Matthew 7 is a rich passage of Scripture where Jesus covers lessons such as avoiding a judgmental attitude, following Christ wholeheartedly and bearing fruit. Then, we see these encouragements followed by a few verses that might seem harsh at first glance. Jesus says the words in verse 23, Depart from Me I never knew you.” This is a warning to everyone and we need to pay close attention to His statement. Today we are going to break down what Jesus meant by this phrase and how we can apply it to our own lives.

Matthew Henry's commentary states this about Matthew 7:23

"I never knew you; "I never owned you as my servants, no, not when you prophesied in my name, when you were in the height of your profession, and were most extolled." This intimates, that if he had ever known them, as the Lord knows them that are his, had ever owned them and loved them as his, he would have known them, and owned them, and loved them, to the end; but he never did know them, for he always knew them to be hypocrites, and rotten at heart, as he did Judas; therefore, says he, depart from me. Has Christ need of such guests? When he came in the flesh, he called sinners to him (ch. 9:13), but when he shall come again in glory, he will drive sinners from him. They that would not come to him to be saved, must depart from him to be damned. To depart from Christ is the very hell of hell; it is the foundation of all the misery of the damned, to be cut off from all hope of benefit from Christ..."

Fruit Proves Faith

Matthew 7:20-23 says, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. ‘Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Jesus makes it known that fruit, or the life choices/way of living, is the outward evidence of what a person believes. Then He shares that not everyone who claims His name will enter Heaven. He says that these people will say they prophesied in His name, cast out demons, and did amazing things in the name of Jesus. However, He will tell them that He never knew them and He will send them away because their work was lawless.

This is a very big warning to us that not everyone who claims the name of Jesus or says that they are Christians are true believers. I remember being overseas once and a teen thinking that a certain American Pop Star was a Christian, I tried to hold back from laughing because this person did not live a life that had evidence (fruit) that they followed Jesus. It is easy to assume because of a nationality you are part of a religion, because of a family you are born into you have that faith too, or because of a school you attended that you identify with their beliefs. Having Jesus on a bumper sticker, wearing a cross necklace, or going to church does not make a person a Christian. A transformed life by Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God. The Holy Spirit seals all who believe in Him.

These people who say, “Lord, Lord” and list all of the things that they did in Jesus’ name do not once mention heart transformation. They argue for the good deeds of their lives and say that they gave God the credit for the things that they did, but they were never truly His.

What Does 'Depart from Me I Never Knew You' Say about God?

What this tells us about God is that He is perfect. His holiness and purity cannot be attained, they can only be received through the sacrifice of Jesus in our place. We are born into a sinful world. We would have been with God our Creator had it not been for humanity’s decision to disobey and sin against Him. (Genesis 3) Just like the Lord had to banish Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because of their sin, He tells this person in Matthew 7 to depart because he is not able to be with God. Only perfection can be in the presence of Perfect.

Jesus’ sinless life gives us full access to the Father who made a way for us to be back together in His presence. However, not all will accept this gift of eternal life. It is important that we know God is Lord over all and this verse supports the fact that He cannot sin or lie. He told us clearly that Jesus is the only way to Himself in Heaven, those who reject Him need to know that He loves them, but He meant what He said because He is honest.

Number 23:19 says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

What Does 'Depart from Me I Never Knew You' Say about Humanity?

This hard truth tells us that we are unrighteous. When people say everyone is going to heaven regardless of what they believe, this is a lie. It is sad to know that people assume heaven for everyone when Scripture is serious that Jesus is the only way. This should tell us the significance of accepting Him and sharing Him with all people.

Humanity is fallen and they are given great grace to be able to have to possibility to be in heaven. Jesus did not have to come, but He did, and we have a way back to be reconciled to God. Not only this, we have been given amazing forgiveness and an outpouring of love through the Holy Spirit who enters into our hearts when we believe in Christ.

Romans 3:10 says, “As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one;'"

We Have Confidence through the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of Gods own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

The Lord is clear that those who believe and receive Jesus have the sealing of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of their inheritance of heaven, they are forever God’s children. This tells us that whoever is being denied entrance to Heaven is not a true believer in Jesus. This person says they knew Jesus and maybe even did acts of kindness or served in a church, but their hearts did not belong to Him.

Do not allow this passage to cause fear or doubt in your own faith that Jesus will ask you to depart from Him. If you made an authentic decision to accept Jesus’ sacrifice for your personal sins because God's grace has allowed you to have faith, then you have assurance of salvation and that salvation cannot be taken away. However, if you never made that decision, do not wait. Time is short. One day you will be in front of God too. Ask Jesus to give you faith to believe; ask Him to live in your heart, and surrender your life to Christ and His glory. Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

What We Can Learn from This Passage

How can we apply this to our own lives? We can beware of false teachers among us who claim the name of Jesus, but whose hearts are far from Him. This can sadly include those even from pulpits of churches who claim Jesus but God does not “know” them. This means testing what people teach with Scripture, not that anyone is perfect, but that they are actively seeking Jesus and His Word. This means testing anything spiritual that may be happening. This means sharing the beautiful truth of the gospel with those in the Bible Belt who think they are going to heaven because they are members of a church. This means reminding ourselves that even if we are confident that we will be in heaven because we accepted Jesus, we too need to be reminded to have our hearts right daily and let our actions for God flow out of the love from Him.

Jesus’ words “depart from Me I never knew you” is only a message for those who have passed away and rejected Him. However, to those reading this article, His message is this:

John 6:37-40 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/krisanapong detraphiphat

Emma DanzeyEmma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, inspiring young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew and they have been married for over a year. Drew and Emma serve with Upstate CRU college ministry in South Carolina. Emma is an avid writer for Salem Web Network and provides articles on the Bible, life questions, and on the Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 viewed article on Crosswalk for the year 2021. All the glory to the Lord! She has the joy of being the host of Her Many Hats podcast where she explores the many roles that women play while serving One God.

Emma enjoys singing/songwriting, fitness classes, trying new recipes, home makeover shows, and drinking tea! During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Currently, she is in the editing stages of her first published book on singleness. Emma also had the privilege of being a national spokesperson for Mukti Mission based out of India. Mukti has been working to restore shattered lives in India for over 120 years. You can view her articles through her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com and check out Her Many Hats podcast on Instagram @her_many_hats.


This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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