Jesus—His Life and Message: The Sermon on the Mount

November 8, 2016

by Peter Amsterdam

Four Sketches (Part 2)

In Matthew chapter 7, toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presented four sketches that express how believers should act in accordance with His teaching in the Sermon. We’ve read about the two gates and the false prophets in the first part of this article. Now we go on to a further warning, as Jesus speaks of people who profess to know and follow Him, but in fact don’t. He said:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On 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 works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’1

This is a difficult saying, as it tells us that there are some people who profess allegiance to Jesus, calling Him “Lord,” and who even back up their claim with spiritual achievements done in His name, yet who are rejected from the kingdom of God. Jesus had just said that a good tree and a bad tree can be recognized by the fruit they bear; but here we read of some who prophesy, cast out demons, and do mighty works in His name—but who don’t make the grade. Jesus told His disciples to Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers,cast out demons,2 and the people Jesus was speaking about in this passage did these things; yet He says they will be rejected, and that the works they have done will be called lawlessness (or iniquity in the KJV). How disconcerting! What does this mean?

To put this in context, it’s important to understand that anyone who does not address Jesus as Lord (meaning that they have not accepted Jesus as their Savior) will not enter the kingdom of God. As the apostle Paul wrote:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.3 

Those who do not believe in their heart that Jesus is their Savior, and who don’t confess that fact, aren’t saved.

In order to receive God’s gift of salvation, we must believe that Jesus is our Savior—which means believing that He is the Son of God, God incarnate, who was sent by His Father to be the Messiah, the Savior of the world; that He lived on earth as a human, and died on the cross for our sins.

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.4 

As Christians, we believe that our eternal destiny rests on Jesus, our Savior. So when we say, “Lord, Lord,” what stands behind those words is our sincere and true belief that Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior. It’s not about saying specific words; it’s about a declaration of our belief in, and commitment to, Jesus as the Lord of our lives.

In these verses, Jesus refers to some who profess to be Christians, who call Him Lord, who do things in His name, but of whom He says: I never knew you. To “know” is commonly used in Scripture for a relationship that goes beyond just being an acquaintance. Jesus was saying that some who did works in His name, who claimed to follow Him, in fact didn’t know Him and had no relationship with Him. The key is being in relationship with Him, being part of His family. As He said elsewhere:

“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”5 

Jesus is saying that fruitful works done in His name are not sufficient for salvation, neither is professing allegiance to Him without true belief in who He is and what He’s done; one needs to enter into a relationship with Him, a relationship rooted in faith.

Faith in Christ, which results in salvation, is not just an intellectual assent that the doctrine of salvation through Jesus is true. It calls for entering into relationship with Him, becoming part of God’s family.6 When Jesus spoke of those who call Him “Lord, Lord,” and who do works in His name, He was making the point that there are people who profess Him as Lord but don’t know Him, don’t have a relationship with Him.

Here at the end of the Sermon, Jesus says that “many” will be saying, “Didn’t we do these many things in Your name?” As we’ll see in the next portion of the Sermon, He speaks of a man who builds his house on the wrong foundation, and thus it collapses. Elsewhere in the Gospels we read of five foolish virgins whose lamps are out of oil, to whom the Lord says, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”7 These are further examples of people thinking that everything is just fine, and outwardly going through the motions, and finding out too late that wasn’t what was needed.

Jesus’ message at the end of the Sermon tells us of the danger of misunderstanding the means of salvation. It’s not just saying some particular words; it’s about true belief, which leads to entering into a relationship with Christ, which plays out in our lives. It’s not enough to say “Lord, Lord,” and then consider you have a free pass to sin all you want, to live life without any thought of the consequences of your actions. Christianity isn’t only about making a statement, it’s about becoming a child of God, which infers entering into a relationship with Him. Having done so should result in living a life based on and in honor of that relationship.

Jesus warns those whose faith is a pretense; who do the right things, are zealous in service, but whose motivation isn’t based on knowing and being known by Him. They do these things out of self-interest, for self-glorification and self-satisfaction, in their own energy and without the presence of Jesus in their lives or the power of God.

Jesus then ends the Sermon on the Mount with a simple but demanding choice: we either hear and ignore what He taught, or hear and put it into practice. He makes this point with a simple parable:8

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.9

As with the three other sketches, this parable challenges us to be true followers; those who enter the right gate and walk the right path; good vines and trees which bring forth good fruit; those whose faith is true, who do God’s will; those who not only hear Jesus’ words, but apply them. Faith in Jesus calls for not just hearing His words, but doing what He said.

In the context of the Sermon, Jesus is speaking to His disciples listening to the Sermon, so these words are directed to believers. The choice before each of us is whether we will not only hear His words, but follow them.

Jesus has shown a contrast between believers who have built their faith house on a solid foundation and those who haven’t. He once again brings up the point that neither intellectual knowledge nor verbal profession can replace being a doer of His words. The call given to us is to call Him Lord and hear His teaching, and live what He has taught. That’s discipleship, that’s being a believer, that’s what being a follower of Jesus is all about.

If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.10


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

General Bibliography

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1 Matthew 7:21–23.

2 Matthew 10:8.

3 Romans 10:9–10.

4 Philippians 2:5–11.

5 Matthew 12:48–50.

6 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1 John 3:1).

When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:4–6).

7 Matthew 25:12.

8 For more on this parable, see The Parable of the Two Builders.

9 Matthew 7:24–27.

10 John 13:17.