Matthew seems unusually burdened to alert us about the danger of thinking we are saved when we are not. Consider these warnings.
5:20 “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
7:21-23 “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ and then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’”
13:20-21 “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately he falls away.”
13:47-50 “The kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” (Note: the fish thrown into the furnace are not the ones missed by the net of the kingdom. They are the ones caught by the kingdom and yet unfit for eternal life. Compare these with the people in Matthew 7:22 and Hebrews 6:5 who have indeed tasted “the powers of the age to come.”)
18:32-35 “Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the torturers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Unforgiving disciples of Jesus are not true disciples: “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 6:14)
22:10-14 “And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so that the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (Note: this is similar to the parable of the net. The man was drawn from the world into the banquet hall, like the fish into the net; but he was not fit for the kingdom and so was cast out.)
Besides all these warnings consider the five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13); and the man who buried his talent (Matthew 25:14-30); and the unfaithful servant (Matthew 24:45-51); and the wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15); and the false prophets who do signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24); and the (3-year!) disciple named Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 10:4).
- “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; prove yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
- “Enter by the narrow gate…For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (7:13-14).
- This is not justification by works! This is indispensable evidence of justification by faith—“you will know them by their fruits!”
Captured by the holiness of Jesus,