The Gospel of Luke - Part 85
The Authority of Government — Luke 20:19-26
The Authority of Scripture — Luke 20:20-40

June 24, 2007
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


We are in Luke Chapter 20, which is about Questions and answers about Authority.

Remember that Chapter 20 is after the final Triumphant Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Jesus is teaching in the Temple when the religious leaders challenged Him about His authority to be teaching.

He replied to their question with a question and then answered them with the parable of the vineyard, which was clearly a parable about them: That they had rejected the prophets and they had rejected God’s son and the parable went on to say that the son was killed and the vineyard was given to others. The Jewish leaders recognized themselves, but I am sure they could not understand the part about the Son being killed..

Today we continue to talk about the authority question. Our commitment to Jesus’ authority is shown in how we live each day:

Someone said, — “The question for each man to settle is not what he would do for the Lord if he had more money, time, or education, but what he will do with the things he has. It's not who you are or what you have that matters — but whether Christ controls you.”

Last week, we considered what Jesus said about His own authority. Today, we consider what He taught about the authority of government and the authority of the Scriptures. But at the heart of these passages is the same issue — do we acknowledge and submit to Jesus’ authority over us? We are to submit to governmental authority because Jesus told us to. We submit to the Scriptures because Jesus told us to. The real issue of authority is not government or even Scripture, it is Jesus.

Accept the Authority of Government:

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. —Luke 20:19-26
What stands out to you from this passage?  What the leaders were trying to do: They hoped to catch Jesus in something He said so that they might hand Him over to the power and authority of the governor.

Here, again, the goal was not to learn or to determine if Jesus is telling the truth but to trick Him into saying something incriminating. They haven't had any luck trying to get Him to speak against the Law so they decide to see if they can get Him in trouble with the Romans. The Romans had an ongoing problem with people leading the Jews in revolt. The penalty for rebellion was death. So if Jesus spoke against the Roman government, He could be accused of leading the people to rebel. The “governor” spoken of here is the Roman governor who oversaw things in Israel — his name was Pontius Pilate. Perhaps you have heard of him. Though they don't really mean it, these “spies” actually speak the truth when they say to Jesus in verse 21, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God." This is a great description of Jesus!  So, in verse 22 they ask "Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”

This was one of those “Have you stopped beating your wife?” kind of questions. The Jews thought that no matter what He said, He would get in trouble. If He said “Yes”, then He would offend the Jews who paid severe taxes to a foreign dictator, Tiberius Caesar. If He said “No”, then He would offend the Romans and could be accused of encouraging rebellion.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says: Here Jesus’ opponents seek to force him to choose between revolution — which would get him in trouble with Rome — and accommodation to the Romans — which they assume He opposed (because He opposed their leadership in the temple). [Bible Knowledge Commentary]

The Life Application Bible says: This was a loaded question. The Jews were enraged at having to pay taxes to Rome, thus supporting the pagan government and its gods. They hated the system that allowed tax collectors to charge exorbitant rates and keep the extra for themselves. If Jesus said they should pay taxes, they would call him a traitor to their nation and their religion. But if he said they should not, they could report him to Rome as a rebel. [Life Application Bible]

Variations of this question have been asked by Christians since Jesus' time. To what extent should I acknowledge and submit to the authority of an ungodly government?  So Jesus answers in a way that foils the leaders: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” With this answer Jesus escapes their trap and speaks a great truth. The denarius coin bore the image of Caesar. Every person bears the image of God, no matter how marred that image may be.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. —Genesis 1:27
We should give our taxes to the government but give our lives, our all, to God. The Bible emphasizes our responsibility to submit to our government. Paul teaches us:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. —Romans 13:1-7
What are some things God expects us to “give” to our governing authorities? Listen to what the Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote:
I firmly believe it is a religious duty to be a good citizen. It is one's duty as a good citizen to participate in politics, but I can be true neither to my country nor to my God if I separate my religious convictions from my political views. If l am to be whole, one with myself and with God, I must infuse my life as a political being with beliefs I learned from the Divine Being. This is not radical, fundamentalist Christian theory. It is the basic belief which first drove the Pilgrims to our shores and later inspired the Founding Fathers to proclaim our independence from Britain “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” It is the notion which infused the anti slavery movement of the 19th century, and in which the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., took his message of racial harmony.

Why should we not permit moral values to influence our thinking about important contemporary issues? To say that spiritual values or morality are at the heart of our society is not to establish a state religion. Far from it. It is only to say with the Constitution that we guarantee the fundamental right of free exercise for all religions throughout our society... My position — and I believe it is the position of the majority of Americans today, just as it has been for 200 years — is that it is not only legitimate to advocate basic religious values in the political arena, but it is absolutely essential for the health of our republic that believers participate in the political debate of our days. [Jerry Falwell]

How Christ-like are your attitudes toward government?

Consider how wicked the Roman government was — oppressive taxes, soldiers to enforce their laws, immoral people, some Caesars were even declared to be “gods”. If Jesus expected a godly attitude from Christians then, how much more would He expect from us?

Last week we learned what Jesus taught about yielding to the authority of Jesus. We just covered submission to government. Now lets look at accepting the Authority of Scripture.

The Authority of Scripture:

There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question. —Luke 20:27-40
This section starts off by telling us that some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.

The Sadducees were one of the dominant religious/political parties of Israel. They were kind of the religious “liberals” of their day. They didn't believe in a bodily resurrection or in rewards or punishments after this life or in angels or demons. One way to remember the Sadducees is with the sentence, “They didn't believe in the resurrection, so they were sad, you see” (Get it?). This is the only reference to them in the book of Luke. They are mentioned seven times in Matthew's Gospel, only once in Mark and none at all in John. For more information on the Sadducees and Pharisees, see the handout from the Holman Bible Dictionary.

The Sadducees start the discussion by raising the question, "Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies..." This was a reference to instructions found in Deuteronomy:

If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. —Deuteronomy 25:5-6
Though these verses sound strange to us, there were practical reasons for this way of doing things. Remember, this was a time without any kind of governmental welfare. A widow would have no way of earning a living, no way to provide for her children. This way, the family was provided for. Also, this process guaranteed that the inheritance and property stayed within the extended family group.

This was a rare occurrence. The “living together” means that the brothers' parents have died and the brothers jointly inherited his property. The intention of this command is to protect and provide for the widow.

Then the Sadducees present a very extreme situation to test Jesus: "Now there were seven brothers..." I wonder if this actually occurred or if they made it up? People love to discuss questions concerning extreme situations: “What about the guy in outer Mongolia who never heard about Jesus?”, “Can God create a rock too heavy for Him to lift?”, and so on. People discuss extremes because they are often looking for an excuse to disregard God and His commands that apply to them. In this case, the motive of the Sadducees is to show that there must be no life after death because of these kinds of complications.

Jesus starts his answer by saying “The sons of this age marry..."

Jesus answers their question about who the woman would be married to very simply: there is no marriage in heaven. Be careful not to take Jesus' answer too far. He didn't say that we would not know and love and be close to our families. He simply said there is no marriage.

Jesus also says that we will be “like the angels,” because they are equal to angels. We will not become angels, we will be like angels in that we will be immortal.

Jesus’ words here are often misunderstood. People have thought that this means that in heaven we lose the closeness of earthly relationships. Some even worry that husbands and wives won’t even know each other or be able to be together.

Relationships in heaven will be different — they’ll be infinitely better! Without sin in our lives, we will be able to love each other perfectly. We’ll be closer to others than we can even imagine in this life. The institution of marriage will not exist in heaven but the intimacy of the marriage relationship will be there. The sinless perfection of heaven means, for the first time, we will experience sinless perfection in all our relationships — perfect love, perfect compassion, perfect communication, perfect understanding. We will experience a closeness , an ability to connect, beyond anything we could even imagine in this life. What a wonderful hope!

Then Jesus goes on to address the real issue for the Sadducees — is there life after death? In responding, Jesus uses a familiar Old Testament phrase:

...the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
To understand Jesus' answer, we need to understand a little more about the Sadducees. They recognized as authoritative only the first five books of the Old Testament, which are called the books of Moses, the author. That's why they referred to Deuteronomy 25:5 in their question.

Now Jesus refers to a specific phrase found only in the books of Moses. It is recorded three times in the context of God speaking directly to Moses.

And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. —Exodus 3:6

God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt..." —Exodus 3:15-16

...that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you. —Exodus 4:5
Jesus points out that since God is not the God of the dead but the living, then why does God refer to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Jesus clearly shows that Moses' own words and experience indicate that there is a resurrection, there is life after death.

Notice how Jesus went to the Scriptures for the answer to their question. Jesus demonstrates in this chapter, the Bible has answers to the questions people ask. They may not be answers we like or agree with, but the answers are there. As disciples, we need to be prepared to answer the more common, familiar of these questions.

...but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;  yet do it with gentleness and respect. —1 Peter 3:15-16
We need to be prepared to answer the more common questions that people ask. I don't need to have the answers memorized, but I do need to have the answers available. What is a question you've heard asked related to Jesus and the Bible that you would like to know how to answer?

Here are some common questions that you will be faced with sooner or later:

In addition to personal study, some resource books are:
Answers To Tough Questions - Josh McDowell & Don Stewart
A Ready Defense - Josh McDowell & Bill Wilson

Next week we will cover Part 2 of Accepting the Authority of Scripture.

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