Sermon: Obedience, The Right Response to The Sermon on the Mount (And Every Other Sermon) Matthew 7:21-29

Truth Taught- We are called to confess Jesus as Lord and obey His teaching.  Both must be present in the life of the Christian

Introduction

We are in the midst of Jesus’ section of comparisons and contrasts.  In each case, there is a choice to be made.  The warning He gives is to make sure your thinking is correct.  Make sure you choose wisely based on God’s Word and not on normal appearances.  Appearances can be deceiving and you cannot judge a book by its cover.  Because God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts and beloved, His values are not our values we must never choose based on what things look like but choose based on what God tells us is true.  

So far Jesus has told us about the Wide Road and the Narrow Road.  The Wide Road is easy traveling; it is accommodating, and full of friends but it leads to death.  It’s the narrow hard path Jesus endorses and explains leads to life.

Jesus also told us about another choice.  This time it’s between false prophets and true prophets.  It’s between those who preach a false sermon full of lies but sound good.  The false prophet will tell us what we want to hear, he will make us feel good about ourselves and our sin.  He preaches Wide Road sermons not Narrow Road sermons.  His listeners will also feel good about themselves all the way to hell.  Jesus endorses the preachers of unpopular truth.

Which road are you traveling?  Which message are you listening to?

Today, our Lord points us to two more choices and both call us to not stop short of active obedience.  The first shows us people who make a confession of faith but stop short of obedience and the second show us people who hear the Word of God and also stop short of active obedience.  In both cases those who fall short of obedience prove that they are not true disciples of Jesus.

Because there is such confusion today in regard to works righteousness many have a hard time seeing what Jesus is getting at here in the passage before us today.  He never teaches that works in any way earn salvation of even merits or brownie points with God.  Works cannot ever shift the scales from sinner to saint because even one sin outweighs a lifetime of good works and unfortunately we don’t have a lifetime of good works but a lifetime of sin.  

Even if a person could keep most of the Law of God, even those works cannot save.

James 2:10–11 (ESV) 

10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 

Good works cannot ever save anyone.  No one has ever been saved by good works. 

Galatians 2:16 (ESV) 

16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 

So, when Jesus refers to obedience to the Word of God He is not giving us a formula for salvation.  He’s not telling us that obedience earns or merits salvation.  If that were true then Jesus’ death accomplished nothing.  If works of righteousness can earn us salvation then the cross was not necessary.

Obedience to God’s Word found in the Bible does two things…

First, what the entire New Testament teaches is that obedience to God’s Word never earns salvation but is an indicator that our salvation is genuine.  Without obedience to God’s Word we cannot have assurance that our salvation is real.  So, obedience gives us assurance that salvation is real because one cannot obey God’s Word consistently unless they are saved and given a new heart responding to the HS.

Second, obedience in response to God’s Word shows that we fully grasp the Word and that we are, in fact, growing as a Christian.  As Jesus will tell us it’s like building our lives on the right foundation.  Obedience leads to more obedience and so on.  So, without obedience to God’s Word there is no salvation.   

Prayer

Matthew 7:21–29 (ESV) 

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. 

1.  Simple Confession Verses Active Obedience

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 

I want us to notice something at the beginning of our study of this section.  It’s the contrast between saying and doing.  Words matter and Jesus is not minimizing their importance.  What He is emphasizing is the fact that a simple claim does not make something a reality.  People can say or claim anything they want.  Someone can claim to be able to leap from a five story building, stretch out their arms and fly.  However, the truth will be seen should they ever actually try.  So, we see a mere profession of faith without the accompanying good works is just a confession but not reality.  

Our Lord wants us to see that even the most convincing claim, if it’s not accompanied by obedience is just as false as any other claim.  Let’s look together at the magnitude of this confession…

This profession is courteous calling Jesus Lord.  This confession is orthodox, it shows the person has some knowledge of who Jesus truly is.  It also seems genuine, fervent, and enthusiastic.  

The confession goes on to site some very impressive examples of a verbal profession.  These people say they have prophesied in Jesus’ name, performed exorcisms in Jesus’ name, and have done many other amazing mighty works in Jesus’ name.  As far as professions go, I don’t know that this one could be topped.  That’s Jesus’ point, is it?

Contained within the pages of Scripture are examples of those who have performed miracles in the name of Jesus without themselves being true followers.  Jesus even gives further warning of this occurrence.

Matthew 24:24–25 (ESV) 

24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 

2 Thessalonians 2:9–10 (ESV) 

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 

So, beloved miracles, signs and wonders do not prove that anyone is a true preacher or a true Christian.

Now, there is no reason for us to doubt that these people’s claims are genuine.  Jesus does not deny their authenticity.  They are true and accurate claims.  They did perform signs and wonders in Jesus’ name.  They did prophesy and cast out demons in Jesus’ name.  That’s not in question.  

Their claims to do these mighty deeds in Jesus’ name are real.  However, performing miracles in Jesus’ name is not the same thing as knowing Jesus personally.  At the Day of Judgment, you can have the most impressive list of good deeds in the world.  You can have a list of miracles performed in Jesus’ name but it will be of no benefit if you do not know Jesus personally.

There is a play on words here that should help us some.      

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’

23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 

We have the original Greek word homologeso, which means a solemn declaration.   The root word is used in both cases.  They make a solemn declaration and Jesus makes a solemn declaration.  They sincerely say to Me, I sincerely say to them.     

Confession is important…

Romans 10:9–10 (ESV) 

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 

However, the issue, it is never simply a verbal confession with no obedience to follow.  It is saying and doing that proves your salvation is genuine.  It is a profession of faith with obedience to God that gives us true assurance and points to genuine salvation.  

They were doing a lot of things and Jesus gathers up, as it were, all their miraculous acts and labels them evil and calls them evildoers.

So, obedience must accompany your profession or your profession of faith is a lie. 

So, when you hear the Word of God taught or preached.  When you read the Word the right response must always be obedience.  

2.  Simple Hearing Verses Active Obedience

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 

The contrast in the first section was between saying or claiming and obeying now it is the difference between hearing God’s Word and obeying what it tells us.  

Let’s make sure we understand.  Both groups heard Jesus’ Words.  The first person heard and then acted in accordance with what he heard.  The second person also heard but did nothing in response.  

Jesus comments that the man who heard His Words and acted in obedience is like a man who built a house on a solid foundation.  The second man who also heard but did not obey is compared to a man who built his house on sand with no foundation.  Both houses and perhaps both lives look okay from a distance.  As long as the skies are sunny and the birds are singing both are okay in Jesus’ parable.  However, the storm breaks, winds blow and the torrent falls and the house built without a foundation begins to move as the sand is washed away and eventually the house falls with a great crash.  

This is the vast difference between a professing Christian and one who does Jesus’ will.  True Christianity is tested and proven to be real only through trials of faith.  You may have gone through them before.  You may be in the midst of one right now?  After the hurricane and you find you’re still standing on the foundation of Jesus Christ you can be assured that your salvation is 100% real.  You have built your life on the Rock foundation, which is Jesus alone.  

John Calvin writes, true piety is not fully distinguished from its counterfeit till it comes to the trial.  

If the trial reveals true faith from false faith the trial can be God showing us His love because it can reveal the genuineness of our faith.  Have you ever undergone suffering and after thanked God for it? 

James 1:2–4 (ESV) 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 

Jesus and James tell us very similar things.  The trial and the storm have the purpose to reveal whether the person has a solid foundation.  As the storm beats against the house it stands strong because the foundation is strong.  As the trial comes and the Christian endures suffering he stands firm under it because his foundation is strong.  In fact, for the person who has built on the Rock the storm makes him stronger and gives him more assurance.  After it’s over you can look back in amazement and thank God that through it all you’re still standing.

In the OT God told His people about the true foundation when He spoke to them through Isaiah about the coming Messiah.

Isaiah 28:16 (ESV)

16    therefore thus says the Lord God, 

       “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, 

a stone, a tested stone, 

       a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 

‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ 

That’s why Peter could preach…

Acts 4:11–12 (ESV)

11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” 

Jesus is the Rock.  He is the foundation.  Twice in this section He compares His words to the foundation.  He says, these words of mine.

We must conclude here that Jesus is very concerned that we get this right.  He desires we feel the weight of His words.  There is a heaven to gain and a hell to avoid.  Do you know for sure that you’re not on the wide road but on the narrow?  Are you convinced?  Do you know for sure that you haven’t allowed the sweet talking false prophets to talk you into placing feeling good about yourself over and above the true reality of your soul?  Are you convinced?  Are you sure you have more than a verbal confession that Jesus is Lord but that you prove it but your obedience to His Words?  Are you sure?  Are you positive that you’ve heard the Words of Jesus and are obeying them?  Are you sure?  Are you convinced that your life is built on the solid foundation of Christ and His Words?  Have you built with a solid foundation?  As we consider these things we should be struck with holy fear.  I pray none here would ever hear these words from Jesus…

23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 

They thought they were okay right up until judgment day.  The key we must get here is that these Words of our Lord are meant to instill a holy fear and drive us to Him.  He’s the foundation.  He’s the Rock.  He’s the One Name given.  He is the One Reality.  He is the Way the Truth and the Life.  We are called to hear God’s Word, understand it and then obey it.  Obedience far surpasses miraculous works.  The greatest miracle a Christian can perform is adherence to Jesus’ Words.  

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

3.  The Authority of Jesus

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. 

Our Lord ends His sermon not with an alter call but a call to hear His Words and obey them.  The right response is always obedience.  

The people heard this sermon and were awestruck.  Matthew tells us they were astonished.  They were astonished because this Man who spoke to them had unbelievable authority.  He spoke and the Word’s stuck to them.  He explained the characteristics of the Kingdom of God and His Words went through the crowd like a bulldozer separating the wheat from the tares.  Jesus’ Words divided the crowd from those who obeyed His Words from those who were just there.

I pray our Lord’s Words show us the reality of our souls…

Matthew 5:20 (ESV) 

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

Blue Letter Bible

Sermon on the Mount by John Stott

Sermon on the Mount by D A Carson

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