“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
I find this passage both sobering and curious. The sobbering nature of these words is likely the more evident feature. Apparently there exists a possibility that each one of us who claims to act in the name of Jesus could in fact self-deluded. Jesus may not smile on our efforts and ultimately the gift of eternal life that he possess may not be extended. In fact, he is unequivocal in his garauntee that some who think on the Day of Judgment that they will be approved are instead going to be rejected. Whenever I read this, I pray that I would not be among the self-deluded.
So here’s the strange thing about the passage. Jesus says that the litmus testing for being accepted into the Kingdom is doing God’s will. But evidently prophesying and casting out demons and performing many miracles — in the name of Jesus, no less — does not qualify as doing God’s will. In fact, Jesus goes one step further and says this group of people is actually breaking God’s laws in doing such things.
It would see to me that the missing piece in all of this is relationship. Jesus’ response to these entreaties is pointing to deficit in relationship. Jesus’ not knowing these people means Jesus does not have a deep and intimate relationship with them. Yes, these people did many good things, but evidently they did not know God on a personal level; they did not have a relationship with him. And Jesus says that this is breaking God’s law because the foundation of law is relationship: Jesus points out that the core of the law, that which in itself captures and fulfills all other laws, in the love of God (Luke 10:27, referencing Deuteronomy 6:5). If we do not first do this, even if we do good, we have not done what is right and we can have no peace about whether we shall inherit the fullness of eternal life on the last day.