“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.” Matthew 7:22-23
How come many will be ignorant of what is necessary to gain eternal life? Sadly, many people are selective about what they want from God and it invariably relates to improving their experience in this life, e.g. prosperity gospel.
David Clarkson, author of The Conviction of Hypocrites (1622–1686) lists spiritual things that many are ignorant of. He writes: “They consider not that there must be regeneration…that there must be a new creation…There must be a universal change in every part of the soul…There must be holiness in life… A renouncing of the world… Mortification… A taking up the cross.”
These can only be achieved by repentance, accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour thereby receiving the Holy Spirit to enable the believer to live a Christian life.
Those who are born again of the Holy Spirit will know what is needed. However, countless people who consider themselves Christians are closed to these truths and are ignorant about what God requires for salvation. These kinds of people will think far too highly of themselves. “Self-love will not suffer them to deal impartially with their souls,” says Clarkson. This self-love deceives the hypocrite and causes him to flatter himself with only positive opinions. Truly, God must open their eyes and remove their blindness if they are to be saved.
If someone is able to rightly judge himself to be a sinner, there is still one final hurdle to be faced. Being able to see oneself as he is, he must now see God clearly. Clarkson says that many fall victim to “misapprehensions of God.” People will often mistakenly suppose that God is more merciful than He actually is. They think that God will neglect justice in order to issue forgiveness, which He will not.
Clarkson characterized such a thought process like this: “Though I allow myself in this or that sin, and fall into it now and then, why it is but a little one, and God is gracious, he is not so strict and rigid as some would make him.”
People will often assume what God is like based on what they want Him to be like, instead of how the Bible describes Him. Is the Bible false? Is God a liar? When Jesus said: “I am the way,” was He mistaken? We can confidently answer these questions with a “No.” Therefore, God will not make an exception for anyone (and make Himself a liar) in order to pardon an unbeliever. People must know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and be born again by the Holy Spirit to receive eternal life.