In my previous post I looked at the aspects of legalism that come from this teaching of the woman caught in adultery. Today we should explore the other side of this teaching, for it is a wondrous message and shows how the Lord has taken us from the darkness of that legalistic situation into the light of the truth of God.
This woman was lost in sin and about to die for her wayward adulterous ways. That is, until she was brought by the scribes and Pharisees in an attempt to entrap Jesus. There is no doubt that it was the best day of her life and hopefully the beginning of a new life, rather than what would have been the last day of her life.
Grace Under the New Covenant
The great promises of the New Covenant rest upon the Grace of God. Grace has been described in many ways, but my favourite is that it is, “The undeserved kindness and favour of God.”
It is undeserved because man in his sinful state always does the wrong thing. he always falls in sin and fails to meet the requirements of God, which are set down in the law.
But Grace overlooks our failings and faults and says, try again and learn how to do better. Of course a person needs to accept the gift of grace first, and it is a gift that is given, not taken. Many will not accept Gods gift and so do not come under Grace but under judgement for failing to keep the law. But those who do receive God’s grace come to him repentant and with the desire to live life right. They desire not to sin but to do the right thing and live a life pleasing to the Father. And because of their faith and desires to do what is right, God gives them his infinite Grace and overlooks their failings.
And He does even more than that for He has taken away the thing which condemns man as a sinner. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has made the perfect sacrifice to take away sin, remove the law and set man free to live a life aligned with the truth of God.
Grace is there to help us as we stumble our way forwards, skinning our knees as we walk and fall and get up to walk with Jesus again. And he continues to leads us forward as we learn and grow so that we stumble less and less until by the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives we are transformed into the image of Christ.
When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, she didn’t know it at the time, but she was being brought to all of this. She was about to be given her first taste of the Grace of God and the compassion and mercy of Jesus Christ in the hope that her desires would be transformed away from doing evil in adultery and towards doing right in the sight of God.
Compassion Without Hasty Judgement
When the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus, they were seeking for him to make a judgement over her. They wanted Jesus to judge her and validate the Law of Moses.
But he didn’t. Jesus didn’t judge the woman at all. This isn’t the only time He showed he had not come to judge for we see this same response in other places. We see in Luke 12:13-14, that He did not judge when asked to cast judgement in a situation between brothers.
13 One of the multitude said to him, “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.”
14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?”
And in John 12 we see the truth of what Jesus’ purpose was when He came into the world.
47 If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
48 He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.
Jesus came to save mankind, not to judge him. The time for judgement is coming, but that is not and was not the purpose of His visitation. He came to give man the hope of salvation so that man would seek God and desire to live right. Judgement is being reserved for those who choose to reject Him.
And this hope of salvation is what He showed the woman caught in adultery. At no point in the recounting of the situation did Jesus judge her. When pressed by the scribes and Pharisees, He wrote in the ground and questioned their motives and their sinfulness, not the woman’s. He put the judgement into their hands by saying, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Verse 8)
And they walked away because they knew they were not without fault. When they had gone, it was then and only then that Jesus spoke to the woman.
When the men had all left them alone Jesus addressed the woman saying:
10 Jesus looked 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 do not sin again.”
First he makes the point that no one has now condemned her. All of the men who were there recognised they were sinners and walked away.
Jesus however was not a sinner and if anyone could have cast the first stone it was he. But as mentioned above, He came to save and not to judge. He came not to condemn but to offer a way to find God, through mercy, compassion and faith. And these are what he offer the woman.
When He said, “Neither do I condemn you,” He gave her a second chance. He gave her back her life, because we must not forget that she was facing a death penalty. But instead she received life rather than death; freedom, not condemnation.
But that freedom came with a condition. When he set her free it was not to continue living as she had. It was not permission to return to adultery. No, Jesus gave her a condition saying, “…go, and do not sin again.”
Her freedom was based upon changing her life. Her second chance was dependant upon repenting and doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. She was not being given the right to be licentious by being set freedom
Her freedom, like ours, is not the freedom to do whatever you like, it is the freedom to do what is right. We have been set free from law not so we can break the law, but so we can live a life of obedience to the Father. We keep the requirements of the law, not because the law says so, but because we desire to do the right thing.
Paul discussed this in several places saying, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:31) And also he showed in Romans 6:14-16,
14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
16 Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
So the freedom that we receive is like the freedom that the woman caught in adultery likewise received. We were sinners set free from sin by the undeserved kindness of God, that is, by Grace. And the woman too was set free, not because she deserved to be, but because of the compassion, kindness and mercy of the Lord. It was by His grace that she received life and it is by God’s grace that we do too.
And the condition that she was given where Jesus told her not to sin again, likewise holds for us. Our responsibility is to live a life in obedience to the father and to do what is right. If we fall down and do what is wrong, we still have the gift of God’s grace to carry us through, but the intention is not for us to rely on His Grace forever, but to live a life of victory and transformation into the image of Christ. Grace is there as a safety net, but it is the intention of God that we become steady, mature and obedient to His will so that we do not do the wrong thing.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Geri-Jean Blanchard)
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