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Dear Editor of Question Box: 

In Matt. 7:22-23 we read: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” 

By whose power were these casting out devils, since Jesus Himself says in Mark 3:23, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

—Grand Rapids Reader 

Reply 

Evidently my questioner is applying the sound principle of exegesis that Scripture must be interpreted in the light of Scripture, and has thus arrived at this little problem: 1) These people cast out devils. 2) They are workers of iniquity, and therefore children of the devil. 3) Yet Satan cannot cast out Satan, and therefore they could not have cast out devils. 

In reply, I would suggest the following: 

1) The Lord Jesus is here speaking of a peculiar kind of “workers of iniquity.” They are, in the first place, those who serve Him with their lips, i.e., they are characterized by a mere outward confession. They say, “Lord, Lord!” Hence, they are those who know of Christ and who with their lips acknowledge Him as their Lord, that is, as Him Whom they are willing to serve. They are even emphatic about this, as is implied in the repeated “Lord, Lord,” and in the fact that they address Him directly. Secondly, however, they are not to be distinguished as hypocrites by a vivid contrast between their confession and their works. On the contrary, as they confess Christ as their Lord, so they also realize their confession in mighty works. They point to their works. They prophesy, i.e., they preach and teach and speak of Christ. They probably even defended the doctrine. And they cast out devils—whether in the literal sense, as, for example, in the case of Judas Iscariot, or in the general sense of combating evils in the world, fighting the devil of drunkenness, of poverty, of greed, of corruption, of disease, of crime. They do many wonderful works. They employ their powers and influence and means for the interest of mankind and for the purpose of making the world better. Moreover, they do all this “for Christ.” Every time, notice, they repeat: “In thy name . . .” And the peculiar form of the words used here suggests not that they claim to have done this by the power of Christ’s name, nor on the authority of His name; but rather in the interest of Christ’s name. What they did they attributed to Christ: they did it for the furtherance of His cause and for His benefit. 

2) Notice, however, that all these are not necessarily works of the kingdom. These people claim to have a right to enter the kingdom on the basis of these works. But these are all external works, and not necessarily of a spiritual-ethical value. Their claim is false on that score, therefore, first of all. But it is also false because one does not enter the kingdom on the basis of his works. 

For the Lord calls them workers of iniquity, i.e., workers of lawlessness, transgressors of the law of God. They do not have the love of God (the heart of the law!) in their hearts. They are not dominated by that love of God. They work the very opposite, and walk in sin and darkness. Their way is a way of much work, while it is nevertheless a way of sin and unrighteousness. 

Notice, in this connection, that the Lord says in verse 21 that “he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Hence, the Lord Jesus does not say that confession of His name (Lord, Lord!) is not good. Nor does He say that prophesying and casting out devils and doing mighty works is not good. But all these without doing the will of His Father in heaven are no good; one can very well be a worker of iniquity at the same time. And what is the will of God? It is this: “Love Me!”—something which cannot be satisfied with a number of works, but which demands our inmost heart, and from that inmost heart our outward walk. And what is it to do the will of God? Is it to prophesy? To cast out devils? To do great things? No, but in a word: to believe on Him Whom God has sent! (John 6:29) Outside of Him, God’s only begotten Son, we lie in the midst of death, are guilty and corrupt. In Him is righteousness, the knowledge of God, sanctification. And to believe on Him means to repent and be sorry after God, to put all our trust in Christ only as our righteousness, and to bear fruit unto sanctification, fleeing from sin, loving God from the heart, through grace. 

Hence, my conclusion is: 

a) That in the sphere of the church in the midst of the world it is certainly possible to do all these things outwardly, without participating in them personally and from the heart. 

b) That this happened and still does happen many times (the Lord says, “Many will say unto me . . .”). It was possible for a Judas Iscariot to do such works when he was sent out with the twelve. It is possible, for example, for a preacher to do this also today: that is, to preach the gospel, but to be himself a worker of iniquity.

c) That this is due to the fact that such people live in the sphere of the church, that is, where the Spirit operates, without themselves being affected in their hearts by the operation of the Spirit. Consult Hebrews 6:4-8, for example, to learn how “near” and yet how “far” one can be from the kingdom.

Dear Editor of Question Box: 

In Matt. 7:22-23 we read: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” 

By whose power were these casting out devils, since Jesus Himself says in Mark 3:23, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

—Grand Rapids Reader 

Reply 

Evidently my questioner is applying the sound principle of exegesis that Scripture must be interpreted in the light of Scripture, and has thus arrived at this little problem: 1) These people cast out devils. 2) They are workers of iniquity, and therefore children of the devil. 3) Yet Satan cannot cast out Satan, and therefore they could not have cast out devils. 

In reply, I would suggest the following: 

1) The Lord Jesus is here speaking of a peculiar kind of “workers of iniquity.” They are, in the first place, those who serve Him with their lips, i.e., they are characterized by a mere outward confession. They say, “Lord, Lord!” Hence, they are those who know of Christ and who with their lips acknowledge Him as their Lord, that is, as Him Whom they are willing to serve. They are even emphatic about this, as is implied in the repeated “Lord, Lord,” and in the fact that they address Him directly. Secondly, however, they are not to be distinguished as hypocrites by a vivid contrast between their confession and their works. On the contrary, as they confess Christ as their Lord, so they also realize their confession in mighty works. They point to their works. They prophesy, i.e., they preach and teach and speak of Christ. They probably even defended the doctrine. And they cast out devils—whether in the literal sense, as, for example, in the case of Judas Iscariot, or in the general sense of combating evils in the world, fighting the devil of drunkenness, of poverty, of greed, of corruption, of disease, of crime. They do many wonderful works. They employ their powers and influence and means for the interest of mankind and for the purpose of making the world better. Moreover, they do all this “for Christ.” Every time, notice, they repeat: “In thy name . . .” And the peculiar form of the words used here suggests not that they claim to have done this by the power of Christ’s name, nor on the authority of His name; but rather in the interest of Christ’s name. What they did they attributed to Christ: they did it for the furtherance of His cause and for His benefit. 

2) Notice, however, that all these are not necessarily works of the kingdom. These people claim to have a right to enter the kingdom on the basis of these works. But these are all external works, and not necessarily of a spiritual-ethical value. Their claim is false on that score, therefore, first of all. But it is also false because one does not enter the kingdom on the basis of his works. 

For the Lord calls them workers of iniquity, i.e., workers of lawlessness, transgressors of the law of God. They do not have the love of God (the heart of the law!) in their hearts. They are not dominated by that love of God. They work the very opposite, and walk in sin and darkness. Their way is a way of much work, while it is nevertheless a way of sin and unrighteousness. 

Notice, in this connection, that the Lord says in verse 21 that “he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Hence, the Lord Jesus does not say that confession of His name (Lord, Lord!) is not good. Nor does He say that prophesying and casting out devils and doing mighty works is not good. But all these without doing the will of His Father in heaven are no good; one can very well be a worker of iniquity at the same time. And what is the will of God? It is this: “Love Me!”—something which cannot be satisfied with a number of works, but which demands our inmost heart, and from that inmost heart our outward walk. And what is it to do the will of God? Is it to prophesy? To cast out devils? To do great things? No, but in a word: to believe on Him Whom God has sent! (John 6:29) Outside of Him, God’s only begotten Son, we lie in the midst of death, are guilty and corrupt. In Him is righteousness, the knowledge of God, sanctification. And to believe on Him means to repent and be sorry after God, to put all our trust in Christ only as our righteousness, and to bear fruit unto sanctification, fleeing from sin, loving God from the heart, through grace. 

Hence, my conclusion is: 

a) That in the sphere of the church in the midst of the world it is certainly possible to do all these things outwardly, without participating in them personally and from the heart. 

b) That this happened and still does happen many times (the Lord says, “Many will say unto me . . .”). It was possible for a Judas Iscariot to do such works when he was sent out with the twelve. It is possible, for example, for a preacher to do this also today: that is, to preach the gospel, but to be himself a worker of iniquity.

c) That this is due to the fact that such people live in the sphere of the church, that is, where the Spirit operates, without themselves being affected in their hearts by the operation of the Spirit. Consult Hebrews 6:4-8, for example, to learn how “near” and yet how “far” one can be from the kingdom.