Eleventh in a series of short answers to questions about the New Testament.
Consider Matt. 7:21-23: 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 in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’
Claiming to be a Christian doesn’t make one so. Doing good deeds – even miraculous deeds – in the name of Jesus does not secure salvation for anyone. Satan is capable of the supernatural, and his followers masquerade as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). More than 2 billion people in the world today call themselves Christians, yet Jesus is clear that many self-professed Christians will stand before Him in judgment one day and be cast from His presence.
So what makes a Christian? Jesus says a Christian is one who does “the will of My Father in heaven.” What is His will? To believe on Jesus and not on human efforts (John 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross.
Calling yourself a Christian — even attending church regularly — does not make you a Christian any more than living in a garage makes you a car.
In Matt. 7:23, is it true that Jesus “never” knew those who called themselves Christians but in fact were not? Of course He is aware of them; as the eternal Son of God, Jesus is all knowing. But the word “knew” in this context refers to a personal relationship.
That is what it means to be a Christian in a nutshell — to have a personal, everlasting, unbreakable relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus did all of the work necessary for sinful people to be restored to a right relationship with Him. To enter that relationship we must entrust our lives — our eternal destiny — to the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.