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Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount


"Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount"

April 26, 2014


As someone whose life has been changed by the 1888 message given by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, and endorsed by Ellen White, I always feel it is appropriate to share their ideas.  My words have no support or endorsement from a prophetic voice – but theirs do.  Our lesson this week is entitled, “Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.”  We could write multiple books on the beautiful truths in the Sermon on the Mount.  Ellen White’s opening line in “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing” are these, “The Sermon on the Mount is Heaven's benediction to the world--a voice from the throne of God.”  {MB vii.1}  Heaven’s benediction = Heaven’s final words to us.  It’s as if God is saying what His final words would be if He were on His deathbed.  The Sermon on the Mount concludes with Jesus telling a parable about a wise builder and a foolish builder.  In the following article in Present Truth – 1895, E. J. Waggoner gives a beautiful exegesis of this parable.  It seems fitting to share this article from one of the 1888 messenger’s himself.  May it bless you as it blessed me.

-Bob Hunsaker

"On Rock or Sand?"
The Present Truth.  November 7, 1895.
E. J. Waggoner


According to the words of Christ, we build upon the rock by hearing and doing His words.

"Therefore 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."

"And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." Matt. vii. 24-27.

Abraham is a wonderful example of building on Christ by believing His word. God made a promise to Abraham, which, like all the promises of God, was in Christ. Then the record says of Abraham, "And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him to righteousness." Gen. xv. 6. There is something very peculiar about this expression "he believed in the Lord." The word rendered "believed" is from the Hebrew word "Amen." This word "Amen" in the Scriptures is not translated but simply transferred.

The root idea of the word is firmness. The idea of solidity and stability attaches to it. It has a variety of definitions, all carrying this thought. One definition is "to build, or depend, on." So, literally, Abraham built upon God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
This gives a better idea of the Bible meaning of belief than is commonly held. People generally think that to believe is nothing more than assent. But believing the Lord is much more than this. It is to count that Word as the surest thing in the universe, since it is that which upholds the universe, and to press the whole soul, and all the hopes, upon it, even though everything appears contrary to it. It is to walk where there seems to be nothing, provided the Word of the Lord is there, knowing that it is a firmer foundation. The poet Whittier has thus expressed it:- {November 7, 1895 EJW, PTUK 705.6}

"Nothing before, nothing behind;
The steps of faith
Fall on the seeming void, and find
The rock beneath."

But note the fact that when Abraham built on the Lord it was counted to him for righteousness. The Lord never makes any mistakes in His reckoning. When Abraham's faith was reckoned to him for righteousness, it was because it was indeed righteousness. How so? Why, as Abraham built on God, he built on everlasting righteousness. "He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him." He became one with the Lord, and so God's righteousness was his own.

"The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of fire, purified seven times." Ps. xii. 6. Therefore he who builds upon the Rock Jesus Christ, by accepting His word in living faith, builds upon a tried foundation. So we read: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded." 1 Peter ii. 1-6.

The force of this is not so clearly seen until we read the passage of Scripture which is quoted by the apostle, in connection with the one that we quoted from the Saviour's Sermon on the Mount. Recalling the latter, we read from the prophecy of Isaiah:-

"Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone of sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. And I will make judgment the line, and righteousness the plummet; and the hail sweep away the refuge of lies, and the water shall overflow the hiding-place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. As often as it passeth through, it shall take you; for morning by morning shall it pass through, by day and by night: and it shall be nought but terror to understand the message." Isa. xxviii. 16-19, R.V.

Christ is the tried foundation. Righteousness is the plummet by which He is laid. His character is perfectly true and right. Satan has exhausted all his arts in trying to lead Him to sin, and was unsuccessful. He is a sure foundation. We build upon Him by believing His Word, as He Himself said. The floods will surely come. There will be an overflowing scourge that will sweep away the refuge of lies, and all who have built on a false foundation. The house built on the sand will certainly fall. When the storm begins to beat with fury, those who have made lies their refuge will flee for their lives as their foundation begins to totter; but the flood will carry them away. This is the picture presented by the two passages of Scripture.

But far different will it be with those who have built on the Rock of Ages. That sure foundation will stand every blast. Nothing can shake it. Those who have built on it cannot make haste. They have often proved that it is a sure refuge, and so they can calmly watch the torrent. They do not need to flee for their lives. Having built on the rock, they are as secure as the rock itself. And why? Because they are really a part of the Rock, for the Rock builds up all who build upon it.

Listen to the words of the apostle: "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." When one builds upon the Rock, the Rock itself, being a living Rock, grows up into them, so that the foundation and the building are all one piece. This is shown by many passages of Scripture, some of them which will at once occur to the reader. It is a wise man who now, every day, is building upon the Word. The storm is gathering, and it is for every one who would be safe in that day to make sure of his foundation.