A friend once told me about a time when his spirit felt empty. He had been attending a church where the sermons, while entertaining, were often filled with pop psychology and personal opinion.
One week, my friend decided to visit a small, out-of-the-way church pastored by a simple old man. The pastor wasn’t a dynamic preacher. He simply led his small congregation, verse by verse, through a deep exploration of Scripture—one passage at a time. My friend left church that day encouraged—and he recommitted himself to studying Scripture on his own.
“Preach the word!” wrote Paul to the young minister Timothy. “Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:2–4 NKJV).
It’s sobering to realize that this passage in 2 Timothy is a description of the last days—of a persuasive group of false teachers who will have great influence over the people: “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Paul’s command to Timothy tells us something very revealing about this group of people. He told the young pastor, “From such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:5 NKJV).
Is there really a group of people we should have nothing to do with? Interestingly, there was one group of people that Jesus Himself had very little time for. You might think it was the Pharisees. Actually, Jesus had a lot of time for them. Jesus ate in Pharisee homes, met late at night with a Pharisee (Nicodemus), would one day call a Pharisee (Paul) to change the world. Jesus spent time engaging the Pharisees because the Pharisees, for all that they got wrong, respected the Word of God.
But there was another group of religious leaders—a group who knew neither “the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29 NKJV). The Sadducees denied much of the Hebrew Bible (including the resurrection), coopted the priesthood, and tried to remake the Jewish religion in their own image.
It was the Sadducees who were largely responsible for the desecration of the temple that Jesus cleansed. Rather than simply live out a faith they no longer believed in, the Sadducees tried to make the faith more palatable. Their primary interest in religion seems to have been as a means to power and wealth. Indeed, when the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, the Sadducees quickly dwindled in number and disappeared from history shortly thereafter.
When the Sadducees brought Jesus a sarcastic, hypothetical question about a woman who had, in turn, married each of seven brothers—“In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be?” (Mark 12:23 NKJV)— Jesus saw through their fakery and told them they were “greatly mistaken” (Mark 12:27 NKJV), using a portion of Scripture they claimed to believe to silence their mockery (Mark 12:26 NKJV).
“Are you not therefore mistaken,” Jesus told the Sadducees, “because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12:24 NKJV).
Jesus’ final parable in the Gospel of Matthew was for the Sadducees. It was a story of hardened hearts, rejection of the prophets (the Scriptures), and ultimately the Son of God. “‘The stone which the builders rejected,’” Jesus said, “‘has become the chief cornerstone.’ . . . Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21:42, 44 NKJV). Jesus is the stone that the Scriptures had pointed to, but the Sadducees had not taken the Word of God seriously. So, Jesus offered a final warning: it’s better to be broken on the stone than to be crushed by it.
Be careful of modern-day Sadducees, religious leaders who know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.
About the Author: Andy Nash is an author, professor at Southern Adventist University , and pastor who leads summer study tours to Israel.
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