healings and administrations – but a prophet must speak “according to this Word.”  And God our Father would have perseverance in the Faith!

Calling upon the Name of Christ and professing religion and doing great deeds will not cover a man in the practice and indulgence of sin.  Therefore, let all who name the Name of Christ Jesus the Lord depart from all iniquity!