It’s popular today to promote Jesus as a gentle and mild mannered, but Jesus issued sharp rebukes and serious warnings. His statement in Matthew 7:24 is one of the scariest passages in the Bible. When Jesus said, “Depart from me, I never knew you,” he wasn’t referring to non believers, but to those who were considered the ‘good guys.’ Theologians who adhered to Jewish law. What did Jesus mean when He said, “I never knew you;” and how are those words significant for the church today?
What Did Jesus Mean by ‘Depart From Me, I Never Knew You’?
The word know in Matthew 7:24 is not mere intellectual knowledge, like knowing a fact. Rather it is specific knowledge about relationship. The word ginosko means to come to know, recognize or perceive in Matthew 7, Jesus takes this word deeper. Some believers did not perceive Jesus correctly, and they didn’t know their own sinful hearts. They wanted to be with Jesus, but they weren’t willing to surrender their lives to Him. They did not know Him at the deep spiritual levek of salvation- and Jesus knew this.
Let’s look at the context of the verse. Earlier in Matthew 5:7, Jesus preached a sermon t the curious throng crowding around Him, We call the “Sermon on the Mount.’ He opens with the often quoted “blessed are statements (5:12; and then the “light’ and “salt” truths (5:13-16). Throughout the rest of the chapter 5 and into the first part of character 7, Jesus explained why He had come and shared some principles that challenged the crowds thinking about Kingdom Living. His words no doubt made many uncomfortable.
When people consider their eternal destiny, many do not want to think about judgement or hell, but God does not blindside people. He gives plenty of warnings about trusting in anything other than His plan to redeem us from sin. We see this in Matthew 7:15-20 where Jesus warns about false prophets. Their impressive works and words were not rooted in true godliness because they did not really know God. To illustrate, He compared two kinds of trees that bear bad fruit. In verse 20, Jesus said, “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize the.” That is the context of verses 21-24. Some people seem to bear good fruit, but a closer look reveals that the fruit is bad because it comes from a bad tree. God sees beyond external “fruit’ to the reality of our “roots” what has transpired in our heart.
Just as in verse 19 – where the trees that do not bear good fruit are “cut down and thrown into the fire”- in verse 23 Jesus says, “Away from me, you evildoers!” Other versions of the Bible say, “depart from me.” Jesus referred to a specific group of people He “never knew’ in a relational way, people who would not enter His Kingdom,
Who Are The People Jesus Doesn’t Know?
Jesus defined those He knew- true members of the family of faith – as those who understood and did God’s will. Conversely, He didn’t know relationally, people who refuse to obey God’s will. Jesus criticized the Jewish Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy and wicked perversion of God’s Word. He condemned their holier-than-thou ways. As He spoke about the when He addressed the gathered crowd. His words likely pricked many hearts, making them wonder, “Am Is hypocrite too?” Jesus had nothing in common with these Jewish leaders. They couldn’t understand His words or ways. While the Pharisee sanctimoniously thanks God that He is better than other people, the true God-seeker repents and cries out, “God, be merciful to me,a sinner” (Luke 18:9-14).
God, through Isaiah,described hypocrites this way:”The Lord says, ‘These people come near me with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” (Isaiah 29:13).
In His omniscience, Jesus knew the hypocrites hearts were self-righteous and filled with sin. It is important to understand that Jesus wasn’t saying “depart from me’ in order to break off an established but sinful relationship. Jesus had no relationship with fake followers. They did not know the Lord in an intimate, saving way. The word for “never” in Matthew 7:23 is oudepote, a strong word meaning “not ever.” Someday, Jesus will say to many professing believers, “I never, not ever knew you,’ because they never had true faith.
What Does It Mean For God To Know Us?
More crushable our knowing God is the assurance that He knows us! In Matthew 7:21, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter my Kingdom of heaven.” Verse 22 goes on to say that people might even prophesy in Jesus’s name, cast out demons or perform many miracles,” but that does not mean God, their Creator, knows them relationally. We see this same dynamic in Luke 13:25-27, Jesus told a story about people who are outside a homeowner’s doorway, knocking and pleading for entrance-claiming to know him- but the owner of the house says, “I don’t know you or where do you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” A person might verbally claim to follow Jesus, might show great theological insight, or even demonstrate some elements of “success” while serving in the church, but it is only those who do the Father’s Will and are known by Him who will live forever with Him in eternity.