Sermon Notes

The Authority of the Word


  •  Today’s sermon is a conclusion of sorts after a year-long journey of studying the Sermon on the Mount.
    And after this long and powerful sermon, the apostle Matthew has this concluding remark about this great sermon, in verses 28-29,
    28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. There is fruit under the branches of these two verses that I think it wise for us to linger one more week in this chapter before we move on to the next.
  •  I have titled this sermon – the authority of the Word, and I intend that title to carry the double meaning of Christ’s authority and the authority of Holy Scripture. I wish to remind us what it means when we say that God’s word is the standard and authority of Christian life, and point to how we are to respond to the authority of this book in our lives. In these past few weeks, we have seen that there are many who call Christ, “LORD”, but don’t have the faintest idea of what that means.
    And therefore, I call your attention, brothers and sisters, to the diving authority of the Word. In a church like ours, where we strive to keep the centrality of the Word in all that we do, we stand the danger of foolish comparison. That we may rightly look across the spectrum of the Christian world around us and see the wisdom in many things that we do, and yet be foolish to boast in our strengths as though we’ve already reached the shores of some unshakable devotion.
    You see, it is important for us too, to remind ourselves of why the word of God is the sole authority and standard of all Christian faith and practice.
  • And with that thought in mind, let me bring your attention to the big picture of what’s happening here in Matthew’s narrative.

    God, the Son, has spoken to the people in no uncertain terms about what it means to be a citizen of His kingdom, what it means to be a Christian. And now we read the response of the people.



  • v28 – And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
    • [these sayings – lógos – the word of God]
      In the sight of all the Jews in Galilee, the Rabbi just gave His formal address.

      • Now, you must consider the heritage of the people witnessing this sermon. When God’s presence guarded them day and night as they journeyed the wilderness from Egypt, they would not keep His word.
        Over the centuries, no matter how many wars they won by the powerful hand of the Lord, they still ended up rejecting His ways.
        God gave them Kings and prophets, acclaim and prosperity, safety and security, and signs and wonders, and they still were stiff-necked people. Jesus laments over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37-38 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate.”Here were people who were serial law-breakers. That is their hypocrisy, they would break the law in the name of the law.
        When they refused to listen to God’s word spoken by the mouth of prophets or the words written on the scrolls of Scripture, God sent His Son to make known to us His divine oracles.
        John 1:17-18 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

        • Haven’t you wondered why we refer to Jesus as the incarnate ‘Word of God‘? Do you know that this phrase is used of Jesus only by John, the Apostle? In John 1:1, John 1:14, and Revelation 19:13He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. Although Scripture does not explicitly give us the reason for calling Jesus the word, it is made plain to us throughout the NT. Jesus is considered the very personification of God’s word. In a sinful world that is disloyal to God’s word, what can be more righteous and blameless than the word itself? Certainly, none are able to perfectly meet the standards of the law, that the only perfect keeper of the law is the law itself. But the Son of God came to be like us and yet entirely unlike us in that He was perfectly righteous and blameless – it was as though the very word of God had come alive. Just as the Bible could never contradict itself, so Christ never contradicted the word. So, we read in this very same sermon on the Mount, out of the mouth of Jesus Himself. Matthew 5:16-18 – 17  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
        • Now, at the same time, to me, this speaks volumes about the nature of this book we call the Bible. The words of truth captured in these pages, every part of it, is held together not by logic and rationality, but by its unity or belonging to the triune God. Logic and rationality are not the substance that unites this book to God’s purpose, but rather it is God’s divine decree that makes this book logical and rational. What does that mean? That we must never evaluate the Bible based on any standard, philosophical or experiential, natural or supernatural, foreign or domestic; that nothing under the sun, or beyond the darkness where its light does not reach, is able to be a standard unto the Bible. For, God alone is the standard of all righteousness and His book meets the qualification. Instead, we are to evaluate all of life, and base all of life on the standard of this word. And just as John uses this phrase ‘the word of God’ to explicitly unite Jesus to the written word, so does the author of Hebrews talk about the power of the word in such a way as to unite it to God’s divine function. Hebrews 4:12“12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”Listen to God’s own description of His word,
          Isaiah 55:11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but sit shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
        • And Christ is not referred to as the word simply because He kept the word perfectly but because He was God, and anything He therefore spoke was, by definition, the very word of God. The written word would speak God’s words through its pages, and Jesus would speak God’s words by speaking for He was God since the beginning.
      • Beloved, what we are dealing with here in this text is the reality that when God’s word was disregarded in every form by the people, God Himself came down to address them directly, and still, they did not believe Him.
        Brothers, sisters, do we?
        Matthew 21:33-4133 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and released it to tenants, and went into another country.
        34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
        40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
    • for he was teaching them as one who had authority
      • Does it now surprise us that Jesus spoke with authority? Of course, none could speak and ever will speak with that kind of authority. He did not borrow authority from the word, He was, and is, one with the word in authority. He is the author of the word. The best that a scribe or a pharisee could do, or even the better than a preacher today can do as compared to them, all falls shamefully short of the kind of authority with which the Son of God spoke. When Jesus preached, it was the very word of God in display, the word personified. There was no exegetical misstep, revelatory confusion, or interpretative discrepancy in Jesus’ preaching. It was divine, and it was perfect.
      • Do you see now the nature of this authority that was at display for the people under that mountain hearing this sermon?
      • When we observe the authority of God’s word, whether written or incarnate, they are not separate though they are distinguished. You cannot draw closer to Jesus without drawing closer to the Bible, and you cannot draw closer to the Bible without drawing closer to Jesus. That is what Sola Scripture fundamentally means – that Scripture Alone is the tangible extension of God’s divine authority. That there is no other foundation upon which the Christian life can be lived.
    • and not as their scribes.
      • I find the use of the determiner ‘their’ important. These are not just any scribes, these are their scribes.
        As human tendency goes, we all like to think of our own in the highest regard. And to each Jewish person there, they knew many scribes that they found to be leading scholars of the word in their time, and yet not one could talk like Rabbi Jesus.
      • But I also wonder if the use of the word ‘their’ is in any way indicative of how Matthew felt about the situation.
        A note on the author
        If you remember, when we began our study of this Gospel narrative, I spoke about the author of this book, the apostle Matthew. Understanding his situation helps us a lot to understand many of his emphasis in the Gospel account.
        Among all the apostles that walked with Jesus, none would have had a more acute sense of their own inadequacy as Matthew did – for he was the former traitor among them, a tax collector – the worst kind of people in the Jewish eyes. He would not have been allowed in the synagogue or the temple. An outcast who would have been able to sit under the teaching of his time, and yet Matthew quotes the OT more than all the other Gospel authors combined. And so, in a way, these were not his scribes or the scribes. These were their scribes. The best of their preachers did not speak like this man.
    • And now, we observe the people’s response to this great sermon, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority.

      • The mic-drop moment, the sermon is done, and the people are stunned. What they heard has shocked them out of their senses. Such authoritative preaching they had never heard before. Maybe they applauded or gasped out loud at the end. But the people weren’t unaffected, they were certainly rocked. Astonished. Jesus, the incarnate word of God, proclaimed the truth from the throne of that mountain, and the people were astonished? Wait a minute, they were astonished? Why weren’t they weeping? Was anyone heartbroken? Who were the ones repenting?
        Everything about this sermon has exposed the people and laid them bare under the wrath of God’s judgment lest they cry out for mercy. Throughout the sermon, they were not on the side of the righteous, but of the wicked. Astonished?
        Like in Matthew 13:5454 land coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him.Or, Matthew 19:24-2524 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”Every time Matthew uses this word to describe the people’s response, it is not a response of faithfulness or repentance, but a mixed response of wonder, confusion, doubt, and offense, as they were all astonished.
    • Now, surely there would have been some who believed, but Jesus did just tell them that only a few would find the narrow gate. That the many would gladly tread down the broad road to destruction.