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Matthew 7:24-29 by Robert Dean
Now that you've been hearing the Sermon on the Mount taught for many weeks, what's your attitude toward it? Are you as astonished as the people were in Jesus' day? Listen to this lesson to learn that Jesus is warning about the foundation upon which our faith is built. Is it a strong foundation based on God's Word or is it no more than shifting sands based on our own foolishness? See how every day we are making decisions, many with unintended consequences, and that our challenge is to make right choices based on what Jesus taught.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:35 mins 31 secs

Life Choices: Which Righteousness? Which Gate? Which Fruit? Which House?
Matthew 7:24-29
Matthew Lesson #046
August 10, 2014

As Jesus comes to the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount He focuses on the issue of volitional responsibility, taking us back to a reiteration of the first divine institution established in the garden of Eden; that each individual is responsible for his or her life before God. That concept of individual responsibility means that ultimately there is an accountability for everyone before God: an accountability for the unbeliever, which culminates at the great white throne judgment at the end of the millennial kingdom; for church age believers at the judgment seat of Christ, which occurs immediately following the Rapture of the church; and for Old Testament saints and Tribulation saints at the judgments that come at the end of the Tribulation period. But there is accountability for everyone. That accountability reinforces our decisions.

Every single day we make decisions. Some of those decisions don't seem like they are very important. They may seem rather mundane. Am I going to wear blue or brown? Am I going to put on boots or am I going to wear shoes? Am I going to take a shower or not going to take a shower? Some of these decisions may seem to be inconsequential. We make a decision to go one way to work instead of another way and then we get involved in a traffic accident, and then many things may flow out of that particular situation. We never know going into certain decisions what their long-term consequences may be, what the unintended consequences may be; and so the issue that is often presented in Scripture is that we need to develop a system of thinking based upon wisdom, which in the Old Testament had the idea of skill.  

The backdrop for understanding the Sermon on the Mount is understanding this distinction that we see in Proverbs between the way of the wise and the way of the fool. So often in Christianity, in evangelicalism, we want to make these contrasts between salvation and the loss of salvation. But in the Old Testament—especially in Proverbs, but in many of the Psalms—they are written as if they are written to someone who is already justified, and the emphasis now is on how they should live. So when we come to the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus is giving an exposition from God's viewpoint of what righteousness is He is not talking about imputed righteousness. There are many, many commentaries that will emphasize that the issue here is imputed righteousness, not experiential righteousness. But I suggest that that is a failure to understand both the audience and the framework for the Sermon on the Mount. It is so important to understand that what Jesus is doing is building upon the message that characterized the first part of His ministry, which was "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand".

To unbelievers that message of repent, or change your mind, emphasized trusting in Him as Messiah; what we would call basic foundational justification. Justification and imputed righteousness are found in Genesis 15:6 where we are told that Abraham had already believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. So it was on the basis of that decision that Abraham made long before God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees in Genesis 12:1 that Abraham was declared righteous. So much of what is said in the Old Testament is addressed to those who are declared righteous but who need to learn to live in terms of what we call experiential righteousness. This is the issue.

As Jesus comes to the end of the Sermon on the Mount there is an emphasis on choice, the choice that each believer makes every day.

Just one other note in terms of background is that when Jesus to His audience the message was: "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". It was a Jewish audience that as expecting a literal, physical kingdom to come on the earth where Jesus is the Messiah ruling from Jerusalem. When they rejected Jesus as Messiah a new group of believers came into existence: the church, the body of Christ. The kingdom has been postponed. But in Jesus' address in the original circumstance, the original situation where He is talking to that Jewish audience, the issue is: if the kingdom is going to come in, this is how you should live in preparation for that. There is a direct application of that to the church because the church, like those Old Testament saints who originally listened to Jesus at the time of the Sermon on the Mount, is also a way to the kingdom.

The church is also awaiting the kingdom. Old Testament saints have a distinct destiny in the kingdom but it is a destiny in the kingdom where they rule and reign over Israel in the coming kingdom. As church age believers our connection is through Jesus, for we are identified with Christ, united with Him; we are the body of Christ, the bride of Christ and we will rule and reign with Christ in the kingdom. So there are two different groups of believers with two different destinies in the kingdom, but both are expected to develop experiential righteousness in their life so that they will be prepared for their roles and responsibilities when they come into the kingdom. The Old Testament saints who were originally listening to Jesus will have one destiny reigning over Israel; church age believers have another destiny, ruling and reigning with Christ on the earth during the millennial kingdom.

So as Jesus comes to the concluding section of the Sermon on the Mount He is emphasizing these choices. Which kind of righteousness are you going to have in your life? Are you pursuing a legalistic external righteousness, which is the kind of righteousness that is promoted and expounded by the Pharisees?  Are you going to choose the broad gate or the narrow gate? The broad gate leads to destruction. That is not eternal condemnation. He is talking to His disciples as believers. In the same way the challenge to us is: are we going to go the broad way, the way the majority of people will go, and live a life that is not the kind of life that Jesus provided for us, but a life that will be governed by misery, mediocrity and failure spiritually?

Then we have a third option, which He concludes with in the final parable: which house? Are you going to build a house (meaning your life) on a foundation of sand, or are you going to build a house which represents your life on a foundation on a stable rock. The difference is between security, stability and spiritual success versus insecurity, instability and spiritual failure.

As Jesus is talking to His disciples He is preparing them for their ministry. What we will see as we come to the next chapters and Jesus begins to travel throughout Galilee is that His disciples will be sent out to the house of Israel and the house of Judah to teach and to train. So what He is doing here in talking to His disciples is training them in the message of the kingdom, which will be called "the gospel of the kingdom". That is a term for that message that the kingdom is ready to come4 if you will accept Jesus as Messiah. The gospel of the kingdom isn't quite the same as what we think of today as the gospel focusing on the gospel of justification. It was a gospel specifically related to that kingdom.

Matthew 7:24 NASB "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock."

He is going to give us two examples here of the one who builds his house on a rock and the foolish man who builds his house on sand.

Matthew 7:26 NASB "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand."

"Everyone who hears these words of Mine …" What does he mean by these words [sayings] of mine"? Understanding that helps us to understand what the rock is. The rock is the sayings of Jesus. The word "sayings" or "words" is the Greek word LOGOS. In the singular it means a word. It can refer to many different things. LOGOS is a word that has a wide range of meanings—words, sayings, teachings, instructions; it could even mean doctrine, because that is a word that means instruction; it could mean the study of something. It is used to refer to many different things but here it refers to a message or the instructions of Jesus. The near demonstrative is a reference to what Jesus is teaching in the Sermon on the Mount specifically. That is its original textual meaning. But by implication it means all of Scripture, the entire realm of Bible doctrine—everything that Scripture says related to every single issue in life.

And it is not just the sayings of Jesus. Everything in the Bible, from Genesis chapter one to Revelation chapter twenty-two relates to the sayings of Jesus.      

2 Timothy 3:16, 17 NASB "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

All Scripture is breathed out by God. All of those genealogies in 2 Chronicles are just as inspired, just as important as the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels. They are all equally from the mind of God, equally significant; but they are not of the same application to us as church age believers. There is a difference in the degree of relevance but they are all equally inspired, equally authoritative, and equally without error. All Scripture is breathed out by God, not just the words of Jesus.

As we look at the Sermon on the Mount we need to understand some other things about Jesus' teaching as He brings this to a conclusion. He says, "Everyone who hears these words of Mine …" It should produce a result. It is going to produce one of two responses: you are either going to believe it and apply it or you are not going to believe it and you won't apply it.

What we learn from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:17 is that the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon fulfills the Law. He fulfilled the Law in His life but He also fulfilled the Law in the way He taught the people to obey the Law. The instruction of Jesus is the divine interpretation of the Torah and the righteous requirement of the Torah, not just for justification by also for sanctification. We also see that the words of Jesus are equated to the will of the Father. We see it in Matthew 7:21-23. At the end of verse 21 Jesus said: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven." But then when we look at vv. 22, 23 we see that the issue is related to the Lord Himself. "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?'" In other words, the will of the Father in those verses is equated to the teaching of Jesus. So what Jesus is teaching is the will of the Father, they are identical in those verses.

Concluding this little summary, the instruction of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is identical with wisdom—using that whole Old Testament category—and it is contrasted with the foolishness, the folly of the Pharisaical way of thinking. Religious legalism may sound good and may impose a moral order upon people that is in some way productive, but it is foolishness. It leads to failure in life because it is not the kind of righteousness that God expects.    

In Proverbs there is the contrast between the way of the wise and the way of the fool. The wise person is assumed to be a believer, and this is how they should live. Calling a person fool is not assuming that he is an unbeliever, it is just that he is not applying the principles of God's Word in his life. 

In Proverbs 1:7 we see the contrast: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction." So when Jesus is teaching and comes to this final parable it fits within this whole context of Old Testament thought, contrasting the fool and the wise person.

Proverbs 3:21, 22 NASB "My son, let them [the sayings] not vanish from your sight; Keep sound wisdom and discretion, So they will be life to your soul And adornment to your neck." He is not talking about having eternal life here, he is talking about having a rich, full life, experiencing the fullness of God's blessing in our life here and now. It is not eschatological; it is not talking about life after death; it is talking about the fullness of life right now.

Proverbs 4:4 NASB "Then he taught me and said to me, 'Let your heart hold fast my words; Keep my commandments and live'."

Proverbs 9:11 NASB "For by me [wisdom] your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you."

The promise for the believer is not just eternal life when we die and go to heaven, but Jesus said: "I not only came to give life, but to give it abundantly". It is that richness and fullness of life where despite our circumstances we can have joy and happiness, stability and security, even when everything around us is crashing down. We need to learn that today. We need to learn it today probably more than any generation in the United States has ever learned it, because there are things going on in this world and nationally and in foreign affairs that may bring us to the verge of another world war very shortly.

Proverbs 10:31, 32 NASB "The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted." This is not a contrast between believer and unbeliever; it is a contrast between those who are following the divine viewpoint and those who are not, assuming that they are believers. The challenge in Proverbs is from a father to a son, a believer, to live his life on a path of wisdom.

Proverbs 24:3, 4 NASB "By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches." The writer uses house-building imagery just as Jesus does. This is the same idea Jesus is talking about: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock."

Although in other places the term rock refers to Jesus as the cornerstone, in the context Jesus is saying that the rock is His sayings. If you build your life on what Jesus has taught in the Sermon on the Mount then it will survive judgment. This isn't talking about surviving adversity, as we saw in the preceding contrast. Jesus is talking about those who are claiming to be casting out demons, claiming these very signs and miracles because of their relationship, and then Jesus says: "Depart from me, I never knew you". That is at the judgment seat of Christ, as we saw last time.  

As He begins this section in v. 13 with the contrast between the narrow and the broad way, that is talking about judgment in time. The narrow way leads to life, the wide way leads to destruction in this life. Then in the next section it appears again, the contrast of the fruits in this life, judgment in this life. The tree that is thrown into the fire is not talking about eternal condemnation; it is talking about the destruction in this life. But then there is a shift. It not only applies if you make the wrong choices. It not only leads to destruction in this life but to loss at the judgment seat of Christ. That was the focus in vv. 21-23 and that is the focus here.

There is a truth there. You could apply it and say the rock is Jesus and you build on that rock and you will be able to survive adversity. That's true but it is not what he is talking about; that is not the context here. The context here is really talking about coming to that point of judgment that concludes life. The one who will survive at the judgment seat of Christ with rewards is the one who has built his house, his life, on the instruction of Jesus, the divine viewpoint of Scripture. The one who will suffer loss at the judgment seat of Christ is the one who builds his life on his own thinking—illustrated by sand, Matthew 7:26 NASB "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand."

Well if those sayings are related to that practical, experiential righteousness, and this is a person who ignores that, he has no experiential righteousness at the judgment seat of Christ, and what that means in 1 Corinthians 3:15 is that their works will be destroyed, they are wood, hay and straw; but they will be saved yet as through fire. They are still saved, they just have no rewards to show for it; it is a wasted life spiritually.

Then Matthew concludes this, giving his editorial observation. Matthew 7:28 NASB "When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching." He is setting up a transition. The words of Jesus have authority. The teaching of Jesus was unlike anything from the rabbis. Rabbinical teaching was a teaching based on the authority of other scholars. It was much like in modern scholarship, we have gone all the way around and now we talk about what pastor so-and-so said, Dr. so-and-so said that, and modern scholarship thinks that you are a scholar if you know all the different views and can explain the strengths and weaknesses in every view. But you can't come to dogmatic conclusions. In fact, if you come to dogmatic conclusions you are wrong! That's not scholarship! So they completely redefine scholarship from what it was forty or fifty years ago.

What Jesus did was teach what the Word said and what the Word meant. He wasn't concerned with the different viewpoints and the different human authorities because they were wrong. He was giving a literal interpretation and application of the text, and this is what set Him apart from all of the other rabbis and teachers of that time. He taught as one having authority and not as the scribes. So we see that His teaching, the words of Jesus, demonstrated His authority.

Matthew 7:29 NASB "for He was teaching them as {one} having authority, and not as their scribes."

What we will se in the following chapters, chapters eight through ten where we look at the miracles, the signs and wonders that Jesus performs, is that the works of Jesus demonstrated His authority. So Matthew is building a case that Jesus fulfills the promises and prophecies of the Messiah. He demonstrates that He is the Messiah by the way in which he teaches, by His Words, and by what He does by His works.

The challenge for us from the Sermon on the Mount is, what are we going to do? What is the action plan for us? Which path are we going to take? Which fruit do we want to see produced in our lives? Which house are we going to imitate with the way in which we build our lives? Are we going to build our lives on the wisdom of the Old Testament where God the Holy Spirit is producing righteousness in our lives and the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, or are we going to pursue our lives on our own terms and only following the priorities of Scripture when it is convenient for us or when it conforms to our own preconceived notions.