Luke 6:46–49

How can we dare to address Jesus as Lord if we aren’t submitting to His commands? Today, R.C. Sproul continues his expositional series in the gospel of Luke, imploring us to build our lives on obedience to the teaching of Christ.


In my judgment, the scariest text in the New Testament is at the end of Matthew 7, where Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount. Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount is not nearly as expansive as Matthew’s version. Even though Luke’s conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount is much shorter, he includes some of the scary stuff that Jesus said in Matthew. This morning, we will look at Luke 6:46-49:

But why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.

In this brief parable, Jesus warns us of the calamity that will surely come if our lives are not built on a proper foundation. These are His words, not mine. They come to us through the superintendence and inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, carrying the full weight and authority of God Himself. Receive it as such. Let us pray.

O Lord, once again we implore You to help us hear what our Lord has spoken because, by our fallen nature, our ears are plugged, and our hearts are unwilling to hear His Word. Open our ears, minds, and hearts to this Word, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Scariest Passage in the New Testament

In Luke’s version of the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, he recalls that Jesus asked the question, “But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not to do the things which I say?” We are focusing on the problem of making a profession of faith in Christ that is not true.

Let me go back for a moment to the fuller version that we find in Matthew 7. Before Jesus introduced the parable of the foundation on the rock, He said:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21–23)

Jesus is addressed in an unusual way in this passage. He said that many will come to Him, presumably on the day of judgment, and will not only call Him Lord but repeat the title: “Lord, Lord!” There are about fifteen references in Scripture that include the colloquial form of addressing a person by repeating their name. For example, Abram, Abraham; Moses, Moses; Absalom, Absalom; Martha, Martha; and Saul, Saul. I raise this point to illustrate that the phenomenon before us is one where a person is not only claiming to be an acquaintance of whom he is addressing but an intimate friend.

Jesus was saying that the people who will come and call Him “Lord, Lord” are not claiming a passing acquaintance with Jesus. It will be as though they are saying: “I have a deep, personal affection for You, Jesus. I know You intimately, and I have taken You as my Savior.” Jesus, however, will say to them: “I do not know you. You say that you went to church, that you were pastors, missionaries, members of the session, deacons, and tithers, but I do not know you. Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.” Do you see why I call this the scariest passage in the New Testament? Jesus was talking about church members, people who have made a public profession of faith in Him and claim to know Him. In the final analysis, the question will not be, “Do you know Jesus?” but “Does he know you?” Jesus said that judgment is coming for those who honor Him with their lips while their hearts are far from Him.

Jesus would later say to His disciples, “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The test for good fruit is obedience. Anyone can say that they love Jesus, but the proof of the pudding is obedience. In effect, Jesus was saying, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. But if you do not keep My commandments, you are workers of lawlessness and disobedience.”

Luke put Jesus’ words in question form: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things I say?” When you say “Lord,” you are effectively saying, “You are my authority. I submit to Your Kingship. I acknowledge that You are sovereign over me and that I am obligated to do whatever you command me.” So, Jesus said, “Why do you say that I am your Lord when you do not do what I tell you?” He followed up that question with a brief parable about a building.

How To Withstand Rushing Water

Jesus continued, “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like.” The Greek language distinguishes between the verb “to hear” (akouō) and the verb “to obey” (hypakouō), which we would call “hyper hearing” in English. The difference between hearing and obeying is hearing and really hearing. Jesus was effectively saying: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear because if you can really hear Me, you will obey. The person who comes to Me and really hears Me, he will not only hear My sayings, but he will do them. I will show you what that person is like.”

Picking up the narrative in Luke 6:48: “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.”

If you are familiar with Israel’s topography, you will know that it is substantially desert. What you find throughout Palestine are an innumerable number of wadis. A wadi is a dry gulch similar to what they call an “arroyo” in the American West, an empty creek bed that is filled with water when it rains, which is an extraordinary circumstance in that part of the world. There are two rainy systems in Israel: the former rains and the latter rains. For most of the year, however, there is little to no rainfall, as the arid desert conditions prevail. When it rains hard, all the water drains into the wadis, and the streams become like mini tsunamis that rush, to quote Jesus, “vehemently.” The power of the water coming down the wadi is something you do not want to get caught in because it destroys everything in its path.

Jesus was saying: “I will show you what it is like for the one who hears My words and obeys them. He is like a man who builds a house but takes care before he builds this elegant structure to dig deep to the level of rock. When he hits the rock, he builds his foundation. On top of that solid foundation, the house is built.” If you build a house like that, it will withstand the wadi’s rushing water when it comes and vehemently beats against the house. It will remain intact and secure.

If the Foundation Is Shaken, the Building Cannot Stand

Picking up the narrative, Jesus said, “But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” Do you see the contrast? The second house may be palatial in its grandeur, but it is built on sand and does not have a firm foundation. It looks beautiful for a season until the floodwaters come and beat vehemently against it. Does the house begin to creak, lean, or lose a few shingles? No, as soon as the flood hits, the house instantly topples. It has no strength to withstand the negative forces, so it crumbles. Jesus said, “The ruin of that house was great.”

We see the building metaphor of foundations throughout sacred Scripture. In Psalms 11:3, we read, “If the foundations are shaken, how can the righteous live?” If the foundations are shaken, how can the buildings stand?

During the early seventies, I lived in Cincinnati and worked at a church. Every year we had “preaching missions” where we brought in guest speakers from different parts of the country to lead a series of evangelistic meetings. On this occasion, the speaker was the pastor of a large church in Southern California, in Glendale. He stayed at our house, and on the final night of the preaching mission, we had a very heavy snowfall. It was my job to get him safely to the airport, which I was able to do by the grace of God. We put him on the plane to go back home. While the plane was in the air, a terrible earthquake shook Los Angeles, and the epicenter was very close to Glendale. When he arrived in Glendale, he saw destruction and havoc everywhere. He was greatly relieved, however, that his church was still standing and that there wasn’t any apparent damage, not a window was broken. Everything was fine until they examined the foundation and saw that, during the earthquake, the church’s structure had moved a few inches from the foundation. They were not allowed to continue services in that church, proving the adage that if the foundation is shaken, the building cannot stand.

The Foundation of the Church

We frequently hear that Jesus is the foundation of the church. “The church’s one foundation,” we sing, “is Jesus Christ her Lord,” but that’s not exactly how Scripture describes it. Instead, we are told that no foundation can be laid except in Christ Jesus. The general image of Jesus is not that He is the foundation but that the foundation is laid in Him. He is the chief cornerstone. The stone that the builders rejected, we are told, has become the chief cornerstone of the church.

What is the foundation of the church? According to Scripture, the church is founded on the prophets and the Apostles. Let me show you how that works in sacred Scripture. In Acts 2:42, after three thousand people had been added to the church, we read, “And they continued steadfastly.” In what? “In the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” This verse is a glimpse of life in the primitive Christian church in Jerusalem after Pentecost. The people of God gathered on Sunday, and they steadfastly continued in the Apostles’ doctrine. What does that mean? At the heart of the early church’s gathering on the Lord’s Day was a devout attending to the preaching of God’s Word. Beloved, the study of Apostolic doctrine is the study of God’s Word because you find the Apostolic doctrine in sacred Scripture. If the Apostles and the prophets are the foundation of the church, then that foundation is in sacred Scripture.

Let me give you one more example. At the end of the New Testament, in Revelation 21, we read of the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven. John was shown the great city, the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, bearing His glory. Its light was like a most precious stone, a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a high wall with twelve gates, twelve angels, and names written on them. In Revelation 21:14, we read, “Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” In the city of God, the foundation is built on the Apostles, which is why the early church devoted itself to studying the doctrines of the Apostles.

We attend church to be instructed by the Apostolic Word. If we are going to live as faithful Christians, we must be rooted and grounded in the Apostolic Word. To be grounded in the Word of God is to dig the foundation of your life down to the bedrock where you take that Word and embrace it. You are able to stand against anything the world, the flesh, and the devil throws at you. If you do not have a foundation in the Apostolic Word, you are building your house on sand, and when the storm comes, you will experience ruin.

Is Your Faith Authentic?

Let’s move on to the application of what Jesus is teaching in this text. This is the time when I ask you to finish the sermon for yourself by searching your own heart and soul to ask yourself these questions: What am I building in my life? Even more importantly, What am I building on? Am I building a house of cards or a life rooted and grounded in Christ and His Word, submitting myself to His authority? I am asking you to answer that question for yourself.

If you are a professing Christian, you may be tempted to say: “Of course, I am building my life on Christ. I have a strong foundation. Here’s how I know: my good fruit and obedience.” We are known, however, by our fruits, not verbal professions. What we do will not get us into the kingdom of God. Only trust in Christ can get you there. The true test of whether your trust is real, your faith sincere, and your justification authentic is in your fruit—your obedience or lack of it.

In the United States, over 95% of people say they believe in God. In my opinion, this nation embraces hypothetical theism, and yet, practically speaking, we live as if there is no God. If you found out tonight that there is no God, how would your life change? Are you one of those people who hypothetically affirms the existence of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ, but for all practical purposes, you live as if there is no God? That is how a lawless person lives. There is no fear of God in them. They do not care what comes out of their mouth or if they keep their promises, because their house is built on sand. But if you build your house on the Word of God and Jesus Christ, the Everlasting Rock, even a tsunami cannot ruin your life. Let’s pray.

Father, thank You for giving us in your Word a foundation so firm that it establishes Your people now and forever. Amen.

This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.