Some liberal scholars want us to believe that the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) do not share John’s understanding of Christ’s authority (8:58; 10:30) since the first three evangelists record few, if any, of Jesus’ self-identifications with Yahweh Himself. However, this “scholarly” assumption is false. In particular, Matthew records several teachings of Jesus that reveal the evangelist’s high view of our Lord’s person and work (Christology). For example, Jesus claims for Himself the right to determine who will enter the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 7:21–23, and in the Old Testament only God Himself makes such judgments (Eccl. 12:13–14). Furthermore, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents His interpretation of God’s law as having the final say (Matt. 5:21–48). Christ is no mere prophet — he does not merely speak for the Lord; He speaks as the Lord. “I say to you” is what we hear Him say, and He expects us to recognize His right to give the meaning of the Scriptures. Unlike the scribes, Jesus does not cite other rabbis to prove His point. He depends solely on His own understanding, and the crowd that overhears His sermon is astonished at the authority with which He teaches (7:28–29).
Matthew Henry says, “It is possible for people to admire good preaching, and yet to remain in ignorance and unbelief; to be astonished, and yet not sanctified.” Amazement at Christ’s authority is not enough, today’s passage reveals. We must build our lives on the solid foundation of His teaching. If we do not do what He says, we are like those whose houses rest upon the sand and are swept away by flash floods (vv. 24–27). Our good works do not merit salvation, but real trust in Christ is not present in our hearts without the corresponding obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; James 2:14–26).
Building on Christ, Henry also says, means that we are always seeking “to conform to all the rules of his holy religion, and thus depend entirely on him for assistance from God, and acceptance with him, and count everything but loss and rubbish that [we] may gain Christ, and be found in him.” May our confession of Jesus’ authority translate into the doing of His words.
“On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand,” wrote Edward Mote. In endeavoring to serve Jesus, we see how far we fall short of His demands, confessing that our righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). This poverty of spirit (v. 3) drives us to the cross where Jesus picks us up, making us more sorrowful for sin and more ready to obey. This is what it means to build our lives on Christ’s words.
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