What is the will of the Father in Matthew 7:21?
First, we will define the “will of the Father.” The will of God the Father is whatever He has decreed in His wisdom, knowledge, holiness, and grace. His decrees include the decision to create the universe, including humans. His decrees include the plan for salvation, the future roadmap for the creation, and the righteous standard that we to conform to. The will of God the Father is found in all sixty-six books of the Bible. His will is revealed in the Ten Commandments and in every command found in any Scripture. Sometimes He explicitly uses the phrase the “will of God is.” In a previous study entitled “Seeking God’s Will,” you discover five things are explicitly described as the will of the Father. The will of God the Father is found from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation.
Those who do the Will of the Father go to Heaven
In Matthew 7:21 Jesus warns us that those who do the will of the Father are the ones who will go to heaven.
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. (NASB) Matt. 7:21
That is, no one is going to heaven unless he or she is doing the Father’s will. The Greek word for “does” is a Greek present participle, which implies ongoing behavior. The person who does the will of God once in a while does not qualify. Jesus is describing someone who habitually does the will of the Father.
The Most Important Will of the Father?
What is the most important will of the Father? 1 John 3:23 tells us explicitly that it is the will of the Father that we believe in Christ. Notice we are commanded to believe in Christ.
And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. (NASB) 1 John 3:23
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved. (NASB) Acts 4:12
Those who obey this command are called Christians. God desires that every man and woman believe in Jesus Christ, but not everyone will obey. Only by believing in Jesus Christ will any person obey this command and go to heaven.
Who Does the Will of the Father?
The message of Ephesians 2:8-10 is that the Holy Spirit transforms or changes Christians so that they will do good works. It is important to understand that the one who believes in Christ does the will of the Father, and then the Father transforms Christians to become like Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
Philippians 1:6 echoes this truth. It tells Christians that God started a good work, is still doing a good work, and will continue to transform us into the future.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NASB)
What is God’s goal for Christians? What does God want Christians to become? Ephesians 4:13 answers the question. The verse tells us that God is transforming every Christian “to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” That is, God is working in every Christian to make us like Christ. He is working to make us holy. As a result, only Christians are able to do good works.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works . . . Ephesians 2:8-10a (NASB)
Therefore, who will do the will of the Father? The answer is Christians! Only Christians can do the will of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes this happen.
Doing the Will of the Father Reveals True Christians
Now we are ready to examine Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:21-23. In verse 21 Jesus warns us that on judgment day, only those who have done the will of the Father will enter heaven. Here is Matthew 7:21-23.
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 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.” Matthew 7:22-23 (NASB)
Now we must ask, “Who does the will of the Father?” There is only one group of people who can do the will of the Father and who will do the will of the Father habitually. We do not mean perfectly, but their pattern of life is obedience to the will of the Father.
The only people who are going to heaven are those who believe that Jesus is God, died for our sins, returned to life, and because they are sinners respond in repentance and seek God’s forgiveness. It is an act of humility and submission to Christ. Non-Christians are not obedient to God and cannot do the good works that are done by the indwelling Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Non-Christians are not obedient and cannot obey God because good works are the work of God, performed by the Holy Spirit.
How a person lives their life is proof that he or she is a Christian. Only those who believe in Jesus and are depending on Him for salvation will do the will of the Father. But notice, doing the will of God does not make a person a Christian and guarantee that they will go to heaven. That is backward theologically. The teaching of the New Testament is that Christians do good works. Good works do not make a person a Christian. Consequently, when Jesus said, “He who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” are the missing words. He was describing the character of Christian and not how to go to heaven.
Reference Links:Searching For God
I Never Knew You! - Matthew 7:21-23
What is the difference between holy and righteous in the Bible?
What is the meaning of the word repentance in the Bible?
Keys to Joy in Relationships, part 1 - Philippians 1:6
Your Position and Practice, part 2 - Ephesians 2:10