These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Matthew 7:21-29 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary

Matthew 7:21-29

I. True and false disciples (21-23) – A true disciple does the will of the Father

Discussion Questions

Why would someone who says, “Lord, Lord” not enter the kingdom of heaven?
Does verse 21 teach a works based salvation (clearly not since people in verse 22 also did good works, but don’t enter)?
How does verse 22 show us that works cannot save us?
What is the will of the Father? How can we “do” it?
What is the warning for us? How can we evaluate our spiritual condition? How can we make sure that we are “in?”


Philippians 2:12 – Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Matthew 24:13 – He who endures to the end shall be saved.

Matthew 25:31-46 – The final judgment.

James 2:17 – Faith without works is dead.

Verse by Verse Commentary

Here we see again stated in a different way a warning about being a false disciple.

  1. Words alone do not prove a person to be a true disciple – Words are easy. As someone once said, “talk is cheap.” It is easy to talk the talk of a Christian. There will be many people who claimed to be believers who will discover at the end that they were never true disciples.

“The most agonizing problem about the assurance of salvation is not the problem of whether the objective facts of Christianity are true (God exists, Christ is God, Christ died for sinners, Christ rose from the dead, Christ saves forever all who believe, etc.). Those facts are the utterly crucial bedrock of our faith. But the really agonizing problem of assurance is whether I personally am saved by those facts.

This boils down to whether I have saving faith. What makes this agonizing — for many in the history of the church and today — is that there are people who think they have saving faith but don’t. For example, in Matthew 7:21–23, Jesus says, “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. 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.’”

So the agonizing question for some is: Do I really have saving faith? Is my faith real? Am I self-deceived? Some well-intentioned people try to lessen the problem by making faith a mere decision to affirm certain truths, like the truth: Jesus is God, and he died for my sins.”


  1. What is saving faith? – Saving faith believes the facts of the gospel. At the same time, it accepts the gospel personally. Rather than being persuaded only intellectually, a person with saving faith comes to behold the deep goodness and greatness and beauty of Christ. “Being persuaded with the mind that something is true is not the same as apprehending the beauty and worth of the truth.” The devil himself believes the facts of the gospel. But he hates them. Others may believe the facts, but still choose to follow their own way rather than be a disciple of Jesus (like the man in Mark 10:17-31.) They are therefore indifferent to Christ and their heart has not been changed. Others believe the facts and have some surface changes like going to church. This too is not a guarantee that the heart has been changed. Saving faith is real. It is alive. It changes the heart. It is based on an intellectual understanding and persuasion, but goes much deeper than that to the heart. It is a faith that with the mind believes and with the heart sees the beauty and wonder of Christ and enjoys Him. The person who has faith like this will be willing to do the will of the the Father. In other words, this person will be a genuine disciple.

These people in verse 21 love the feeling of safety they have in God. The probably love power and love it that God gave them power to do miracles. But that is different from loving God.

  1. Religious rituals do not save – We learn this from verse 22. Sharing the gospel or teaching Bible studies will not save you.
  2. Depart from me workers of lawlessness – These are bad trees with bad fruit. The core of the tree is rotten because there is something the matter with their faith. It wasn’t genuine. It didn’t love Jesus. The heart and the attitudes were not changed even if the mind accepted the truths.
  3. Application: We should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. There is no more important question. These passages are all a warning to us not to be a false disciple. We should take the warnings seriously and evaluate our lives. No one can do this for you. Are you a disciple of Jesus? Are you taking the narrow way? Do you have good fruit? Are your roots attached to Christ or is the seemingly good fruit a result of your own willpower? Is the good fruit increasing? Are you doing the will of your Father or your own will? Are you just saying the right words or is your life changed?

II. The wise and foolish builders (24-29)

Discussion Questions

What words of mine?
What do the rains and streams and winds represent?
What lesson is Jesus teaching in these verses?
What does the great crash represent? What will happen to the person who doesn’t obey Jesus’ words?
How can we do a better job applying and practicing the word?
Why were the crowds impressed with Jesus? Did this amazement lead to their salvation? Why or why not?
How was Jesus’ teaching than that of the scribes and pharisees?

Verses on Obedience

John 14:15 – If you love me you will keep my commandments.

Luke 6:46 – Why do you call me Lord and don’t do what I tell you?

1 John 3:24 – Whoever keeps His commandments abides in Him.

Psalm 119:60 – I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.

James 1:22-25 – Be doers, not merely listeners.

Joshua 22:5 – Be very careful to observe His commands.

Verse by Verse Commentary

  1. These words of Mine – In this specific context it probably refers to His Sermon on the Mount and the preceding verses on what a real disciple is. In a broader sense, this warning can apply to all of God’s commands.
  2. Hears and acts – This phrase is much like the phrase “hears” and “believes” in John 5:24. It also reminds us of James’ teaching on faith and works in James 2. All of the people present had the opportunity to hear what Jesus said. Hearing is certainly easier than acting, but it is still important for us to remember to be a good listener. It is possible to sit and listen to a sermon and not really hear what is being said. This happens when the person sitting is thinking about other things instead of focusing on the sermon. People also don’t really hear when they are thinking of arguments against what they are hearing. For example sometimes when two people argue they don’t actually listen to each other, but instead spend time while the other is talking to prepare their next argument. How can you be a better listener?
  3. Acts. This is simple to understand. A true disciple is obedient. A true disciple will heed Jesus’ words and do His best to respond to them. How can you be a better doer? How can you make sure that you don’t forget what you have heard? How can you make sure that you don’t walk away without God’s words making any real difference in your life? Throughout the Bible emphasis is placed on obedience, not on knowledge. Can you think of any verses where obedience is emphasized over knowledge? A disciple is a follower. A disciple obeys. At the beginning he may not know a lot, but what he knows, he does. A sign of Christian maturity is NOT how much knowledge someone has, but IS their obedience.
  4. A wise man – We can either be wise or foolish. A wise person looks ahead A wise person considers the future. A wise person doesn’t take short cuts. In the case of a builder, a wise builder uses good materials and doesn’t cut corners. He prepares for the worst case scenario. He is diligent. He builds on a solid foundation because that is the safest place to build.
  5. The rain and floods – These represent times of trials, difficulties, and perhaps temptations. A disciple who is obedient to the Lord is ready for these challenges. He is ready for any disaster in his life because he is safe in his relationship to the Lord. His confidence and security are placed in Christ not in himself. See also, “There is another point in this comparison. The house built upon the sand is beat upon by the floods and rains; its foundation gradually is worn away; it falls, and is borne down the stream and is destroyed. So falls the sinner. The floods are wearing away his sandy foundation; and soon one tremendous storm shall beat upon him, and he and his hopes shall fall, for ever fall. Out of Christ; perhaps having “heard” his words from very childhood; perhaps having taught them to others in the Sunday school; perhaps having been the means of laying the foundation on which others shall build for heaven, he has laid for himself no foundation, and soon an eternal tempest shall beat around his naked soul. How great will be that fall! What will be his emotions when sinking forever in the flood, and when he realizes that he is destined forever to live and writhe in the peltings of that ceaseless storm that shall beat when “God shall rain snares, fire, and a horrible tempest” upon the wicked!” the same time another “flood’ that will confront each person is the final judgment. At that point people’s foundations will be clearly revealed (if they weren’t revealed before). Many will have a great fall at that time. Will you be ready?
  6. Verses 28-29 – They were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. It’s no wonder they were amazed. Jesus’ teachings were practical and powerful. They got right to the heart of the issue. He focused on the internal and no the external. He did not merely give a list of rules which they needed to follow like the Pharisees did. Instead he made them think about their heart. And he let them realize that indeed their righteousness was not good enough for them to be saved. He revealed to them the true dark wickedness of their hearts. The right response would be to throw themselves upon God’s mercy and become disciples of His Son. Perhaps you are also amazed by Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps you are shamed by His teaching. Perhaps you feel guilty and inadequate. Do not just listen to the words and walk away and forget what you look like. Take them to heart. Take action. What action do you need to take?

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