Two Foundations

by Spiros Zodhiates

Spiros Zodhiates(Matt. 7:24-29; Luke 6:47-49)

The Sermon on the Mount was intended to build character, and the first thing any building needs is a good, solid foundation (1 Cor. 3:10-15). Everyone is responsible for the base he or she selects.

In this parable, two bases are presented: "rock" (from pétra v. 24) and "sand" (from mmos v. 26). Two kinds of builders are also here: the "wise" (from phrnimos, prudent) builder selects the rock; and the "foolish" (from mo rs, silly, stupid, from which we obtain the English word "moron"; v. 26) builder selects sand, probably because it is much easier to build on than rock.

Notice that the adjective phrnimos, is not the better-known word for wise, which is sophs. The difference is significant here. Sopha usually refers to spiritual wisdom (James 3:17).

Phrnimos could also be translated "prudent." In modern as well as in Hellenistic Greek, the New Testament noun phre n means "brake," something that curbs or restrains. In modern Greek, the term is used for the brakes of a car. Some prudence remains in humans by virtue of creation apart from redemption.

(For a detailed study comparing natural prudence with divinely given wisdom, see Zodhiates, How to Manage Money, on Luke 16:1-13, and The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament.)

The wisdom of God in Christ, which complements natural prudence, is one benefit of salvation and is part of the regeneration of the mind. That this wisdom is enhanced prudence is evident from Paul's vivid use of two complex Greek terms: one in 2 Timothy 1:7: "sound mind" (from so phronisms from so os [n.f.], sound, and phre n, moral brake), and the other in Titus 2:8: "healthy logic" (from hugie s from which we derive our English word "hygiene" and from lgos, rational speech, logic)-both gifts to believers from the regenerating Spirit of God.

In this parable, "hears" (from akoo) is detached from "does" (from poiéo). Some people hear and do, and others hear and do not do. The reference is clearly associated with physical hearing, not the hearing of the Spirit, which involves obedience.

Concerning the one who hears and does, Christ said, "I will liken [from homoio, to compare with] him unto a wise [phrnimos] man which built his house upon a rock (v. 24)."

Prudent people plan for inclement weather. Whereas some prudent persons would never build their physical houses on sand, they build their spiritual houses on sandy foundations. Like the rich farmer in Luke 12, they fail to consider the imminence of death, ignoring the one who said, "This night thy soul shall be required of thee" (Luke 12:20).

The foundation is the most important part of a building. After the storm passed, the prudent man "had founded
[tethemelo to, the pluperfect tense of themelio, to lay a solid foundation] the house upon a rock."

Paul told us that the only foundation we can build on successfully is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11, cf. Matt. 16:18). Accordingly, faith, in Hebrews 11:1, is defined by the author as the "substance [hupstasis, that which stands below] of things hoped for." Because Christ is the foundation or the substance of faith, believers can have parre sa, bold confidence, especially in proclaiming their foundation to an unbelieving world (Acts 2:29; 28:31; 2 Cor. 7:4; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 1:20; Heb. 3:6; 10:35).

The man described as "foolish" (mo rs), by contrast, takes an irrational risk.

Though in modern Greek the word mo rs is used for "baby," the New Testament consistently attaches the term to adults who willfully (i.e., consciously) and irresponsibly ignore God's commands. Christ's address to the scribes and Pharisees, for example, "Ye fools [mo ro from mo rs] and blind" (Matt. 23:17, 19), is a condemnation of their rebellion, not pity toward their immaturity. Adults know that what they are doing is wrong but do it anyway.

Judgment comes on the fool and his possessions: "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."

The fool sins, and his house is judged-presumably with him in it. While the teaching is applicable to individuals, Jesus no doubt anticipated the fall of the "house of Jerusalem" under the headship of religious leaders who corporately rejected their Messiah (note that Jerusalem's house is the subject in Matt. 23:37-39).

In principle, this house "is [morally] desolate [aphetai, the present tense of aphe mi, to abandon]" the instant Christ spoke these words. Historically, however, it collapsed in a.d. 70.

When Jesus completed all these sayings, the crowd "was being astonished" (exeple ssonto, the imperfect passive of ekple sso, to strike with amazement).

Everyone was struck not only by His "doctrine" (from didache, teaching) but also by His "authority" (from exousa, physical and moral power; v. 29), which contrasted with the manner in which the scribes taught. Now that we have the full Word of God and the Spirit of Christ indwelling us, we, too, can preach or teach the Word of God with authority. As Paul noted, this will make a remarkable difference:

"Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake" (1 Thess. 1:4, 5).

Dr. Zodhiates is president emeritus of AMG International and publisher emeritus of Pulpit Helps.

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