Absolute Authority

At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus claims absolute authority for his words. Ignore them at your peril – Matthew 7:21-28. 

The Sermon on the Mount is NOT a program for reforming society, implementing economic justice, or installing a utopian state. Instead, it provides clear instructions for how HIS DISCIPLES must live in the present evil age as envoys of HIS kingdom.

And for his followers, his teachings in the Sermon are NOT optional. To stress the point, Jesus ends his discourse with a stern warning. To modify, compromise, or ignore his words will result in everlasting destruction for the offender.

On the day when his disciples appear before him, MANY who performed great deeds in his name will nevertheless be rejected and driven from his presence.

  • (Matthew 7:21-23) - “Not every man that says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of the heavens, but he that is doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name did many works of power? And then will I confess to them: Never have I acknowledged you! Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness!


Jesus does not depict those he will reject as pagans or especially immoral sinners. They even call him “Lord,” and they prophesy, exorcise demons, and do many other mighty deeds in his name.

The emphasis in the Greek text is on the term “MANY” - the “many” things they do as his supposed representatives. Thus, the warning is not just applicable to a tiny minority of disobedient believers.

And Jesus does not classify their miracles as counterfeits. The problem is something deeper than the ability to perform miraculous signs. And here, not only does he not acknowledge them as belonging to him, but he also classifies them as “workers of lawlessness.”

On the day WHEN HE JUDGES HIS OWN, he will command these men and women to “depart.” And elsewhere, he warns of a coming day when his opponents will be “cast into outer darkness, where they will be wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Fortunately, Jesus provides his audience with an explanation for how some disciples became “workers of lawlessness.”

  • (Matthew 7:24-27) - “Therefore, everyone who hears my words, these ones, and does them will be likened to a prudent man, who built his house upon the rock; and the rain descended, and the streams came, and the winds blew, and rushed against that house, and it fell not; for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these my words and does them not will be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the streams came, and the winds blew and lashed against that house, and it fell, and its fall was great.”


Jesus compares the man who hears AND DOES his words to the “prudent” builder who constructs his house on a rock-solid foundation. In Luke’s version, the man is quite thorough – “he is like a man building a house who dug and deepened and laid a foundation upon the rock” – (Luke 6:48).

The Greek word rendered “prudent” or phronimos indicates someone who is thoughtful, intelligent, attentive, and astute - a man who plans his decisions and actions very carefully. This is the origin of the English noun ‘phronesis,’ which refers to wisdom in determining goals and how to achieve them.

In contrast, the man who fails to heed his words is compared to the foolish man who builds his house on a foundation of sand.

The Greek term rendered “foolish” is môros from which the English word ‘moron’ is derived. It denotes one who is dull, witless, unthinking, and heedless.

But what determines whether a man enters the kingdom is not his intelligence quotient, but whether he heeds the words of Jesus. It is the man or woman who does them who becomes “prudent” and is rewarded on the day when it matters the most.


But which of his “words” does Jesus mean? At the outset of his discourse, he declares that he did not come to discard the “law and prophets,” but to “fulfill” them.

The Pharisees were renowned for their scrupulous observation of the Law, including the added oral traditions that go well beyond its minimum requirements. Nevertheless, THEIR METICULOUS LAW-KEEPING IS INSUFFICIENT FOR ENTRANCE INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Jesus did not come simply to renew the Torah. Something more is necessary.

In his concluding remarks, the “words” that must be heeded are the ones declared by him in the Sermon. And all of them WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

Thus, anyone who desires to enter his kingdom must live a life characterized by humility, hunger for righteousness, mercy, a pure heart, the avoidance of retaliation, peacemaking, honest communications, and a willingness to endure unjust suffering for his sake - (Matthew 5:3-12).

HIS disciple must be a light illuminating this darkened world. Not only is he forbidden to kill, but he also must not harbor any anger toward another man. Instead, he must make reconciling with the offended party his top priority - (Matthew 5:13-26).

The disciple must not lust after someone who is not his spouse, but instead, he must keep a lifelong commitment to his wife. Rather than swear oaths, he must speak plain and true words - Let your “yea be yea, and nay, nay” - (Matthew 5:27-37).

To inherit the kingdom, it is necessary to eschew retaliation and violence. HIS disciple is summoned to love, pray for, and do good to his “enemy.” By showing mercy to one’s foes, he will emulate God and becomes “complete” just as the “Father in the heavens” - (Matthew 5:44-48).

And Jesus does not distinguish between “private” vengeance and collective retaliation. HIS disciple is called to something higher than the world’s way of doing things and its concept of “justice.”


The man who seeks loopholes in his words does not have the mind of a disciple and risks rejection along with the other “lawless” men when judged by his court.

HIS disciple must not do works of righteousness to attain the applause of others. HYPOCRISY IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH DISCIPLESHIP. The disciple must center his life on the “Kingdom of God” and “lay up treasures in heaven” rather than in the present evil age. An heir of the kingdom “cannot serve two masters.” His allegiance to Jesus must be absolute - (Matthew 6:1-24).

HIS disciple must not judge or condemn others. Judgment is the prerogative of God alone. Instead, he must treat others as he wishes to be treated, and in this way, he will “fulfill the law and the prophets” - (Matthew 7:1-6).

The disciple must stay on the narrow path and avoid the popular and “broad” roads of this age. He must avoid false prophets who are recognizable by their fruits - (Matthew 7:7-20).

Much is at stake in how we respond to the words of his Sermon. Men that do not heed and do them will be rejected. Therefore, it is unwise to ignore his words, choose which ones we will obey, OR CREATE LOOPHOLES TO AVOID HIS COMMANDMENTS.

The Sermon on the Mount is an “instruction manual” FOR HOW HIS DISCIPLES must live regardless of the values, demands, and expectations of the surrounding society.

This does not mean that following his teachings is easy. In places, his words are quite challenging, and many theologians, pastors, and Bible students have worked diligently to water down and domesticate his more troubling sayings.

By claiming that “only he who hears these words of mine and does them will enter the Kingdom,” Jesus places ultimate authority in his teachings, an authority that exceeds even the “law” and the “prophets.” We ignore, modify, twist, and disobey his words at great peril.



No Middle Ground

Abraham's Seed