Robert Wurtz II
Early in the Lord’s ministry He tried to clarify a common misconception that was sure to present itself in the months and years to come; namely, that the supernatural is evidence of Divine approval. In other words, the belief that one is right with God simply because one prophesies or performs miracles. In fact, our passage suggests that many people are deceived by this belief to the point that they work iniquity while still believing that one day they will go to heaven. This is a shocking and sobering fact. How could so many people be deceived like this?
If I were to remind the reader that the Lord Jesus told us plainly that we will know people “by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16, 20) it is very likely that I would get a hearty amen. However, when was the last time someone made the cover of Charisma Magazine because of their “fruits.” What about Daystar, Trinity Broadcasting, or the Word Network? Does anyone “follow” a minister because they demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, gentleness, etc.)? The chances are very low that this is the case. People will line up to see a man wave his arms and a crowd fall backwards or will buy every book they can find on “the anointing” — while marginalizing to the point of obscurity a solid, text-book Christian or minister.
There is something about the human mind that is fascinated by the sensational. Simon the Sorcerer used this human tendency to enslave the people of Samaria. Acts chapter 8 details how this man had bewitched the people from the least to the greatest until they believed that he “was the great power of god.” How did he do it? He preyed on people who were impressed by the supernatural. Had this man been able to buy the power of the Holy Spirit like he tried to do, he would have gone on manipulating them until they were all doomed. Nevertheless, Peter exposed the man and a tragedy was averted. Unfortunately, all too often there are people sitting in churches who are just as duped as those poor Samaritans who followed Simon.
If the topic were less serious we would not need to belabor these points. But “many” are going to by lost on that great judgment day because they believed their own hype. Jesus could personally shout with ten megaphones in some of these peoples’ ears “You will know them by their fruits!” And somehow their mind will default back to looking for prophesies, healings, or some other supposed supernatural event to validate themselves and other people. It’s like the devil is in their minds switching the discernment meter off of “fruits” of the Spirit and on to “gifts” of the Spirit. Tragically, this is not a new problem.
The Corinthian Example
Reading Matthew 7:22, 23 almost always brings to mind the letter to the Corinthians. Among their many errors was the misuse of the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, there were people suing their brothers and sisters in Christ; fornicating in ways not known among the heathen; and dividing into factions behind their favorite apostles — yet we’re still keen on moving in the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, Paul asked, “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (1 Corinthians 14:26 NKJV) Apparently, everyone, including all the carnal people, were participating in the meetings. That is scary. The devil was having a heyday in that church because the people had completely lost sight of what our high calling is all about. It’s almost as if they believed that so long as the gifts of the Spirit were in operation God was pleased with them. A cursory reading of the 1 and 2 Corinthians destroys that notion. They were in total chaos — but that never seemed to faze them.
I have sometimes wondered if the fornicator in 1 Corinthians, who Paul commanded to be turned over to Satan, had been prophesying, giving messages in tongues, or laying hands on people? Here is a case that could have matched the scenario the Lord Jesus put forward in Matthew 7:22, 23. The man was clearly working iniquity. Yet he attended a church that almost prided itself on the operation of the Spirit. It begs the question: if the Corinthian church was so prophetic, why was this fornicator never dealt with? Why were the secrets of his heart not made manifest that he might repent? Could it be “because people assume that if a person is operating in the gifts of the Spirit that God must be overlooking their sinfulness? And if God is overlooking it — who are we to challenge the person?” Do you see how deceptive and destructive this false notion is? Is there any wonder the Lord Jesus dealt with it so early in the Gospels?
Notice that the individuals in Matthew 7:22, 23 (who will be cast-out) cite their “supernatural works” as evidence of knowing Christ. It was all deception. They think that because they are working in ‘the gifts’ (or at least they thought it was the gifts they were moving in) that they know Christ and He knows them. They seem to have been totally taken off guard by Jesus’ declaration I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. This should give us great pause.
However, notice what the “many” did not say. Lord, Lord in thy name have we not loved our neighbor as ourselves? Have we not given to the poor and lifted up the widow and orphan? Have we not followed after love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness and faith? None of these criteria were in their defense. Only sensational – supernatural proofs. Imagine the tragedy of this. The people are moving in what they think is God’s approval, while living in rife sin. It was a demonic deception. They apparently lorded their exploits over people until no one dared reprove them. Again, this is what Simon did to the Samaritans. But Jesus said it would be “many” that would say Lord, Lord… not “few.” Despite all the warnings many are still going to live and die believing that God approves of them because they believe they are moving in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.