Being a wise builder (Matt 7:21-29)

Our Gospel passage today concludes Jesus’ great “Sermon on the Mount”, and its a passage that’s pretty challenging! It’s a hard-hitting passage that ends in verse 27 not with a great climax, but “a great crash”! So what then is the message of our passage today? 

  • Firstly, it reminds us that Christ is more than merely a man – so we must acknowledge his authority.
  • And secondly, it warns us that authentic Christian faith is more than mere words – we must obey the will of God as well.  

Christ is more than a mere man…so we must acknowledge his authority

Firstly, then, today’s passage reminds us that Christ is more than merely a man – so we must acknowledge his authority, just as the crowds did who first heard him (v.29). Because Jesus’ divine status and power is particularly clear in our verses today.

  • For example, in verse 21 Jesus refers to God as “my Father who is in Heaven”. Not our Father, but my Father. Throughout his ministry Jesus claimed a unique and intimate relationship with God. He said that to see him was to see the Father. He equated his words with the will of God. Astonishing claims for any man to make!
  • In verse 22 Jesus makes a further claim that people will one day prophesy and perform miracles “in his name”. If you know the Old Testament you will know that prophets spoke ‘in the name of the Lord’, and performed miracles in the name of God too. Astonishingly, Jesus assumes that his name will carry the same authority and power as the name of God almighty. 
  • But perhaps the most significant (and alarming) evidence for Jesus’ authority comes in verse 23. In that verse, Jesus delivers a verdict: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” The terrifying truth in today’s passage is that Jesus presents himself as the judge of all humanity. He unashamedly presents himself as the gatekeeper to the kingdom of heaven; as the judge on the Day of Judgement; as the Maker we will all meet at the end of our lives. An awesome claim that we are all accountable to him. 

As the author CS Lewis wrote: “I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God’. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. Either this man is the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about him being a great human teacher. He’s not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

If Jesus really is Lord, if he really is our ultimate authority, then it follows that being right with him is essential for our eternal destiny. It is vital for our place in the kingdom of God and our salvation from judgement. There can be no greater concern, no more important subject. More important than our career, our health or our income. Getting right with Christ must be number one priority for us all. So much is at stake. 

And even if we ourselves are convinced, our family friends and neighbours need to know this truth as well. Jesus is far more than a mere man, so all are called to acknowledge his rightful authority over our lives.

Christianity is more than mere words…we must obey the will of God as well

So how we can be confident that we are truly submitting to Christ’s authority over our lives? This is the question Jesus answers in the second half of text today. And the lesson he teaches us is this: Authentic Christian faith is more than mere words – we must obey the will of God as well.

Jesus teaches this truth in verses 24-27 today by telling a story about two storms. Two wet and windy days which ‘stress tested’ two buildings standing on two very different foundations. One built on rock and the other on sand. 

I began my ordained ministry at Christ Church Aughton in Lancashire in June 2010, just as its magnificent new Ministry Centre was being opened. It is a huge building with a hall, a café, several meeting rooms, and a well-equipped kitchen. I remember the Vicar at the time telling me that he hoped for a hard winter that year. He wanted the structure of the building to be stress-tested and put through its paces. He wanted strong winds and rain to expose any weaknesses in the building’s design, so it could be quickly rectified by the contractor. In the event it performed very well, and still stands to tell the tale. Just like the wise man’s house on a rock in Jesus’ story.

But the same could not be said of the house built on sand. The foolish man who built that house saw it fall with a “great crash”. It could not hope to withstand the winds, rain and flood which beat and blew against it. 

In the Old Testament books of Isaiah and Ezekiel, God’s judgement is compared to a great flood (Isa 28, Ezk 13). One day all our lives will subjected to this flood. One day we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. The quality of all our lives will be stress-tested by the Lord. We can only be certain of passing safely through this flood if our lives have had a strong and secure foundation. And that strong foundation is sincere faith in Christ and a willingness to obey to his words. Simply saying “Lord, Lord” to Jesus is insufficient (v.21). Authentic faith produces fruitful behaviour. Real belief in the lordship of Christ leads to good deeds. As Jesus says himself in verse 24: “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” 

Over the past few weeks, as we’ve worked your way through the Sermon on the Mount, we’ve seen what obedience to Jesus words really looks like in practice:

  • It involves being humble, merciful and forgiving.
  • It means resisting anger, lust and temptations to lie.
  • And it requires us to love our enemies.

It means, in short, to live like Jesus. To live a life of faith, love and self-sacrifice.

To be clear, our obedience to Christ doesn’t earn our salvation. We are saved by faith in him and his work on the Cross. But our obedience to Jesus is a sure sign that our faith in him is sincere. It shows our repentance is real. As the letter of James says: “faith without works is dead” (2:26). True faith is always accompanied by a Spirit-led desire to obey Jesus, even if we all stumble sometimes. So we should show the authenticity of our faith by our works – by our willingness to obey Christ’s commands. Don’t just tell Jesus you love him – show him! Because authentic Christianity is more than mere words.


As we reach the end of my sermon today, and the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I hope we’ve been challenged and convicted by Christ’s message. In particular: 

  • I hope we’ve been reminded that Jesus is more than merely a man. He is our Lord and will one day be our Judge. So each and every one of us must acknowledge his authority over our lives and submit to his rightful rule. 
  • And we’ve also seen that authentic Christian faith is about more than mere words – with the help of the Holy Spirit we must strive to obey the will of God as well – sure in the knowledge that his forgiveness is always on offer when we stumble. 

Phil Weston