Has anyone ever used Matt 25 and Matt 7 about Jesus separating sheep and goats to condemn you into doing more things for God? Have they used it to make you question your salvation? If they have, please read this article.


Mat 25:31-33 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.


Ok so sheep go to the right, goats to the left. Seems pretty easy, right? Then why is there so much confusion about this? Let me make it as simple as I possibly can. Below are two pictures. One is of a goat, one is of a sheep. Can you see which is which and separate them? Put your finger on the sheep. Easy, right?



Mat 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’


But ok, in Matthew 25 the sheep did all those good things and the goats didn’t do them, so that is not so hard to understand. But in Matthew 7 above, both the sheep and goats did all the good things, but there was still a separation. How does that work? Again, to make it as clear as possible I have put two pictures below. One picture is of a sheep. This sheep prophesied in Jesus’ Name, cast out devils, healed the sick and did many other wonders. The other picture is of a goat. This goat also prophesied, delivered, healed and performed wonders. They both did the same things. Can you still separate the sheep from the goat? Put your finger on the sheep. Easy, right?



Why? Because you can clearly see which is the sheep and which is the goat. They are naturally different, or they have different natures. The separation of sheep and goats, believer and unbeliever does not happen based on works and deeds, it happens based on nature. You can easily see the sheep is a sheep and the goat is a goat because they have two very distinct natures. But what if the sheep acts like a goat? Doesn’t matter, it is still a sheep (Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more). What if the goat acts like a sheep? Also doesn’t matter (You are saved by grace and not works).


The same thing is explained by Jesus using trees. All trees bear fruit. Good trees bear good fruit, bad trees bear bad fruit. You would think a bad tree wouldn’t be able to bear fruit, but apparently it does bear fruit. Imagine the best unsaved philanthropist you now. They build orphanages, they fund children’s hospitals, they feed the hungry and give to the poor. They do all these very good awesome things but they are still unsaved. They are still bad trees. Even our best efforts are as filthy rags. If you are bad by nature, your fruit is bad. If you are a goat by nature, it doesn’t matter how much you act like a sheep, you are still a goat. If the goat or bad tree places their faith in Christ, they receive a new nature. The goat dies with Christ and is reborn as a sheep. Likewise the bad tree dies and is reborn as a good tree.


Another thing to note in Matthew 7 is where the sheep’s identity was secured and where the goat’s identity was secured. The sheep’s identity was in knowing the Shepherd. The goats only knew they acted like sheep. One had their identity in Christ, the other had their identity in their works. The free gift of Righteousness vs. Self-righteousness. The moment they were separated the goats immediately pointed to their works as the basis for their relationship with the Shepherd. You can do all the good you want but it is worth nothing if you don’t have Christ. Sadly, there are many well-meaning goats out there, some in our very own churches who think they are saved sheep but who still live bound to the old nature and oppressed by the law of works.


But why then does Matthew 7:21 say those who DO the will of the Father are sheep and why is Matthew 25′s separation based on doing things? Firstly, what is God’s will? What are the works you are to do to be in His will?


Jhn 6:28-29 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”


What do you have to do to work the works of God? Believe in Jesus. If you do that, you are in God’s perfect will. If you act on this faith, you are outworking His will. If you are a sheep, you will naturally act like a sheep. The sheep in Matthew 25 didn’t even know they were doing good, they just did what came naturally. The goats in Matthew 25 didn’t do any good things. But in the end it doesn’t matter if you are a goat doing nothing or a goat doing everything right, what matters is your nature. If you are not a sheep you are not a sheep. Easy, isn’t it? For more on this also read 2 Cor 6:14-17.


Grace to you all!




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8 Responses to Separating Sheep and Goats?

  • jeremy penwarden says:

    I was told once that in Israel 2000 years ago sheep and goats looked very similar – almost identical. Not like your tow pictures. Actually about as hard to tell apart as for a westerner to tell a chinese from a korean.

    The differences were subtle, not clear.

  • Cornel says:

    Hi Jeremy.

    My dad farmed with both sheep and goats. If you want to know the difference between the two physically, from the front a sheep as a split upper lip while a goat doesn’t. From the back, a sheep’s tail hangs down and is usually docked (shortened) while a goats tail stands up.

    What is your point?


  • jeremy penwarden says:

    My understanding is that the differences in appearance back then were far less than in our modern Western farming. Therewas also wheat and tares, mulberry and sycamine trees.

    Things that looked very similar, but were at heart markedly different.

    I’m increasingly coming up against people relying in part on works of righteousness, thinking that they’re saved by faith. Sometimes it’s very hard to see one from the other.

    I think my point is that the surface differences are very minor, not glaringly obvious like your two pictures.

  • Cornel says:

    I agree that the differences between truly born again believers and convicted unbelievers are not that great on the outside. Religion creates many convicted unbelievers who are running around trying to fix themselves and appear more holy on the outside. Jesus mentioned this when I called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs.

    Mat 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

  • Paul says:

    This is the clearest explanation of the sheep and goats I’ve heard. Hopefully it will put an end to ridiculous theologies that claim your salvation depends on the number of glasses of water you give (Mt 25:37).

  • Fiona says:

    Hi Cornel, thanks for a great article. Wow… this is so refreshing. I am wondering about the parable of the talents which comes just before this passage. What is your take on that? After years of works/law based performance living and teaching, I am finding it difficult to understand some passages. I would appreciate your insight. Thanks. Fiona O.

  • jeremy penwarden says:

    Good question Fiona. I’ve been thinking about this too. What I’ve come to is this: you can have works without law. Eph 2:10 for example. There’s a difference between doing something to BECOME pleasing to someone and doing something to PLEASE them. In a marriage, hopefully each partner is pleasing to the other. But each loves to do things to please the other.

    There is no problem with us going things to please God. That is normal behaviour to someone you love. We do this from the foundation of knowing that we are pleasing to Him. So we check John 6:29 where Jesus tells us that the work of the Father is to believe in Jesus and John 9:4 where Jesus calls healing (or more generally loving on someone) the works of the Father. Here Jesus say WE must do these things, so He’s including us in this imperative. Note both we and MUST. Not an optional extra.

    Jesus explained His ‘anointing’ or commissioning in Luke 4:18-19. It was how He spent His life and it’s clear that we’re saved for the same. You won’t find a single occasion where God calls someone and tells them that their primary purpose is intimacy with Him. Peter’s call was to become a fisher of men. Adam’s was to work Gen 1:26. Only Martha / Mary raises the question of a life spent as Jesus’ feet, but that was at a particular point in time.

    Jesus on at least two occasions sent teams out to do Luke 4:18-19. The disciples clearly did these works on a regular basis (by implication from their failure in Mat 17:16).

    We work by faith. Faith in the finished work of Jesus. We work from rest Heb 4:10. resting from our works and efforts and relasing by faith the Father’s works.

    So to come to the parable of the talents, I’ve always thought that the coincidence in English of the double meaning is intended. Do we use our talents for God? I suspect that we can also and more specifically consider them as speaking of faith. Eph 2:8 tells us that God gives the very faith with which we are saved. So, if God ever withheld that original faith from anyone they would be condemned by God to hell as without it they cannot be saved.

    Thus all are at some point given faith to believe, but many choose not to use that faith and stay unsaved. The one talent that was buried.

    None the less I still think that what I was always taught could still be correct. Not all will be equal in Heaven. What we have done with our faith will determine how we live in the afterlife. Talents in this life, cities in the afterlife. Looking at the church, I think many will be saved, but having used little of their faith in this life. And of course there are billions of angels for us to rule over at that time.

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