Bible Study

More about the house on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27)

One reader posted a comment to my last post and rather than answer him in the comments section, I thought I would make a new post to handle his question:

Here was John’s concern…

I’m going to be the little trouble maker here.   I’m just thinking and would like your thoughts.  I’ve think you’ve made an interesting point and upon reading this, this is the only time i’ve heard rain, floods and winds referred to as final judgment.  My question would be “are those whose house is built on the rock going to go through the final judgment?  Was not the rain, floods and winds poured out on Christ?  Are believers going to be judged in the same manner as unbelievers?  If this passage is referring to “final judgement”, it appears that it is the same exact judgment on both believers and unbelievers….although the results of the judgement are remarkably different.

John, you brought up an important point concerning what God’s judgment is, so I am happy for the opportunity to clarify.  On the one hand, you are right in that believers will not be “judged” at the final judgment because our sins were judged in Christ.  God’s wrath was poured out on Christ, so that those who are united to him by faith will not face it.  But I think you were taking my point too far when you interpreted me to mean that “the rain, floods and wind” in this passage represent the wrath of God.  In that sense, yes, you are right, we will not be judged.

But the word “judgment” is used in two ways in the New Testament.  On the one hand, it is used in the sense of “condemnation” or a negative judgement.  In this sense, to “judge” someone is to pronounce them guilty.

But judgment is also used in a neutral sense.  This is the sense of separating or distinguishing or discriminating between two things.

You can see these two meanings in two apparently conflicting statements of Jesus.

First, in John 3:17 Jesus says, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (NASB). Here John is saying that the reason Jesus was sent into the world was not to bring condemnation, but to provide a way to be saved from condemnation.  That is why the English Standard Version uses the word, “condemn” instead of “judge.”  (“…did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world…”)

On the other hand, in John 9:39 Jesus says,  “For judgement I came into this world…” and in John 5:27 he says that the Father, “has given him authority to execute judgment”.  These verses do not contradict John 3:17 because they are referring to the fact that Jesus came to “distinguish” or “separate” those who are his from those who are not.

It is this distinguishing type of judgment that is happening in the house on the rock passage.  The storm does not represent the negative penalty of condemnation, but rather the discriminating act of judgment at the final judgment that will separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46).  Actually, the Matthew 25 connection with the house on the rock is strong, because in both contexts there is a distinction being made between those who only call Jesus, “Lord, Lord” and those who are actually his people (compare Matthew 7:22 with Matthew 25:44)

Let me conclude with a quote from James Montgomery Boice:

Building on Christ’s words will also save you in death, for that is what escaping the storm’s destruction actually refers to. This is not merely a matter of finding something that will get you through life, fit to stand against “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” as it were. It is a matter of standing upright at the final judgment and not being carried off to hell by God’s verdict and command. (page 117 The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, Baker Books, 2001)

Bible Study Cross-Centered Life

How to Build Your House on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27)

Perhaps, like me, as a child you often sang the cute little song based on Matthew 7:24-27

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

And the rains came a tumblin’ down…

But when Jesus tells us at the end of the Sermon on the Mount to “build our house on the rock,” what is he referring to?  How do we actually do this?

Here is the whole passage…

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

I’m not sure where my early understanding came from, but for a long time, I thought that the rain and the floods and the wind that beat on the house were the storms of life–the trials  and struggles that all of us go through.  But if you look closely at the context here at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is talking about the final judgment.  The beating storm that the house must endure is nothing less than the judgment that Christ himself will render when he evaluates our lives on judgment day.  The question at hand, then, is whether or not we will “enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 21), or hear the awful words, “I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (v. 23).

In order to enter the eternal kingdom and live forever with Jesus, we must be like the man who built his house on the rock.  And Jesus states very, very clearly what that means in verse 24.  “Everyone then who hears these words of mind and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

Although it is very true that we must obey everything that Jesus says, when he speaks of “these words” he is referring to what he has just taught in the Sermon on the Mount.  And it is not enough just to hear those words and appreciate them.  We must do them (remember James 1:22-25 and the man who looks at his face in the mirror).

So what does “doing” the things that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount entail?  Well, to be honest, it entails a lot more than you and I are capable of.  What makes Matthew 5-7 so stunning (in the sense of feeling numb like you’ve been hit on the head with a crowbar) is that Jesus doesn’t only endorse what God had already revealed in the Old Testament, he deepens it and makes it a matter of the heart.  So it isn’t enough to just “not murder”, we must also make sure our hearts aren’t harboring bitter and angry thoughts.  It isn’t enough to just “not commit adultery,” our thoughts have to be pure.  We can’t just “claim our rights,” but we must be willing to suffer injustice at the hands of others.  Religious duties like fasting, prayer and giving must be done with a right heart… This is only a partial list of some of the words that we have just heard from Jesus in the sermon on the mount.  Jesus has shown us that a true keeping of the law is so much deeper than just external behavior, it is the description of a life that springs from a pure heart.

Now, depending at what stage you are at in life, you will probably respond to this in one of two ways.  1)  “Well, I guess I better buckle down and get started.  Let’s see, what part of the sermon on the mount will I work on today?”  or 2) “Can I just go back to bed?”

You see, when Jesus says that the one who builds his house on the rock, “hears my words and does them,” it is like being told that you need to build the Biltmore House (click if you’ve never seen the Biltmore House) on your $20,000 a year salary in order to get into heaven.  There’s no way you can do it!

The problem is that the gospel of Matthew is filled with such passages.  Matthew presents the “gospel of the kingdom” that Jesus came preaching: a description of what life under King Jesus is like.  And as glorious as that picture is, and as much as we would like to live it, it can seem unattainable when we look only at this Biltmore House of a life that Jesus talks about and realize that we can’t begin to measure up.

But the gospel of Matthew doesn’t consist only of the “gospel of the Kingdom,” it ends with the King himself dying on a cross and then rising from the dead.  So what is the connection between the message of the King about the life that he wants us to live, and the death and resurrection of the King?

Although there are some clues scattered throughout Matthew, it isn’t until after Jesus ascends to heaven and the apostles, through the Holy Spirit, explain to us in their writings the significance of Jesus’ death that we begin to see how Jesus’ death and resurrection make it possible for us to build our house on the rock.

The only way possible for us to “hear Jesus’ words and do them” is to be united with Jesus in his death and resurrection.  His death becomes our death, and his life becomes our life, and the house on the rock that stands against the storm of God’s judgment is nothing less than the exquisite mansion of Christ’s own life that he builds for us through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

So, summarizing, how do you build your house on the Rock?

Admit to Jesus your helplessness to build anything that stands a chance of surviving his end-time judgment.  Every day look to his death on the cross, and see there the death of all your attempts to make yourself acceptable to God.  See at the cross as well the forgiveness for all your failed attempts to do what Jesus says.  Receive by faith the resurrected Jesus into your life and ask him to fill you with the Holy Spirit.  And then go out and in the power of his indwelling Spirit, listen to his words and do what he says.