Believing in God does not mean you have a relationship with God. Because someone believes God exists, makes good decisions, supports good causes, attends church, and is a good citizen does not indicate they are follower of Jesus or have a home in heaven. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul reminds us there are people who “will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (v.5, NLT). As you follow Jesus, you will encounter people like all the time. You find them at church, in your family, and your community. They are religious, talk about God, moral, and are committed to their church, but they are dangerous. Their religion is about them, not Jesus. Jesus shows us today, how to respond to them.
In the Bible, this group I am referring to are called Sadducees. They are going to ask Jesus a strange question about marriage and the life after. We will look at the question in detail later, but to understand why they are asking this question you need to understand who these people are.
As we go through this, you will either see yourself in the Sadducees or think of others in your life who are like this. Today, I want you to pay attention to two things.
- One, is this you? Ask yourself, am I like a Sadducee? If you are, ask God to help you repent and turn to Him in real faith that transforms the heart and mind to be a lover of Him.
- Two, is this someone I know? If so, ask God to help you respond correctly to them. When the conversation and opportunity arrive seize the moment to teach them, lovingly correct them, and point them to Jesus.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that the events and people in the Bible are “examples for us” to learn from and grow from. That’s what we are going to try to do today. Let’s read Mark 12:18-27 and then focus in on the Sadducees and see what God has to say to us today.
Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: 19 “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. 20 Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children. 21 So the second brother married the widow, but he also died without children. Then the third brother married her. 22 This continued with all seven of them, and still there were no children. Last of all, the woman also died. 23 So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.” 24 Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. 25 For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 “But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—haven’t you ever read about this in the writings of Moses, in the story of the burning bush? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said to Moses, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’27 So he is the God of the living, not the dead. You have made a serious error.” (NLT)
Mark tells us in verse 18, Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. To understand what the question Jesus is asked and why He answers it the way He does we need to go to be introduced to the Sadducees. Who are these people? And what do we learn from them?
Believes in God, but are not spiritual
Number one, they believe in God, but are not spiritual. They were earthly. They are very much tide to this world. Mark tells us they do not believe in a resurrection from the dead. Later, in Acts 23:8 we are told “the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits” (NLT). They are religious, but not spiritual. They believe in God, but they don’t believe in three significant things.
- First, we are told they do not believe in a resurrection. That is referring to the resurrection of God’s people. But generally speaking, they do not believe in any kind of future resurrection whether that be God’s people or God’s Son. This was the Sadducees way of saying there was no after life. They believed that when you died that was it. They did not believe in any kind of heaven or hell. They believed that when you died, you just ceased to exist. You ceased to exist like a flame on a candle that was blown out, never to exist again. They believed there were no such things as a final judgement and rewards. They believed you needed to get as much out of this life as you could because once this life was done with, that was it.
- They also did not believe in angels and spirits. They did not believe in the supernatural. For them, all the supernatural events in the Bible would have been explained physically somehow. The idea of there being angels and demons was foolish to them.
- They believed the resurrection of God’s people in the future, the existence of angels and the spiritual world were all false doctrines.
They were earthly; they believed in God, but were very physical, scientific, and earthly in their approach to things. They didn’t believe in miracles or most of the supernatural acts by God.
A modern day Sadducee will believe in God, go to church, listen to sermons, and read the Bible, but will interpret all the miracles and angels and spirits in the Bible as symbolism and metaphors. They believe in God, but are not spiritual. A modern day Sadducee would struggle with Colossians 3:1 which says, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory” (NLT). The modern day Sadducee would struggle with this kind of mindset.
Believes in God, but uses God
Number two, they believe in God, but use God. Sadducees are religiously active people. They participate and lead religious activities but it was not about God. Being religious was their job and civic duty. To them, good people were religious people and supported good causes in the community as a result this gave them a good reputation and helped their business. To them religion was not about knowing God, it was about being a moral and a responsible citizen.
The Sadducees controlled the Jewish Temple. The high priest on down in the temple were all Sadducees. Their position in the temple made them very wealthy and very influential. All of their power was centered around the temple and their job running the temple. Believing in God and using God was good business. However, once the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., they ceased to exist as movement in history.
Modern day Sadducees do the same. They believe in God, but use God. A political Sadducee will join a church and attend the church in order to gain more votes. A pastoral Sadducee will make decision based on how much money he can make. He will simply pastor the church where he can make the most money. A church member Sadducee will want to be on many committees or teams in order to control the church to their liking. A Sadducee believes in God, but will use God to his or her advantage in this world. Paul mentions this type of person in 1 Timothy 6:5, “These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy” (NLT). They believe in God, but they use God.
Believes in God, but are focused on this life
Number three, they believe in God, but are focused on this life. They are temporal. They don’t think in terms of eternity. They live for the now, because there is no after life. Because they did not believe in any life after death, and no judgment, no rewards, no penalties they lived for the moment, for the here and now. At death, they believed the soul perished along with the body.
Hebrews 9:27 clearly says, “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (NLT). A modern day Sadducee believes in God, is religious, often times very active in their church but does not believe or is convinced of life after death. Because of this, they focus on this life. For some of them, they simply want to make this world a better place before they leave it. Because they believe there is not after life, heaven or hell, they are not motivated to share the gospel, support missions, or be evolved in evangelism and outreach. To them, that is a waste of money, when you could be giving it to an organization that helps with “real” needs.
Believes in God’s Word, but not all of it
Number four, they believe in God’s Word, but not all of it. How did they come up with these beliefs when so much of the Bible clearly teaches life after death, angels, and spirits? The answer is, they only believed in part of the Bible. They only believed the first five books of the Bible were from God. These first five books are called the Pentateuch. They believed only the writings of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). They didn’t believe the rest of the Old Testament was from God. They didn’t believe that the Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Malachi, 1 & 2 Kings, or 1 & 2 Samuel were Scripture. According to them, their Bible (the first 5 books) did not teach about the resurrection of God’s people, angels, or demons. Since they didn’t see it there, they didn’t believe it.
Jesus disagrees with. After they ask Jesus their question about marriage and the resurrection, Jesus says, Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. Then Jesus begins to point out in the Scriptures they believe the teaching about the resurrection of God’s people in the future and then He also gives them an example of the power of God. We will look at that in greater detail next time.
When you are trying to teach or correct a modern day Sadducee you must begin with what they already believe, not with what they don’t believe. Begin with the Scripture they acknowledge is true. This can take many forms.
- Some modern day Sadducees only believe the King James is the inspired English translation that God has given to us. If that is the case, then use a King James Bible when trying to convince them of a Biblical truth.
- Some modern day Sadducees only believe what Jesus says is important. Begin there.
- Others only believe in the New Testament, so begin somewhere in there.
You get the idea. Start with what they already believe is God’s Word.
Another form this takes today is people selectively picking and choosing parts of the Bible they already agree with and accept as from God. If it doesn’t make sense or addresses some sin in their life they want to keep they will ignore it or deny it as God’s Word. Remember, these people believe in God, accept part of God’s word as true, go to church, and can be very active in church activities but only believe part of God’s Word.
What’s interesting to me about how Jesus handles these people is He doesn’t seem to get angry or annoyed with them. He simply states they are mistaken in their belief and begins to show them their error with the Scripture they already trust and accept.
If Sadducees were around today they would be a good and moral person, well-liked and respected among those in the church. However, they would be sophisticated, savvy, and shrewd. They know how to talk like a Christian and act like one. They would often give large sums to their churches and to charities. They attend church fairly regularly and can be counted on to head up committees and teams within the church. They would even refer to the Bible (the parts they accept) to defend their beliefs.
Modern day Sadducees do not place a high priority on an authentic and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. For modern Sadducees church is merely a social cause or an outlet for their business interest or network or a civic duty. The modern Sadducee is a business person first, family person second and a religious person somewhere on down the list. It’s not about worshipping a great God. It’s not about making disciples and helping people become mature in their walk with God. It’s not about evangelism, sharing the gospel and seeing Christ save and rescue people from their sins. It’s not about fellowship with other believers or developing strong friendships with others in the family of God. It’s not about serving and blessing others in the name of Jesus.
I’m convinced they don’t see it that way, but for the modern day Sadducee they believe in God, but don’t really love Him. They believe in God, but don’t think there is anything after this life. They believe in God, but are too focused on this life rather than the spiritual life. They believe in God, but don’t believe in the supernatural. If you are on fire for God, believe the whole Bible, believe the devil is real, heaven is wonderful, hell is hot, and there is a spiritual battle occurring all around us that include angels and demons, and believe that Jesus resurrected from the grave, His people will be resurrected, and He will someday return for His people then you are going to clash with them. They are going to think you are foolish and fanatical.
That’s okay, love them, be patient with them, point them to truth, and humbly challenge their wrong beliefs. Let the Holy Spirit work on them.
At the beginning of this lesson, I asked you to do something. I asked you to pay attention to see if you were a modern day Sadducee or dealing with one.
- If you are a modern day Sadducee ask God to open your eyes and help you to believe and embrace all of His Word and to fall in love with Him and begin to see that there is life after death and the spiritual world is as real as everything you see and touch right now.
- If you are dealing with a modern day Sadducee ask God to give you patience and grace for them as you love them, teach them, and live life in front of them.