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Question #349

Please explain Matthew 17:24-27.

I have seen already you have answered someone that Jesus did keep kosher, he kept the Law of Moses. That makes sense to me, he said no jot or tittle of the law is abolished until all is finished, which I believe happened when he died. But I am confused about Matt. 17:24-27. Why did Jesus say, if I understand him correctly, that sons of God don't have to pay the temple tax, but only the others? Wasn't it commanded in Ex. 30:11-16? He paid the tax only not to offend the tax collectors. Could you clarify this

The Answer:

The event involved here, recorded in Matthew 17:24-27, is the occasion on which Jesus sent Peter to fetch from the mouth of a fish a shekel for the payment of temple tax, one-half shekel for each of them. While Exodus 30:11-16 was the basis upon which the tax was levied annually, it had not always been so. The Sadducees and Pharisees argued about it as they did almost everything else. As far as we can tell, it was some time after the time of Nehemiah (10:32) that the half-shekel became a compulsory annual tax on all Jews; see Matt. 17:24. After the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, it was continued as a special tax by the Romans under the name of Fiscus Judaicus. To add insult to injury it was paid into the treasury of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome. (Ellison, H. L., Daily Study Bible Series: Exodus, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press) 2001, c1982.) The fact is, however, that it was a recognized tax at the time of Jesus; thus, the argument of some that Jesus resisted because it was not a legal tax cannot be correct. In fact, Jesus did not resist the payment of the tax at all. The only question that he raised was whether it was properly imposed upon him.

Keep in mind that which had occurred in Matthew 16. Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the Living God. The tax had become known as a temple tax by the time of Christ. Since the temple was the house of his Father he raised a question with Peter as to the propriety of taxing his Father’s son. Peter, as did all, recognized that kings of the earth who levied taxes levied them against those who were not members of their family. Thus, Jesus would be exempt from the tax because, as Peter had recognized, he was the Son of God. Having established his exemption, Jesus proceeded to address the issue from another perspective – the tax should be paid so that his exercising his right would not be a stumbling block to the revenue officers and others. He sent Peter fishing in a manner that demonstrated that he was in fact the Lord over creation – he had the power to know about a fish with a shekel in its mouth, just enough to pay the tax for the two of them.

The Lord’s willingness to pay the tax was another demonstration of his submission to the law of God. He told Peter to take the shekel and “give it unto them for me and thee.” Note that he made a distinction between himself as the exempted son and Peter as the non-exempted subject.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)