The New Life Mission

Sermons

Subject 21 : The Gospel According to MARK

[Chapter 12-2] (Mark 12:18-27) God Is Not The God of the Dead, But the God of the Living

(Mark 12:18-27)
“Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying: ‘Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.’”
 
 
Whose God Is God?
 
The Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection. As it is written in Mark 12:18-23, some of the Sadducees came to Jesus to test Him with a complicated question. But this is not the focus of today’s sermon.
Let’s go down a bit and read verses 26 and 27: “But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.” I would like to focus on this passage today.
To set the context for today’s Scripture reading, we should know first that in those days there was an on-going debate between the Sadducees and the Pharisees over the issue of the resurrection. The former denied resurrection and the latter advocated that there was resurrection. In defending the resurrection, the Pharisees argued that everyone would be brought back to life again after death. But the Sadducees rejected this, claiming that there was no resurrection. The debate was further complicated by a Jewish custom that required the younger brother to take his sister-in-law if his elder brother died without a child. Moreover, this practice was repeated down the line if there was no offspring—that is, if the second brother also died without an offspring, then the next brother had to marry that same woman.
Why does the Bible speak of this custom? Why did God give such a seemingly unethical statute in those days? There was God’s will behind this, but now is not the time to explain it fully here, though if time permits, I will try to address it.
To understand this custom better, it may be useful to think of your own family. Imagine that your elder brother died without a child. You would then have to marry your sister-in-law. What would happen if you also died without leaving any offspring? Your younger brother would have to take this same sister-in-law. Although this is obviously against today’s social norms, the Bible writes that it was a required practice in the days of the Old Testament. Now then, imagine that all your brothers died without any offspring. Whose wife would the woman be if you and all your brothers were all brought back to life in the next world?
Let’s turn to what the Sadducees were saying in today’s Scripture passage: “Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife” (Mark 12:20-23). This is what the Sadducees asked the Lord. From the viewpoint of unbelievers, it was a fitting question to ask. Since all the seven brothers were married to the same woman at one point in time, each of them would have a legitimate claim to be her husband in the resurrection when they all would rise. The eldest would claim her as his lawful wife, as would all the other six brothers, and so they would all be embroiled in a heated argument over whose wife the woman really was.
The Sadducees saw this as a logical gap to argue against the resurrection. But what did Jesus say to them? He said to them, “Your understanding of the resurrection is flawed. When people are resurrected, they do not marry for they are like the angels in Heaven.” Once you are resurrected, you won’t face any physical constraints such as this wall or any other obstacle. Because your body will be transformed into a spiritual one when you are resurrected, you will be able to go through any obstacle including this wall. And there won’t be any marriage either. Does God get married? No, of course not! Put differently, you will be resurrected into a perfect body.
So our Lord told the Sadducees that they were wrong. He then went on to say in verses 26-27, “Have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.”
 
 
How Do You Interpret This Passage?
 
Of course, this passage was spoken by Jesus Christ, and therefore all of us accept it to be true. Indeed, God is not the God of the dead. Jesus is saying to the Sadducees here that God is the God of the living, but even more important is how we actually perceive God.
The Lord quoted a passage from the Old Testament, which says, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Then the Lord deduced from this passage the truth that God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. God is indeed the God of the living.
Who are “the living” then? When the living are distinguished from the dead before God, the dead here refers to the faithless. The sinful descendants of Adam are spiritually dead. But those who have faith in God are alive. The living here then refer to those who have faith in God. The Lord is saying to those who have faith in God, “God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
We can better understand what the Lord is saying to us when we turn to Exodus 3:1-6, as Jesus is quoting from the account of Moses’ calling: “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’ Moreover 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 upon God.”
Here God mentioned three ancestors of faith, saying that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus also said in today’s Scripture passage that God was not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham was a man of faith who believed in the Word of God, and Isaac was a man of obedience. And Jacob had found the grace of God. This means that God is the God of the people of faith. Spiritually speaking, our Lord is the God of the born-again people.
When I speak of God, I mean the Triune God: God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our Helper. Why do we the born-again believers call God our Father then? We need to pay particular attention to what God said here, “I am not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” This means that God the Father is the Father of the born-again who have received the remission of their sins.
God the Father is Jesus Christ’s Father, isn’t He? Since Jesus Christ calls God His Father, isn’t God also our Father then? God is indeed our Father. That’s because Jesus Christ has saved us, God the Father has made us His own children, and the Spirit of Jesus Christ is the same Holy Spirit that dwells in us. When Jesus called God His Father, He said that this God was the God of the living rather than the dead, and He spoke of God as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
Since Jesus Christ called God His Father, whoever has been truly saved can also call God his Father. Isn’t this true? After all, don’t we call God our Father when we pray to Him? But this is true not only when we pray, but at all times, for God is indeed our Father. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And we have been saved and received the remission of our sins through Jesus Christ. We have thus become God’s own children. Since we have received the remission of our sins on account of the sacrifice of the Son of God, we have inherited this Son’s life. We can then call God our Father. Perhaps some of you are having a hard time trying to understand this, but the reason why we can call God our Father in our prayers is because Jesus Christ calls God “His Father.” And it’s because we have received the remission of our sins through Jesus Christ that we also are able to call God our Father.
God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the very same God and God the Father is our Father. What’s the reason for this? It’s because we have received the remission of sins, right? And Jesus Christ is still God Himself. He is also our Savior. He is our Lord, isn’t He? Now then, the Holy Spirit refers to the Spirit of God, and God the Spirit is with us now. The Bible says that whoever has the Spirit of God is a child of God. Every born-again person has the Holy Spirit in his heart. The Holy Spirit comes into a sinless heart, and therefore He dwells in our hearts always. Like this, the only true God is the Triune God. Since today’s Scripture passage speaks of God, it is necessary to explain the Holy Trinity.
Although all these three Persons of the Holy Trinity are the same God, each of them has a different role to play as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit the Helper. Put differently, although the three Persons of the Triune God each have a distinct role, they are all the same God to us, and this God is our Father, our Savior, and our Helper. God is completely encapsulated in this Holy Trinity. Although the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the same one God, each has a distinct role to play. That is how we believe, and this is the correct understanding of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ called God His Father, and we can also call God our Father because we have received the remission of sins through Jesus Christ, and God has saved us through Him. It is for this reason that we can call God as our Father. I will continue to address this issue throughout today’s sermon.
When the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, God did not leave them alone, but He had been with them all along. When Moses fled into the wilderness after killing an Egyptian, he reached the land of the Midianites and settled there. While tending the flock, he saw a bush in the wilderness burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Seeing this, Moses approached this burning bush, and there he heard the voice of the Lord saying: “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” He also heard God saying, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” This was the God of the covenant.
 
 
Why Did God Reveal Himself in the Burning Bush?
 
That God revealed Himself as the burning bush implies that He had been with the people of Israel amid all their suffering and affliction for these 400 long years. God had been with the people of Israel all along when they were suffering for 400 years before entering the land of Canaan. It had been prophesied in the Scriptures that Abraham’s descendants would face suffering before entering the land of Canaan. After this prophesy was made, the Israelites indeed lived in this suffering for 400 years, but a few of them had faith in God and they were waiting for His deliverance.
However, most Israelites had lost God. In their suffering they had prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to deliver them, but they had seen no evidence that God was actually with them. Instead, their suffering in Egypt got even harsher. At that time, God manifested Himself to Moses and revealed to him that He had heard all the prayers and supplications of the Israelites, that He was the God of the faithful, and that as the Israelites were the descendants of the people of faith, He was their God. In other words, God told Moses that He was not the God of the dead but the God of the living. Spiritually speaking, this means that God is the God of the born-again.
 
 
God Is Distinguished into the God of the Dead and the God of the Living
 
Many people on this planet believe in God. There are many gods beside the only true God, but their divinity cannot be equal. Now then, let’s take a moment and think about how God is distinguished. Every Christian calls on the same name of God, regardless of whether one believes in the gospel of the water and the Spirit or not. But there is a fundamental difference here. When we call on God—that is, when the truly born-again people call on God—there is a special meaning to it. It means that God is our Father and our Savior, and He helps us and walks with us in our trials. We call on God’s name because we believe that He is with us in our everyday lives. That’s why the born-again call on the name of God, and that’s how they believe. This God is our God, and He is the God of the born-again.
God is not just anyone’s God. What did our Lord say? He said, “I am not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” To put it in simpler terms, this means that although God exists even for those who have not been born again, He is not their God. God can be neither their Father nor their Lord, nor does He help them—in short, God is irrelevant to them.
When God called Himself as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, He was saying that only the born-again are His people and His children. Abraham was born again of the Word, right? And Isaac inherited Abraham’s faith intact, didn’t he? Jacob also inherited the Word intact, and he became God’s child by His grace.
Let’s examine ourselves based on this Word. How is our God? Isn’t the God whom we call on now clearly distinct from the God called on by those who have not been born again? The God we call on for His help is indeed alive, and He has become the God of the born-again, their Father, and their Savior. He is the living God who is with us and helps us at all times. Do you believe in this Truth?
We often call on the name of God while carrying on with our lives of faith. And we come before His presence. It is by calling on the name of the Lord that we have received the remission of our sins in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, it’s because of what Jesus Christ has done for us on this earth that we have received the remission of sins. And on account of this work of salvation fulfilled by Jesus Christ, all the sins committed by us in our lives on this earth have been completely cleansed and removed from our hearts. Now, we can call God the Father as our Father thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, temptations still come our way, we still have many weaknesses, and we may still commit sin and stumble, but despite all of this, we are in fact sinless and we can call God our Father. That we have absolutely no sin in our hearts is because Jesus Christ has become our God. We have become sinless, and only the sinless—that is, the saints—are eligible to become God’s children.
Although we have been born again, we still face many unbearable trials as we carry on with our lives in this world. Even those who have been truly born again are bound to face affliction constantly. The writer of Psalm says that there are many afflictions to the righteous (Psalm 34:19). The Apostle Paul endured even more suffering like this because he was born again. We also know from the Bible that Abraham had no choice but to leave his homeland because he had met God. Indeed, countless people were mistreated and persecuted like this because they had met God and followed Him.
Unbelievers do not realize that this God is alive, and that He has become the Father of the born-again, their Lord, and their Helper. But we the born-again must remember that God is none other than our own God, our Savior, and our Lord who has delivered us from sin. And we must realize here that God is always with us and helps us all the time while we are carrying on with our lives in this world. He walks with us and works with us. Whenever we have no strength to carry out His work, the Lord works with us and helps us so that we would accomplish this work. The God in whom we the born-again believe is the God of the living. He is the God who abides with us. This God works together with the born-again and helps them in every step of the way. Do you believe in this Truth?
 
 
Who Is God?
 
God is alive. He is our Helper. Whom does God help? He helps only the born-again. Although God is omnipresent, He watches over the born-again all the time, never taking His eyes off them; His heart is with them; and He listens closely to all their prayers. God is deeply interested in every born-again believer all the time, to see what their wishes are, and to protect them from going astray. And God does not just watch us, but He descends from Heaven to us to work with us, help us, protect us from danger, and to sometimes intervene in our lives.
God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. He is the God of the born-again servants, and He is the God of the born-again people. This is what it means when the Bible says that God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
Why did God mention Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to tell us that He is the God of the living? Do you know the reason? It’s because these people are our forefathers of faith. After all, are we not the descendants of faith? None other than we are the descendants of faith. We are here because our faith was inherited from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to reach all the way down to us, and therefore we are their descendants. None other than we are God’s offspring. God is the God of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of those who obey His Word. This means that God is the God of those who believe in His Word.
We are not living alone on this earth. When we face trials, we do not face them by ourselves. Nor are we alone in our agony. Rather, God is inside of us as the Holy Spirit. Do you feel and appreciate this in your everyday life? Do you know from your own experience that the Holy Spirit is indeed with you? Do you feel Him inside you? Some Christian sinners believe that the Holy Spirit comes in their hearts and goes out as He wants. But this is not true. Once the Holy Spirit comes into your heart, He dwells in you all the time. The Lord said to His disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). Therefore, whenever those who have received the remission of sins hear the Word of God, they understand what this Word means.
My fellow believers, God is with us now. Moreover, God is not only with us here in this place, but He is also in every born-again heart and every born-again church throughout the entire world. Don’t be so narrow-minded to think that God is just in our church.
You all know Aaron, right? Aaron was the High Priest. As the High Priest, he had to be able to embrace all his people. He had to listen to all the sins committed by every Israelite. Only then could he take an offering to God and confess to Him each and every sin committed by the people of Israel. This is how Aaron was able to blot out his people’s sins, by coming to the Lord’s presence and passing their sins onto the sacrificial offering.
The Church plays a role just like this. Jesus Christ who is God Himself is the High Priest of the Kingdom of Heaven, and God’s Church is the High Priest of the earth. You should have a broad mind. You should be ambitious and broad-minded. It is particularly important for us to obey the Word.
What kind of God is our God? Is your God different from mine? If we both have been truly born again, then we both have the same God. In fact, God is the same everywhere, and the only difference is whether one believes in a living God or a dead God. If you believe in the living God, you will face many trials. But even so, you must endure all your trials by faith, for you will then come to know the will of God. God will then work in your life and help you. Since God is your Father, He will help you as His own child. Would the Father ignore you when you are trying to live according to His will as His child? Would He not help you as a matter of course? He will of course work in your life and help you every step of the way.
God is our God, the God of the born-again. Even before I was born again, I had also believed in this God, convinced wholeheartedly that He was good and that He was the God of love, but it was only after I was born again that I actually experienced this. Before I was born again, I could not actually experience God’s love despite believing in Him ardently. In fact, the more I believed, the more my faith was rendered in vain. I felt nothing but frustration every day.
However, once I was truly born again and began to follow the Lord, I have never been disappointed, not even once. The Lord has never let me down. No matter what my circumstances were, so long as I believed in the Lord and followed Him, He infallibly came to my help every time. That’s because the Triune God became my God once I was born again. But before I was born again, He was not my God, but some other deity was my god.
I am so happy now that words cannot express just how happy I am. Sometimes I see our saints suffering in trials, but in times like this, remember that God has become your God, and that He is with you. Remember this all the time. God will then begin to help you. As we continue to carry on with our lives on this earth, we should never think of God separately from us, as though God were aloof from us and we were all by ourselves. God is our God and our Helper.
Let us then all realize here just how wonderful and good our Lord is, and let us all thank our God. Let us thank Him for being with us, realizing that He is the God of the faithful, praising Him, calling Him our Father, and glorifying Him for His salvation. I hope and pray that you would all walk with God by faith in your everyday life. All of us should appreciate what a great blessing it is that we are able to call God our Father for the rest of our lives, and what a great privilege it is that He has become your God and mine. And we must believe in these amazing blessings.
My fellow believers, I ask each and every one of you to believe without fail that the living God is none other than our own God. The God that we call on is not just anyone’s God. He is the living God of all of us who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. He listens to our prayers, and He is one with us. Moreover, He is our Father and our Savior, and He is always with us and helps us at all times. Never forget that He is one body and one family with us.
Because God is with us, we have put on such abundant grace and received such great blessings. I ask you all to appreciate this and thank Him for it. Although countless people are looking for God constantly, the vast majority of them are looking for Him without even realizing who He is.
In contrast, whenever we seek God’s help, we know that He is our Father, Jesus Christ is our Savior, and the Holy Spirit is with us in our hearts. As such, realizing that this living God is helping us, all of us should carry out His work with thanksgiving, praise Him in our everyday lives at both work and home, and serve the Church diligently. And through the Church, we should realize the glory of God and His will, and cherish them deep in our hearts.