wise or foolish? Matthew 7:24-27

At the end of the sermon that Jesus preached on a hill, he spoke of a wise man and a foolish man. They both built houses; the houses both experienced the same storm. One house stayed up, but the other fell down. Our Lord Jesus was not giving advice to engineers.

Jesus was talking about life; to build a ‘house’ in this story is to live a life. He said, “Anyone who hears these words of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who builds his house on the rock.” The words he refers to are the words of the sermon he was just finishing. In it he made it very clear that we are morally bankrupt (“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you in no way will enter the kingdom of heaven”). We cannot fulfil the laws requirements because we are sinners who are already condemned. We need a Saviour to do everything for us. We need rescuing from ourselves. Jesus alone provides the righteous life we lack; he alone removes sin and guilt because he took the judgment of the condemned in the place of his people.

Jesus had just described the final judgment, when he will be the judge. Those who pleaded their ‘good works’ as reason to be accepted were rejected as evil doers, as people Jesus did not know.

The wise man is the one who trusts Jesus: Jesus’ life and death and resurrection are the sinners’ only hope; he is the rock. The word for rock used here is the same as the word in Matthew 16:18 — “On this rock I will build my church.” The wise man has been made wise unto salvation by God’s word and the powerful working of the Holy Spirit. These alone bring a person, any sort of person, to faith in the Lord Jesus.

If you tell people you trust Jesus and him alone as your hope, it is fairly certain you will get a good deal of mocking. But Jesus says that even if everyone else calls you a fool, He will liken you to a wise person. And He is the one who counts.

As for the foolish man, we are told that “Anyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be likened to a foolish man who builds his house on the sand.”

Do you see the change? (It is not found in many modern versions of the Bible, but it is found in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.) The change is from Jesus (alone, perhaps) likening one who trusts him to a wise man, to everyone seeing (in the end) the foolishness of someone who has heard the words of Jesus but does not trust him.

May we all give prayerful and careful attention to Jesus Christ as he is shown to us in the Bible. He is the one we must trust.

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Galatians Chapter 1 part 2

Continued from part 1.

This is how Paul’s letter to the Galatians starts. Not with a boast about his own greatness, but an assertion of the greatness of the one who sent him to bring Good News.

Paul made this point directly to oppose other messengers who had been sent by people in Jerusalem.

These came with another message. And that other message was not good news.

These men had a message, too. It was that trusting Jesus was a good thing to do, but you non-Jewish Galatians needed to become Jews as well as trust Jesus.

In this way they added to the Good News of Jesus.

For these men, the Good News was not simply a message of who Jesus Is, and what Jesus had done.

The sinner, according to these people, had to do things too, in order to complete that rescue that Jesus had begun: –

If the sinner was a male, he had to trust Jesus AND be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be sure of salvation and freedom from judgment.

If the sinner was female, she had to trust Jesus AND keep the law of Moses to be sure that she was right with God.

Paul had no sympathy with these men or their message – their message was wrong.

Versus 1-4

An apostle – one who is sent to deliver a message for someone else.

Both Paul and these men were, in one sense at least, apostles – they had both been sent by someone else.

These men had been sent by people in Jerusalem who wanted the non-Jewish Christians to become Jews as well as Christians, so they could become ‘proper’ Christians. Paul himself had once been sent by men in Jerusalem to arrest Christians and hand them over to be condemned. But Paul’s trip was cut short.  The risen Lord Jesus gave him a completely different mission.  Jesus sent him out with Good News of how he, Jesus, rescues bad people like us. His news was not bad news of how bad people must somehow rescue themselves.

So Paul was no longer proud; rather he was profoundly and happily humbled.  The Lord Jesus had rescued him from sin and the death he deserved, and his job was to tell others that they too can enjoy the benefits of this same rescue, which comes simply and only by trusting Jesus Christ.

But, if Paul was now so humble, why did he insist on his being sent by Jesus, and not by mere men, or by means of men, but by the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead?

Well, it wasn’t to impress the Galatians with his own importance, but to impress upon the Galatians that the authority for his message did not came from impressive people in Jerusalem.

His authority to speak came from the eternal God whom we all have offended.

God’s message is about Jesus Christ, about what God has done in order for people to be saved from their sin and death we deserve.

God’s message is not at all about what we must do to save ourselves.

So Paul puts this reality right up front in his letters.

Grace (which is the love of God) and peace (which replaces our continuing war against God and creator) comes by Jesus Christ. How? Jesus Christ acted for us. He gave himself for our sins – that is, he took our place in the judgment of the cross. He became our sin bearer.

We deserved to die, but the eternal Son of God became a human being, and as God and Man became our substitute – the condemnation of Jesus and his death on the cross for our sins is regarded by God as the final condemnation and death of all those who trust him.

The death and curse that all people deserve was removed at the cross for God’s people – for those who come to trust Jesus Christ.

This is God’s will for our salvation.

There is no other way to be safe from God’s judgment except the way God has provided.  Because God has acted in Jesus, there is nothing more to be done. Jesus Christ did it all for his people.

So, there is no more judgment for those who trust Jesus, nothing more to achieve.

All glory goes to our God for his mercy to us.

Continued in part 3.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for… Hebrews 11:1-4 (Part 1)

The writer of Hebrews has an aim. It was to urge Hebrew Christians NOT to bow to the pressure to reject Christ by returning to the temple and its services. Hebrew Christians were being persecuted in a number of ways: treated violently, made fun of, and had their emotions worked on—tradition, loyalty, life-long practices. The book urges Christians not to look at what is visible, but, by faith, to hold on to the invisible things revealed in God’s word, the Bible. The letter starts with a discussion of God’s speaking to the fathers of old (meaning the believers we come across in the OT) and finally God speaks to us, in these last days, by a Son.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The Bible uses the word ‘faith’ in at least two ways.

The first way of using the word faith indicates that it has the meaning of ‘what is to be believed’, that body of knowledge about Jesus Christ, who he is, what he has done, and what the means for us.

Jude, in his letter, speaks about [contending for] the faith which was once (and for all) delivered to the saints (Jude 3); an unchanging body of truth.  ‘The faith’ is the great gift of God to a sinful world. The Faith is God’s revealed will regarding our salvation through the life, the death and the rising again of Jesus Christ. This Faith comes to us in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

So the letter to the Hebrew Christian is very concerned about the Faith. For instance:

Chapter one–the word reveals the divine nature of the Son,

Chapter two–the word reveals the incarnation of the Son

Chapter three–hear the word, trust the word; do not harden your hearts

Chapter four–the word is a two edged sword, revealing the Son as our only hope, our rest.

Chapters five to nine–the word reveals the Son as both priest and sacrifice.  God, who cannot lie, has sworn by himself as to the truthfulness of the message,

Chapter 10–the Son is presented as the new and living way.

The second way the word ‘faith’ is used in the Bible, shows that it means ‘the appropriate response to that body of truth’. We are to trust ourselves to the Saviour of whom God has told us about in the word.

This faith is the gift of God; he gives this faith to his children.  This faith is not just that a person can repeat the things that God has revealed, but it is our relying on what God as revealed as our only hope in this life and in the life that is to come.  Again, the letter to the Hebrew Christians deals at length with the vital necessity of this faith:

Chapter 2: How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

Chapter 3: Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your heart.

Chapter 4: The promise [God’s revealed will for our salvation] did not benefit some, since it was not received by faith

Chapter 6: Warns against rejecting the word which we have heard.

Chapter 10:  Warns against rejecting the Son as he is revealed in the word.

Which of these two meanings of the word ‘faith’ is Hebrews 11 dealing with particularly? Both of them.

Faith is the assurance (foundation, substance) of things hoped for,

This clause comprehends both the facts that are presented to us to trust and our trusting of them.  The assurance (foundation) are the things God has assured us of in the word. They are the statements – objective truth — of the God who cannot lie.

Things hoped for refers to our trust in these statements. We put our trust – base our hope — in these statements from God.

The second clause of the first verse does a similar thing; it also refers to the message(s) and the trusting of the message(s):

(Faith is) the evidence (something proved or tested) of things (deeds done/actions/promises) not seen (but reported to us in God’s word, the Bible).

The idea is that true things — things past, present or future, which we have not seen, but have had reported to us by God in his word — are the appropriate object of faith, our trust. Because God is both the giver of the message and the faith to receive that message, faith is evidence. It produces conviction in us regarding unseen things:

  • God is not seen—He is a spirit, invisible, eternal and unchangeable. Revealed equally to all in nature (Rom 1), but without saving faith, the truth is rejected.
  • Jesus Christ, and all his deeds (life, death, resurrection)—we have not seen him or his doings, although others have seen and have told us of him. (1 peter, you love him whom you have not seen—2 peter, gives us eyewitness testimnoy of his glory.)
  • God’s unchanging favour toward his people, in the midst of changing circumstances. In this sin blighted world, Christians suffer the same troubles as those who do not trust God.  God’s favour is certainly on His people whereas His anger remains on those who reject His offered mercy.
  • all the promises Christians have in Christ: the resurrection; that we are priest and kings unto God.
  • judgment to come, and new heavens and earth.

2Co 4:18  While we look not to the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The Christian martyr, Polycarp, was certain that the One whom he had trusted for 86 years would not prove false in the final trial.  The Roman proconsul urged him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set you free. Reproach Christ!” Polycarp is said to have answered, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”.

For the Christian, faith is not a vague wishing for something that is uncertain—like wishing on a star. No, the faith to which we trust ourselves has been revealed to us in an objective word. God has spoken repeatedly and consistently to the world in the scriptures over hundreds of years about the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Continued in part 2.