The Two Builders
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Public Domain
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THE TWO BUILDERS
“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” (Mat 7:24-27).
Our present passage is intimately related to what was before us in Matthew 7:13-14. Ere considering its details, let me summarize what we took up last night, amplifying a little some of the principal points. All mankind are travellers, journeying to a future destiny. But the great majority conduct themselves as though they will live on and on, forever in this world. The “ways” in which they walk are many and varied, but all may be reduced to two—the narrow way, which “leadeth unto life,” and the broad road, which “leadeth to destruction.” The latter has everything to commend itself to the nature of fallen man. It exactly suits his depraved inclinations, all the desires of his soul lying in that direction. It is easy to enter, for it has a “wide gate.” There is no lack of company, for the vast majority both of the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate, are found therein. Thus, those who are on the broad road have the majority on their side, and with most people, that is a great matter. But the “end thereof are the ways of death” (Pro 14:12).
Now, the narrow way is exceedingly hard and disagreeable to the flesh. Great difficulty attends the entrance upon it, for to “enter” it, all idols must be given up without a single reserve, and that is terribly hard work to a corrupt heart. But self has to be “denied,” the “cross” taken up, and Christ “followed,” if heaven is to be reached. Such a task is likened to the “cutting off” of a right hand, and the “plucking out” of a right eye (Mat 5:29-30). Great difficulty attends our progress along the narrow way. There will be fierce opposition from the world, particularly from the religious world. Professing Christians will be all the time tempting you to compromise, and Satan will tell you that they are not strictly conforming their lives to the commands and precepts of Scripture, so why should you? So, too, there will be sore temptations from within—deceit in the heart, which loves to call the sweet “bitter,” light “darkness,” liberty “bondage and legality.” Moreover, you will have very little company. You will meet with scarcely any that encourage you to live as a “stranger and pilgrim” in this world, few who make it the one business of their lives to please God.
Not only does great difficulty attend the entrance upon and continuance in this narrow way, but especially does great difficulty attend our enduring to the end along this path and winning through to heaven. Many make a start. Some go on for quite a distance, but only a fractional minority persevere in practical godliness and actually overcome the flesh, the world, and the devil. Let me prove this to you from Scripture. Of old, God said, “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away” (Hos 6:4). How accurately and how solemnly, do these words describe many whom we knew some years ago!
“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth [lasteth] for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Mat 13:20-21). This passage finds its fulfillment in the large number of those who “make a profession,” who claim to have “accepted Christ as their personal Saviour,” and whose beaming countenances and joyous words seem to show that they have been saved. But alas, all is not gold that glitters. The sequel is disappointing. They do not wear. When the time of testing arrives, they are “weighed in the balances and found wanting.”
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (Joh 6:66). The words, “no more,” clearly show that these disciples had once “walked” outwardly with Christ. That is, they had taken their place among those who profess to be His followers. But now, they were offended, and so deserted His cause. Nor were they ever recovered from their backsliding. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2Ti 4:10). Here was one who had, for a brief season, companied with the apostle Paul. But the self-denying discipline which this demanded was too much for him, and the allurements of the world proved too strong and attractive. What force do these Scriptures give to that pointed exhortation, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb 4:11)!
Yes, my friends, this narrow way which leads to heaven is difficult, and those who tell you that the saving of the soul is an easy and simple matter are “false prophets” (Mat 7:15), deceivers (2Ti 3:13), blind leaders of the blind. The narrow way is difficult to enter, difficult to tread, difficult to follow unto the end. It is a “fight” (1Ti 6:12). That is why the question is asked, “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1Pe 4:18).That is why Christ declared, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mat 19:24). This it is which supplies the key to Luke 14:26-33, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it?…Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able…So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
Let me now refer you to other passages wherein this same narrow way which “leadeth unto life” is referred to under various names or titles. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment” (Gen 18:19). “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way” (Exo 13:21). “They have turned aside quickly out of the way” (Exo 32:8). “That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD” (Jdg 2:22). “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way” (1Sa 12:23). “And he forsook the LORD God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the LORD” (2Ki 21:22). “Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face” (Psa 5:8). “The meek will he teach his way” (Psa 25:9). “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD” (Psa 119:1). “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Psa 119:32). “I have taught thee in the way of wisdom” (Pro 4:11). “I lead in the way of righteousness” (Pro 8:20). “He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction” (Pro 10:17). “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it” (Isa 35:8). “Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD” (Jer 5:4). “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk therein’” (Jer 6:16). “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of…Which have forsaken the right way…For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2Pe 2:2, 15, 21). All of these passages refer to the same narrow “way.”
Now, let us turn to Matthew 7:24-27 (carefully comparing Luke 6:47-49), which records Christ’s concluding words in His Sermon on the Mount. This passage suggests four questions. First, whom do the two “builders” represent? Second, what is the “house” here a figure of? Third, exactly what is denoted by the “foundation”? Fourth, what is pictured by the “rain, floods, and winds”?
I. The Two Builders
The two builders represent two classes of professing Christians, one of which are “wise,” the other “foolish.” Hence, they correspond with the “wise” and “foolish” virgins of Matthew 25. While in the case of the two groups of “virgins,” there was a real and vital difference between them, yet outwardly and in a superficial way, they had not a little in common. All went forth to “meet the Bridegroom,” all posed as “virgins,” all carried in their hands the “lamp” of profession. That wherein they differed was not apparent till the time of testing came. The foolish had “no oil” in their vessels—no supernatural work of the Spirit had been wrought in their hearts. So it is here. The two builders had three things in common.
First, each of them was alike impressed with the need of erecting a building. What, then, is signified by the “house” here? If we attend to all the details of the passage, there should be no difficulty in interpreting this figure aright. The “house” here denotes a shelter, a shelter from the approaching storm, or in other words, a refuge from the wrath to come. Thus, both of these men represent to us those who had been impressed of their need of a Saviour.
Second, each of them was alike resolved to set about the obtaining of that which they felt they needed. Neither of them procrastinated, nor neglected their welfare. In this respect, both of them were very different from the great crowds of sinners who read or listen to the preaching of God’s Word without any personal concern. Each of these men went to work, or made it their aim to get saved, for that is what the building of the house against the coming storm sets forth.
Third, each of them finished his house, and apparently was quite satisfied that a secure refuge had been obtained. This it is which is so very solemn and searching in our passage. There is a large class of people in Christendom today, who have been alarmed by thoughts of eternal punishment, and who suppose that they have fled to Christ for refuge, but who are sadly mistaken. “The Lord is far from the wicked” (Pro 15:29), and can only be approached as our hearts repudiate and turn with loathing away from all that is abhorrent to Him. But this is what the vast majority will not do. They continue to hug their idols and please the flesh until they land in hell. Here, all in common between the two builders ends. Let us now ponder some contrasts.
II. The Two Buildings
1. The second one built his “house” much more quickly than did the first. Perhaps you ask, “What ground have I for saying so?” The answer is very simple. The second man did no labourious digging, for he merely erected his house upon the sand. Thus, he clearly represents those sinners who get saved easily (without much trouble), or think they do—they will yet discover that that “salvation,” which they got so cheaply, is worth nothing! O my friends, those preachers who are telling people that all they have to do is consent to God’s verdict that they are lost sinners, and then accept Christ as their personal Saviour, are chloroforming thousands into hell. Yes, that is plain speaking, but our degenerate and apostate age calls for it.
2. Thus, the second man built his “house” with far less trouble than did the first, of whom it is said that he “digged deep” (Luk 6:48). I have no doubt that the one who erected his building on the sand considered his neighbor very foolish to toil and sweat as he did. Probably he prided himself on the ease with which his house went up. In like manner, there are many complacent persons in Christendom today who look down with disdain on those who are deeply distressed as to whether or no they have sinned beyond the possibility of divine forgiveness, and who find that to “forsake all” for Christ is the hardest thing in the world. Yes, there are those who despise the few who are giving diligence to make their “calling and election sure” (2Pe 1:10), being too dilatory to “prove their own selves” (2Co 13:5), and to take thorough pains to examine whether their repentance is genuine, and their faith that of “God’s elect” (Ti 1:1).
3. But though the second man got through his task much more quickly and easily than the other one, yet his “house” had no real and solid foundation to rest upon! The plough of the law had never done its work in his conscience. His heart had never been changed and renewed. He had a theoretical knowledge of the truth, but no deep, inward acquaintance with it, no experience of its transforming power.
4. Let us now look at the other builder, who digged deep and founded his house on the rock. Whom does he represent? The Lord Himself has here told us, “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine [in the Sermon on the Mount], and doeth them” (Mat 7:24). It is the man who (by divine grace—diligently sought) conforms his whole inner and outer life to the teachings of Christ, whose whole character was formed and whose entire conduct is regulated by them. Such a one has a Scriptural ground upon which to base his hope, and none others have. The truly saved man is the converted one, who has undergone a complete round-about-face. Who is no longer “conformed to this world,” but who has been “transformed by the renewing of his mind” (Rom 12:2).
III. The Two Buildings Tested
Whether your profession be genuine or no, it will be tested. Whether it be wheat or chaff, the fan of the great Winnower will surely be brought into operation upon all that lies on His threshing floor. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God [the sphere of Christian profession]; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1Pe 4:17). This “judgment” or testing is twofold, as is the meaning of the storm which beat upon the “house”—in this life, and also in the Day to come. In our present passage, the testing is of a threefold character.
1. “The rain descended” (Mat 7:25) from heaven. Here, we have a figure of afflictions from God. The Lord sends trials and tribulations so as to test us out. He has various ways of proving people—disappointments, sorrows, thwarting our plans, sickness, financial losses, the death of loved ones. The response of the heart, the manner in which we act in times of adversity, reveals our true state. If unregenerate, we are unable to bear up under the afflictions of divine providence. If we have no genuine faith, our unbelieving heart will betray itself by acting as the worldling does—seeking to drown the sorrow in fleshly pleasures, or sinking in despair.
2. “The floods came,” (Mat 7:25) or as Luke 6:48 says, “The flood arose.” Thus, it is a thing of the earth which is here in view, namely, opposition from the world. These also soon test the professor, and show whether or no his claim to being a Christian is genuine. That opposition from the world assumes many forms. Sometimes, it is ridicule—and how often have the gibes and sneers of the godless tumbled down the “house” of those who made a fair show in the flesh! In other cases, it is reproach and slander, unfair boycotting, open persecution. Only those who have “digged deep,” and have a rock foundation, will bear up under them. Not that the ones exposed always drop their Christian profession entirely. Far from it! Often they retain the name, but, to escape the “reproach of Christ,” hide their light under a bushel.
3. “And the winds blew and beat upon that house” (Mat 7:25). Here it is the Prince of the power of the air who is at work. In other words, it is the power of Satan testing the one who claims to have been saved. He employs many tactics. Alluring baits, subtle temptations, as well as fierce attacks, are used by him. He beguiles with error, and only those who are established in the truth can withstand him. He attracts by the world, and only they whose “treasure” is in heaven scorn his guilded baubles. He suggests a compromise, the serving of two masters, and only those who have truly “received Christ Jesus the Lord” (Col 2:6) resist him.
4. “And it fell, and great was the fall thereof” (Mat 7:27). It was erected on the “sand,” which will bear no weight. The “sand” here stands not only for false doctrinal views (trusting in our own doings to earn heaven thereby), but also for a false basis of hope, a false ground of confidence. There is no other way of being saved from sin and self except by repenting and being converted. Nothing short of a complete surrender of the heart and life to Christ’s authority, speaking in His Word, will ensure any soul’s reaching heaven. If we are strangers to the transforming power of Christ’s teachings, we shall eternally perish.
Ere closing, let me anticipate and honestly meet a plain question. Then, does this passage teach salvation by works? Yes, and No! Yes, in the sense that none will enter heaven without good works to their account. Genuine Christians are a people whom God has “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph 2:10). When speaking of the resurrection, Christ declared, “And shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (Joh 5:29). But, No, in the sense that any of our works are the meritorious cause of salvation.
The worthiness and work of Christ alone entitles any sinner to the inheritance of the saints in light. Nevertheless, none can scripturally furnish evidence that they possess that title, save those who are “zealous of good works” (Ti 2:14). “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is DEAD” (Jam 2:20).
The above is an address delivered by the editor in Glenolden on September 29, 1931.