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Associate Editorial: A Lesson from the Master (John 8:2-11)

“Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more'” (John 8:2-11).

This interesting but brief record in the life of the Lord presents to us some challenges that would be good for us to consider. In the church today, Christians are constantly having to deal with the question of what to do with a person living in adultery or, more specifically, living in an adulterous marriage. Not only must we deal with the people and their sin, we must also deal with those purveyors of evil who have successfully warped the minds of people into thinking that adultery is not a sexual sin. When Moses descended from the Mountain at Sinai with the tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments, he read to the people the seventh commandment which simply says, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). I am brought to a state of wonderment considering how many of the people at the foot of the mountain considered what Moses said to them about adultery from a legal perspective. Oh, it was law that Moses read, but the seventh commandment is and always has been a moral regulation and not a legal procedural matter. Furthermore, everybody knows that!!

When people look at this account from John 8, they know beyond doubt that the woman here is being charged with sexual sin. The sin she is charged with was not committed in the courtroom, but rather in some illicit bedroom, if in fact she was guilty. The question that is asked of those of us who are radicals in trying to keep and to preach everything that Jesus said and inspired to be written, is, “If Jesus can say to an adulteress, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’ Then why can’t we?” This is where we need to study what happened in this instance.

Notice, first, that when the woman was brought to Jesus, he was busy doing his job. He was not looking to condemn anyone. He never set Himself up as a judge of Mosaic legal matters. Rather, just the opposite is true. Luke 12:14, “But He said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?'” Also, Jesus said, in John 12:47, “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” Jesus was thrust into the situation with the charges against the woman purely out of the wishes and desires of her accusers.

Initially, there are three major problems with this event:

    a) Why just bring the woman? The accusers already have egg on their face making a charge of adultery against only one party. They are showing their intellectual dishonesty if nothing else. It takes two people to commit adultery, and if she were caught n the very act, the man could have and, by law, should have been brought to face the identical charges which were lodged against the woman. Leviticus 20:10, “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.” When we appeal to the law, as these accusers did, we had better know what the law says.b) If the proper execution of law was their primary concern, as indicated in verse 5, then what difference would it have made what Jesus said? Again, these men are manifesting their own dishonesty. Just because there is a new teacher in town is no reason to throw out the law and wait for the teacher to tell everybody what they all already knew. Adultery was a capital crime under the law, no matter what anybody said. If the woman was guilty, she must be stoned. If she was not guilty, then she never should have been arrested and brought to Jesus. When given the opportunity by Jesus to execute the law, they refused and all walked away. There had to be another motive. Modernists show their own dishonesty when they try to alter the plain teaching of Jesus on this subject. In seeking to relegate Matthew 19:9 and Matthew 5:32 to application ONLY to those born again into the Father’s Kingdom and not applicable to those outside of Christ, they prove that they have another motive. They are not seeking to execute the law of Christ. They are seeking to justify keeping a mate to which they have no legal right.c) The third problem in this case is the lack of witnesses. Without witnesses, there is no basis of guilt. Deuteronomy 19:15, “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” When Jesus sought to do things according to the law, the accusers all fled. There was no allegiance to the Law of Moses among the Pharisees. They used it to their own destruction. They used it for their own pleasure as it was revealed. Jesus showed His own disdain for their selfish application of the law by remaining in a stooped position and writing on the ground. The men learned by this that Jesus knew just exactly what they were doing, and they could not stand the light of investigation to see the results. When Jesus spoke up at the end, He was showing full and complete dedication to the Law, just as it was written. Is there a lesson for us today in that? Sentiment cannot rule. Compassion and mercy are not in the realm of lawkeeping. And please be advised that no one here is mentioning perfect lawkeeping, but when it comes to marriage, divorce, or, as in this case, execution of capital punishment, the law is simple to understand and simple to apply, if there is first the desire to obey God.

Why did Jesus challenge the men concerning who would cast the first stone? Why is most often a question that demands an assumption. God rarely tells us why. He tells us what and sometimes how. Was Jesus asking for a perfect man to cast the first stone? Many have given up the fight for doctrinal purity by saying that since they are not perfect, individually, how can we expect to have or maintain doctrinal purity, and, after all, they reason, if we miss it, Romans 14 is there to cover it. GOD FORBID!!! God never asked any man to do something which was not in man’s capabilities to perform. He never did in past times, and He doesn’t do that now. Jesus asks for someone to cast the first stone who was not guilty in the case before Him. If there was a man who had followed the law in this case throughout its entire process, then that man could cast the first stone and rightfully so. There was no such man. The three previously identified problems disqualified every one of the woman’s accusers. Who were they to kill a sinner in a matter when they were guilty of breaking the same law as she had probably broken (vs. 11; James 2:10)? The men were lawbreakers and in their mistreatment of the law, they prevented the woman from being prosecuted. Such was the demand of the law.

Was Jesus playing loose with the Law? In no way. Are we permitted, by His example, to play loose with the law under which we serve God? In no way. The Mosaic Law was very specific in how the execution of a sinner was to take place, especially in the case of adultery. Jesus is showing the utmost of respect for the law of God in doing what He did. Would to God that my brethren would do the same when addressing issues today, or even when they address their brothers. The accusers of the adulteress had failed to prove their case. Their motives were wrong. They neither followed the letter nor the spirit of the law. They were sinners in this regard. How could a sinner condemn a sinner in the sin in which they were both a party? By this, I certainly do not mean that the accusers were involved in the sexual sin, though some have surmised that, given the absence of the adulterer. The issue here is respect for the Law of God. How do we handle it (2 Timothy 2:15)?

What about the woman? There is every indication that she was guilty. Are we, then, to tolerate adulterers and adulteresses in the church today since Jesus allowed this woman to go free? The problem that most people have with what the Lord said to the woman is a failure to be consistent. He never condoned her sin. Under the Mosaic system, however, there was no censure provision. She was either worthy of death or she was worthy of life. Unless she was proven to be an adulteress by the testimony of legitimate witnesses, there was no alternative but to let her go free with the instruction of God on her, “Go and sin no more.”

The bleeding hearts want to legitimize adulterous relationships “for the sake of the children.” I have a question to ask of a very practical nature. Once parenthood has been established, and the law is clear that the parents are adulterers, {you know the scenario….young couple marries, divorces not for the cause of fornication, matures, remarries unlawful mates, has children, and then wants to take those children to church and have the whole family justified in their sinful behavior} does the role of these parents demand that they continue to have sexual relations with each other or with anyone for that matter? No, adultery is never right, whether there are children or not. Jesus never condoned adultery, Jesus never tolerated adultery, and the church is under no obligation to tolerate it today. Not only is the church not to tolerate it, but we are commanded to rid the church of all adulterers (1 Corinthians 5).

Be on guard for the bleeding hearts who think they are better than Jesus. Jesus commands repentance. Must we forgive without repentance? Can there be true repentance without the fruits of that repentance being known? Can a thief keep his stolen car? Can an adulterer keep his unlawful sex partner? Think about it.