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Doing the Father’s Will



“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”   (Matthew 7:21-23)

Who can read these words of our Lord without a shudder? How horrifying to stand before Jesus on Judgment Day and hear Him say, “I never knew you; depart from Me.”

Who are those that will hear those terrible words?

These three verses go with the preceding section (Matthew 7:15-20), where Jesus warns about false prophets. He tells us to beware of them because though they come in sheep’s clothing, they are really ravenous wolves. They appear to be representatives of Jesus, for they go by the name Christian and claim to be teachers of the Bible.

But that claim should not be taken at face value; we should examine it thoroughly. “By their fruits you will know them,” Jesus says. We need to look carefully at what they teach and compare it with God’s Word. If we do that, we will not be deceived by their sheep-like appearance and can treat them as one would treat a wolf—that is, not get too close.

Not everyone who comes in the name of Jesus is really a disciple of Jesus. Not everyone who claims to be a teacher of God’s Word is a faithful teacher.

Having warned against false teachers, Jesus warns teachers directly. There are many who call Jesus “Lord” in worship and prayer, implying that they truly regard Him as Lord and submit to Him. But words are not enough, Jesus says. Nor is it enough if they have done miracles invoking the name of Jesus, for miracles can be lying wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9). What matters is that they do the will of His Father in heaven (and this applies not only to teachers; any and all who read these words should understand that merely calling Jesus “Lord” does not guarantee entrance into the kingdom of heaven).

What is the Father’s will? It is first of all His gracious, saving will that we repent of our sins and trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior from sin. To do the Father’s will is to seek His kingdom and righteousness. This does not mean leading a sinless life but believing the gospel of forgiveness of sins, which also provides the power to do what is pleasing to God.

This is what Jesus taught (John 6:29, 39-40), and the apostle John summarizes it beautifully: “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23).

On the Last Day Christ will reveal those who have the inner connection with Him of true and saving faith and those who do not have it. But how can we be sure that we have it? Paul says, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Dr. Martin Luther wrote a good self-examination in the “Christian Questions” in his Small Catechism. It is a series of questions intended “for those who are about to partake of the Lord’s Supper.” The questions are not about whether you have lived a good enough life. They are rather about whether you believe that you are a sinner; that you hope to be saved; and that you trust in Christ alone for salvation because He died and shed His blood for you.

Do we believe these things? Surely the answer is yes, for the Holy Spirit has convinced us of them. In that case the Lord knows that we are His, and He will acknowledge us as His own on the Last Day, saying, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).