3. Law and Grace, 5:1-7:29

x] The two house builders


Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount concludes with Jesus' teaching on the two ways, two trees, two claims and two builders.


The choice between life and death: The way of law-righteousness leads to death, the way of grace leads to the fullness of life in Christ.


i] Context: See 5:1-10.


ii] Structure: Concluding the Great Sermon:

The two ways, v13-14:

Saying - the narrow gate.

A warning about false prophets, v15-20:

Explanation #1, v15-20:

Two trees: a tree is known by its fruits.

Explanation #2, v21-23:

Two claims: only those who do God's will enter the kingdom.

The two builders, v24-27;

The wise and foolish builders.


iii] Interpretation:

Matthew concludes his covenant renewal document with a selection of four parables / sayings of Jesus which serve as a challenge to the reader to determine whether they stand under Law and thus cursed, or grace and thus blessed. The two ways, two trees, two claims and two builders serve to confront the reader with the fact that if they stand under Law they are inevitably a Law-breaker, and therefore face God's curse rather than his blessing. If not under grace, we are on the broad way, we are the bad tree, bereft of any claim before God and with our house set on sinking foundations, and all this because we do not "bear" good fruit, v19, we do not do the Father's will, v21, and we do "not put into practice" the teachings of Jesus, v26. So, the sermon concludes with its prime function clearly in sight, namely, to establish that the full appropriation of God's promised blessings are gifted by divine grace through faith and this apart from law-obedience.


The interpretive challenge posed by the four parables: Nolland argues that in these illustrations / parables eschatological judgment comes to the fore, challenging us "as to the importance of taking effective note of what has been laid out in 5:17-7:12." As such they serve as a "climatic admonition", Hagner. The kingdom of heaven is close at hand and the paired contrasts, which serve to depict the way of life and the way of death, reveal that some will enter and some will not. As Carson notes, Jesus' "messianic claim is implicit" in the illustrations, although how his claim plays out in the illustrations is not so obvious. Most commentators tend to read Jesus' words as a call "for wholehearted commitment to himself", a commitment that produces "fruitful lives .... deeds that back up one's words", Morris; the sermon serves as a call to "an existential response to what has been heard and warn of the consequences of failing to respond", France.

In this passage we do indeed have, as Hagner puts it, a "climatic admonition." The sermon is coming to an and and our preacher is now challenging us to act on the message. Is the challenge, as Morris put it, "for wholehearted commitment"? Is our preacher challenging us to travel the narrow road rather than the wide road, to build on the rock rather than on the sand? Although a rather perverse interpretation, these notes treat the paired contrasts, not as a challenge to "wholehearted commitment", but rather as a challenge to recognize that although we may strive to travel the narrow way, strive to build on the rock, we inevitably travel the wide way, inevitably build on sand. We hear the words of the preacher and do not do them; we are not covenant compliant. The paired contrasts serve to drive us to the conclusion that covenant standing is by grace through faith AND NOT WORKS OF THE LAW.

In the covenant renewal ceremony at Sinai, God announced through Moses that the people of Israel were his and that he was their God, he saved them, rescued them from bondage. Then followed the impossible Law and the challenge of blessings and cursings, serving both to establish a prime dependance on the faith of Abraham, while at the same time giving direction for the fruit of faith, namely, love in action. The Great Sermon follows the same pattern where a necessary dependance on grace through the instrument of faith is established in the beatitudes and then reinforced by the impossible law, supported by the challenge of the paired contrasts.

It is very easy for disciples / believers to adopt the view that faithfulness / law-obedience both restrains sin for the maintenance of covenant standing and shapes holiness for the full appropriation of God's promised blessings. Yet, what law-obedience does is confirm that we are on the pathway to cursing. The blessings of the covenant are ours in the faithfulness of Christ, appropriated through faith and not by works of the law. By means of our identification with Christ we appropriate in full the promised blessings of the covenant. Although we are unable to enter the narrow gate, produce the good fruit, make the just claim and build on the rock, Christ, the one righteous Son of God, on our behalf, has. In our identification with him we are treated as if we are the righteous son of God. Although we are on the broad road that leads to destruction / cursing, in Christ we are viewed by God as if we are on the narrow road that leads to life / blessing. Our house may be on sand, about to be caught up in the great flood, but in Christ we are viewed as guests in his house. While our house is swept away in the flood, his house stands firm upon the rock of his obedience. The Father counts Christ's house, not ours, Christ's life, not ours, and this, not by works of the law, but by grace through faith.

Of course, if we are secure in Christ's house, then why bother striving to be what we are in Christ? Paul, the exponent of free grace, had to wrestle with this self same question, even the absurd proposition "shall we go on sinning that grace may increase?" Why not turn our house into a bordello if we are secure in Christ's house? The more filthy our house, the more gracious the invite to Christ's house. Paul's answer is simple enough, "we died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?" A person who is welcomed into Christ's house will, as a response to this kindness, do their best to limit the rubbish they accumulate in their own.


iv] Synoptics:

Again, much of this passage can be found in Luke, chapters 6 and 13, with the original source usually identified as Q, although a common Aramaic / Greek oral source should not be discounted. The differences between Matthew and Luke are many, with Luke's account supposedly closer to Q.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 7:13

The conclusion to the Great Sermon, v13-29: i] The two ways, v13-14. The two ways are usually viewed as a call to commitment, a call to unwavering dedicated discipleship, yet it is more than likely that the two ways express the two alternatives facing God's covenant people, namely, blessing or cursing. "Blessed by God is the one who walks in the way of God's commandments, but cursed is the one who strays from those commandments", Deut.11:26, 30:15, cf., Strecker. A child of God must pass through a narrow gate to enter the kingdom (assumed object); having heard God's words they must act on them because only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom and participate in its promised blessings. Yet, who can claim to have done the will of the Father in heaven? So, we must recognize that we are on the broad way that leads to destruction and that we need to find someone who has traveled the narrow way that leads to life, and having done so, we must hold onto his tassels and enter with him. We appropriate the promised blessings of the kingdom by grace through faith of/in the one righteous Israelite, Jesus.

eiselqate (eisercomai) aor. imp. "enter" - Imperative expressing the divine command to undertake a particular way of life, the way of perfect obedience (not narrow/hard discipleship). As such it serves as an impossible demand. "Go through the narrow gate", TEV.

dia + gen. "through" - through, through a place. Spacial.

thV stenhV "the narrow" - Possibly "difficult", in the same sense "broad" possibly means "easy".

pulhV (h) "gate" - gate, door. Probably best expressed as a "door"; "go through the narrow door to life."

oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why we should enter through the narrow gate.

hJ apagousa (apagw) pres. part. "that leads" - [wide the gate and broad the way] leading. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "gate" and hJ oJdoV "way/road"; "which leads to destruction."

eiV + acc. "to" - Spacial, direction / goal.

thn apwleian (a) "destruction" - destruction, ruin. Eternal annihilation. "What it leads to is perdition", Cassirer.

polloi adj. "many" - [and] many. Predicate adjective. ."A lot of people go through that gate", CEV.

oiJ eisercomenoi (eisercomai) pres. part. "enter" - [are] the ones entering [through it]. The participle serves as a substantive.


ti pro. "but" - how. An alternate reading oJti, "because", may be original, but ti may be intended, here used in place of the Semitic exclamation "how!", see Metzger. "How narrow the gate and ....."

stenh adj. "small" - narrow [the gate]. Predicate adjective, emphatic by position. "Broad" is now "narrow", as "spacious" now becomes "constricted".

teqlimmenh (qlibw) perf. pas. part. "narrow" - [and] having been compressed, crushed, constricted [the way, road]. The participle serves as a predicate adjective, the perfect expressing a continued state. Narrow and confined and therefore "hard", possibly even "hurtful". "The gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard", TEV.

hJ apagousa (apagw) pres. part. "that leads [to life]" - leading [to life]. The participle serves as an attributive adjective limiting "road".

oligoi adj. "few" - [and] few. In fact, only one!!!!, ie., identifying our inevitable state of covenant non-compliance rather than "the radical character of discipleship", Hagner.

oiJ euJriskonteV (euJriskw) pres. part. "find [it]" - [are] the ones finding. The participle serves as a substantive.

authn pro. "it" - Does "it" refer to "gate", "way", or "life"? Surely "life" = "eternal life" / "life of the kingdom of God", Davies & Allison.


ii] A warning, v15-20. a) The two trees / fruits, v15-20. Given that v13-14 are usually interpreted as a call to discipleship, these verses are treated as a warning to disciples who have taken up the challenge of the "narrow way" that their are "teachers who will help, or hinder .... (particularly of) people who can be relied on to advocate the wrong way in some shape of form", Morris, eg., "Pharisees", Hill. Yet, it is more likely that this pericope serves again to illustrate the two ways confronting believers: the way of life and the way of death. As the worth of a tree can be identified by its fruit so it is possible to identify what road a person is on by the product of their life. A person on the road to death will produce a corrupted product, a product easily recognized. Before God we are known by the fruit of our life and the fruit of all of us is spoiled. So, the placement of this word from Jesus by Matthew is quite effective. Luke's record of the tradition in 6:43-45 seems more to the point, but Matthew obviously has to work with the tradition as he has received it. Although Jesus' word applies specifically to false prophets, it nonetheless illustrates the point Matthew is making. False teachers can easily be identified by their works, just as a bad tree can be identified by its fruit, and the same applies to us as well. Our life easily shows whether we are covenant compliant or not, and the evidence is anything but positive. Law will not help us; all it does is remind us that we are fallen, that we are a bad tree bearing bad fruit. We need to find a good tree that bears good fruit and get ourselves grafted in!!!!

prosecete (prosecw) pres. imp. "watch out for" - pay attention, beware [of false prophets who come to you]. With apo, as here, "beware of", BAGD. It is possible that instead of "beware of / be on guard against", the sense is "pay close attention to / take note (for example) of the problem of false prophets who .....", ie., not a warning in this context.

en + dat. "in [sheep's clothing]" - in [clothing of sheep]. Local, expressing state or condition.

de "but" - Obviously adversative here.

eswqen adv. "inwardly" - within, inside. Local adverb. "But they are really rapacious wolves", Barclay.

arpageV (arpax) adj. "ferocious" - [are] greedy, raging, ravenous. Attributive adjective limiting the predicate nominative "wolves".


apo + gen. "by" - from. Here expressing agency, as NIV; a rare usage where apo is used instead of uJpo.

autwn gen. pro. "their [fruit]" - [the fruits] of them. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or idiomatic / producer, "the fruit produced by them."

epignwsesqe (epiginwskw) fut. ind. mid. "recognize" - you will know = recognize [them].

mhti "-" - [are] not. Introducing a question which expects the answer "no". "Do you pick a bunch of grapes from a thorn-bush or figs from a clump of thistles?" Phillips.

apo + gen. "from [thornbushes]" - [are not thorns gathered] from [grapes, or figs from thistles]? Expressing separation; "away from."


ouJtwV "likewise" - so, thus. Serving to introduce a comparative point, "likewise", but possibly inferential, "so, every healthy tree ....", ESV.

agaqon adj. "good [tree]" - [every] good [tree]. Probably in the sense "healthy".

kalouV adj. "good [fruit]" - [produces] good [fruits]. Possibly "beautiful fruit", Morris.

sapon adj. "bad [tree]" - [but the] rotten, decayed, diseased [tree produces bad fruit].

ponhrouV adj. "bad [fruit]" - evil = bad. A decayed tree yields worthless fruit", Cassirer.


poiein (poiew) pres. inf. "[cannot] bear" - [a good tree is not able] to make, produce [bad fruit]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "is able." "A good tree is incapable of bearing bad fruit", Phillips.


mh poioun (poiew) pres. part. "that does not bear [good fruit]" - [every tree] not bearing, producing [good fruit is cut off and thrown into the fire]. The participle is probably adjectival, limiting "tree", "every tree which does not produce", but possibly adverbial, causal, "because", even conditional, "if a tree does not produce fine fruit", Barclay.


ara ge "thus" - therefore. The conjunction ara is not used to lead a sentence in classical Gk. but in the LXX and NT Gk. it is sometimes used to lead a logical conclusion, "consequently", BAGD. So, the particle ge is used to strengthen / underline the inferential ara, "therefore".

apo "by [their fruit]" - from [the fruits of them]. Obviously another example of where this preposition expresses agency, as v16.

epignwsesqe (epiginwskw) fut. "you will recognize" - you will know. "You will know them by their fruit", Moffatt.

autouV "them" - Accusative direct object of the verb "to know". Given the immediate context, the "them" is identified as the "false prophets" of v15a, although both "prophets" and "trees" are masculine so autouV may be agreeing with ether. We probably just have here the logical conclusion of the illustration; "the worth of a tree can be discerned from its fruit." There seems little need for Matthew to draw out the obvious conclusion from Jesus' words, but just in case we have missed the point, Barclay's paraphrase is worth considering: "As with trees, so with men - you can tell what kind of men they are by the conduct they produce."


b) The two claims, v21-23. With the two claims, the dedicated discipleship approach to the interpretation of the four illustrations looks decidedly shaky, for here we are told that a dedicated disciple, displaying all the evidential outworkings of such, doesn't make it to the kingdom of heaven. The person who gains entry into the kingdom of heaven is the person who does the will of the Father. Perfect covenant compliance is required of a son of God; anything less faces the "depart from me you perpetrators of lawless deeds", Psalm 6:8. So gain we are warned that entry to the kingdom of heaven requires a righteousness which exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees; anything less than doing the will of the Father results in a divine "I never knew you." The answer to this problem is not found in nomistic law-obedience, but in the gift of divine grace, appropriated through faith, faith in the faithfulness of the one obedient Son.

ou .... all (alla) "not [everyone .......] but [only ...]" - Counterpoint construction.

oJ legwn (legw) pres. part. "who says" - [not all] the ones saying. Taking the adjective paV, "every", as a substantive, "everyone", the participle would be classified as adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone", as NIV. "It is not everyone who keeps saying to me, 'Lord, Lord'", Phillips.

moi dat. pro. "to me" - Dative of indirect object.

kurie kurie voc. "Lord, Lord" - Vocative. Used of "master", even "teacher", but obviously here of the Lord God.

twn ouranwn (oV) gen. "of heaven" - [will enter into the kingdom] of the heavens. The genitive is adjectival, technically attributive / of location, limiting "kingdom", "the kingdom which is in heaven / located in heaven", although Matthew uses "heaven" out of deference to God, so it is actually "the kingdom of God", possessive, the kingdom that belongs to God, or verbal, subjective, "will enjoy the blessings of God's rule", TH; See "kingdom of heaven", 3:2.

all (alla) "but" - Adversative.

oJ poiwn (poiew) pres. part. "only he who does / only the one who does" - the one doing. The participle serves as a substantive. "What is required is serious obedience - doing my Father's will", Peterson.

tou patroV (oV) gen. "of [my] Father" - [the will] of the father [of me]. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective.

tou gen. "who [is in heaven]" - the one [in the heavens]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase en toiV ouranoiV, "in heaven", into an attributive modifyer limiting "Father", as NIV.


erousin (legw) fut. ind. act. "will say" - [many] will say. "On the great day there will be many who will say to me", Barclay.

moi "to me" - Dative of indirect object.

en + dat. "on [that day]" - Temporal use of the preposition.

ou ..... eprofhteusamen (profhteuw) "did we not prophesy" - [lord, lord], not [in your name did we speak on behalf of, prophecy]. Here, speaking on behalf of Jesus. The negation prompts any affirmative answer to the question.

tw/ sw/ onomati (a atoV) "in your name" - [and] in your name. The dative is probably instrumental / agency; "in /by / with the authority of your person."

dunameiV (iV ewV) pl. "miracles" - [perform many] powers = acts of power, mighty works = miracles. Accusative direct object of the verb "to do, perform."


tote adv. "then" - [and] then. Temporal adverb introducing a temporal clause.

oJmologhsw (oJmologew) fut. "I will tell ... plainly" - i will declare, proclaim, make a statement..... which is binding.

autoiV dat. "to them" - Dative of indirect object.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, direct speech.

oudepote egnwn (ginwskw) aor. "I never knew [you]" - These words were used by the rabbis for an excommunication.

oiJ ergazomenoi (ergazomai) pres. part. voc. "you evildoers" - [depart from me] the ones working [without the law, lawlessness]. The participle serves as a substantive. More particularly, "you who are lax law-keepers."


iii] The two builders, v24-27. Again the paired contrasts are usually treated as a call to commitment, a call to unwavering dedicated discipleship. Even so, the imagery gets used in many and varied ways, eg., the old chorus "Build on the rock and not upon the sand." Presumably the message of the chorus is that we should build our life on Jesus rather than the shifting sands of mammon. By this means our house / life will stand secure in the day of eschatological judgment. This, of course, is true, and makes for a great sermon, but it is not the point of the illustration. The two ways - the way of life and the way of death - are again starkly represented in this illustration / parable. The determining factor is the clear statement that everyone who hears the teachings of Jesus and puts them into practice is like a wise person who builds their house epi thn petran, "upon rock." A person either acts this way, or doesn't act this way; there is no other possibility. We have either heard and done, or heard and not done. It is, of course, somewhat of a shock to a slightly sleepy congregation on a Sunday morning to be told that their house (their life) is founded on sand because, although they have heard Jesus' words, they have not done them. Yes, they have done some of them; they may not be murders, but they have become agro at times, and have probably insulted many people over the years. All believers are like that person who built their house on poor foundations, and so collapse is inevitable. What can save us? The Law can't - trying to be good little boys and girls doesn't cut it. The law only makes sin more sinful. Covenant compliance is not found in the Law, but in divine grace. The following narratives, 8:1-9:34, will teach us that the promised blessings of the covenant are appropriated as a gift of grace through faith, and not works of the law. If we would be covenant compliant we must seek to enter the house of the one righteous man, knock on his door, and enter into the cover of his righteousness.

oun "therefore" - Possibly drawing a logical conclusion / inferential, as NIV, but also possibly just resumptive; "now, everyone who listens to these words of mine", Moffatt.

o{stiV "[everyone] who" - whosoever. With paV, "all", the nominative subject of the verb "to hear"; "everyone whoever hears." Indefinite qualitative relative pronoun, "everyone who is of such a character."

touV lkegouV toutouV "these words" - [hears] these words. Accusative direct object of the verb "to hear."Obviously the surpassing righteousness / instructions detailed in the sermon.

mou gen. pro. "of mine" - of me. Emphatic by position. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective, but possibly ablative, source / origin; "from me."

poiei (poiew) pres. "puts [them] into practice" - [and] does, applies [them]. Hears the words of Jesus and does them.

oJmoiwqhsetai (oJmiow) fut. pas. "is like" - will be like, likened, compared. Medial passive verb. In these last days the person who hears the words of Jesus and does them will be like the wise / intelligent / thoughtful person who has built his house on rock.

andri (hr droV) dat. "a [wise] man" - to a [wise] man. Dative of direct object / comparison after the verb oJmoiow, "to make like"; "may be compared to / with a man"

epi + acc. "on" - [who built his house] upon. Spacial; "upon".

thn petran (a) "the rock" - The article is generic, so "built his house on rock." The use of "the rock" is interpretive, ie., the assumption that "the rock" = Christ. Within the context the rock is obedience; Christ built his life on obedience, upon which obedience / rock we may rest secure.


katebh (katabainw) "came down" - [and the rain] fell down. It poured - torrential rain.

potamoi "the streams [rose]" - [and] the rivers [came]. Nominative subject of the verb "to come." Used to describe flooded ravines after rain; "the floods came", ESV.

th/ oikia/ (a) dat. "[beat against that] house" - [and the winds blew and beat against that] house. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to fall down upon."

gar "because" - [and it did not fall] because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the house did not fall.

teqemeliwto (qemeliow) pluperf. pas. "it had its foundation [on rock]" - it had been founded [upon rock]. The pluperfect is used to express supplementary information. "Because it was built on solid rock", CEV.

epi + acc. "upon [the rock]" - Spacial; "on, upon".


The rather perverse interpretation proposed in these notes is well highlighted in this verse. It is often understood that Jesus' logouV, "words", are the gospel and that the person who hears, but does not poiew, "do", is someone who does not believe. The more astute commentator usually tries not to make such a leap in interpretation and so leaves the subject up in the air - a disciple "will be judged by what they have done", Fenton. As France notes, the "parable does not draw a line simply between outsiders and insiders." So, disciples, as with outsiders, stand "at risk" of "total collapse." It all comes down to the "doing", "doing the will of my Father in heaven", v21, not a legwn, "saying", but a poiwn, "doing". The foolish person does not "do", and aren't we all fools? So again Jesus uses law / ethics to expose sin and prompt reliance on divine mercy - faith rather than obedience.

kai "but" - and. Probably slightly adversative, as NIV.

oJ akouwn (akouw) pres. part. "[everyone] who hears" - [all] the one hearing. If we take paV, "all", as a substantive, "everyone", then the participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone".

mou gen. pro. "[these words] of mine" - [these words] of me. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective, even ablative, source / origin, "from me".

mh poiwn (poiew) pres. part. "does not put [them] into practice" - [and] not doing. Again, the participle is adjectival, limiting "everyone".

oJmoiwqhsetai (oJmoiow) fut. pas. "is like" - will be compared to.

andri (hr roV) dat. "a [foolish] man" - Dative of direct object after the passive verb "to be compared to."

mwrw/ "foolish" - unreflecting [who built his house upon sand]. Someone who doesn't think through the consequence of their actions.


th/ oikia/ (a) "[beat against] the house" - [and the rain came down and the rivers / floods came and the winds blew and beat against that] house. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to strike against."

kai h\n hJ ptwsiV authV megalh "and it fell with a great crash" - [and it fell] and great was the fall of it = complete destruction. This phrase is climactic, alluding to eschatological judgment, and thus serving to prompt / guide the listener to draw a conclusion from the illustration and act on it urgently. "The whole thing collapsed like a house of cards and was washed away in splinters."


iv] Matthew concludes with an editorial comment about Jesus' teaching, v28-29. The other discourses conclude similarly, usually beginning with kai egeneto "and it came about". Jesus "teaching was markedly different from anything to which they were accustomed", Morris.

oJte "When" - [and it became] when [Jesus had finished these words]. Temporal adverb introducing a temporal clause; "and when Jesus finished speaking", Barclay.

exeplhsonto (ekplhssw) "[the crowds were] amazed" - [the crowds were] amazed. Imperfect rather than aorist indicated a continued amazement / astonishment. Amazement is always a pre faith response which leads either to belief or disbelief. "The people went home wondering."

epi + dat. "at" - upon. Possibly causal, "because of his teaching", even consecutive, expressing result.

autou gen. pro. "his [teaching]" - [the teaching] of him. The genitive may be taken as adjectival, or verbal, subjective, "the teaching delivered by Jesus."


gar "because" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the people were amazed at Jesus' teaching.

h\n .... didaskwn (didaskw) pres. part. "he taught" - he was teaching [them]. A imperfect periphrastic construction is possibly being used to emphasize aspect, ie., the durative nature of his teaching, "he constantly taught them ..."

wJV "as" - as, like. This comparative introduces a comparative clause; "his way of teaching was like a man invested with authority", Cassirer.

ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "one who had [authority]" - having [authority]. The participle serves as as a substantive, "the one who possess".

kai ouc wJV "and not as" - and not like. Comparative

autwn gen. pro. "their [teachers of the law]" - [the scribes] of them. The genitive is adjectival, relational. It is usually held that Matthew is making a point to differentiate the teachers of the Christian fellowship / church from the teachers of the synagogue; "not like the experts of the law", Barclay; not like their teachers of the law of Moses", CEV.


Matthew Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]