Matthew 7:21-23 used to be some of my most hated verses in the Bible. How could Jesus say that a person who even “cast out demons” (in his own name!) is an “evildoer,” unknown to him? Doesn’t this statement destroy the basis for any assurance of salvation by God?
No. No it does not.
The Heart of God: Mercy, not Sacrifice
Perhaps my favorite verses in Matthew are the ones that say that God desires “mercy, not sacrifice.” I think that is what is behind Jesus’s hard teaching here near the end of the Sermon on the Mount.
Throughout Matthew, Jesus repeatedly criticizes the religious establishment of his day because they “tithe mint, dill, and cumin” but “neglect the weightier matters of the law.” What are the weightier matters?
The weightier things are the little things, the small acts of humility, love, and self-control that are littered throughout Matthew.
Matthew 7:21-23 is good news because God is not interested in lip service and pomp but in love, kindness, and self-control. God is interested in the New Creation more than in spectacular displays of personal competence.
May we, like Jesus, take the form of a slave for the sake of others.