Theme: Jesus, the Final Authority, the Bible, His Perfect Word
This weeks lesson teaches us that no one can fool Jesus because he is God.
The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
Yesterday we discussed the three non-biblical positions on the authority of God and of Caesar. Today we discover the biblical approach to these authority figures.
4. The authority of God and Caesar but with God in the dominant position. The last option is biblical Christianity: God and Caesar, but with God in the dominant position. It was the position Jesus articulated when he said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is Gods.”
Because Christians recognize the authority of the state, they should be the very best of citizens. They should obey the state in all areas of its legitimate authority. They should obey the speed limits, pay their taxes honestly, vote in elections, support worthy civic endeavors, speak well of their rulers, and support and pray for them. Calvin expressed this well when he wrote, “We are not only subject to the authority of princes who perform their office toward us uprightly and faithfully as they ought, but also to the authority of all who, by whatever means, have got control of affairs, even though they perform not a whit of the prince’s office.”1
On the other hand, Christians should also be the very best of citizens by opposing the state verbally and even by acts of non-compliance whenever the government strays from its legitimate God-given function or violates the moral law of God. We are to do this chiefly by words, that is, by rational argument, not by coercive power. The power of the sword is the state’s, not ours. However, we must resist and even disobey the state when necessary. This is necessary if the state forbids us to evangelize, for instance, since the command to evangelize has been given to us by Jesus Christ himself. It is also necessary in matters of morality, if the state should command us to do something contrary to the revealed law of God.
Once Jesus addressed the first question, he was approached with a second. The second question was put to Jesus by the Sadducees, the theological liberals of the day, and the significance of their question is that they did not believe in the resurrection. In fact, they were the materialists of their time and did not believe in any spiritual reality. Acts 23:8 reports that they believed neither in the resurrection, nor angels nor spirits. They were rationalists, and their question here was based on what they judged to be the logical absurdity of the Pharisees’ resurrection doctrines, which they assumed Jesus held. Jesus was known to be conservative in his handling of the Scriptures.
They proposed a hypothetical situation in which a woman had been married to seven men, having been left a widow six times by the untimely death of the previous husbands. “Now then,” they said, “at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her” (v. 28). How clever they thought they were. She couldn’t belong to all of them; and since she could not, there obviously could be no resurrection.
Jesus silenced them with a double rebuke: 1) they did not know the Scriptures or 2) the power of God. Then he quoted from Exodus 3:6: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Jesus probably answered with this verse because it is from the Pentateuch and the Sadducees valued the Pentateuch more than they did the other Scriptures. It is why they began their interrogation by a reference to the teaching of Moses about such other brother marriages. Jesus was replying on their terms, referring to the Scriptures they accepted and showing that even in them a doctrine of the afterlife is asserted.
Jesus explained that this verse taught that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive (Luke 20:38). He meant that by the time these words were spoken to Moses, the three great Hebrew patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) had long since died. Yet God referred to his relationship to them in the present tense, indicating that they must even then be alive in heaven. Jesus refuted the Sadducees by the tense of a single Hebrew verb. Because they did not know the Scriptures and failed to appreciate Gods power they had mistakenly rejected this doctrine as well as other Bible teachings.
1 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), p. 1512.
Should we pray for leaders who are not Christians?
When and how should Christians speak up against the government?
What issues today oppose God’s moral law? How do you respond? Prayer