As we come to the conclusion of Christ’s great sermon, we should consider these words of His to be the capstone. Without a proper understanding of application, all that has been said up to this point is useless.
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:24-29).
Think first on the necessity of obedience. Christ concludes His sermon with a warning. Doing what He says to do, the way He says to do it, is paramount. In seeking to obey Him, we must not lean on our own understanding of His Word (Prov. 3:5). We must come as utter supplicants.
There are two kinds of men here, and we must note where the distinction is not. Both the wise man and the foolish work equally hard in building a house. But the more the fool does, the worse he is making it for himself when the day of disaster comes. The more he puts into his house, the more he will lose. The more he puts into his house, the greater the pile of debris. When the investment is a poor one, the situation is not bettered through having a tremendous amount invested. Foolish investors are not applauded for their effort.
Christ labels the difference between the men as being one of wisdom vs. folly. Both men hear the Word. That does not distinguish them. As James says, the one who hears without doing deceives himself (Jas. 1:22). So the fact that someone goes to church every Sunday, listening to the Word, does not distinguish him as wise. The wise and the foolish both hear and listen to the Word.
Neither does activity distinguish wisdom. As mentioned above, the fact that there is activity associated with your hearing does not distinguish you as wise. Both men are active — both build their house.
Jesus says that the fool hears this sermon of Christ and does not put it into practice. The wise man hears the sermon and does what Christ said to do, the way He said to do it.
How is the distinction manifested? Before the divinely-appointed time, the foolish man can taunt the wise for being too finicky in his building. Think of all the money he saved on foundation material! Think of all that he will lose. Trial and storm are the point of revelation. Before that point, we may not be able to tell the difference between the professing fool and the wise man.
The text says that the people were astonished, amazed, at the teaching of the Lord. The Lord, as a teacher fully obedient to the law of God, was able to speak with full authority. Lesser teachers, sinful men, have two options. One is a ministry for fools — the Word is taught, but there is no genuine, ongoing, obedience. The result is teaching like the scribes — no authority, no astonishment.
But in periods of reformation and revival, when the teachers are like the wise man described by Christ here, the result is a powerful impact on the saints of God in the preaching and teaching. This is why it is so important that the elders of the people be held to the scriptural standards. These standards in 1 Timothy and Titus emphasize character, not professionalism. The scribes were professionals — boring professionals.
Let us pray for the day when God will raise up, all over the nation, men who reflect something of Christ’s authority in preaching.