Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures

By Robert C. Oliver Contributing columnist

July 24, 2014

The words of our title are a statement made by our Lord to the Sadducees after they had presented Him with a hypothetical situation concerning seven brothers who had all had the same woman as a wife. The entire conversation can be found in Matthew 22:23-33. Their entire hypothetical case was based upon the law of Moses concerning a man dying without children, the man’s brother was to take his wife and raise up seed in the name of his brother. Their question was, after all seven brothers in this case had been married to this one woman, “in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? (Matt. 22:28). There are three very real discrepancies in their hypothetical account. First, they present obvious hypocrisy. They didn’t even believe in a resurrection (Matt. 22:23), yet their question assumes that they do believe in the resurrection. Secondly, they show an obvious misunderstanding concerning the nature of the eternal kingdom, that it is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical one. And third, though they hid their belief of no resurrection, they did hold to that false belief (Matt. 22:23). We wish to examine this text and note a few truths that we can glean from it.

First, this text implies that the scriptures are the standard of life. Jesus did not say, “ye do err, not knowing your opinions, what the majority of people say or what some religious leader has said”. He said “ye do err, not knowing the scriptures”. The scriptures Jesus spoke of was the old law of Moses under which all the Jews were still bound at the time. However, in every age, before, during and after the law of Moses, God has provided the standard by which man was to live and that standard has always been His word. Jeremiah wrote, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). The wise man, Solomon said, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Secondly, the text also implies that we do err if we deviate from God’s standard. Many times in the Bible that truth is specifically stated. Moses wrote, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Man is simply prohibited from changing God’s word in any way. No adding, no subtracting and no substitution! Moses went beyond what the Lord told him to do when he smote the rock in order to get water in the wilderness. “And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (Num. 20:12). Nadab and Abihu substituted a strange fire in their offering of burnt incense, “And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Lev. 10:1-2). King Saul fell short of full obedience to God in his destruction of the nation of Amalek. Samuel told him, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (I Sam. 15:23). The young prophet disobeyed God because the old prophet lied to him, telling him that God had told him to bring the young prophet back to his house (I Kings 13:18). Though he listened to someone who said they were speaking God’s word, he disobeyed what God had actually said. As a result, “when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase” (I Kings 13:24).

Thirdly, Jesus told these Sadducees that they erred because the knew not the scriptures. They were ignorant of what God had revealed to man because they had not learned that revealed message. Just one argument is sufficient to show they should have known that man had an eternal soul. The argument is the one which Jesus made. He referred to when God had said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. It may seem a small thing to some, but Jesus recognized the importance of the tense of the verb used. God said “I am”, not “I was”. This showed that God was still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were still in existence. Multitudes throughout the ages, and still today, are ignorant of what God has said. Many are deliberately ignorant. Isaiah said, “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa. 30:10). They didn’t want the truth. Paul told Timothy that the “time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Tim. 4:3-4).

On the day of judgment, many are going to hear the Lord say, “depart from me ye that work iniquity” because they knew not the scriptures.

(Robert Oliver is pastor of the Church of Christ. Send any questions to: