Matthew 7:23
And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Then will I profess unto them.—The words form a remarkable complement to the promise, “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). The confession there recognised is more than lip-homage, and implies the loyal service of obedience. And the condemnation is pronounced not on those who have wandered from the truth, but on those who have been “workers of iniquity,” or, as the word more strictly means, “of lawlessness.” The words remind us of those of Psalm 15:2-3; Psalm 24:3-4, and are, perhaps, a transfer of what David had spoken of his ideal of his earthly kingdom to that of the kingdom of heaven which the Christ had come to found.

7:21-29 Christ here shows that it will not be enough to own him for our Master, only in word and tongue. It is necessary to our happiness that we believe in Christ, that we repent of sin, that we live a holy life, that we love one another. This is his will, even our sanctification. Let us take heed of resting in outward privileges and doings, lest we deceive ourselves, and perish eternally, as multitudes do, with a lie in our right hand. Let every one that names the name of Christ, depart from all sin. There are others, whose religion rests in bare hearing, and it goes no further; their heads are filled with empty notions. These two sorts of hearers are represented as two builders. This parable teaches us to hear and do the sayings of the Lord Jesus: some may seem hard to flesh and blood, but they must be done. Christ is laid for a foundation, and every thing besides Christ is sand. Some build their hopes upon worldly prosperity; others upon an outward profession of religion. Upon these they venture; but they are all sand, too weak to bear such a fabric as our hopes of heaven. There is a storm coming that will try every man's work. When God takes away the soul, where is the hope of the hypocrite? The house fell in the storm, when the builder had most need of it, and expected it would be a shelter to him. It fell when it was too late to build another. May the Lord make us wise builders for eternity. Then nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ Jesus. The multitudes were astonished at the wisdom and power of Christ's doctrine. And this sermon, ever so often read over, is always new. Every word proves its Author to be Divine. Let us be more and more decided and earnest, making some one or other of these blessednesses and Christian graces the main subject of our thoughts, even for weeks together. Let us not rest in general and confused desires after them, whereby we grasp at all, but catch nothing.Profess unto them - Say unto them; plainly declare.

I never knew you - That is, I never approved of your conduct; never loved you; never regarded you as my friends. See Psalm 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 Corinthians 8:3. This proves that, with all their pretensions, they had never been true followers of Christ. Jesus will not then say to false prophets and false professors of religion that he had once known them and then rejected them; that they had been once Christians and then had fallen away; that they had been pardoned and then had apostatized but that he had never known them - they had never been true christians. Whatever might have been their pretended joys, their raptures, their hopes, their self-confidence, their visions, their zeal, they had never been regarded by the Saviour as his true friends. I do not know of a more decided proof that Christians do not fall from grace than this text. It settles the question; and proves that whatever else such people had, they never had any true religion. See 1 John 2:19.

23. And then will I profess unto them—or, openly proclaim—tearing off the mask.

I never knew you—What they claimed—intimacy with Christ—is just what He repudiates, and with a certain scornful dignity. "Our acquaintance was not broken off—there never was any."

depart from me—(Compare Mt 25:41). The connection here gives these words an awful significance. They claimed intimacy with Christ, and in the corresponding passage, Lu 13:26, are represented as having gone out and in with Him on familiar terms. "So much the worse for you," He replies: "I bore with that long enough; but now—begone!"

ye that work iniquity—not "that wrought iniquity"; for they are represented as fresh from the scenes and acts of it as they stand before the Judge. (See on the almost identical, but even more vivid and awful, description of the scene in Lu 13:24-27). That the apostle alludes to these very words in 2Ti 2:19 there can hardly be any doubt—"Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

That by that day is to be understood the day of judgment is generally agreed by interpreters.

We have prophesied in thy name; that is, revealed thy will unto people;

and in thy name, that is, by thy authority and power,

cast out devils, and done many wonderful works, that is, wrought many miraculous operations. In the Old Testament we find Baalam and Saul prophesying, who were both wicked men. Judas was sent out (under the New Testament) both to preach and to work miracles. So as none from gifts, no, not the most eminent and extraordinary gifts, can conclude the goodness of his state, or any special favour with God.

I will profess, that is, I will openly declare to them,

I never knew you, that is, so as to approve you, or take pleasure in you.

Depart from me, ye that work iniquity: see Matthew 25:41. Then will I profess unto them,.... Publicly before men and angels, at the day of judgment,

I never knew you; which must be understood consistent with the omniscience of Christ; for as the omniscient God he knew their persons and their works, and that they were workers of iniquity; he knew what they had been doing all their days under the guise of religion; he knew the principles of all their actions, and the views they had in all they did; nothing is hid from him. But, as words of knowledge often carry in them the ideas of affection, and approbation, see Psalm 1:6 the meaning of Christ here is, I never had any love, or affection for you; I never esteemed you; I never made any account of you, as mine, as belonging to me; I never approved of you, nor your conduct; I never had any converse, communication, nor society with you, nor you with me. The Persic version reads it, "I have not known you of old", from ancient times, or from everlasting; I never knew you in my Father's choice, and my own, nor in my Father's gift to me, nor in the everlasting covenant of grace; I never knew you as my sheep, for whom, in time, I died, and called by name; I never knew you believe in me, nor love me, or mine; I have seen you in my house, preaching in my name, and at my table administering mine ordinance; but I never knew you exalt my person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; you talk of the works you have done, I never knew you do one good work in all your lives, with a single eye to my glory; wherefore, I will neither hear, nor see you; I have nothing to do with you. In this sense the phrase is used in the Talmud (y):

"Bar Kaphra went to visit R. Juda; he says to him, Bar Kaphra, , "I never knew thee".''

The gloss upon it is,

"he intimates, that he would not see him.''

So here, Christ declares, he knew them not; that is, he did not like them; he would not admit them into his presence and glory; but said,

depart from me, ye workers of iniquity. The former of these expressions contains the awful sentence pronounced by Christ, the judge; which is, banishment from his presence, than which nothing is more terrible: for as it is his presence that makes heaven, it is his absence that makes hell; and this supposes a place and state, whither they are banished; which is elsewhere called their "own place, the lake" which burns with fire and brimstone; "everlasting fire", prepared for the devil and his angels. Departure from Christ's presence is the punishment of loss, and being sent to everlasting burnings, is the punishment of sense; and the whole, as it is an instance of strict justice, so a display of Christ's almighty power. The latter expression contains the character of these persons, and in it a reason of their punishment; they were "workers of iniquity": it may be, neither adulterers, nor murderers, nor drunkards, nor extortioners, nor thieves, or any other openly profane sinners; but inasmuch as they did the work of the Lord deceitfully, preached themselves, and not Christ; sought their own things, and not his; what they did, they did with a wicked mind, and not with a view to his glory; they wrought iniquity, whilst they were doing the very things they pleaded on their own behalf, for their admission into the kingdom of heaven. Some copies read, "all the workers of iniquity", as in Psalm 6:8 from whence the words are taken.

(y) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 16. 1.

And then will I profess unto them, {f} I never knew you: depart from me, {g} ye that work iniquity.

(f) This is not of ignorance, but because he will cast them away.

(g) You that are given to all kinds of wickedness, and seem to make an art of sin.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 7:23. τότε. When they make this protestation, the Judge will make a counter protestation—ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς, I will own to them. Bengel’s comment is: aperte. Magna potestas hujus dicti. But there is a certain apologetic tone in the expression, “I will confess” (“profess,” A.V[49] and R.V[50]), as if to say: I ought to know men who can say so much for themselves, but I do not.—ὅτι, recitative, the exact words directly reported.—οὐδέποτε, never: at no point in that remarkable career when so many wonderful things were done in my name.—ἀποχωρεῖτε, etc.: an echo of Psalm 6:9, and sentence of doom, like Matthew 25:41.

[49] Authorised Version.

[50] Revised Version.23. I never knew you] “Never recognised you as my disciples. While my name was on your lips, your hearts were far from me.” Clement of Rome (Ep. ii:4), referring to this passage, says: “let us then not only call Him ‘Lord,’ for that will not save us;” he then quotes the words of Matthew 7:21.

iniquity] Literally, lawlessness.Matthew 7:23. Τότε, κ.τ.λ., then, etc.) although they had not thought so before.—ὁμολογήσω, I will profess) sc. openly. Great was the authority evinced by this saying: see Matthew 7:29.—οὐδέποτε, κ.τ.λ., never, etc.) although you cite My Name.—οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι, κ.τ.λ., that work, etc.) Not even then will their iniquity have been changed.[346]—ἀνομίαν, iniquity) how much soever they may boast of the Law.[347] Unbelief exclusively damns (Infidelitas proprie damnat); and yet in the Judgment the Law is rather cited; see ch. Matthew 25:35; Matthew 25:42; Romans 2:12, because the reprobate, even then, when they see Christ visibly manifest, will not comprehend the true nature of faith.

[346] He means that our Lord will address them as even then working iniquity with hearts still unconverted.—(I. B.)

[347] There is a play upon the words ἀνομία, the state or conduct of those who are without law, and ὁ νόμος, the Law, on which they self-righteously and delusively relied.—(I. B.)Verse 23. - (Cf. Luke 13:27.) And then will I profess unto them. Openly in the face of all men (cf. Matthew 10:32). I never knew you. Even when you did all these miracles. etc., I had not that personal knowledge of you which is only the result of heart-sympathy. There was never anything in common between you and me. Although this is, perhaps, the only example of this sense of ἔγνων in the synoptic Gospels, it is common in John. Depart from me. The absence of recognition by Christ, though not represented as the cause, yet will involve departure from his presence (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:9). This clause reproduces verbally the LXX. of Psalm 6:8, except in St. Matthew's word used for "depart" (ἀποχωρεῖτε), which gives more idea of distance in the removal than the word used in the psalm and in Luke (ἀπόστητε). Ye that work. In full purpose and energy (οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι, cf. Colossians 3:23), and that till this very moment. Iniquity. The assurance of the psalmist becomes the verdict of the Judge. Observe that at this, the end of his discourse, our Lord speaks not of sin generally (τὴν ἁμαρτίαν), but of lawlessness (τὴν ἀνομίαν). He has throughout been insisting upon obedience to the Law in its final meaning as essentially necessary for his followers (most recently ver. 12). So that instead of saying, "ye that work sin," he uses the correlative (1 John 3:4), for sin is neglect of or opposition to the perfect Law of God in the three spheres that this regards - self, the world, God (cf. Bishop Westcott, on 1 John 3:4). It is, perhaps, more than a coincidence that in 2 Timothy 2:19 we have again the collocation of the Lord knowing and of man's departing, i.e. either from him or from sin (cf. especially the parallel Luke 13:27); vide Resch, 'Agrapha,' p. 207. Profess (ὁμολογήσω)

The word which is used elsewhere of open confession of Christ before men (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9); of John's public declaration that he was not the Christ (John 1:20); of Herod's promise to Salome in the presence of his guests (Matthew 14:7). Here, therefore, of Christ's open, public declaration as Judge of the world. "There is great authority in this saying," remarks Bengel.

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