Monday, December 05, 2016

Neither Do I Condemn Thee

“Neither shalt thou commit adultery.” (Deuteronomy 5:18) “If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 22:22; cf. v. 24 “ shall stone them with stones that they die.”)

Many Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem loved the law and hated Jesus. They sought to underscore their perspective that his teachings were contrary to the law they loved. John 8:3-11 describes an incident of a woman taken in adultery. She sinned. She broke the law. The scribes and Pharisees brought her to Jesus in order to hear what He would say and see what He would do. They condemned the woman, but by their actions condemned themselves as well. When we consider this woman and her situation, we perceive:
  • Her sin was apparent – “this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.”
  • Her judgment was certain – “Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”
  • Her accusers were aloof – “This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.”
  • Her judge was just – “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
  • Her accusers were confounded – “they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience…”
  • Her judge was compassionate – “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?”
  • Her sin was forgiven – “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
The record is forthright that the woman was guilty of the sin of adultery. It is unquestionable that the law prescribed death for this crime. The text also masterfully unmasks the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. They doted on the law, but disregarded its application. If “this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act,” then there was a man who should have been brought as well. He escaped the shame and was excused from judgment. The law required “they shall both of them die.” But the correct application of the law was not their primary intent. They were detached from the woman and her case, and focused on what Jesus would do. They tempted him. If they could catch him in an error regarding the law, they could accuse him of wrongdoing. That’s what this was about, first and foremost.

The “judge and jury” responded in a way the scribes and Pharisees could not have guessed. His words and actions vindicate the law, condemn the false actions of the religious leaders, and grace to the adulterous woman – all in a way that leaves no loose end for the scribes and Pharisees to unravel. Jesus did not contradict the just claims of the law. His initial lack of response and final answer, rather, left the woman without accusers. Rather than casting stones they – convicted by their consciences – walked away from the proceedings, leaving the woman alone with Jesus. “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.” Deuteronomy 17:6 (Cf. also Deuteronomy 19:15)

Under the Law there must be agreement between two or three witnesses. Now there are no witnesses! When Jesus asked the woman whether there were any accusers, she answered, “No man, Lord.” Whom the men would not accuse, neither did the Lord. He came not to condemn. We are already condemned. We need no help with that. He came to save. That we cannot do ourselves. (Cf. John 3:17-18) O what gracious words are these! -- “Neither do I condemn thee.”

Christ did not find fault with the law. He did not ignore the woman’s guilt. While the woman’s sin was covered with grace and forgiven, it was not excused. She was to “go, and sin no more.” This statement acknowledges the sin and reproves and calls for repentance. No, Christ did not find fault with the law. He did not ignore the woman’s guilt. But in Christ law and grace are fully embraced and fulfilled. Through the propitiation provided by his blood, God “might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Cf. Romans 3:23-26)

It is appointed that men must die. The wages of sin is death. But, like the adulterous woman, by the grace of God – and only by grace – we walk away from death, our sins forgiven.

“Neither do I condemn thee,”–
O words of wondrous grace;
Thy sins were borne upon the cross,
Believe, and go in peace.

“Neither do I condemn thee,”–
I came not to condemn;
I came from God to save thee,
And turn thee from thy sin.”

“Neither do I condemn thee,”
O sing it o’er and o’er;
“Neither do I condemn thee,
Go and sin no more.”
(James McGranahan, 1885)

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