My family has been sailing along rough seas of late. Recent conflicts regarding personal relationships, biblical discernment, and major life changing decisions have weight heavily on us all. As I was praying over some of the recent events and decisions, the biggest question that troubled my mind had to do with whether or not I should have spoken up, or rocked the boat. I was reminded of a story found in the book of John.
By this time in Jesus Ministry, the Pharisees have already sought to arrest Jesus. Jesus is now being much more blunt about who He is, the Mana from heaven, and the promise of the Holy Spirit. Many were seriously considering whether Jesus was the Prophet or even the Christ. Still others plotted against Him. So the end of Ch 7 we have the final day of the Feast of Booths.
John 7:53 (ESV) They went each to his own house,
John 8:1-11 (ESV)
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
This is such a beautiful picture of the Gospel of Christ. Notice that Jesus isn’t saying they were wrong to point out her sin. Jesus didn’t say they were falsely accusing her of her sin. Jesus first established that He alone was worthy of condemning this woman. Let him who is without sin among you… Only Jesus fit that description. According to the Law, these men were correct. The Law identifies sin which brings death. Let’s see how Paul explains this in Romans:
Romans 7:4-13 (ESV) 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
So then, does this mean that we who have sin in our lives should never call out sin in our brothers/sisters lives? Not at all. For it wasn’t the identification of sin that Jesus challenged; rather, it was the condemnation of the woman, or to put it in another way, her judgment. Jesus was establishing that only He who is without sin is fit to Judge or Condemn sin. Jesus showed her mercy, and then told her to go and sin no more. Christ came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it in Himself, to then lay down His life as the atoning sacrifice for all sin, so that He could extend Grace and Mercy to those who believe in Him and obtain the gift of everlasting life.
She knew she was caught, and she no-doubt expected to be stoned to death that very hour. There was no escaping her sin, nor the just punishment for her sin as outlined in the Law. She stood convicted, before the Son of God. It was only by His Grace and Mercy, out of His love for her, that she was forgiven of her sin and granted mercy rather than wrath. Jesus took upon Himself, the punishment for her sin… and He extends the very same offer of atonement to you and me.
You know, often times you will hear someone throw out a “don’t judge” as an attempt to silence those who are calling out sin. The purpose of the Law is to identify sin, and as such the Law is Holy. However, we are not sit in judgement, condemning our brother/sister for his/her sin, lest we be judged similarly. Let’s look at a couple of passages of scripture.
Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV) 7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:12 (ESV) “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
None of us is without sin. We are justified through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, not by our righteousness. Therefore, none of us is worthy of casting the first stone of condemnation or judgement. But we are still to hold firmly to the Law for the identification of sin, to rebuke false doctrine and sinful living. However, once the sin has been identified and rebuked, we must quickly return to the Gospel of Grace of Jesus Christ.
James 5:13-20 (ESV) 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. 19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Matthew 6:14 (ESV) 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
It is imperative that we rightly identify sin, both in ourselves so that we might confess and in our brothers/sisters that we might bring him/her back into the faith. We must also forgive one another of their sins against us, lest we be judged by God in the same manner that we judge our brother/sister. The world that does not know Jesus is incapable of understanding this concept, because it is beyond our flesh to forgive and love our brothers in this way. Only by the Grace of God can we walk in the Spirit and forgive and love as we are commanded to do in Scripture. Once again, I’d like to close with the final prayer in Jude:
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
May the Lord bless and keep you,