Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
In the previous study we read the passage that spoke of wolves in sheep’s clothing. This included a verse that is commonly used as the excuse by some to judge others. But when examining this both in yesterday’s text and where the same words are used elsewhere, it could be shown that this is not what is meant by those words.
The passage of scripture for this study is again quite well known among Christians. It is also one that I used to find very scary until I did a proper study of it, and until I realised the importance, with all scriptures, of reading within the context.
There is the feeling and belief among many in the church, including many in various kinds of leadership positions, that if a person is able to say that Jesus is Lord then they must be saved, or at least on the right tracks. This short passage of scripture puts the lie to this belief.
There is the feeling and belief among many in the church that if a person is operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that there are miraculous signs, healings and deliverances, that this must only be happening because the person is saved and anointed. This short passage of scripture also puts the lie to that belief.
I suppose this is what makes this scripture so scary. Here we have people who are prophets and with miraculous ministries, who preach and teach about Jesus with signs following, and who declare Jesus is Lord – and yet Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
If I were to say this of any of the ‘big name’ speakers today, there would be a lot of opposition. How dare I think this of someone who declares Jesus is Lord? Someone of faith? Someone who has signs and miracles following their ministry? They will point at my very little ministry, at the few, if any, signs. They will say things like, when you are preaching Jesus to as many as this man does, and healing so many, and delivering so many, then maybe you will have the right to expect us to listen to you.
I am going to say some things that will shock you here, so get ready. I will try to show how these things are not heresy, but from past experience on Facebook and elsewhere I have found that people tend to switch off the moment you rattle any assumed things about faith that are, in fact, not scriptural at all.
I would also like to quote another scripture, one that would be effective to support some of the things I was saying in the previous study. You can find this in Ezekiel 16:49 –
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”
The New American Standard Bible translates it like this:
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.”
I made an attack on the ministers of the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ yesterday, and I make no apologies for it. And while the message of those preachers gets louder and louder on both sides of the Atlantic, I have observed the love of the church growing colder, legalism grow stronger, judgementalism growing exponentially, and the oppression and burden of the poor and vulnerable grow within the society as a whole in the countries that the western churches exist.
On both sides of the Atlantic, we see people who have become poor through loss of work or through illness, either physical or mental, and who do all that they are supposed to do to change their position. So it can be genuinely said that they are poor, and sometimes homeless, through no fault of their own.Many of these are Christians, and attend the nearest church whenever they can (or sadly, whenever they have enough courage. Because if they have had to sleep rough then maybe they do not look so good or smell so good).
These people need compassion and help and, very often, both counselling and guidance. But instead, even if they apply for many jobs every day, they are called scroungers or worse. It is already demoralising to have to beg for help at the correct social department, and often to be treated as a number and something less than human. To feel like you are begging, and never having thought that you would be in such a desperate position. But then to be called names in addition to all of this, and to see even national newspapers calling people like you ‘scrounger’… And in the street you may be called druggie, alcoholic, or worse.
But what happens when these people arrive in a church? They have only been given survival money – but the prosperity teaching challenges to give as much as possible, if not all that they have, so that God can ‘out-give’ them and return to them greater wealth (this idea comes from some misinterpretation of Luke chapter six).
The only excuse for such despicable behaviour is that the Christian counsellors genuinely believe that they are helping. But this is not how the New Testament demonstrates often that such people should be helped. It also removes the sovereign authority of God to do what He wants when He wants. It comes from a misunderstanding of what scripture actually is. For sure, one thing that it is NOT is a collection of magic spells that will force God to do what some understand from scripture that He should do. You cannot quote scripture at God as though it is a strong arm to force God to do something. You can’t even say that His honour works that way – because that comes from a wrong understanding of what scripture is.
There is a long history of calling the Bible ‘the Word of God.’ This pre-dates Protestant times. It may even pre-date the Great Schism. But there is a problem with this tradition, or even a set of problems arising from it.
Firstly, the scriptures themselves define what is meant by the term ‘Word of God,’ and it has certainly got nothing to do with written words on whichever kind of medium they are written on. You can find this clearly at the beginning of the gospel of John. So scripturally, the whole bible is NOT the Word of God. But there are certain results from this traditional mistake. There begins to be the feeling, even if not openly expressed, that God is the author of the scriptures. He is not!
The bible is a collection of books, poems, and letters that were written by men, and maybe in a couple of cases women. Human beings, and all that implies about their fallen nature, wrote the scriptures. Of course, we have that word in the letter to Timothy that all scripture is inspired by God. Listen, there are very many books that were inspired by the second World War, but that did not tell true things about that war. Of course, it is assumed a greater level of inspiration, plus the desire to be truthful and accurate. But a complete and unbiased examination of the scriptures shows problems…
The writers did not use ‘automatic writing’ as is practised by some spiritualists – they were writing normally as you or I would. But with the inspiration of God. Yet they were humans, and the inspiration came through human filters. I am not devaluing scripture, but being realistic. What I am saying here does not reduce the value for teaching and learning from the scriptures at all.
But, for instance, take a detailed study of the writings in the Chronicles and compare them with the recording of the same histories in Kings. We have these two records of the same events because the nation of Israel became divided after the rule of Solomon. These two new kingdoms kept records of history as it happened. But the problem is that the records differ from each other in many places. Where numbers of people are recorded, for instance, there can be a vastly different number in Kings compared with Chronicles.
Now if all the scriptures had but one author, God, then we would not expect to see this. But this goes to show the reality of what it means to say that scripture was written inspired by God, yet still the writing had to be done by human beings.
But what point am I making about today’s texts? Well, if you treat the scriptures as though God Himself put pen to paper, then you have a strong case for saying that God is honour-bound to abide by His words and act as every word says – and He better do it quickly. You now have an excuse for using the promises of scripture like magic formulae to ‘force’ God to act.
It ignores the fact that the prosperity verse in Luke 6 was written by a scholar who was collecting an oral tradition of stories about Jesus before they died out or were forgotten. Because Luke, many believe, was not even born during the lifetime of Jesus, and that there is the strong possibility that his gospel was the last to be written, and maybe not even written until the end of the first century or the start of the second. So it is not like Luke heard the words from the mouth of Jesus himself – unlike Matthew who wrote many of the same things, but was actually one of the original apostles and who sat at Jesus’ feet to learn. And Matthew does not include this ‘prosperity verse’ in his gospel.
All this on top of the fact that fundamentalist evangelical bible teachers are the ones who taught me that it is a very bad idea to form any doctrine based on any verse or saying that appears only once in the bible. But if something is repeated, especially if repeated several times by different authors, then there is a strong case for something being extremely important. How you use scripture is vital, and that is the point.
So now we have the poor and needy being given this magic formula, and being made to pay to use it (even if they, like me at one time, have been given a ‘survival’ amount that in reality still leaves them wondering if they could survive (just £7 per month in my case and not so long ago)). In reality it is like a spiritual ‘lottery ticket,’ and the amount of success in the congregations that have this false teaching show that you have just as much chance of ‘winning’ as if you bought into the lottery.
And for the poor who don’t ‘win’ no matter how much they give? Are they finally given the help and support that they need? No! Instead they are made to feel guilty. Maybe their faith is too ‘weak.’ Maybe they are in some kind of sin. Maybe they are unclean or possessed of demons. Maybe this and maybe that. So they are made to feel as if they are themselves to blame for their desperate position, and not given the help that they really need…
Yes, the sin of Sodom is alive and well and in the church today! Beware! Remember what God did about this in Sodom’s case…
And these same churches often have those big-name ministers, declaring Jesus as Lord, and performing miracles, signs and wonders. Just like those who Jesus told to go away, doers of evil.
And here is the thing that people may quote from me to prove that I am mad or teaching ‘the devil’s doctrine.’ But however shocked or offended you may be, I will only point you back to the context of the scripture, and how we have seen time and time again that Jesus was talking of the family relationship between the Father and His children.
Listen, I have said many times in these studies that salvation is not of works or assisted by any form of legalism. That is the clearest message of all from the Sermon. But neither is salvation a mental assent to a list of doctrines which, from the moment you can sign your name against them, you can say that you believe in. So, in this specific sense, salvation is not dependant on faith. Look at the text! Those with the miraculous ministries certainly had faith! But it counted as nothing for them!!
So what’s going on? It is clear, in the context, that salvation is about being the child of the Father, and in that close parent and child relationship (notice how Jesus said ‘I never knew you’? This is about relationship!).
And how to become the child of the father? I have been rather like a ‘stuck record’ about this in many of the studies of the Sermon…
You can’t do anything in your own works to enter heaven. You can’t buy your way in. This is because we have no way of being good enough to come before the Father. There is only one who is righteous enough, only one good enough, only one holy enough, and that one is the Lord Jesus Christ. And my sin caused Him to suffer the cruel death of the cross of Calvary. And your sin also.
So I identify with his sufferings and death on that cross. I see that my sin caused the nail to pierce his hand. I see myself there with Him, because I deserve that death, and not my Lord. But in identifying with His death, and the true sorrow and repentance that comes with it, I am raised up with him into new life. A life that I now live in him. No longer clothed in the filthy rags of my works, but in the pure white garments of Jesus’ righteousness. Now I can boldly come before the Father. And when the Father sees me, he recognises His child. He is as any Father who loves His children. He does not want me to come crawling to Him like a worm, but wishes to see the joy and the love that is normal between child and parent. He delights in the child that rushes to Him and leaps onto His knee and into His arms, and who says, “Daddy!”
Have you come to this yourself? Do you know the Father and enjoy sitting on His knees?
If not, Jesus could one day say to you, depart from me doers of evil.
There is much more I could say about this text, but for this set of studies I think this is sufficient, and in the next study we move onwards.