For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 7:24-29; The Wise and Foolish Builders (Theological Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Ancient Judaic thought identifies three “departments of knowledge.” First is the Law, which “presents the commandments and claims of Jehovah to man.” Next is the Prophets, which “passes judgment on conduct in the light of God’s revealed will.” Third is Wisdom, and this is where Jesus camps out in the parable that ends his Sermon on the Mount.

Wisdom, as a department of knowledge, is the aspect of a person’s intelligence that enables him or her to successfully understand and apply the Law and the Prophets and, by extension, live a satisfying, God-pleasing life. As 19th Century theologian John D. Davis explains it, wisdom is a human quality that “seeks by observation, experience, and reflection to know things in their essence as they stand related to man and God. The law and prophesy proceed directly from God…wisdom proceeds from man, and is the product of his own experience and observation.”

In that context, Jesus presented a final challenge in Matthew 7:24-27 for his hearers to “observe, experience, and reflect” on his teaching in the same way a home builder would choose and prepare a foundation for a house. The wise hearer, he suggests, will make Christ’s teaching the moral, spiritual, and intellectual foundation for guiding his or her priorities, relationships, thoughts, and actions. In doing this, that person will more successfully understand and apply the Law and the Prophets, will begin to “know things in their essence”—and he or she and will reap the reward of a stable, satisfying, God-pleasing life, even in the face of potential disaster.

The one who chooses anything other than Christ as a moral and spiritual foundation? Well, that person is destined for a foolishly spectacular collapse.

 

Works Cited:

[DOB, 821]

 

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Matthew 7:24-29; The Wise and Foolish Builders (Geographical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

It’s natural to think that the “house built upon the rock” and the “house built upon the sand” in Jesus’ parable of Matthew 7: 24-27 refer to houses in different locations—but geography of ancient Palestine leads some Bible historians to think otherwise. In fact, Jesus was probably referring to two houses built side by side, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.

In this familiar first-century location, “The sand ringing the lake was rock hard during the hot summer.” Thus, the temptation for a foolish builder would be to build a house on that sand, assuming it would stay rock-hard all year long. A wiser person, though, would understand the vagaries of the seasons and, regardless of outward appearances in summer, would dig through the sand until reaching bedrock (about 10 feet down). Then the wise builder would use that bedrock as the foundation for his house.

The house anchored to the bedrock would last for decades, regardless of stormy weather, high winds, or flooding. The one built on summertime’s rock-hard sand would likely fall before a year passed, simply because that sand would moisten and crumble during rough-weather seasons, eroding the home’s foundation and causing a spectacular collapse.

If the Sea of Galilee was the location Jesus had in mind, it’s easy to see that two houses could literally be built right next to each other on the edges of the lake, with one house on a firm foundation and the other on shaky ground—even though they sat on the same land!

 

Works Cited:

[ASB, 1570]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

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Matthew 7:15-23; A Tree and Its Fruit (Inductive Studies)

posted by Mike Nappa

Matthew 7:21 contains probably the most tragic truth revealed in all of Scripture. Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Here are a few observations about that moment in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

• Some skeptics assert loudly that Jesus never claimed to be God, but Christ’s statements in Matthew 7:21-23 make that a laughable, indefensible position. Consider: Jesus called himself by a title ascribed to God (“Lord, Lord”); Jesus claimed to have sole authority over who enters the kingdom of heaven—God’s eternal realm; Jesus insisted that he will preside over the final judgment of humanity—a judgeship reserved solely for God himself; and Jesus claimed to have authority to send evildoers to eternal punishment—also something reserved only for God himself. If Jesus is not God (and I believe he is), then he was a blaspheming pretender to deity, and Matthew 7:21-23 is proof of that.

• It’s possible for some to mimic God’s miracles, yet not be followers of him at all. Remember the magicians in Pharaoh’s court? They replicated God’s miracles in a failed attempt discredit his authority (see Exodus 7). In Jesus’ time and during the days of the early church, others appropriated Jesus’ authority to work miracles and cast out demons—and sometimes succeeded (see Mark 9:38, Acts 19:13-16). Thus, a miracle itself is not proof of God. In fact, Old Testament law specifically warned against following a miracle-worker if his teaching led away from the one true God (Deuteronomy 13). This situation seems to be what Jesus is describing in Matthew 7:21-23.

• At the final judgment, “false prophets” of Christ will appeal to their religion for salvation, while Jesus will emphasize a relationship with him. They’ll point to their resume of good works as evidence they belong in heaven: Prophesying in Jesus’ name; driving out demons; performing miracles. Christ, in response, will point to their lack of a personal relationship with him, saying, “I never knew you.” This lends credence to the Apostle Paul’s theology later expounded in his letter to the Ephesians, that grace—not works—is the essential component of salvation (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Heaven awaits those who, by grace, enter a personal friendship with Jesus—not those who try to earn their way into his favor.

 

Works Cited:

[MAT, 178-179]

 

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Matthew 7:15-23; A Tree and Its Fruit (Cross-Reference Comparisons)

posted by Mike Nappa

Speaking against the threat of false prophets in Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus makes this statement, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” So what kind of “fruit” is supposed to tip us off to the presence of false prophets in our midst?

Perhaps Jeremiah 14:14 offers help—it’s a passage where God himself describes five activities of false prophets. Let’s break down that verse into bullet points to help us see it more clearly:

  • Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them…
  • They are prophesying to you false visions
  • “…divinations
  • “…idolatries
  • “…and the delusions of their own minds.”

With Jeremiah 14:14 in view, we can make the following assumptions: 1. Anyone who presents untruth as God’s truth (i.e., “prophesying lies in my name”) should be considered a false prophet. This would apply to preachers and teachers who distort or disavow the Bible’s teachings in order to accommodate their own preferences or current societal norms. 2. Likewise, claiming to have new, personal revelation of God’s plans that conflicts or contradicts God’s truth in Scripture (i.e. “prophesying false visions”) would be considered “bad fruit” from a false prophet.

3. People who attempt to predict the future by supernatural means, even misusing Scripture to support their predictions (such as when preachers predict the date of Christ’s return) would be guilty of “false divinations”—and that’s bad fruit which is evidence of a false prophet. 4. Also, teachers who allow any other thing—such as piety, money, prestige, other prophets, social concerns, and so on—to be placed in higher authority than Christ himself (i.e., “idolatries”) would be guilty of producing bad fruit.

5. Last but not least, church leaders who begin to invent new standards of truth and behavior for themselves, who assume that their ideas somehow supersede the truth of Scripture, or that they are somehow not subject to the same standards as other Christians, are guilty of prophesying “the delusions of their own minds.” That’s bad fruit, and is more evidence of a false prophet.

Now the question arises: Do you follow any church leaders who are producing this kind of bad fruit? If so, what will you do about it?

 

Works Cited:

[BKB, 145]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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