THE HOUSE BUILT ON THE ROCK
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, August 9, 1992
“Whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them shall be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house,- and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).
In His well known Sermon on the Mount, the Lord proclaimed a new gospel – a new, comprehensive doctrine of life. In this new doctrine which the Lord expounded He emphasized the idea that true religion is not merely the observance of formal rituals and customs, but is rather a way of life according to recognized and acknowledged principles. He began by pronouncing a blessing on the humble, the merciful, the pure, the lovers of peace, and the faithful. He pointed out that anger and hatred are to be shunned because they are the cause of murder. He entreated people not to judge others harshly, but to be compassionate and forgiving. He taught that the evil of adultery is to be shunned in will, thought and intention, not just in act. He warned against vain and useless oaths. He tried to lead people to distinguish between the person and the evil done by the person, urging them to love and promote the person’s welfare, but not the person’s evil. He preached against making a pretentious show of religion, saying that true worship comes from the heart. He exhorted people to strive for eternal riches, and not to be unduly concerned about worldly things, promising the protection, providence and guidance of God for all who place their trust in Him. He warned against profanation and the ridicule of holy things. He pointed out that a tree is known by its fruits. If it bears no fruit, it is to be cut down, thus providing us with a standard of judgment as it relates to the conduct of human beings: we are to judge according to use.
Having clearly and powerfully expounded the fundamental principles of His new doctrine, the Lord concluded His sermon with a vivid description of the two possible responses his hearers could have to His teachings, and the consequences of each. He said: “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matt. 7:24-27, emphasis added).
The basic difference between the wise and the foolish men hinges on one simple verb, the verb to “do.” This is the key word of our text. The purpose of all Divine teaching is that people may do it. Hearing it is a means to this end. What can be clearer than this? And yet there are millions of people in the Christian world today, both clergy and laity, who stoutly maintain that it is not the doing of the law that results in salvation, but faith separated from doing.
But in this parable the Lord separates people into two categories: (a) those who hear the Divine law and do what it teaches; and (b) those who hear and do not do it. The words themselves leave no room for doubt about the matter. But the circumstances in which they were uttered emphasizes this teaching. They are the concluding words of a new and comprehensive doctrine, a doctrine of life for the church which the Lord came on earth to establish. The Lord concluded His discourse with this vivid and dramatic parable to draw attention to the absolute necessity of doing that which He teaches.
This is not the only instance where this teaching occurs in the Scriptures. It does not stand alone! The prophet Jeremiah gave dramatic utterance to the same truth saying: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel … I did not speak to your fathers … concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying: ‘Obey My voice and I will be your God and you shall be My people. And >I>walk in all the ways that I have commanded you that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in the counsels and the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward … So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth. Cut off your hair and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the desolate heights; for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath”‘ (Jer. 7:21-29, emphasis added).
This quotation eloquently testifies to the truth that the choice between heaven and hell, life and death, depends on whether we do what the Lord teaches or do not do it, whether we obey Him or do not.
A more detailed consideration of our text will lead us to see the deeper significance of the Lord’s teaching in this parable. The Lord likened those who hear and do His Word to a wise man who built his house on the rock. Everyone, while on earth, builds the house in which he will live to eternity. The materials he uses are truths, or knowledges of truth, from the Word – that is, if he is going to have his home in heaven. But the stability of the house depends on the foundation upon which he builds. A wise man builds on the rock. In the Word a “rock” is the symbol of Divine truth, and, in the highest sense, of the Lord Himself, for He is the Divine truth itself – the stone which the builders rejected, but which, in the New Church, is to become the head of the corner. The “rock” that the wise man builds his house on is the acknowledgment of the Lord’s Divine Humanity – the acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is God, the one and only God of heaven and earth. Jesus declared, after His resurrection: “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).
That this acknowledgment is the rock foundation of true Christianity is clear from the sixteenth chapter of Matthew. The Lord asked His disciples: “‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ And they said, ‘Some say that You are John the Baptist; some Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them: ‘But who do you say I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”‘ (Matt. 16:13-16).
We would note that the Greek word PETROS is used in this passage, both for “Peter” and for “rock.’ This makes the meaning of the Lord’s words clearer. The faith which Peter expressed and represents – a faith in the Lord’s Divine Humanity – is the rock upon which the Lord would build His church, and it is the rock upon which a wise man builds his spiritual house.
We read in Apocalypse Explained: ” The ‘rock’ upon which that house is founded signifies the Lord as to the Divine truth, or Divine truth received by the soul and the heart, that is, by faith and love; in other words, by the understanding and the will” (AE 644:24, emphasis added). The human mind consists of two parts or faculties, the will and the understanding. Neither of these alone makes the person. The character or essence of a person is according to the will or love. The person’s form or quality is according to the understanding. Although these two faculties are closely related and together should make one, nevertheless the will is the dominant of the two – “Love is the life of man” (DLW 1). When these two faculties are founded upon the Divine truth, the foundation of the mind is firm and strong, able to resist and withstand the assaults of evil desires and false thoughts.
These are what are meant by the inundating rains mentioned in our text. Water, in the Word, is usually a symbol of truth, as when the Lord spoke to the woman of Samaria about the life-giving water which He provides; if a person drinks of it, he shall never die. But it also has the opposite correspondence when it is mentioned as to its destructive potential, as in the case of the flood of Noah, and also the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. In such instances water and rain refer to falsities which inundate the mind of a person who loves evil. The floods refer to the temptations that arise as a result of the deluge of falsities – temptations in which the person overcomes or is overcome. The winds refer to subtle but powerful reasonings from falsity in favor of our latent evils.
Everyone, in the course of life, is exposed to the storms of life; that is, we undergo temptations on various planes of life: physical or mental, natural or spiritual, external or internal. If one’s house is founded on the rock; if one’s religion is based on the acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus Christ as the one and only God; if the person knows, understands and believes Divine truths and does them, then that person will survive the storms and tempests of life, and the “gates of hell shall not prevail against” him.
We are told that “‘sand’ signifies Divine truth received only in the memory, and somewhat … in the thought, and this in a scattered and disconnected way, because intermixed with falsities” (AE 644:24). Love, we know, is a bond; it is a strong uniting force that draws and welds together. When the truths of the Word are done, they are implanted in love, and love draws them together and welds them into one – they become firm and strong like rock. But when truths are learned, even understood, but are not done, then they are not implanted in the will or in the love. They are not drawn together and welded into one. They remain fragmentary; they get mixed with false ideas and lose their properties of cohesion. They become loose and shifting like sand.
A house, or a mind, which is built on such a foundation cannot withstand the trials and tempests of life. When false principles and ideas attack it, the loose and disconnected truths begin to separate and move. When strong temptations arise -when floods assail -they are washed away. And when the powerful winds of human reasoning, emanating from self-interest and expediency, beat on the house it falls, for it is founded on sand.
The sole purpose of Divine revelation, or of Divine truth, is that people do it; that they establish their principles, values and their character upon it. Hearing the truth and reflecting on it with a view to understanding it is essential, for we can do only that which we know and understand. But that is only a means to an end. Truth is given to us that we may live according to it – live it day by day in the course of our lives.
There are three things that make one: affection, thought and deed. When the affections of our will are from the Lord and the thoughts of our understanding are from the Word, and these are ultimated or expressed in speech and act, then our spiritual house – our eternal abode – will stand firm and strong, and the fury of the hells will not prevail against it for it is founded upon “the rock” – the rock of Divine truth, known, understood, loved and lived. Amen.
Lessons: Jer. 7:21-29, Matt. 7:15-29, AC 9282
Arcana Coelestia 9282
“And all that I have said unto you ye shall keep.” That this signifies that the commandments, the judgments, and the statutes are to be done is evident from the signification of “all that Jehovah had said unto them” as being all things of the life, of worship, and of the civil state; for the things of life were called “commandments,” those of worship were called “statutes,” and those of the civil state were called “judgments” (n. 8972); and from the signification of “keeping” or serving as being to do, for by doing them they are observed. As the laws of life, of worship, and of the civil state, are not anything with a man so long as they are in his understanding only, but become something with him when they are in the will, therefore it is said in the Word throughout that they must be “done”; for doing is of the will, but knowing, understanding, acknowledging, and believing are of the understanding. These latter, however, have no being with man until they become of the will, nor do they come forth with him until they become of the understanding from the will; for the being of man is to will, and the coming forth is to acknowledge and believe therefrom. The things which have no such being and coming forth with a man are not appropriated to him but stand without, and are not as yet received into the house; and therefore they do not contribute anything to the eternal life of the man; for unless such things have been made of the life, they are dissipated in the other life, those only remaining which are of the heart, that is, of the will and from this of the understanding. This being so, it is said in the Word throughout that the commandments and the statutes must be “done,” as in uses: “Ye shall do My judgments and keep My statutes to walk therein. Ye shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man do, he shall live by them” (Lev. 17:4, 5; Matt. 5:20; 5:24-27; 16:27; John 3:21).