Figure it out For Yourself
As I was driving today I saw a van in front of me with a blaring neon yellow bumper sticker (stuck to the back windshield) that read “Try Jesus”, and that was it, off they drove evangelizing to all the vehicles around them that “Hey, if nothing else works, ‘Try Jesus’.” What happens when they “Try Jesus” and then their car gets broken into, or they lose their job or worse, their child? Of course Jesus is the only solution for all mankind, but if they don’t understand that their problem is actually their sin, then they will “Try Jesus” for the wrong reasons. I’m sure the driver of that van was well-intentioned, but it pays so much to tell it all, and not just try to condense the gospel to a couple of words on a bumper sticker.
Figure it out with Help from the Bible
When I read my devotions in Matthew tonight I was reminded of the importance of this principle of keeping God’s Word a whole and not breaking it into individual verses according to our liking. Scripture was not meant to be plucked apart as stand alone verses, but to be read, learned, and understood in relation to the entire text it is in. We get a good lesson of this from the Sadducees in Matthew 22:23-33.
Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection:
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. (Matthew 22:23-33 ESV, emphasis mine)
It is how much you Know
The Sadducees were a very powerful and influential group within the Temple, and the most common description that follows naming them in the Bible is that they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Scholars say that this is most likely because they founded their beliefs in God mainly on the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) and these books do not explicitly mention the resurrection. Why they did not acknowledge the rest of Scripture and the prophets, I personally don’t know, but regardless of their reasoning most of us could easily agree that they were ignoring a large and important part of God’s Word.
And when they come to Jesus, in Matthew 22, trying to corner him with, I must say, a very well thought out question on the resurrection based on the Law of Moses (in Deuteronomy 25:5), Jesus is blunt with them. His first three words in response are, “You are wrong…”, and the reason is equally as blunt, “..because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” What? These were important leaders in the church and Jesus is saying, “The problem here is that you don’t know the Scriptures well enough to know what it actually says about resurrection, and you don’t understand the power of God.” Serious accusation to make to such well-respected religious figures, but can’t you agree that it’s true?
If you were about to visit a surgeon for open heart surgery and discovered that this particular surgeon had only studied half his manual in school because he didn’t believe in what the second half had to say, particularly about the anesthetic, wouldn’t you be cancelling your surgery with him immediately? He obviously has no idea about what he’s doing and he would likely kill you during the surgery. But he was accepted and allowed to be a surgeon because the other staff members at the hospital felt that his wealthy financial state, his notable connections in the medical world, and his vast knowledge of the first half of the surgeon’s manual qualified him. Guaranteed, you still would not be sold.
How important is it then to know the Word of God? All of it. Obviously there are many levels of biblical knowledge, from the faithful studier of the Word at home, to the Bible School graduate, to the Bible School professor, to the scholars and so on. There is so much to learn in the Bible (and that’s a major understatement) that we could (and should) continue studying it all the days of our life and we will never fully learn or understand it all. Two important aspects though to draw out of Jesus response to the Sadducees in this passage, first, we must know and believe the gospel (its message is loud and clear, black and white in the New Testament) because the gospel is the power of God, which is something the Sadducees did not understand.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 ESV)
And second, we must continuously be studying and learning the Scripture in its full context to the gospel and the Bible as a whole (which all points to Jesus Christ and the gospel message).
No Context = False Doctrine
The Sadducees disqualified their own question because of their lack of knowledge. We cannot claim something is a fact if we haven’t read the whole context of the situation. This happens way too often in the modern church. Favorite verses are clung to and taught as separate and distinct from the verses and stories that surround them. This is so dangerous because false doctrine is quickly formed this way. Such as the Sadducees doctrine of no resurrection.
All the Sadducees had to do with the Pentateuch was go back 2 books to Exodus 3:6, which Jesus refers them to, and see that even in Moses time God says he is the God of the living, not the dead. He says, in present tense, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” implying that he was still in relationship with these forefathers who were long dead to the world, but obviously still alive in the eternal.
“Study to show yourself approved…”
Jesus asks them, “Have you not read…?” (The same thing happened during the Triumphal Entry when the children were praising Jesus as the Messiah, the “Son of David” and the chief priests and scribes came to him indignantly and he says to them also, “Have you never read..? and he refers them to Psalm 8:2).
The conclusion to take away from this is that we must read, and read in context, read it all. When we sit down to read the Bible we should read a passage as a whole, we should know what comes before and after John 3:16, we should take into consideration who Jesus is speaking to when he’s teaching, we should listen to the small words that are easy to skim over such as, “if” and “therefore” (these are important conditional and explanatory words). Ultimately, we cannot afford to ignore the Scriptures that make us uncomfortable. It is deadly to do so.
Blown away by the Bible
Verse 33 says,
And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
(Matthew 22:33 ESV, emphasis mine)
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29 ESV, emphasis mine)
Jesus had authority that astonished the crowds because he was God and also because he taught the Truth of the Scriptures to the people. If we want to be blown away by God’s Word we need to ask the Teacher of Truth, the Holy Spirit, to reveal it to us as we faithfully and continuously pursue our study of the Bible, on a daily basis, as it was meant to be read; each verse in purposeful relationship to one another, not as stand alone verses.
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Grace & Peace,