“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 perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:22-23)
Why would Jesus say, 'away from me'?This statement by Jesus is clear and still applies today. Jesus didn't want anything to do with the people he was referring to. He wanted not to be associated with them.
Jesus was speaking of those who would claim to be a follower of Jesus, and would pretend to be working for Jesus, but would have their own agendas. Jesus knew they would arise from his legacy, because this is what many in the physical world do: They take advantage of whatever they can to accomplish their own self-centered agenda.
Today we find just that. There are many who proclaim they have surrendered to Jesus, or proclaim they are doing this or doing that for Jesus. They go to church and they conduct various rituals in Jesus’ name. They have retreats and so-called faith healings using Jesus’ name.
And there are “healers” who have attracted thousands if not millions of people - and they touch people in the name of Jesus, and many attest to physical improvements or even ‘miracles.’
There are also so many sectarian ministers who practice various means of exorcism in the name of Jesus.
There are also various people who partake in confession and preach various things in the name of Jesus.
Jesus states plainly here that not only does he not “know” these people - but he does not want them near him.
What does Jesus mean by 'evildoers'?He wants them to get away from him. He calls them evildoers!
Some sectarians might gasp at this statement. How could Jesus not want to even associate with those who are casting out demons, healing people in his name, or preaching in his name? After all, wasn’t Jesus a healer? Didn’t he cast out demons? Didn’t he perform many miracles? Wasn't he a preacher? What is going on here?
Jesus’ previous statement clearly explains this statement. Jesus said:
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)This clearly states that Jesus wants us to do God’s will. Simply proclaiming Jesus’ name in order to accomplish our own will is not enough. Jesus wants us to do the will of Jesus’ beloved Father, God. This means that what is pleasing to Jesus is us doing the will of the Supreme Being. How much more clear can Jesus be here?
It is also clear from these statements that Jesus defined “evil” as something quite a bit different than the proclamations (and threats) made by many over the centuries by ecclesiastical institutions and their teachers. Many preach that evil comes from someone else - this other entity (the devil). And we are supposed to stay away from this entity as though he is some sort of infection. According to this myth, we can guard ourselves against evil by surrounding ourselves with crosses and saying Jesus’ name many times, which will scare the evil away from us, so we won't "catch it."
Jesus' statements clearly do not support this myth. If we read Jesus' statement clearly, we must ask: If someone is casting out demons in Jesus’ name, how could that person still be an evil-doer?
Clearly from Jesus' statement, we can see that evil is self-centeredness. Anything we do with self-centeredness, even if done in the name of Jesus, is considered evil.
This means that healers who desire to achieve status or great reputations for their preaching or their healing, or their casting away of demons for money or fame are no different than a person otherwise taking advantage of people in order to achieve fame, admiration, money, or status otherwise. If it is done with a self-centered motive, it is evil.
Self-centered activities that use the name of Jesus are worse than using other means to achieve admiration or wealth. Using Jesus for our own glorification is to offend Jesus. Jesus is clearly stating this here.
Why did he say, 'I never knew you'?Jesus does not want to be associated with those who use his name to put forth their own agenda. Jesus confirms that here by saying, “I never knew you.”
This means that these people he is talking about - those doing so many acts in Jesus’ name for self-centered purposes - are not accepted as true followers of Jesus.
Consider Jesus’ anger when he saw people using the temple grounds to sell. He angrily turned the tables over, telling them not to use his Father’s house in such a way.
Who is this "Father" that Jesus is speaking of when he says this? Who is Jesus talking about when he says, “but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”? Who is this Person, the Father, who is obviously, according to Jesus, to be distinguished from Jesus?
Many speak of God as though He is some vague 'spirit' force, and that Jesus embodies God. If this is so, why wouldn’t proclaiming Jesus as “lord, lord” or healing in his name, and so on, be understood as not pleasing to Jesus?
Is Jesus God?We can understand from this and other statements that Jesus is referring to God as Someone other than himself.
Otherwise, he would have said, “but only he who does my will.”
Rather, he not only refers to someone else here, but he states that God is "in heaven."
Jesus is describing another Person with a separate personality and a separate will.
It is for this reason Jesus prayed to God to “take this cup from me.” Jesus is having a relationship with another Person - the Supreme Being.
A relationship? Yes. A relationship of love and loving service. Jesus is asking us to take his example and do the will of God, because he wants each of us to develop our own personal loving relationship with the Supreme Being. He wants us to place our love on the Supreme Being:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)