His Absolute Authority

At the conclusion of his sermon on the mount, Jesus vested his words with ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY – Matthew 7:21-28. 

Built on sand - Photo by Nadin Mario on Unsplash
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is not a program for reforming civil society, implementing economic justice, or a utopian plan for the perfect society. Instead, it provides clear instructions for how 
HIS DISCIPLES must live in the present age as faithful citizens of HIS kingdom. For his followers, his teachings are not optional - [Built on sand - Photo by Nadin Mario on Unsplash].

His discourse concludes with an ominous 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 men who perform 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!

WARNING TO ALL


Jesus does not depict the men whom he rejects as pagans or especially immoral sinners. They even call him “Lord,” and they prophesy, exorcise demons in his name, and do many mighty works for him.

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

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

On the day WHEN HE JUDGES HIS OWN, Jesus will command these men and women to “depart.” While the passage does not say where they will be sent, elsewhere he warns that a day is coming 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 these 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.”

FAILURE TO HEED HIS WORDS


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 Christ’s words is compared to the foolish builder who builds on a foundation of sand.

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

But what determines whether one 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 by Christ on the day when it matters the most. But however intelligent he or she may be, the disciple who fails to follow his teachings will be sent into outer darkness.

THE WORDS OF HIS SERMON


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

The Pharisees are 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. And Jesus did not come simply to renew the Torah. Something more is required.

And in his concluding remarks, the “words” that must be heeded to avoid his rejection are the ones declared by him in his sermon on the mount. 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 to others, pure hearts, 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 the disciple forbidden to kill, he must not harbor any anger towards another man or woman, period. Instead, he must make reconciliation 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 uphold a lifelong commitment to his own wife. Rather than swear oaths, the believer 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 opponents, he emulates God and becomes “complete” just as the “Father in the heavens” - (Matthew 5:44-48).

Jesus does not distinguish between “private” vengeance and collective retaliation, and he does NOT include exception clauses for retaliation carried out at the behest of the State or society. His disciples are called to something higher than the world’s way of doing things and its concept of “justice.”

NO LOOPHOLES


The man who seeks loopholes in Christ’s words does not have the mind of a disciple and risks rejection along with the “lawless” before his court.


Steep trail - Photo by Aleksandr Kozlovskii on Unsplash
[Steep trail by Aleksandr Kozlovskii on Unsplash]


The disciple of Jesus must not do works of righteousness to attain the applause of others. HYPOCRISY IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH DISCIPLESHIP. He 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, period. 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. At all times, he must watch for and avoid false prophets. They can be discerned by their fruits - (Matthew 7:7-20).

Much is at stake in how we respond to his words. Men that do not hear and do them will be rejected. It is unwise to ignore his words, choose which ones we will obey, OR CREATE LOOPHOLES FOR AVOIDING HIS COMMANDMENTS.

The Sermon on the Mount is an “instruction manual” FOR HOW HIS DISCIPLES must live in this fallen age, 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 claimed ultimate authority for his teachings, authority that exceeds even the “law” and what was written in the “prophets.” We ignore, modify, twist or disobey his words at our own very great peril.



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