21 “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. 22 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?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21–23, NKJV)
Calling Jesus your Lord and Savior is not sufficient to assure your entrance into heaven (v. 21). Saying “Lord, Lord” but not doing what Jesus says does not please Him (Luke 6:46). We must do the Father’s will to enter heaven. This teaches us faith alone is not acceptable to Jesus. Well-intended religious activities are not sufficient to insure entrance into heaven, either (v. 22). Declaring to act in the name of Jesus does not make it so. Verse 23 explains that even well-meaning actions that are not approved in the word of God, are lawless (without law, not sanctioned by God’s law), and therefore, rejected. When religious practices are not revealed in the word of God they are lawless (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 John 3:4). Heaven is for those who are doers of the word. So, do the will of God and do not rest your hope of heaven on well-intended practices that are not approved by God’s word.
Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32, NKJV)
God has consistently told mankind to carefully obey whatever He commands. Such vigilance is manifested by not adding to His commands and by not taking away from them. God’s word sufficiently explains the commands of God (2 Peter 1:3-4). Therefore, we do not need more revelation, creeds, confessions, councils, synods, or conferences to bind on us what These things have no such power. No document drafted and codified by men contains God’s power to free men and women from the commands of God. God has already commanded in His word. We live under the authority of Jesus Christ, and we must respect His word and obey it in all things. As the apostle said, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). Therefore, let us “give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). Do not add to or take away from what God commands you through Jesus Christ, for “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25, NKJV)
Apparently some believe that since Christians are under the “law of liberty” they are at liberty to adapt the law of liberty to current cultural norms and expectations. We are told that what worked in the first century to draw people to Christ for salvation is antiquated in the twenty-first century. Such a relativistic view of truth is ready made for this present age, but it is not the nature of the abiding truth of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:35; John 17:17; 2 Peter 1:3-4). Others say the law of liberty frees us from the regulatory demands of law-keeping (as if the commands of God are burdensome, 1 John 5:3). Yet, James is very clear in saying there is a “law” that one must continue in as a “doer of the work” in order to be blessed. If today’s verse does not say we must keep God’s law, then I must confess ignorance as to what it means! Later, James made it clear that Christians will be judged by the law of liberty: “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:12). Beware if you use the law of liberty as a license to change and discard the commands of Christ. To do so is to rob yourself of eternal blessings. The law of liberty frees us from sin, not from the restrains of following the law of Christ.
6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; (Romans 2:6–7, NKJV)
God’s judgments are just. The Old Testament law and prophets relied on this basic truth when they said, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20; see Deuteronomy 24:16). Despite this, many still believe men and women are born sinners (born with a sin nature), inheriting the guilt and depravity of Adam’s sin. Yet, today’s passage assures eternal life to those who continue doing what is good because they are seeking “glory, honor, and immortality.” What is the good we must patiently continue to do to receive eternal life? The apostle John said it is practicing righteousness: “My little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7). The “doing good” that will be rewarded with eternal life is faithful obedience to God (Ephesians 2:10). Today’s question is this: Are you seeking heaven? If so, do you have faith that God will render to you according to your deeds? If so, then do the will of God and be blessed with eternal life. God will keep His word and deliver you a just judgment according to your deeds.
7 The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They eat up the sin of My people; They set their heart on their iniquity. 9 And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds. 10 For they shall eat, but not have enough; They shall commit harlotry, but not increase; Because they have ceased obeying the Lord. (Hosea 4:7–10, NKJV)
The northern kingdom of Israel was in the throes of spiritual adultery. The nation was unfaithful to Jehovah with the idols of the land. Immorality and selfish oppression of others was the order of the day. Sin increased daily, even as did the scarcity of their daily provisions. Famine, drought, plagues, pestilence, and warfare had not turned Israel back to God (Amos 4:6-11). Their hearts were set on sin. The priests taught the people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4). So, God was ready to punish them for their sinful conduct (Amos 4:12). We must turn our hearts to God fully and be faithful to Him alone. Then He will bless us. Otherwise, judgment is certain.
23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24, NKJV)
Jesus did not pronounce this stinging condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees because they were careful to tithe herbs (this was commanded in God’s law to Israel, Leviticus 27:30). He pronounced woe upon them for abandoning the principles and motives that characterize acceptable obedience to God. They strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel with their minute correctness while failing to obey God out of justice, mercy and faith. They “passed by justice and the love of God” in their zeal to keep the law (Luke 11:42). Unfortunately, this passage is frequently used as an “either, or” proposition to justify disobedience in the name of justice, mercy, faith and the love of God. Jesus did not say that. He taught that careful obedience is useless unless it genuinely expresses faith, mercy and justice. Obeying God does not contradict justice, mercy, and faith. While being faithful to obey God, be just and merciful to others. Do not “pass by the love of God” lest you fall into condemnation (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).
2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’” (Acts 7:2–3, NKJV)
We have heard people say that God would never expect them to leave (go contrary to) their family to do His will. Yet, that is exactly what God commanded Abraham to do. Abraham obeyed God without hesitation and went to a foreign land, all because God said to do so. This is the essence of God-pleasing faith. Listen to Hebrews 11:8: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Genuine faith in Jesus Christ means loving Him more than we love our own family and our own country. Genuine faith obeys the word of God, even when relatives will not. Family is important, but family is not the most important thing (God is more important, see Matthew 10:34-38). Many people have a hard time with this simple but profound truth. The gospel of Christ calls us to make a fundamental choice of Jesus before family, before country, and before self. Without faith (the kind of faith Abraham had) it is impossible to please God. Why? Because “he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Make sure Christ is always first in your life.