Sermon on the Mount Lesson Nineteen

Two Foundations – Matthew 7:24-29

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” 28 When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, 29 because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes. (HCSB)

First, this lesson will conclude our journey through the Sermon on the Mount. I pray that you have been blessed by it, but more importantly, that you have been challenged to change by it.

Verses 24-27

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”

There are several ideas to note in verse 24.

  • In verse 24, the word “therefore” points back to the entire Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is concluding His teaching here, and it is meant to be understood in its entirety, not just portions of the message.
  • The teachings are the words of Jesus. In verses 24 and 26, Jesus says, “these words of Mine.” Jesus is claiming equal authority with God the Father in authoring what’s contained in Scripture. He also did this by clarifying the original intent of the Law in Matthew 5:17-48.
  • Jesus uses the word “everyone.” We know from the context of the Sermon on the Mount that the message was directed at Jesus’ disciples. However, here Jesus is also extending an invitation to those who are not currently His disciples. This includes the members of the religious establishment, who were leading people away from God’s righteousness to their self-righteous hypocrisy.

Let’s now look at verses 24-27 as a coherent whole.

  • Jesus is giving a parable about two different builders meant to symbolize the two reactions to Jesus’ teaching.
    • One is wise by building on a firm foundation, rock.
    • The other is foolish by building on a foundation that is unstable and prone to change.
  • There are two separate but equally illustrative understandings to this parable that would’ve been readily understood by those hearing the Sermon on the Mount.
    • Those living in the desert areas building on any surface during the dry seasons would have been the easy choice requiring less effort. But those who understood what could happen when heavy rains occurred resulting in flash floods would know that only those dwellings built on rock could withstand the flood. Those built on sand would be swept away.
    • The ground, consisting of sandy soil, in the area around the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River where this message took place, would be quite hard on the surface during the hot summer period. When the winter rains occurred, the Jordan River would overflow its banks. Houses built on the previously “hard” soil would be swept away as the ground became saturated and shifted. Those dwellings built on bedrock would withstand these events.
    • Those hearing this message would understand the foolishness of building on anything but rock.
  • There is a third but less apparent message in these verses directed against the teaching of the Jewish religious leaders.
    • The sand was a reference to the leadership and teaching of the scribes and Pharisees.
      • They advocated a surface righteousness that masked the unstable foundation of religious hypocrisy.
      • The unstable nature of their teaching would be revealed as it wouldn’t be able to provide the answers to the deepest needs of the people.
    • The rock was a reference to the teaching of Jesus.
      • Obedience to Jesus’ teaching leads to true life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
      • It was unpopular, often even leading to trouble as the easy life and comfort were left behind.
  • A wise person will build their house, understood as their life, on the rock that is Jesus and His teachings.
    • Isaiah 28:16  Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable.
    • Acts 4:11  This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone.
    • 1 Peter 2:6-8  For it is contained in Scripture: Look! I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone, and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame! So honor will come to you who believe, but for the unbelieving, The stone that the builders rejected— this One has become the cornerstone, and A stone to stumble over, and a rock to trip over.
    •  
    • Ephesians 2:20  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,  with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.
    • 1 Corinthians 3:10-11  10 According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.
    • They understand that shifting sands lead to insecurity and, ultimately, disaster.

There are three points to consider regarding these verses.

  • Jesus is the foundation. It is possible to read or hear these words preached and ignore them or try and fulfill them in your own strength. That is a futile course to follow. We can only follow them if we are grounded on Jesus. When we build our character on Jesus, we build an unshakable character.
  • A life built on Jesus is a life that will withstand all the storms that the world can throw at us. It will stand against every tribulation that the enemy can bring against us. Ultimately, it will stand when we are before the Throne of Judgment with our eternal destiny being determined.
  • For the Christian, the question is, “What are you building?” Are you rooted in God’s will and producing lasting fruit, or are you foolish in your building?
    • 1 Corinthians 3:12-15  12 If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.

Verses 28-29

28 When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, 29 because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes.

At this point, the Sermon on the Mount is finished. Now, it is time to take stock and evaluate the response of those hearing the message.

  • At the beginning of the message, Jesus was addressing His disciples. By the time He had finished, a crowd had gathered.
  • Depending on your translation, you might have “astonished” or “amazed” in verse 28. The Greek tense of the verb indicates an ongoing effect on the listeners.
  • The astonishment or amazement, unfortunately, had no connection with their response or commitment to the message. The Greek word, ekplesso, is not an indicator of faith but, rather, an emotional response.
  • Jesus’ message contained authority as indicated by His continual use of the phrase, “but I tell you.” Jesus’ teaching exhibits the authority of God. This is in contrast to Old Testament prophets who spoke on the authority of Yahweh.
    • Moses in Exodus 11:4.
    • Elijah in 1 Kings 21:23.
    • Isaiah in Isaiah 3:16.
    • Zechariah in Zechariah 8:3.

As I close our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, let’s consider this message as a whole.

  • This message is intensely life-challenging.
  • It is a profoundly disturbing indictment against the religious establishment; those who have hijacked God’s original message with a false message of their own. In Jesus’ day, it was the Pharisees. In our day, there are many suitable candidates who could be indicted with this charge.
  • It is an amazing challenge to the crowds, those who are attracted by Jesus’ message but not yet placing faith in Him.
  • It is the highest inspiration.
  • It is the most realistic guideline of life for those who are Jesus’ disciples as they live the wonderful reality of Kingdom life.
  • Jesus challenges His disciples to examine themselves to determine the authenticity of their commitment. They will make an eternal account for their lives.
  • Jesus challenges the crowds to take up the invitation to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Their choice will have eternal consequences, either heaven or hell.
  • Jesus challenges the religious leaders to examine if they are teaching false doctrine or if they have pious hypocrisy, either which could lead them or their followers to eternal destruction.
  • Jesus makes it clear that He will dispense the judgment each of us face.

Our application will look at the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety.

  • 7:13–14: Will you enter the gate to life in the Kingdom of Heaven and lead a life of following Jesus? Or will you reject Jesus for the popular road that leads to destruction?
  • 7:15–20: Will you find in Jesus the inner source of transformation that will produce the good fruit of life? Or will you follow the prophetic voices of this world that hype a promise of life but will only take you into the fires of hell?
  • 7:21–23: Will you obey the Father’s will and come to Jesus as your only Lord? Or will you chase after false manifestations of spirituality that result in eternal banishment?
  • 7:24–27: Will you build your life on Jesus as your solid rock? Or will the pleasant ease of your life cause you to be unprepared for the storms that will come in this life and that will ultimately wash you away into the desolation of the afterlife?

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Eighteen

Entering the Kingdom – Matthew 7:13-23

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,  but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’ (HCSB)

Now that the Sermon on the Mount is drawing to a conclusion, Jesus is encouraging His followers to make a decision. Remember, this message is addressed to believers and not unbelievers. However, how we live and the teaching we give and receive has a major impact on the path we follow. This passage contains one of the scariest passages in the entire Bible that every self-proclaimed follower of Christ should always remember. I’ll elaborate once we get to it.

Verses 13-14

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

These first two verses require us to make a decision on what the terms gate and road are talking about.

  • Is the gate the beginning of the journey? Is it talking about the point of salvation and the road taken after that?
  • Or is the gate the end of the journey, the destination? Our physical death and eternal residence?

There is a great debate among theologians and scholars on this point. By the end of this, admittedly, abbreviated discussion on these two viewpoints, I hope you will conclude, as I have, that the first view is the correct one.

Let’s take a look at the original Greek words behind the two main concepts in verses 13-14

  • Narrow gate/road – Two different Greek words are used for narrow, one each in verses 13 and 14. The first simply means “narrow,” while the second means “tribulation” or “persecution.” Jesus is saying that the way of true discipleship is restricting, in the sense of a worldly view, and leads to opposition and persecution. We know from other passages in Scripture that Jesus faced persecution, and He told us that those who follow Him would also face persecution.
    • Matthew 5:10-11 Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me.”
    • 2 Timothy 3:12  In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
    • 1 Peter 4:13-14  Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
    • Acts 14:22  strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”
  • Wide gate/broad road – In Greek, this means spacious, easy, or prosperous. However, prosperous is not viewed in a positive light in this passage. It relates more to greed and selfishness. Ultimately, it leads to eternal death.
    • Philippians 3:19  Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things.
    • 1 Timothy 6:9  But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction.
    • 2 Peter 2:1, 3   But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves…They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.
    • 1 Peter 3:16  He speaks about these things in all his letters in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.

Jesus is exhorting His followers that true discipleship is a rigorous path, and not many will undertake and complete the journey. The narrow gate and narrow path is faith in Jesus. Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for missing this point and choosing the wide gate and broad road that is characterized by self-dependence and self-righteousness.  A true servant of God’s Kingdom will always be in the minority camp when compared against the lost and false Christians.

Verses 15-20

15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

Although these verses talk about false teachers or fake Christians, they tie in neatly with the preceding two verses. Some observations about this passage.

Jesus uses three metaphorical comparisons to illustrate false teachers or fake Christians.

  • The wolf in sheep’s clothing.
    • A wolf may deceive for a period of time, but sooner or later, their true nature will come out.
    • The illustration of the wolf indicates an active and malicious motive behind their actions.
    • A wolf is an enemy of sheep, and if not confronted and removed from the flock, they will destroy the sheep.
    • Acts 20:27-31 27 for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole plan of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears.
    • Matthew 24:11 Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
    • Matthew 24:24  False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
  • Grapes and figs.
    • The first thing to note here is that these false teachers or fake Christians are not as disruptive as the wolves. However, that does not change the fact that they do not produce lasting Kingdom work.
    • A grapevine or fig tree will eventually produce fruit, even if you have to wait for the proper season.
    • A thornbush or thistle will never produce grapes or figs, no matter how long you wait.
    • Matthew 3:8  Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.
    • James 3:9-12  We praise our Lord and Father with it, and we curse men who are made in God’s likeness with it. 10 Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way. 11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.
    • Philippians 1:11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
    • Colossians 1:10  so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.
  • Thrown into the fire.
    • This implies God’s judgment.
    • John 15:6  If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
    • This applies to those who were never genuine believers in the first place.
    • It is also a warning against believers who have false or hypocritical obedience in our lives. True believers are destined for eternal life but can still experience the unhealthy fruit of disobedience along the way
      • 1 Cor 3:1-4   Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers? For whenever someone says, “I’m with Paul,” and another, “I’m with Apollos,” are you not unspiritual people?
      • 1 Cor 11:30-32  30 This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. 31 If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged, 32 but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Verses 21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,  but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’

This is one of the scariest passages in the entire Bible and should cause every self-proclaimed believer to stop and make an honest and in-depth assessment of where they stand regarding obedience to Jesus, what He teaches, and the entirety of the truth contained in Scripture.

We can draw several conclusions from this passage.

  • More people say they are Christians than those who actually follow Jesus.
  • True followers of Jesus can’t lose their salvation, “I never knew you” is a clear indication that they were never genuine disciples.
  • Acknowledging Jesus as Lord with our lips, but not demonstrating obedience to His teaching, doing God’s will, is an indication of a false Christian. However, don’t confuse this with the false doctrine of works-based salvation.
    • 2 Timothy 2:19  Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and Everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness.
  • Jesus is talking about the final, eschatological judgment each of us will face.
    • Luke 13:25-28  once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door. Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up for us!’ He will answer you, ‘I don’t know you or where you’re from.’ 26 Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets!’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you’re from. Get away from Me, all you workers of unrighteousness!’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown out.
  • Jesus is identifying three ways in which false Christians will try and deceive others.
    • Lip service, claiming loyalty to Jesus as Lord and God.
    • Spectacular signs.
    • Performing signs in Jesus’ name, thus claiming them to be the work of God when they aren’t.
      • Acts 19:13-16 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul—but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded.
      • Revelation 13:13-14  13 He also performs great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in front of people. 14 He deceives those who live on the earth because of the signs that he is permitted to perform on behalf of the beast, telling those who live on the earth to make an image of the beast who had the sword wound and yet lived.

Summarizing what Jesus is conveying in verses 21-23 highlights the following points.

  • A genuine Christian will have evidence of good works in their lives.
    • However, salvation is not by works.
    • Anyone who trusts in their works for salvation is not saved.
    • Salvation is trusting in the finished work of Jesus alone.
      • Ephesians 2:8-9  For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.
  • An absence of good works is an indicator of a false Christian.
    • A true Christian has the Spirit of God living in them, which will manifest itself by doing good works.
    • A false Christian doesn’t have the Spirit of God living in them, resulting in no fruit or fruit which doesn’t last.
  • These three verses are a warning to false (knowingly or unknowingly) Christians.
    • There are many paths to hell; many of them seemingly “religious.”
    • There is only one path to heaven,…repenting, and trusting in Jesus.

Applications

  • The first application is to ask yourself is if you really believe that Scripture is inerrant and infallible. Unless you answer “yes” to this question, it is impossible to follow Jesus’ commands and then be in God’s will. If you struggle in trusting the absolute truth of Scripture, pray that God would remove that doubt. Doubting the infallibility of Scripture is a lie from the devil designed to undermine our obedience and reduce or eliminate fruit from our lives.
  • Make an honest assessment of the path you are currently traveling. Are you on the narrow path or the broad path? Many are living, either deliberately or unknowingly, a false Christianity.
  • The “Sinner’s Prayer,” found nowhere in the Bible, has led many to believe that they are on the road to salvation when they may actually be on the road to hell. Jesus calls us to repentance, turning from our sinful habits, and trusting and turning to Him in a life of obedience.
  • Evaluate the church you attend and the sermons they preach. They should be Jesus centered and not “me” centered. Always search Scripture and don’t blindly follow what your pastor says. Pastors who are offended by this may be giving false teaching. If your church is not teaching Scripture, Jesus, repentance, and hell as a real place, you need to find a new church that does. If they teach the prosperity gospel or an easy Christianity, you need to find a new church. Jesus never taught that message.
  • Does your life demonstrate producing lasting fruit in Kingdom service? If not, go back to application point #2 and reevaluate.