Matthew 7:21-23 and 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 address two groups of people who think they are serving God. Both groups are self-deceived. Their works count for nothing.
But the people in 1 Corinthians go to heaven and those in Matthew go to hell.
Matthew 7:23 is key.
Jesus says He never knew the unfaithful in Matthew, even though they professed Him as their Lord. He calls them "evildoers." They appear to think they are saved because they've done ministry in Christ's name, but Jesus knows they've never genuinely repented of their sins. They may have spoken words of repentance, but biblical repentance is more than words. It's a change of heart.(1)
In contrast, the genuine believers in 1 Corinthians 3 have wasted their lives on useless pursuits; but they've obviously repented of their sins or they wouldn't be saved.
Sin separates us from God. If a person genuinely follows Jesus, their sins will bother them. They won't excuse them or ignore them. They will face them and repent.
It's the difference between those who "barely escape" the flames of God's judgment and those who don't escape at all.
(1) Metanoia is the Greek word most commonly translated repentance in the New Testament and it means "change of mind, change in the inner man."
➯ We don't "lose our salvation" when we sin. All Christians sin. But genuine believers repent of their sins and refuse to live sinful lifestyles.
➯ We can identify bad fruit in the church (Matthew 7:15-17), but we aren't able to see people's hearts and accurately identify all true and false converts. That's not our job.
➯ But we can and should examine our own hearts (2 Corinthians 13:5). Do you have doubts about your salvation? Do you have doubts about the "building materials" of your faith? Please pray about these things and seek godly counsel.
➯ Sometimes we equate a sinful lifestyle only with sexual immorality, but 2 Timothy 3:1-5 lists quite a few lifestyles that reflect people who "have a form of godliness but deny its power." And Galatians 5:19-21 also lists lifestyles of unsaved people. In addition, Matthew 6:15 and Matthew 18:21-35 contain a strong warning in relation to genuine salvation.
To do more Bible study on this topic:
➯ Use a concordance to discover how often Jesus said "repent." If you have difficulty repenting of your sins, please take time to read each of the 1-minute devotions in the collection called Our Need for Repentance. I especially recommend 6 Aspects of Godly Sorrow and 4 Things that Happen when we Fail to Repent.
➯ Study these passages and note how repentance and obedience are necessary aspects of the Christian life:
1 John 1:8-10
1 John 2:4
1 John 3:6-10
3 John 1:11
2 Timothy 2:19
➯ Ask God if you are doing His will, using your life for His purposes, and building your faith on sound teachings. None of us want to build with wood, hay and straw when we could be building with gold, silver, and costly stones. See Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 2:10, and pray Colossians 1:9-14 for yourself and your loved ones. See 6 Reasons to Pray Colossians 1:9.
Full passages discussed in this devotion:
Matthew 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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 in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"
1 Corinthians 3:10-15: "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames."
Bible Love Notes