Built Upon A Rock

“Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” —Matthew 7:24,25

THE WORDS OF our text are among the concluding remarks Jesus made in his Sermon on the Mount. Some Christians say that in order to be saved all one needs to know is in the 5th chapter of Matthew, but this is not how Jesus concluded his sermon. He said, rather, ‘Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them’, encouraging all to apply his teachings concerning salvation. The illustration used by Jesus on this occasion is impressive. It is the obeying of his teachings and doing them that he likened to a man building a house upon a rock.


Our Lord’s expression, ‘these sayings of mine’ to which obedience is required in order to succeed in our Christian walk, start at the beginning of his sermon with the Beatitudes. (Matt. 5:3-12) These emphasize the need for humility of heart, referring to those who are “poor in spirit,” who have heartfelt sympathy for the groaning creation. They are directed to those who “mourn” and are teachable, the “meek,” who have a desire to know God and be pleasing to him, “hungering and thirsting” after righteousness.

These words are for those who seek Divine mercy and love and are “merciful,” who are sincere, the “pure in heart,” and who are training to be ministers of reconciliation, “peacemakers.” Such will be faithful in light-bearing which can result in persecution, and in so doing they become those which are “persecuted.”

Continuing, Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” and warned against losing our “savour.” We have nothing of ourselves that could be called ‘savour’, so it is evident that the reference is to that which the Lord has given us; namely, his truth and the Spirit of truth. Although we may be very zealous, it is possible to lose the truth and its spirit. The Lord would look upon us as workers of iniquity, rather than as co-laborers with him.


Jesus also said, “Ye are the light of the world,” and then bids us to let our light “shine before men” that they, seeing our “good works,” may glorify our Father who “is in heaven.” We have no good works of our own, and our best efforts are as “filthy rags” in God’s sight. (Isa. 64:6) These good works, as the Master indicates, are the letting of our light shine. And while Jesus refers to the light as though it is ours, in reality it is the light of Divine truth which the Lord has caused to shine into our hearts, and which he here bids us to make known to others.—II Cor. 4:6; II Pet. 1:19; I Pet. 2:9

How wonderfully this ‘light’ glorifies our God! It is the truth of his plan, and in it is revealed his infinite wisdom, almighty power, exact justice, and boundless love. These attributes of the Divine character harmoniously working together reveal his glory, and those who appreciate the truth behold this glory. Holding forth the Word of life is therefore one of ‘these sayings’ of Jesus which we are obligated as his followers to obey if we are to be true builders of righteousness.


Continuing, Jesus not only spoke against breaking even the least of his commandments—those commandments which magnified the Law and made it honorable—but also against teaching others to do so. (Matt. 5:19) This is an admonition against compromise in connection with any part of the Word of God. Since there is no part of the truth of the Divine plan which does not have a bearing on how we serve the Lord, the principle underlying this ‘saying’ of Jesus is loyalty to the whole truth, not only in our own lives, but also, and especially, in teaching it to others. It is a grave sin to teach error or to cooperate with those who do.

Every true disciple of the Master is hopeful of reigning with him in his kingdom, but Jesus said that we would “in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. (Matt. 5:20) The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was largely a matter of outward show. They made a great display of piety to be seen of men, but inwardly they were “full of dead men’s bones.” (Matt. 23:27) The righteousness which exceeds this is heart purity and a zeal for God and for his work which does not cater to the plaudits of men.


Jesus explained that he did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it. He also magnified the Law and made it honorable. (Matt. 5:17; Isa. 42:21) We have examples of this in his Sermon on the Mount, in which he said that hatred of one’s brother is murder; that looking upon a woman to lust after her is fornication; and that a voluntary going to those whom we have wronged with a sincere desire to make amends is a sign of true repentance.—Matt. 5:21-28

‘These sayings’ of the Master also include his admonition to sacrifice every precious thing in the interest of righteousness, even those things as dear to us as our right eye, right hand, or right foot. (Matt. 5:29,30; 18:8,9) It takes those who truly have “a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6) at character building to obey injunctions of this kind. The flesh urges moderation, explaining that Jesus didn’t mean that we should be quite as radical as his words appear to be. But we should not listen to the reasonings of the flesh, those reasonings which exalt themselves above the knowledge of Christ.—II Cor. 10:5

Continuing his sermon, Jesus follows with one ‘saying’ after another, such as the Divine rule on divorce; the injunction against the taking of oaths contrary to God’s will; how the law of love operates toward those who smite us; and that we should love even our enemies. Jesus explains that by this exercise of love in the blessing of our enemies, we will be like our Heavenly Father, for he causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall upon the just and the unjust. To this he adds that if we love only those who love us we are no better than the ‘publicans’, but if we do display that comprehensive love which reaches out to bless all mankind we will be “perfect” even as our “Father which is in heaven is perfect.”—Matt. 5:31-48


Amongst ‘these sayings’ of the Master is also the model prayer which his followers have been using throughout the entire Gospel Age. Those who ‘have a mind to work’ as God wants them to work, and are faithful in watching and praying, will be guided by this outline of the fundamental principles of Christian prayer. We will delight to pray to “our Father,” and we will recognize the sacredness of his name. Prominent in our prayers will be the desire to see the world blessed by the setting up of the kingdom—“Thy kingdom come.” We will not make elaborate requests for ourselves but ask only for the needful things, both temporal and spiritual—“Give us this day our daily bread.”—Matt. 6:9-11

Realizing how far short we come of the glory of God, and our great need for Divine forgiveness, we will petition God for his mercy, knowing meanwhile that we cannot expect his forgiveness unless we forgive those who trespass against us.

Because we have the assurance that God does not tempt his people—that he tempteth no man (James 1:13)—we will claim this promise and ask God also to “deliver us from evil” (vs. 13), knowing how liable we are to stumble into the many pitfalls set for us by the Adversary.


We are not to lay up treasures on earth, but in heaven. This ‘saying’ of the Master is perhaps one of the most exacting. Earthly treasures are the source of man’s security, and it requires great faith to realize that our real security is to be found in the promises of God. Other scriptures indicate that reasonable provision is to be made for those dependent upon us; but our interpretation of what is reasonable might make the difference between faithfulness and unfaithfulness in God’s sight.

The light of the body, Jesus explained, is the eye, and then adds, “If … thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.” (Matt. 6:22,23) This immediately follows Jesus’ admonition to lay up treasure in heaven, and his explanation that where our treasure is there shall our hearts be also. The ‘single’ eye is a symbolic reference to a wholehearted setting of our affections on things above, rather than a compromising attitude between earthly and heavenly treasures. A ‘single’ eye suggests seeking “first the kingdom of God,” in the assurance that all our legitimate material needs will be furnished. We cannot serve God and mammon.—Matt. 6:19-34


We are not to sit in judgment upon others. We are not qualified to do that, and Jesus in another ‘saying’ indicates that the urge to criticize and judge others represents a hypocritical attitude on our part because it is likely there is more wrong with ourselves than with those we attempt to judge. We are to seek work but not to “cast out the mote” from our brother’s eye, when we have a “beam” in our own eye. This ‘beam’ may be a ‘holier than thou’ attitude toward our brethren. The sin of spiritual pride is a flagrant one in God’s sight. It seems especially to fasten itself upon some who have had long service in the truth, causing them to take pride in their ‘development’ and in their ‘mature judgment’.—Matt. 7:1-5

We are to be zealous in dispensing the holy things of the Word of God, but are to use wisdom and not cast our “pearls before swine.”—Matt. 7:6

Jesus gave us a model prayer as a guide to our petitions at the throne of heavenly grace. He also urged us to “ask,” “seek,” and to “knock,” with the assurance that our Heavenly Father will reward us if we ask for that which he has promised to give. In Luke 11:13, Jesus indicates that the chief burden of our petitions should be for a greater infilling of the Holy Spirit. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, all our spiritual needs are supplied; for the Holy Spirit cleanses, leads, strengthens, quickens, and fashions us into the Divine image. And how blessed the promise that our Heavenly Father is more willing to give us these ‘good things’ than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children.


Those who desire to work will not be seeking an easy way to serve the Lord, but instead they will “strive to enter in at the strait gate.” (Luke 13:24) To keep ‘these sayings’ of Jesus is not an easy task. It requires much effort and many difficulties are encountered. Not many ‘find’ the true way—the way of sacrifice and suffering—to glory, honor, and immortality. It is found only by those who ‘have a mind to work’ at the cost of weariness, sacrifice, and finally of life itself.

We are to be aware of false prophets—wolves in sheep’s clothing—using the test suggested by the Master in another of ‘these sayings’, which is “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20) Love is the principal ‘fruit’ of the Spirit, and it is usually not difficult to detect whether would-be leaders are selfishly seeking their own interests, or are sincerely concerned over the welfare of the flock. A true sheep of the Master’s fold, one who is keeping ‘these sayings’, should be easily recognized in contrast with the self-seeking exploiters of the Lord’s people.


In the last of ‘these sayings’, Jesus warns that a mere profession of love for him and for his people is not necessarily proof that one is a genuine ‘sheep’. This is a heart-searching ‘saying’ for all of us. Only those who do the will of the Heavenly Father shall enter into the kingdom. Throughout the entire Sermon on the Mount Jesus outlines one detail after another of the Divine will, and finishes the sermon by saying that those who keep ‘these sayings’ will enter into the kingdom. His work, zealously wrought, will stand because he has built upon a rock.

After Pentecost, the apostles filled in many details of the Divine will, but in ‘these sayings’ of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, all the great principles of the Divine will for Christians are to be found. This is the blueprint by which we build the superstructure of Christian character, and blessed are all those who follow implicitly these instructions. In this sermon, we are commanded to let our light shine, to be filled and controlled by love, to be faithful in prayer, to refrain from judging others, but to take ourselves in hand and make sure of our own standing before God.


We need to be diligent in the application of these principles of Divine righteousness in our daily lives, and thus will be transformed into that image by the “renewing” of our minds. This is referred to by the Apostle Paul as ‘working out’ our own salvation. (Rom. 12:2, Phil. 2:12) In doing this, however, Paul assures us that God is also working in us “to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13) The task is too great for us to accomplish alone, so we are glad to be assured that God does work with us.

The Lord directs how the work is to be done, and by the infilling of his Spirit gives us zeal and courage to do the work. If we carefully follow his instructions, we will not ‘quench’ God’s Spirit, but will allow its stimulating power to keep us ‘alive’ and zealous regardless of how difficult the task may be.

The apostle speaks of girding up the loins of our minds, thus suggesting a long and arduous undertaking. (I Pet. 1:13) When Nehemiah and his co-laborers were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, they did not so much as take off their clothes at night. (Neh. 4:23) They had to be ready always to meet the enemy, and at the same time carry on with the work. Such is our position today. Our Adversary, the Devil, is seeking to devour us, and while we resist him by being steadfast in the faith, we must continue the work of building upon the ‘rock’.

It is important to remember that ‘these sayings’ which we are to keep, and by keeping them build our house upon the rock, include the necessity that is laid upon us to be “ambassadors for Christ” by faithfully proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom. (II Cor. 5:20) This is not merely a suggestion from the Lord but a command. It is a part of the “holy conversation and godliness” of every Christian’s life. (I Pet. 1:15; II Pet. 3:11) Faithfulness in proclaiming the truth does not interfere with the work of applying the other ‘sayings’ of Jesus, but augments that work; for the more we tell the truth to others, the greater will be its power in our own lives. We are promised that the storms of life will have little effect upon our house if it is built upon a rock. Let us seek not only to hear his sayings but to do them faithfully.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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