In quite a few articles now we have dealt with some of the issues that are found in Matthew 7:22-23. There Jesus said, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness'." (NASB). In this article we want to pick up one more of the concepts found in Jesus' statement: "...I never knew you...".
It is interesting to me that though Jesus will reject people in the day of judgment because of their camouflaged behavior, the basic reason is that He never knew them. The behavior is camouflaged because it consists of good deeds done for wrong motives. It seems obvious that the motive is to gain access to heaven. But that is not the real issue. The real issue is that these people want to establish the fact that they were good enough to go. It is a great evil to think oneself capable of the kind of goodness required to qualify for heaven. When people who are evil think they are good, they camouflage their real motives by good-appearing behavior. But Jesus only came to save sinners.
And, as we said, Jesus ultimately rejects them, not for their lawlessness, but for the fact that He never knew them. What is this? Is not Jesus God? As God is He not omniscient? If He knows everything, how can He say He does not know someone?
The answer is in the term used for knowing. There are different kinds of knowledge. One of those kinds is objective knowledge that requires no personal investment or relationship. It is the kind of knowledge that a mechanic has of an engine. He knows every part, how they fit, what their purpose is, and how to put them together to make the complete engine perform as it was designed. But, nothing personal was invested. The machine is not a person with whom one can have a personal relationship. This is the kind of knowledge that God's omniscience involves. He knows every detail of everything that is an object of knowledge--including the thoughts and intents of the hearts of every person who reads this column. But that knowledge does not lead to a relationship automatically.
When Jesus said, "I never knew you", He was speaking of a different kind of knowledge. This is the knowledge that only friends have of each other. This kind of knowledge can only be gained by a mutual investment in friendship by both parties. In¨other words, this kind of knowledge can only be developed when two people decide that they want to become real friends. So, in effect, Jesus was saying "You were never My friend."
Don't mistake friendship. People are not friends with Jesus because they do the right things. Friendship with Jesus begins with thinking and believing the right things. Obviously the text which we began this article with reveals that doing the right things doesn't generate friendship with Jesus. With Him, it is far more important to have a proper attitude toward oneself and toward Him. Once that attitude is developed, friendship begins.
Once friends, He can never say, "I never knew you."