Daily Office

“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” (Matthew 7:21)

Something that has bothered me for a long time is the manner in which sinners are typically reckoned as members of the church. We ask them to ‘repeat the confession’: I believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God AND my personal Lord and Savior. So, we make sure we get in all those great Christological terms: Christ, Son, Lord, Savior, Jesus, God. And then, to much applause and fanfare, the right hand of fellowship is extended and the person is welcomed into the church. (Or they are baptized or catechized or turned into twice the sons of hell than they were before the confession.)

The problem is that nowhere in the Scripture are we told that this is even remotely close to the way in which sinners are reckoned as saints, orphans are reckoned as family, or wanderers are reckoned as disciples. In fact Jesus seems to be saying here that the confession of him as ‘Lord, Lord’ is one of the least reliable ways of determining anything. Jesus says that ‘not everyone’ who says this will ‘enter the kingdom’ (which I do not take to mean that it will be sufficient for some). There are wolves among the sheep. A lot of people are simply full of words, empty words as it turns out in the long run.

Bonhoeffer noted well,

“Even if we make the confession of faith, it gives us no title or special claim upon Jesus. We can never appeal to our confession or be saved simply on the ground that we have made it. Neither is the fact that we are members of a Church which has a right confession a claim to God’s favour…God will not ask us that day whether we were good Protestants, but whether we have done his will” (The Cost of Discipleship, 193; Bonhoeffer’s arguments here are a bit confusing but the short and long of it, he argues, is that this is not an ‘ordinary contrast of word and deed, but two different relations between man and God.’ One has to do with works, the other with grace.)

The gracious call of God, in other words, transforms us. There is a sense in which, in agreement with Bonhoeffer, our confessions are self-righteous and calls for people to notice us while our ‘doing’ is a drawing of attention to God, however quietly it may happen. Here N.T. Wright is also in agreement,

“This revolutionary vision of virtue thus enables us to shift attention quite drastically away from the idea that Christian behavior in the world is basically about ‘good works’ in the sense of good moral living, keeping the rules, and so on, and toward the idea that Christian behavior is basically about ‘good works’ in the sense of doing things which bring God’s wisdom and glory to birth in the world” (After You Believe, 71; his emphasis).

So Jesus is saying that, while a confession is not entirely out of place, if you truly want to demonstrate the grace of God in your life, or answer his gracious call, then respond to Him…make a confession not with words, but with actions. “The grace of Jesus is a demand upon the doer, and so his doing becomes the true humility, the right faith, and the right confession of the grace of the God who calls” He calls, we answer. “They know that confession does not justify, and so they have gone and made the name of Jesus great among the people by their deeds” (The Cost of Discipleship, 194).

Confession with words draws attention to the self: Lord, Lord, Look at me!

Actions, doing the will of God, calls attention to the God who calls: Behold, Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So go, make his Name great today. Jesus seems to be more impressed with doing than with saying. And this, I suspect, will be the true test of whether or not a person has been received into fellowship in the church.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 30th, 2010 at 12:06 am and is filed under Devotional, Theology, grace. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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19 Comments(+Add)

1   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
September 30th, 2010 at 7:09 am

And if actions, not just lip service, are to be the determining factor in identifying a genuine disciple, then we must identify which actions do just that. And against that assessment, which actions, both acts of commission and acts on non-participation, are necessary to substantiate a bone fide follower of Jesus?

It is not enough to engage in philosophical debates and dissecting verses and reviewing books, but without a living transformation that in a profoundly dark culture shines conspicuously, then all our discussions become nothing more than manipulated exhales of air or the effects of digital muscles upon a keyboard. And if we are blind to the powerless nature of western Christianity due to the overwhelming assimilation into its cultural lifestyle, then there is no hope of repentance and the alterations needed to come into compliance with the principles we so effortlessly debate.

But the discussions are somewhat entertaining and of some recreational benefit. Today is as yesterday was and as tomorrow will be.

2   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
September 30th, 2010 at 8:28 am

Jerry, I agree with your post. You have a lot of good points. But the following verses show that these people followed their confession with works, “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!’ (Matt. 7:22-23).

So yes, actions are clearly a better indictation of who we are following or not following. But they are not the only litmus test either.

Good stuff, brother. I’m enjoying your daily offerings.

3   John Hughes    
September 30th, 2010 at 8:54 am


Excellent point which I had never really pondered before. They had both “confession” and “action” and still came up short.

Let me think on that awhile. Prophesy, exorcisims and miracles. Is there something to be deduced from the type of actions Jesus mentions?

4   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
September 30th, 2010 at 10:11 am

There’s nothing wrong with the actions that Jesus mentions. The ministry of the apostles exhibited all of those sorts of things. What Jesus is getting at, though, is that the miraculous is not to be chased after. Knowing Jesus, or rather letting Christ know us, is what it important.

I think part of the reason why this discussion happens so often – how do we know whether we’re in or out – is because of the purely juridical view of salvation that is so prevalent in Western evangelicalism. Historically, salvation was better defined as deification, or being “in Christ”. That meant Christians viewed themselves as actually being in the body of Christ, and they participated in salvation through the sacraments. So they had this constant reminder of who they were, and it was more than just an act of mental assent. Now, it seems many evangelicals take the view that salvation is little more than some sort of “legal fiction”.

5   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
September 30th, 2010 at 10:20 am


You response seems terribly knee-jerkish. I’m not sure I understand your thoughts.


6   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
September 30th, 2010 at 10:27 am


That’s a good point. I thought about tying in Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians about speaking by the Spirit, but it made the post too complicated and cumbersome.

It could be, when all of this microscopic evaluation of one another is done, that only Jesus knows anything about us and that all any of us can do is trust in his grace.

I am sure that there is a historical idea here in Jesus’ words, maybe he was thinking of someone in particular. But like the preacher said at church a couple of weeks ago, this has something to do with thinking that just because you show up on Sundays doesn’t mean you are a Christian or even a church member. Bonhoeffer echoed that thought by suggesting it refers to those who think that Jesus has promoted them to some sort of privileged position and thus they fall into the trap of secular Israel (”Oh, we are God’s chosen people, he owes us.”)

There’s much to think of and I don’t have all the answers (or any for that matter). It just seems to me that when all is said and done, the grace that calls me also enables me to do more than just speak. Anyone can speak, but not everyone will deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus–and do it all whether they think Jesus is watching and noticing or not.

Thanks for the encouragement! I’m doing this as practice and for all our edification. And it’s fun!


7   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
September 30th, 2010 at 10:51 am

Removing the admitted self serving erudition, I would like to know just what actions are we speaking about, and how are they manifested in this present western culture?

And when we seek, participate in, worry about, and in general benefit from the hedonistic culture in which we live, how are we different, much less taking up some imaginary cross and claim a Jesusesque lifestyle? Have we ever read the gospels and understood what lifestyle Jesus Lived?

8   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
September 30th, 2010 at 11:10 am


What is the will of God, Rick, of which Jesus speaks?


9   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
September 30th, 2010 at 11:27 am

I think Phil makes a great point, as he does once in a while. :)
The snare of needing to know who’s in and who’s out is an easy one in which to fall. And ten times out of ten, even though we say we are using the Bible as our gauge, we judge through our fallen psyche.

Take the story of the paralyzed man who was let down through the hole in the roof by his friends. It says nothing about his faith. Instead it reads, “When Jesus saw their [the ones who tore a hole in the roof and lowered the man down] faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’” (Mark 2:4 NIV).

So does the faith of others save us?

10   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
September 30th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

I don’t disagree, but you have to admit that the way we ‘welcome’ people into the church is a bit strange. I’m not so much concerned with analyzing everyone in the world as much as I am analyzing my own motives.

Confession is good. Yes. Confess away. But that confession apart from any change or action is, it seems, meaningless.

To your point about Mark, I might suggest that perhaps the paralyzed man too had some faith. Maybe he told his friends to take him there. And, strangely, why does he forgive the paralyzed man’s sins for THEIR faith and not say a word to them about their own sins?

It’s all rather strange, isn’t it?

11   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
September 30th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Amen to analyzing our own motives.

12   John Hughes    
September 30th, 2010 at 2:35 pm

There’s nothing wrong with the actions that Jesus mentions. The ministry of the apostles exhibited all of those sorts of things.

Phil, I’m a little puzzled as I never inferred there was anything wrong with these specific works. That these are spelled out means, however, they are significant. Perhaps these types of works are often ripe for counterfeiting as they are the more flashy but are easier to cater to the flesh.

13   John Hughes    
September 30th, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Well Phil I think sacrimentalism is even more guilty of the “who’s in and who’s out” syndrome and also exposes people to the potential for more abuse (as in excommunication) for those who don’t toe the party line. So I see sacrimentalism is in no way superior to the Protestant understanding of the universal priesthood of the believer.

14   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
September 30th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Well Phil I think sacrimentalism is even more guilty of the “who’s in and who’s out” syndrome and also exposes people to the potential for more abuse (as in excommunication) for those who don’t toe the party line. So I see sacrimentalism is in no way superior to the Protestant understanding of the universal priesthood of the believer.

I don’t think that a more sacramental view of salvation is at odds with the priesthood of all believers. Neither did Martin Luther or John Calvin, actually. It’s just that many evangelicals have followed in Zwingli’s steps and see the sacraments as pure symbol.

15   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
September 30th, 2010 at 9:13 pm

I am the door = symbol

Drink, this is mt blood = symbol

(Not Zwingli but Scripture)

16   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
September 30th, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I appreciate everyone participating this week…I’m not sure if I will post tomorrow or not because I’m tired and need to get some homework done. I do appreciate all the feedback this week.

God Bless.

17   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
October 1st, 2010 at 9:30 am

I am the door = symbol

Drink, this is mt blood = symbol

(Not Zwingli but Scripture)

When we’re talking about spiritual or metaphysical things, the line between symbol and reality is already blurred to a degree. For instance, even the term “born again” has a somewhat symbolic nature to it. We aren’t physically reborn, but it is an actual spiritual reality that we’re talking about.

I think a lot of the insistence on seeing communion as purely symbolic is simply bowing to rationalism. If it is purely symbolic, why do it. Indeed, a lot of evangelical churches relegate it to a once a month practice that’s little more than an afterthought. Historically, the Eucharist was the focal point of the service. It’s something I think we need to get back to.

18   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 1st, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Everything but the actual blood and body of Jesus on Calvary is symbolic. And even this symbolism should be sacred meditation and rememberance.

I agree, communion has become a perfunctory exercise that lacks the depth, worship, and soul searching essence necessary to substantiate that for which it was given.

19   nathan    
October 1st, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Re: sacramentalism

depends on how we understand what a “sacrament” is.

It tells me a lot when people automatically default to assume that sacramental automatically = RCC hard sacramentalism