“The God of the Living”
“Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.” (Mark 12:18-27)
In this portion of Scripture we have the Sadducees’ attempt to entrap our Lord Jesus. Earlier in the day the Pharisees and Herodians tried to catch him in his words. Here the Sadducees try to do the same thing.
The Sadducees were the smallest, but by far the most wealthy and influential of the Jewish sects. They were the aristocrats of Judaism, and for the most part controlled the priesthood and the temple. Though that was the case, the Sadducees were not commonly respected by the people. They, supposing themselves to be smarter than God, denied the resurrection. They were the most liberal sect of the Jews. They were religious; but their religion was the religion of infidelity.
It was their infidelity regarding the resurrection of the dead which made the Sadducees and Pharisees bitter enemies, much like the liberals and the conservatives of any religious denomination today.
But when the Lord Jesus came to Jerusalem, exerting his rightful claims and sovereign power as the Son of God, the Messiah, drove the money changers from the temple, and began to disrupt their religious order, demanding that God be worshipped as God in his house, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, along with all the other religious groups, joined forces against him.
“How could this happen?” you might ask. How could religious people with such strong doctrinal and ceremonial differences at once unite in opposition to the Son of God? The answer is obvious. They really believed the same thing essentially. The Pharisees, the Herodians, the Sadducees, the Essenes, the Zealots, and the Scribes all held to the idolatrous, pagan notion that salvation was in some way dependent upon and determined by man’s will, works, and worth. Whereas, the Lord Jesus plainly declared that salvation is the work of God’s free and sovereign grace alone.
God’s church and God’s servants today must not expect things to be any different. Those who despise the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, though they may be bitter enemies, will unite like beloved brethren to oppose the gospel of Christ. We must always expect and be prepared for the assaults and deceitful slanders of infidels, Arminians and workmongers who wear the badge of Christianity. As the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes in this chapter united in their opposition to Christ, the whole religious world unites and speaks as one voice in its opposition to the gospel of Christ today. As we consider the ludicrous question of the Sadducees and the answer our Master gave them, four things stand out as matters of great importance.
First, these Sadducees stand before us as glaring examples of religious infidelity. The vast majority of people in this world who profess the name of Christianity, including the most powerful and most influential religious leaders of it, are real infidels. Their religion is a matter of convenience, not conviction. It is, for the most part, a religion which holds the Word of God, the truth of God, the gospel of God, the will of God and the glory of God in utter contempt, just like these Sadducees.
These Sadducees laughed at the doctrine of the resurrection. They were the “freethinkers” of their day. They thought themselves too smart, too educated, too enlightened to believe such religious sentiments. The question they posed to the Lord Jesus illustrates their arrogance.
“Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife”(vv. 18-23).
The Sadducees’ pretended to reverence the Lord Jesus, calling him, “Master.” They pretended to reverence the Word of God, referring to that which “Moses wrote.” And they pretended to have a genuine concern for the teaching of Holy Scripture, asking the Lord Jesus, if seven brothers were married to the same woman, “In the resurrection whose wife shall she be?”
They presented their question as though it were a factual thing, as though they were really interested in knowing the answer. Any statistician will tell you that you would have a far greater chance of winning the lottery than of this actually happening. The only thing these men were interested in was raising a question, which they were confident the Master could not answer.
We will be wise to mark the things recorded here and learn from them not to allow modern religious infidels to entrap us. When carping religious infidels want to argue with you, just ignore them. Give them plain statements of Scripture, and leave them alone. If you get into a hissing contest with a snake, you are going to lose. Such people always try to press difficult and abstruse points of doctrine. They always act in dishonesty. And they always deserve contempt.
Yet, it is delightful to see that our blessed Savior causes even the wrath of men to serve his glory and his people (Psalm 76:10). With that as his purpose, he graciously seized the opportunity to the comfort of his elect, both by establishing the doctrine of the resurrection and by declaring that in the resurrection all earthly relationships will be dissolved. In the resurrection body, in immortality, we will have no need of those things that are necessary to sustain our mortal bodies on earth, or to gratify the needs of mortality. And there will be nothing to divide the affections of one from another. We shall be perfectly one in Christ (John 17:22-23).
Second, our Savior shows us that people may be very religious and very highly educated, as the Sadducees were, and still be completely engulfed in spiritual darkness and ignorance. — “And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?” (v. 24). Those men did not believe in the resurrection of the dead because they did not know the teaching of Holy Scripture and did not know the power of God.
I do not doubt for a moment that they knew the letter of the Scriptures. No doubt, they could quote huge passages of the Bible from memory. I do not doubt that they were very keenly aware of the historic events and chronological order of things recorded in the Scriptures. They knew the history of Israel, and even knew what the prophecies of the Old Testament said. But they had absolutely no knowledge of the meaning and message of Holy Scripture. Their understanding was nothing but the understanding of carnal reason and religious tradition.
Do you understand the message of Scripture? The Book of God is all about Christ. The message of the Bible is the gospel of Christ (Luke 24:27, 32, 44-45; John 5:39; 1 Peter 1:23-25). Spiritual knowledge is not merely doctrinal knowledge, creedal knowledge, logical knowledge, and factual knowledge. Spiritual knowledge is the revealed knowledge of a Person, and that Person is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The resurrection is more than a doctrine. It is a person (John 11:25). You cannot know the Person without knowing the doctrine; but you certainly may know the doctrine without knowing the Person. Christ is our resurrection and our life. He is our Resurrection and Life representatively in redemption (Ephesians 2:4-6). He is our Resurrection and our Life experimentally in regeneration (John 5:25; Revelation 20:6; Colossians 3:1-3). And the Lord Jesus Christ is our Resurrection and our Life prospectively in the last day (Colossians 3:4).
The truth of God, the gospel of his grace, is much more than doctrinal, historical facts. Christ himself is the gospel. The gospel is a Person (John 14:6). Without question, this Person is revealed and made known to us and in us in the context of revealed, doctrinal truth. But life and salvation comes by knowing God himself in the person of our all glorious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God (John 17:3). Salvation is not merely knowing about Christ. Salvation is knowing Christ as my God, my Surety, my Substitute, my King, my Priest, my Prophet and my Savior!
The Power Of God
Spiritual ignorance, doctrinal error, and heresy of every kind, according to this statement by our Savior, must be traced to ignorance of the power of God. I take that to mean three things. These three things you will find throughout the Scriptures are what is meant by the power of God.
The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, because they were totally ignorant of God’s sovereignty, his omnipotence and his gospel. All heresy, all spiritual ignorance must be attributed to these things.
All false religion, all free will, works religion denies the sovereignty of God’s will and purpose in election and predestination, the omnipotence of his power and grace in redemption, regeneration and effectual calling, and the gospel’s good news of redemption accomplished by the blood of his dear Son. Those who have never felt the power of God in the experience of grace cannot know the power of God, and are therefore utterly ignorant of all the works of God.
The Resurrection Life.
“For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels, which are in heaven” (v. 25). — There will be a resurrection of the dead. When our Lord Jesus comes again, there will be a resurrection of the just and of the unjust. The Scriptures universally declare it (Exodus 3:6; Job 19:25-26; Psalms 16:9-10; 49:15; 73:24; Hosea 6:1-2; Daniel 12:2; John 5:29; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). And the fact of the resurrection is inscribed upon every man’s heart and conscience by the finger of God in creation. Anyone who denies the resurrection is a liar. He lies against his own conscience.
In the resurrection God’s saints shall be as the angels of God. The Lord Jesus declares, “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels, which are in heaven.” In the resurrection we will be completely free of all carnal distinctions, weaknesses, cares, needs, and passions. There will be no need for marriage and procreation, because there will be no more sickness, sorrow, bereavement or death! And there will be no imperfection of love and unity among God’s saints.
We will, like the angels of God, possess the constant, full knowledge and assurance of God’s approval. We will enjoy uninterrupted assurance of complete security with Christ. We will have perfect, uninterrupted communion with our Redeemer. Like the heavenly angels, we will always be engaged in the suitable, gratifying service of our great God — Worshipping him! — Singing his praise! — Celebrating his wondrous works! — Doing his will! We will have unbroken, everlasting rest! Like those celestial spirits above, we will gaze upon our God and Savior. As “they do always behold the face of God,” we “shall see his face!”
Then our Savior tells us the meaning of his words to Moses in Exodus 3, when he spoke to Moses out of the burning bush.
“And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err” (vv. 26-27).
It was Christ himself who appeared to Moses in the bush (Acts 7:30), declaring himself to be the eternal, self-existent “I AM” (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58). When he said to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” he was saying, “I am the God of the living.” He who is our God is the God of the living. Remember, it was Christ our Mediator who spoke those words to Moses. Our Savior is telling us here that he is himself the God of the living (Romans 14:9).
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob represent all God’s elect. They were chosen of God. They were heirs of a covenant God made on their behalf. They believed God. They lived in communion with God. They did not fully enjoy the fulfillment of God’s promises until they left this vale of tears; but their bodies are in the grave; they live still, possessing that which the Lord God promised to give them (Hebrews 11:13-16). So it is with all God’s saints who have left this world. They are not dead, but living.
That which the Lord said to Moses in the bush, he here tells us had reference to the resurrection. His covenant promises and engagements for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and for all his elect, involve the complete recovery of his people, body and soul, from the ruins of the fall of our father Adam. The ultimate fulfillment of God’s covenant promises depends upon the resurrection of our bodies, and, therefore, assures us of it. All who were redeemed by his blood were raised from the dead with Christ representatively, and are made partakers of the first resurrection in the new birth (Revelation 20:6); and they shall be made partakers of “the resurrection of life,” when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again to be glorified in his saints (Romans 8:21-23; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), because he is “the God of the living!”
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