And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
This is not only the saddest verse in the Bible, but it is also the most frightening verse as well. As a point of reference, this chapter is part of what we call “The Sermon on the Mount.” Many had gathered there beside the sea to hear the Master, and Jesus talks about a lot of things: The Beatitudes, This Little Light of Mine, how to do relationships, how to worship, how to pray. Chapter seven begins with “judge not” and includes the lesson on the mote and beam, and ends with the Wise Man Builds His House Upon a Rock, but sandwiched in between these two familiar passages are these two verses:
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (22)
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.(23)
- Who is saying this? Jesus
- Where? By the Sea of Galilee
- To Whom? His disciples and many of his followers AND TO US!
- How did they react:
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.(28,29)
I have to admit, when I first read this passage, I was shocked for two reasons: One, because the message was so strong, and two, I had never heard it before in my church, even though I was a regular attender and really paid attention. Think about it: have you ever heard your pastor preach on this verse? Has he ever read it as part of the weekly New Testament reading? If the answer is “yes,” then you are blessed to be in a church that preaches the whole council of God; however, if the answer is “no,” you may ask yourself or your pastor why.
And here’s the real question: Who goes to hell? According to this verse, a person can be a pastor (prophesied refers to preaching the Word), an exorcist, or a person who does really amazing things in Jesus’ name! Jesus is not talking about a C&E Christian—someone who only comes to church on Christmas and Easter. He’s talking about a person who is really plugged in to “religion.”
Does that frighten you? Does it make you wonder about your own spiritual state? It should, and that’s probably why Jesus said it. He was talking to many really religious people. They would make the average twenty-first-century church attender look like a heathen. They knew how to “do God,” but something was missing. When Jesus says, “I never knew you,” He’s not saying that He doesn’t know this person. He knows everyone and is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”2(Peter 3:9) He’s saying that this person is not His intimate friend. It’s someone who is busy about God but misses the whole relationship idea.
This is a real “heart-check” passage. Don’t look to the other guy who seems to fit the bill, in your estimation: he’s all show and no heart. He may indeed fall into this eternally fatal category. But what about you? You say you’re a Christian, but is there any fruit to prove it? You say things like, “I’m good, me and God, we have an understanding.” Yikes! Are you sure? I hope the understanding falls under God’s requirements, and indeed, He has requirements!
I suppose the real question can only be answered by you and God. Are you real? Is your love for Christ unfeigned, or is He just tacked on at the end of the day, like the idol worshipper who just wants to add Jesus to his god shelf. Jesus won’t do that. You must tear down the god shelf (which, in our day can take the form of success, wealth, pride, sports, career, houses and lands… all those things that place such harsh demands all our time and attention!). Only Jesus. Jesus first. Jesus is All the World to Me…
Do you know Him? Does He know you? If you have trusted Him as your Savior, your life will show it. Others will know, you will know, and Jesus will know! What a wonderful, peaceful place to be!
BUT, if this post causes you to question, perhaps it is God’s Holy Spirit knocking on your door. Get the answers you need. Salvation is available to all who will speak the truth in their heart. (You may need to check out What is Salvation?)