A retired sister writes from Advent Christian Village in Florida, “How do you reconcile John 6:37 with Matthew 7:21? The one verse seems to say ‘once saved, always saved.’ The other seems to say, ‘not necessarily so.'”
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In John 6:37, Jesus promises, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Elsewhere in the same discourse, our Lord assures us that those whom the Father has given to him “hear and learn” from God himself (v. 45), come to Jesus (v. 45), have eternal life (v. 39-40), and will be raised on the last day (v. 44). These true believers (v. 47) enjoy intimate fellowship with Jesus and with the Father who sent him — abiding in Jesus, sharing his life, “eating” and “drinking” as it were his very “flesh” and “blood” (v. 53-57).
In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus speaks of an entirely different group. These people are all talk and no substance (v. 21). They look good on the outside but are empty on the inside (v. 22-23). They claim friendship with Jesus, whom they have never really known (v. 23). They might fool the watching world with their dazzling religiosity and even their miracle shows, but they do not deceive God. In his eyes, they are “workers of iniquity.” Jesus borrows this phrase from Psalm 6:8 where, as throughout the Psalms, it describes religious hypocrities who pretend to serve God but whose hearts are far from him.
The Bible teaches the security of the believer, but it does not teach the security of the make-believer. That is the difference between John 6:37 and Matthew 7:21-23. Let us be sure that we know Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior and that we are not simply repeating correct religious words and actions. Sitting in church every week no more makes one a Christian than sitting in a hen-house makes one a chicken. Religious words and deeds do not necessarily evidence a heart in intimate relationship with God. Jesus looks past the externals to see the deepest heart. What does he see in yours and mine?