With Authority: Matthew 7

In Summary:

We finish the Sermon on the Mount today, looking at several passages that are usually presented as stand-alone moments in Scripture. Remember, though, that this is presented as one sermon. Even if one takes the view that Matthew composited several different sermons into this one record, the Holy Spirit inspired this to be written as one message. (I think it was one continuous sermon from Jesus, anyway.)

That means we should not cut a divide between the opening passage, the oft-misapplied “Do not judge” (Matthew 7:1,) and Matthew 7:20 where Jesus highlights that “you will know them by their fruits.” One should therefore be careful attempting to apply one of these without considering the other! Further, we see the fairly well-known “Ask, seek, and knock” passage fits in the middle of this as well.

Summarizing the Sermon on the Mount is the comparison between the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who did not. These are stand-ins for the one who hears Jesus’ words and acts on them, and the ones who hear and do nothing. The same rain hits both, the same life struggles hit both. Only the one who is obedient remains standing.

Which wraps the chapter that begins with “Do not judge.” So perhaps we should admit that there’s more to not judging than ignoring whether or not someone is obedient to the Word of Christ.

In Focus:

In focus, let’s take the crowds’ response to Jesus for a look. The people are amazed, Matthew tells us in Matthew 7:28-29, because Jesus teaches with authority. This is in direct contrast to the scribes and other teachers of the day. His Words were not based on whether or not any one else approved of Him or had had similar ideas in the past.

Instead, He both stated commands and restated Scripture to make it clearer (and harder) for the listeners to skate past. He truly held the authority, because His Word is the Word of God.

In Practice:

Practically, this comes forward with this reminder: Jesus still holds the authority for our lives today. His Word remains the Word of God. How does that flesh out?

First, we submit to what God has said. The Word of God is absolutely sufficient and accurate for what we need to know, even today. He did not make the mistake of only speaking through Scripture to people long ago and in a far away place. We do have to put deliberate study into Scripture because of the linguistic and cultural differences, but that does not mean God did not speak.

And we do this study because He spoke with authority, so we need to know what He said.

Second, we admit that no one else speaks with the authority of Jesus. Not your pastor, not your favorite author, not your momma. Not even your friendly neighborhood Bible blogger. Everyone else, no matter who they are, speaks with authority only as long as they speak the Words of Christ. Which are plain to see in Scripture—once you get into interpretation, like where the Ark of the Covenant is or just how husbands and wives interact in light of the Gospel (beyond the obvious self-sacrificial love,) you are not speaking with the same authority.

Give Christ the authority that is His, and do not let others take it. This even includes our own impressions and ideas—just because that great idea struck while you were reading the Bible does not mean “God” told you to do it. Do what He says plainly.

In Nerdiness:

More of a brief observation: everything about the Sermon on the Mount presupposes believers living in community with each other. That is, there is nothing in these three chapters that would support a view that isolates us from one another, or even isolates one batch of Christians from another. This is true even within the local church—note that Jesus is teaching a group of both genders and all ages here. There is a time and a place for some separation for specific points, but ultimately we belong together. We’re following Jesus together.

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