Why did Jesus reject the individuals and their “good works” done in Jesus’ Name?
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7 (NKJV)
Jesus is speaking to those who sought the Kingdom through works not faith. Jesus’ audience, the multitudes, were most likely overwhelmingly Jewish, those in attendance at the Sermon on the Mount, The Beatitudes, beginning in Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel. This lesson immediately followed Jesus’ admonition that you would know His true followers by their fruit (v. 20).
What are the “works of righteousness” that honor the Father?
When works of righteousness are done in the flesh apart from having first established covenant relationship with the Father by faith in the Son and receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit as the anointing to perform those works…works done apart from the Father void relationship are equated to a bloody, smelly, menstrual cloth in God’s nose as they are works of unrighteousness as far as the Father is concerned.
Self-righteousness seeking God’s approval by works insults the Father and insults the suffering of His Son, Jesus Christ for our sin. These people in Messiah’s lesson sought the Kingdom by self-righteousness as they cited their works done in the Name of Jesus as sufficient for passage to the Kingdom but they were denied access because they never established covenant relationship by faith; therefore, Jesus said “I never knew you!”
So it will be with every soul of man who rejects the sole-sufficiency of Jesus Christ to save the soul by grace (unmerited favor) through faith (trust-belief) in Jesus as Lord apart from self-righteousness through human effort, good works, law-keeping.
Until such time an individual establishes covenant relationship with the Father through faith in the Son (John 3; 1 John 2:23), receives the indwelling Holy Spirit as Guarantor of that covenant (Ephesians 1:13-14), their works of self-righteousness offend the Father and upon death of the body in Time, Jesus will declare, I never knew you, away from Me you who work lawlessness (Ephesians 2:8-9)!