Sunday, November 24, 2013

Biblical Submission & Obedience

Despite what most people have been led to believe, or prefer to believe, submission and obedience are NOT the same.  These two terms shouldn’t be confused with one another, as they often are.  Generally, it’s God’s desire that all people are to be submissive to one another all the time, but obedience is conditional.  Submission and obedience can and often do work together, but at the same time, they’re not the same.  One focuses on the heart while the other on our actions, or lack thereof.  This being the case, you can have one without the other, both, or neither one, and what’s required at any given point in time may change.  This isn’t “situational ethics,” it’s an exercise in how to discern people and their problems in a real world setting; i.e. it’s learning how to apply spiritual truths in a practical setting.   But what are they?

Submission is our attitude, our motivation, our desire.  It’s our thoughts and how we think or feel about someone, something, or some situation.  It’s internal, but often reflected outward in our conduct, expressions, mannerisms, and posture.  It’s not what we do, but how we think or feel about it.  It’s a matter of the heart and what’s going on inside of it.  It’s what we’re thinking.  It’s not weakness.  It’s an honest and true humility before God in the sight of men.  It’s the laying aside of oneself for the benefit of another – a willingness to suffer loss so that someone else may excel.  It’s withholding anger, even when it’s justified, if withholding that anger would be more beneficial.  It isn’t a giving away or laying aside of your authority, it’s a wisdom in knowing how to manage it and your people.  

Obedience is another matter.  It’s our conduct.  It’s what we do or don’t do.  It’s whether we outwardly obey or disobey.  It’s whether we perform the task or not.  It’s what we do, but not what we think (that’s submission).  It’s our actions, or lack thereof.    

But the tendency is to combine the two in an unnatural manner thus creating something that God never intended – often expressed as “blind obedience” or “taking a leap of faith” – neither of which are biblical concepts.  Noah didn’t build the Ark and tell God to make it rain, nor did Israel march around Jericho and tell God to make the walls fall.  Rather, each heard from God and then chose to trust him at his Word.  Hence, Bible faith begins with a Word from God and then responds accordingly and not the other way around.  It may be a “leap of faith” for us in learning how to trust, but it’s not the kind of “leap of faith” where we’re jumping blindly.  But let’s see what Scripture has to say.

God wants all men to submit to him both as it applies to salvation and daily living for the Christian.
Rom. 15:1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  2Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification3For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
Eph. 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Php. 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Col. 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Heb. 12:9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
Jam. 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  8Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.  9Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.  10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

God wants man to submit to our earthly governments and our bosses at work, and vice versa.

Rom. 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Eph. 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.  9And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
Col. 3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 23And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
1 Pet. 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.  15For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
1 Pet. 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

God wants us to submit to one another in the church, including church leadership.  Why?  Because they’re gifts from God who’ve been charged with our earthly care (Eph. 4:7, 11-15).

1 Cor. 16:16 That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.
Eph. 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 
Heb. 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
1 Pet. 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.  Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.  6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

God wants wives to submit to their husbands and their children to submit to their parents, and vice versa.

Eph. 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.  24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are [all] members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Eph. 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.  2Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.  4And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Col. 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.  19Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.  20Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.  21Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. 

As a practical example of how submission and obedience apply to a situation, consider the following example.  Bear in mind that as we do, there is submission and obedience as it pertains to salvation (or lack thereof) as well as submission and obedience as it applies to Christians and their daily walk.  A father asks his son to mow the grass...

(1)        ...the son says that he’s happy to do it, and he goes and mows the grass.

This is submission and obedience.  The son was happy in his heart (submission), and he did go and mow the grass (obedience).  This is how God wants us to respond to all authority and each other so long as we’re not being asked to break one of his commandments (Acts 5:24-29).  This is the ideal, but it’s often hard to come by because only a changed heart can lead to this kind of obedience. 
(2)        ...the son grumbles in his heart, and doesn’t go and mow the grass.

There is no submission or obedience.  The son grumbled and pouted (no submission), and he didn’t go and mow the grace (no obedience).  The father got neither from his son.  This child is an overt rebel and will do little, if anything, to conceal his disdain for his father.            

(3)        ...the son is happy in his heart to do it, but he doesn’t go and mow the grass.

This is submission without obedience.  The son was happy in his heart (submission), but he didn’t go and mow the grass (no obedience).  The son has a heart for his father; but his obedience, his performance, is lacking.  This will lead to discipline.  But with this child, because he has a heart for his father, he’s likely to receive his father’s correction and discipline because he knows that his father loves him.
(4)        ...the son grumbles in his heart, but goes and mows the grass.

There is no submission, but there is obedience.  The son grumbled and pouted (no submission), but he did go and mow the grass (obedience).  The son is outwardly obedient but inwardly rebellious.  This is perhaps the worst scenario because trickery and deception are involved: the son is feigning obedience to his father, but the grumbling in his heart shows that he’s a rebel.   

Examples (1) and (2) are the easiest and most obvious to recognize because they demonstrate a clear contrast.  In Example (1) we find the perfect scenario: submission and obedience.  The son is happy to mow the grass and he goes and does it.  The father will be thoroughly pleased.  In spiritual terms, this child is saved because he has the heart of his Father, and as a demonstration of his love for him, he’s obedient to his call (Rom. 5:8).  He’s not working so that his Father will love him, he’s working because his Father loves him, and he knows it.  And so the son is reacting in appreciation and not as a requirement to earn or retain his Father’s love.  This scenario can only apply to a Christian.

In Example (2) we find the polar opposite: there is no submission or obedience.  As it pertains to salvation, in heart and action he has no regard for his Father or his Father’s will, and so this would be any unsaved person.  For Christians, it would be rebellion against a specific command or directive found in God’s Word.  Still a Christian, but carnal.  This leaves Examples (3) and (4).

In Example (3) there is submission, but no obedience.  In spiritual terms, this is all Christians because no Christian has ever perfectly obeyed God in every regard after salvation; and the reason for this is because our minds and bodies haven’t been completely renewed (yet), but that day is coming.  Submission reveals that you have a heart for your Father.  There are biblical examples of men who’ve had a heart for God, but who’s obedience was often lacking.  King David was saved man who also committed adultery and murder.  But because he did have a heart for his Father, when he was reproved he repented and received his Father’s discipline.  Samson committed suicide, but he’s hailed as a great man of faith (Heb. 11:32) – and there are many other examples in the Bible of people who loved God but who’s obedience often faltered.    

In other terms, many Christians accept Jesus as their Saviour (submission) but not as their Lord (no obedience).  Or, they trust him as their Saviour and Lord as it pertains to their salvation, but not as the Lord over their daily lives: they don’t want him telling them how to live or, more specifically, how to run their church.  God will bless our individual plans through his Providential care; but as the Church Body, God has provided us with clear and concise doctrine and most have chosen to reject it.  So while Christians are submissive to Christ in salvation, seldom are they submissive or obedient in daily living. 
In Example (4) we have obedience without submission, and this is where most are going to have the greatest difficulty because deception is involved.  For example, the scribes and Pharisees were outwardly obedient.  They seemed morally pure and were highly regarded.  They were “in the ministry” and “successful.”  They didn’t curse, drink, smoke, fornicate, gamble, or engage in any outward vices. 

But God had a lot to say about them and none of it was good (e.g. Mt. 23).  They took his Word, perverted it, and created a false religious system with a false gospel and then sold it to the masses and the masses rejoiced – and nothing has changed.  “Christianity” today is full of false prophets and teachers that are “in the ministry” and “doing well.”  They’re highly regarded and appear moral, but they too have created a false religious system with a false gospel and then sold it to the masses and the masses have continued to rejoice.  And when their heresies, doctrinal errors, and faults are exposed, most professing Christians simply make excuses for them – often citing that their “good” outweighs their “bad.”  But in the end, their words always and inevitably betray them (Dt. 13:1-5; 18:18-22).  So while there’s a measure of outward obedience, there’s no submission; i.e. they’re unsaved (Mt. 7:21-23).  But exposing them is an unsavory but necessary business and most just aren’t up to the task, even though Christ requires it and love demands it, and that’s what makes this difficult for many (Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Tim. 5:20; Tit. 1:9-11; 2 Jn. 1:9-11 etc.).      

But this is also true among God’s people.  Christians can be obedient without being submissive.  All too often we institute programs and services and then (presumptuously) expect God to bless them.  And when things go right, we have the tendency to congratulate ourselves; and when things go wrong, we have the tendency to blame God.  In other words, just because something is “good” doesn’t mean that it’s “right;” and all too often, God’s people will choose the “good” over the “right” and they’ll do it without having sought God first or they’ll just assume for themselves that it was his will all along.  Selah.    

Concluding, as it pertains to salvation, unsaved people are never submissive because submissiveness is a godly attribute.  They may be morally submissive, or submissive because of some moral restraint, but never in terms of salvation unless they repent.  They can be outwardly obedient, and even be more outwardly obedient or moral than many Christians, but man is never justified by works for his salvation and so in this regard there is no submissiveness within them before God (Eph. 2:8-10; Gal. 2:16 etc.).

Christians, as it pertains to salvation, have been submissive to God’s pleas for salvation and so they do have a submissive heart.  But in their daily walk as it applies to implementing God’s Word, Christians are seldom submissive or obedient.  This doesn’t mean they’re longer Christians or that they’ve “lost” their salvation, nor is it a “cheap grace” or a “license to sin” (Rom. 6:1-9); it just means that although our salvation is secured in Christ (2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30), we still struggle to implement God’s Word into our daily lives because we still have carnal minds and bodies that are going to perish, but eventually they will be renewed.  So we don’t submit and obey to earn or retain our salvation, but to express of our love for God.  

So again, submission is a matter of the heart and God’s standard is that we be submissive to all people all the time.  Obedience towards man is always conditional based upon what we’re being asked to do, while our obedience to God should always be without question.  None of us in this life will ever reach that ideal, but it is the standard – not to earn or retain salvation, but to learn and grow in our understanding of him and his Word as partakers of his Word.  Selah.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Widow's Mites

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation– Matthew 23:14 (Mk. 12:40; Lk. 20:47) 
If there was ever a lesson in the Bible that demanded its interpretation be driven by the events surrounding it, then the story of The Widow’s Mites would be it.  The story is told below as it appears in Mark 12:41-44, with details from Luke 21:1-4 added in parenthesis.    

41And Jesus sat over against the treasury, (And he looked up…21:1) and beheld how the people (rich people...21:1) cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.  42And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing43And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44For all they did cast in of their abundance; (cast in unto the offerings of God:…Lu. 21:4); but she of her want (penury…21:4) did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

To begin, let’s discuss what the story is NOT about.
Ø  It is not about sacrificial (financial) giving
Ø  It is not about taking a vow of poverty
Ø  It is not about our attitude or motive when giving
Ø  It is not about the percentage of our giving in light of our income (compared to the rich, she gave a higher percentage although much less in amount)
Ø  It is not about true worship vs. religious worship
Ø  It is not about money at all – although money is involved
If this passage is about giving, then you must teach that God is most pleased when we give ALL.  More specifically, you must teach that God is most pleased when even poor widows have given of their very last in support of “the church.”  But note that Jesus never says that he’s pleased or displeased with her giving, or that he’s pleased or displeased with her attitude or motive when giving, or anything else.  All he says is that she gave of her want, that she gave all, and that she gave all her living.  But if it isn’t about financial giving, then what is it about? 
As it happens, just prior to this story is where we find Jesus pronouncing his “seven woes” upon the scribes and Pharisees (Mt. 23:1-36; Mk. 12:38-40; Lu. 20:45-47).  He calls them hypocrites, fools, blind guides, serpents, and vipers.  He describes them as white-washed sepulchers that look good on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones, rot, and decay.  He speaks of their great pride, heresy, love of money, and religious but unbiblical pursuit of godliness (2 Tim. 3:5).  They’ve persecuted the saints, killed the prophets, and robbed God’s people of their wealth, and this they’ve all done in the name of God (Jn. 16:2-3).  But despite this, and in keeping with God’s character (Eze. 33:11), he laments their destruction. 
…  Mt. 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!  38Behold, your house is left unto you desolate39For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Jesus then looks up and observes the widow casting in her mites, which is then followed by his foretelling of the destruction of the Temple and his Second Coming (Mt. 23:37-39 also).[1]  This is the context in which we find the widow casting her mites: between Christ’s righteous indignation levied toward the scribes and Pharisees and their oppressive religious system and the foretelling of the impending destruction of Jerusalem and his Second Coming.  And so we must ask ourselves, Is it logical to commend a poor widow who’s casted her “last two dollars” in support of a doomed religious system?[2]  But there’s more. 
Look at where Jesus is sitting.  He’s at the Temple sitting in an area known as the Court of the Women (Treasury), which is the second court encountered when proceeding from the streets of Jerusalem en route to the Temple.  The first was a large court known as the Court of the Gentiles.  It’s name infers that it was for “Gentiles Only,” but this is a misnomer.  What it really meant was that it was as close to the Temple as a Gentile could get; they could come no closer: male or female.  In fact, anyone could wander through their court: they had to in order to get to the Temple.  So while appearing special and unique, their court only served as a limitation because it was as close to God as they were allowed to get, and this is true of all the courts.  The Court of the Women was as close as a Jewish woman could travel; the Court of Israel was as close as a non-Levitical Jewish male could attend, then there was the Court of the Priests, and finally the Temple itself.  But again, there’s more.  
Travelling from without to within, each court became smaller in size than the one before it; and so the Court of the Gentiles was the largest and the Court of the Priests the smallest.  They also increased in elevation.  The Court of the Gentiles was the lowest and the Court of the Priests the highest (before the Temple, of course).  In addition, each court was divided from the other by stairs, walls, and pillars, or some combination thereof.  So the impression given was that Gentiles were the lowliest while the Jewish priests were the most revered (by God).  The Gentiles were at the bottom and the priests were at the top.  And since each court was smaller than the one preceding it, then each court became exclusive to an increasingly smaller number of people; thus giving the impression that only an increasingly select few were allowed to draw close to God, or were approved by God, with the Jewish religious leaders being at the top.  In other words, because of its construction, these courts gave the impression that God loved Jews more than Gentiles, and that even within Israel, God loved his priests more than he loved women and children.  But in the original design of the Temple (Tabernacle), there was only one court where the priests stood and ministered with everyone else standing outside: Jew or Gentile.[3]  And so the simple lesson here was that you’re either a priest serving within the courts of the Lord or you’re not; i.e. you’re either saved or lost.  Herein we have a clear contrast where everyone is on the same footing: all lost people were equally lost and all saved people were equally saved; and all saved people had equal access to God (by way of the New Covenant: cp. Mt. 27:51; 1 Pet. 2:9-10).  There were no height deviations or graduated steps in God’s plan, nor were there any man-made divisions (walls, pillars, steps).  They all stood on level footing whether lost or saved.  And so there was no separation of the saints because there was only one court for them. 

But this is what religions does; it separates under the guise of inclusiveness.  In adding these courts, the Jews made a place for everyone.  Everyone could “feel” as though they were a child of God because everyone had a court made especially for them (i.e. the wide road: Mt. 7:13-14).  But in adding these courts, they also created artificial divisions (walls, stairs, pillars) where once there were none.  We see this today.  Under the guise of Christianity, man has created denominations (and cults) to suit every possible belief system thereby allowing everyone to feel as though they’re a part of God’s family when in fact they may not (Mt. 7:21-23).  But in doing so, they’ve also separated God’s people from one another as each division (denomination) pursues its own self-interests.  Thus, denominations don’t draw God’s people together, they separate them – a proposition of which Scripture expressly forbids.[4]  Let it therefore be understood that all denominations are sin; they are all man-made additions to the Word of God just as these courts were man-made additions to the Temple.[5]  So when Jesus observes this poor widow, it not only occurs between his righteous indignation levied towards the scribes and Pharisees and the foretelling of the destruction of the Temple, it occurs as he’s physically sitting in the very midst of the false religious system they’d created.[6]  And so again we must ask, Is it logical that he would commend a poor widow for her sacrificial giving when it’s given in support of a doomed religious system?  The answer should be obvious; the context doesn’t allow for that interpretation. 

But that aside, there’s another way to tell that this story isn’t what it seems.  For this, we’ll let Scripture speak for itself. 

…  Dt. 14:28 (Dt. 26:12) At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: 29And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
…  Dt. 24:19 (Lev. 19:9, 23:22) When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands20When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow21When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow22And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing.
…  1 Tim. 5:16 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.
…  Ja. 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

From these verses and many others, Scripture is clear.  In the Bible, destitute widows were to receive support and not the other way around.  This is how you know something is wrong with the story without having to know the context.  But in applying them both, what we discover is that it explains why the Jewish religious system and their Temple will be destroyed in 70 A.D. 

…  Ex. 22:21 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt22Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.  23If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; 24And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

The religious leaders had so perverted the Word of the Lord, and they’d done it for so long, that they had no compassion left – no, not even for the poor; and nothing has changed.  People today are still being taught to give sacrificially with the (false) hope that God will bless them in return.  “Prosperity preachers” tell people to send checks for money they don’t have; and then when it doesn’t appear, they tell them that they didn’t have enough faith, that they must be harboring some secret sin, or that they just need to be more patient, etc.  Never is their doctrine wrong.  The fault always rests with those giving.  Thus their doctrine is no different than that of the scribes and Pharisees.  They both teach that the poor should give when the Bible teaches they should receive.  Similarly, those writing checks of their want are faring no better than the widow in this story.  One is preaching a lie and the other is believing a lie, even though the clear Word of the Lord teaches the exact opposite; thus proving that neither are reading the Word of God or hearing his voice.  But just as the scribes and Pharisees were destroyed for their lack of compassion, so too will the scribes and Pharisees of our day.  But the question remains: if this story isn’t about financial giving, then what is it about?

Putting it all together, when Jesus spoke of the poor widow, he wasn’t referring to her financial giving, but her spiritual condition.  The “want” from which she gave was her spiritual poverty.  She was spiritually destitute: unsaved.  This means that the “all” from which she gave was that of the mind, body, and soul; and in giving “all her living,” her salvation rested not in the Lord Jesus Christ, but in this false religious system and what she perceived it could do for her – and nothing has changed today.  Many are still pinning their hopes in “the system” and the message that it preaches instead of what’s found in God’s Word.  And so Jesus wasn’t commending her for her sacrificial giving, he was sorrowing over her spiritual status, which was but a reflection of the overall problem in Israel.[7]  So although practically everyone uses this story as an example of sacrificial giving necessary to support the work of the church, the context doesn’t allow for that interpretation.  Suffice it to say, “giving to God” while neglecting the practical needs of the people is sin (Mt. 15:3-6; Mk. 7:9-13).  Hence, any religion, denomination, church, or doctrine that’s willing to impoverish the poor for its own benefit is a false religion.  Selah.     

[1] Mt. 24:1-31; Mk. 13:1-27; Lu. 21:5-28.  Chronologically, after The Widow’s Mites, there is a brief pause in the narrative of Matthew, Mark, and Luke reminding the reader that Jesus is The Light of the world (Jn. 12:20-36) followed by a brief summary explaining the unbelief of the Jews (37-43).
[2] The exact value of the mites (leptons) and the farthing (quadran) in modern values is difficult to ascertain; but the high estimate is about $2USDs.
[3] Ex. 27:9-19; 38:9-20
[4] 1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:1-4; 11:18-19; Rom. 16:17-18
[5] Dt. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19
[6] Man had so profoundly perverted God’s Word that it was no longer effective (Mt. 15:1-9; Mk. 7:1-12). 
[7] Not to be forgotten, the rich trusted in their own riches to save them (Ps. 49:6-9; Mk. 10:24; 1 Tim. 6:17 etc.).  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What Did Jesus Write on the Ground in John 8:6-9 The Story of Woman Taken in Adultery

6This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.  7So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 

8And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

John 8:6-9 –

In John 8:1-11, Jesus is holding a quiet and peaceable “Bible study” when the religious leaders barge in and demand that he tell them what they ought to do with a woman they’ve caught “in the very act” of adultery (3-5).  They know what the Law says, but they want to hear what Jesus has to say.  But it was a trap.  Rome had forbidden the Jews from putting anyone to death (Jn. 18:31-32).  So if Jesus tells them to stone her, they’ll turn him over to the Romans with the hope that they’ll put him to death for breaking their law.  But if he says not to stone her, then they’ll accuse him of breaking the Mosaic Law, thus discrediting him as the Messiah. 

But as they’re making their demands, and as though he hadn’t heard a word they’d said, Jesus stoops down and begins to write on the ground with his finger (6).  He then rises – likely points to what he’s just written – and says, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (7).  He then stoops and begins to write again, except this time he remains stooped until they all leave (8).  The first time he rose it was to let them know that he had more to say.  But this time, he remains stooped so as to suggest that the conversation is over: there’s no more to be said, only a decision remains.  But what did he write on the ground?  Before understanding what he wrote on the ground, perhaps it’s wiser to understand why he wrote on the ground.         

Why Did Jesus Write on the Ground?

Jesus wrote on the ground because he’s God come in the flesh.  At Mt. Sinai some 1500 years earlier, God had wrote the Law with his finger onto two tablets of stone, but now Jesus is going to twice write the Law with his finger into stony ground (6).  Jesus is (subtly) claiming to be God!    

Ex. 31:18 (Dt. 9:10) And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
And so the same God that came down from Heaven and wrote the Ten Commandments with his finger onto two tablets of stone is the same man who’s twice stooped over and wrote with his finger God’s Law on the ground!  Same principle, different application.  The Old Testament was written as a pattern of things to come (Heb. 8:5).  And in this instance, Jesus is illustrating the truths of what occurred on Mt. Sinai! 

But there’s another reason: Jesus is having the same problem now as God did at Mt Sinai: the Jews are still trying to save themselves from their sins through the outward observance of the Law.  They think that just because they’re born Jews as “God’s chosen people” that this earns them a free trip into Heaven.  But God is trying to teach them that they’ve already broken the Law and that they’re in need of grace – and indeed they are, as will presently be demonstrated.  This explains why he wrote on the ground, but what just exactly did he write?

What Did Jesus Write on the Ground?

Since Jesus was asked what should be done with the woman according to the Mosaic Law, then only an answer from the Mosaic Law will do.  And since it was a legal matter specifically concerning adultery, then when he stooped to write the first time, it’s likely that Jesus wrote the following.

Lev. 20:10 (Dt. 22:22) And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

This is what they should do with a woman caught in adultery – put her and the man to death.  But where was the man?  If she was caught in the very act, then he was immediately present and should’ve been brought as well.  But they didn’t.  It’s therefore logical that Jesus reminded them of what the Law commanded.  (Note: it’s difficult to catch someone in the very act, but somehow they managed to do so!  Remember, this was all devised as a trap!)  Jesus then stands, and likely pointing to what he’d just written, says, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” 

Up until this point, the scribes and Pharisees had been so busy yelling their demands that they failed to notice what Jesus was doing (7...they continued asking him).  They probably just thought he was doodling on the ground, stalling for time.  But after he’d spoken, they quiet down and begin to take notice.  He then stoops and writes again.
Dt. 19:16 If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong;...18And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; 19Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.

These men aren’t false witnesses because she wasn’t guilty, they’re false witnesses because they didn’t bring the man.  And so Jesus is challenging them to bring the man.  If they do, then he can properly answer the question.  But if they do, his identity will be revealed.  And since this whole thing was a trap (6), then in all likelihood it’s one of their own.  So if they want to press the matter, they must bring the man thus revealing his identity; or, if they want to press the matter without bringing the man, then they must face the charge of acting as false witnesses.  So wanting neither, they being to walk away.  This leaves Jesus “alone” with the woman.[1]  But though she’s guilty of the sin, he can’t judge her because the Law also said that there must be two or more witnesses (Dt. 19:15 etc.).  But all the witnesses had left!  So in this instance, the Law actually saved her![2]  

So, what did Jesus wrote on the ground?  No one can dogmatically state with absolute certainty.  But at the same, it’d be a challenge to arrive at something more fitting than what’s been presented here.  Jesus was asked what should be done with the woman according to the Law, and so logic demands that he answered in accordance with the Law; specifically, adultery.  And it’s in stating the Law that the trap of the scribes and Pharisees was revealed.  Remember, the purpose of the Law is to make us aware of sin (Rom. 3:20; 7:7 etc.).  Convicted, the scribes and Pharisees, beginning with the eldest, began to leave (Jn. 16:7-11).  And so whatever Jesus wrote on the ground, it must have come from the Mosaic Law and it would have dealt directly with the sin of adultery.    
Because of this, it’s this author’s opinion that the first time that he stooped and wrote that he quoted Lev. 20:10.  The Law said to bring the man and the woman, but they hadn’t.  And so Jesus was essentially asking them, Where’s the man?  And since they failed to bring him, and since these were the “experts” in the Law, then Jesus discerned that this was all a trap.  And having exposed the situation for what it was, he then quoted Deut. 19:16-19 to not only point out their sin, but to remind them of the consequences of being a false witness, which also explains why they left.  The tables had been turned!  Selah.

Behold, he [the wicked] travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.  15He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made16His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.   – Psalms 7:14-16

[1] They weren’t “all alone,” the Bible study group was still there.  Only the religious leaders left. 
[2] She was guilty of the sin but couldn’t face the death penalty because there was no man and there were no witnesses.  So although she “beat the case,” it doesn’t mean she’s off the hook.  God knows she sinned, her sin has been made public, she may have a divorce to contend with, could have contracted a STD, become pregnant, etc.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Woman Taken in Adultery - John 8:1-11

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: 14Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.               – Isaiah 29:13-14

Often maligned and reduced to a cliché, the story of the Woman Taken in Adultery provides God’s people with an excellent example of how to use “the Law” lawfully (1 Tim. 1:5-8).  The story is found in John 8:1-11, but the preceding chapter sets the stage. 

The Backdrop – John 7

It’s during the Feast of Tabernacles where we find Jesus teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem (14, 28).  Among the common folk, some thought him to be a “good man” while others believed him to be a “deceiver” (12).  Many were impressed with his miracles and by the boldness of his message, while others were impressed, but had lingering doubts (26, 31).  This was due in part to confusion over the place of his nativity (40-44).  From the prophets, they knew that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2; Mt. 2:4-6).  But because he’d been raised in Nazareth (Mt. 2:22-23), they just assumed that he’d been born there as well.  So had they stopped and asked for clarification, Jesus could’ve explained that he was born in Bethlehem, but that at a very early age his parents moved him to Nazareth and the confusion would have ended.  But they didn’t and so their opinion of him was divided (43).  Needless to say, there’s a lesson in this: better to ask for clarification from the source instead of making decisions based on speculation or what others think is true.      

But the scribes and Pharisees were also present.  They wondered how it was that Jesus came to know so much about the Bible, especially since he hadn’t graduated from Bible college (to put it in modern terms – 15).  But this was quickly overshadowed by their hatred of him: a hatred that soon blossomed into thoughts of murder (19-20, 25, 30).  But why?    

Normally a joyous occasion, Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath (23), which by Law was a day of rest.  But in healing the man, the religious leaders viewed this as “work.”  So to them, Jesus was a Sabbath-breaker – the penalty for which was death (Ex. 31:12-17).[1]  And if Jesus is a Sabbath-breaker, then he can’t be the Messiah.  This reasoning is logical, but not biblical.  And it isn’t biblical because their interpretation isn’t correct, and Jesus reproves them for it (21-24).  He asks, If you fulfill the Law by circumcising a child on the 8th day (Gen. 17:10-13; Lev. 12:1-3), even if that 8th day falls on the Sabbath, and you don’t consider this “work,” then why are you faulting me if I heal an entire man?  Ouch!    

But of course the chief priests and Pharisees claimed to be disciples of both Moses and the Law (19), but the example proved that they were disciples of neither.  If they were, they’d be able to understand him and his doctrine and be able to judge righteous judgment, but they can’t, thus proving that everything that Jesus was saying about them was true (15-19, 24).[2]  They claimed to be the teachers and experts of the Law, and yet they can’t discern the simplest passage.[3]  This of course was hampered by the fact that none of them were saved (28).  So not only has Jesus insulted their knowledge and understanding of the Law – of which they took great pride – he’s also told them, in so many words, that they’re going to Hell.  Embittered, they’ll seek revenge.  And it’s with this backdrop that Chapter 8 begins.

Jn. 8:1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.  2And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

Jesus had taught down at the Temple the day before (7:14), and so he’s returned again for a second day of instruction.  Only the priests were allowed to enter the Temple (Num. 3:9-10), and so Jesus isn’t teaching from within the Temple proper, but from one of its courts.  From without to within, the first was the Court of the Gentiles.  This was as close to the Temple that a Gentile could get, even if they were a believer.  Stairs and a gate led into the second court known as the Court of the Women (or, Treasury; 8:20).  It’s from here where Jesus is teaching and from where he’ll encounter the woman taken in adultery.[4]  This was followed by another set of stairs that led into the third court known as the Court of Israel, which was as close as a non-Levitical Jewish male could travel, which was distinguished from the Court of the Priests in which only the (male) Levitical priests could attend.  And from here, yet another set of stairs led upward into the Temple proper. 

But God’s original design was for one court where the priests and Levites ministered, and then the people standing without.  So the typology here is that you’re either a priest serving within the court of the Lord or you’re not: you’re either saved or lost.  But notice the contrast: in or out.  But because religion always widens God’s narrow scope (Mt. 7:13-14), it deceives people into believing they’re within God’s plan when in fact they may not (Mt. 7:21-23).  So in constructing these additional courts, the Jews have added to God’s Word (Dt. 4:2; Pr. 30:5-6 etc.) therefore leaving people with the impression that there’s a “wideness” in God’s plan when in fact there’s only one narrow gate (Mt. 7:14).  In other words, because there’s a court for everyone, everyone is made to feel as though there’s a place for them.  This muddies the contrast between “saint or sinner” and leads to a “sinless gospel” where people see no need for repentance: where people are encouraged to have a “right relationship” with God or a right relationship with whatever their “god” or “higher power” may be.[5]      

But there’s more.  In expanding the Temple courts to provide a place for everyone, organized religion always creates for itself a caste system to separate itself to obtain and maintain control over men (and their money).  So while appearing inclusive of all people, it’s really very exclusive (Mt. 23:15).  Structurally, the closer you got to the Temple, the more exclusive each court became: only certain people were allowed beyond certain points, the elevation of each court increased, their size decreased, and each was separated from the other by walls, pillars, and stairs, or some combination thereof.  So as you progressed, the more exclusive each court became.  This creates within the mind of an observer that closeness with God was reserved for an increasingly select few (with “priests” always at the top!).  So while organized religion is fond of claiming to be inclusive of everyone (by preaching a sinless gospel), in reality it does nothing more than divide and separate men from one another and God.  In contrast, the court of the Temple (Tabernacle) was originally constructed level with the area surrounding it; and all that separated its one court from everything outside of it was a linen fence and a gate (where decisions are required).  And so all men are on “the same level,” but you’re either within God’s plan through repentance (Heaven-bound) or you’re outside (Hell-bound).  And so as this lesson unfolds, it does so with Jesus sitting in the midst of a false religious system – a false religious system that’s added to God’s Word thereby further separating man from God for the personal benefit of a select few.  But that aside, on this day, all seems well.  It’s early in the morning and Jesus is sitting and teaching from the Court of the Women.
3And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act5Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

Jesus is holding a quiet and peaceable “Bible study” when he’s rudely interrupted by a band of scribes and Pharisees who’ve barged in and thrown a woman at his feet, demanding to know what’s to be done with her.  And to make matters worse, they’re citing Scripture.                     

She’d been caught “in the very act” of adultery, which means that she was taken from her lover’s bed during intercourse, so she’s barely covered – a sheet, at most.  She’s undoubtedly fearful and afraid – wondering why this is happening and what she’s done to deserve it.  Having been taken from her bed, she has no idea where they’re taking her or what they plan on doing with her.  She’s been (publicly) dragged through the streets of Jerusalem and into the Temple, only to find herself thrown at the feet of Jesus who happens to be in the middle of a Bible lesson.  So very soon, Jesus and all of those with him are going to know who she is and what’s she done.  It’s not unlike being caught in sin and being dragged in front of your church and thrown to the floor in front of your preacher who’s right in the middle of a Sunday morning service – and all this occurring while people are texting and posting pictures of you on Facebook, and so this story isn’t too difficult to understand. 

But did you notice the sarcasm?  They call him “Master” (not “Lord”), which means “teacher.”  But from John 7, they didn’t perceive him to be the Messiah much less a teacher of the Law. This is immediately followed by, “Moses and the Law demands that this woman be stoned, Jesus.  But what do YOU say?” (“what sayest thou?”).  And this they ask in hopes that he’ll contradict God’s Word.  This shows that what Jesus said about them earlier was true: that they didn’t know him or his Father or their doctrine (7:16-18, 28; 14:7-9), and so the sarcasm here is telling.  They’re saying one thing with their mouth while their heart is saying another (Is. 29:13).  But anytime a peaceful setting such as this is interrupted, it’s usually for one of three reasons: there’s a real emergency that demands your attention, you’re being warned of imminent danger, or ulterior motives are involved: someone is trying to get you to make a rash decision for some reason – and Jesus has discerned that it’s the latter.  But how did he know?

But, to a certain point, the scribes and Pharisees are correct.  Moses’ Law, which is really God’s Law that Moses penned, does command that those caught in adultery should be stoned.  But the hitch is that the Jews weren’t allowed to try capital cases (Jn. 18:31-32).  So if Jesus tells them to stone her, they’ll turn him over to the Romans for sentencing.  But if he tells them not to stone her, they’ll accuse him of being a lawbreaker thus discrediting him as the Messiah.  So no matter how he answers, he’s in a pickle, it seems.     
6This they said, tempting him, [Why?] that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

Jesus has perceived that this was nothing more than a well-designed ploy intended to trap him in his words (they came “tempting him” so they could “accuse him.”).  The scribes and Pharisees knew what the Law said, and so they could’ve judged her themselves, but they knew better.  But the day before, Jesus had schooled them concerning the Law, so today they thought they’d return the favor.  But for now, Jesus just stoops down and begins to write with his finger on the ground.  And he does, he does as if he hadn’t heard a word they’d said.  

7So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her8And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

The scribes and Pharisees just didn’t stroll-in and casually make their request.  They came storming in – screaming and shouting – and causing a furor.  They were still upset from the day before, and had likely been up all night concocting their little ruse, and so they were of the mindset that they were going to be heard and that they were going to be heard until they received an answer.  And so the screaming and shouting “continued”, but Jesus just keeps on writing.

Finally, he rises.  Up until now he’s been completely silent.  But when it becomes apparent that he’s ready to give an answer, the scribes and Pharisees silence themselves.  And no doubt pointing to what he’d just written, he says, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”  {Gasp}    

Up until now they probably hadn’t even noticed what he’d been doing.  Or if they had, they probably didn’t pay it any mind.  They probably just thought he was doodling – stalling for time.  But in what he said, Jesus was merely reiterating what he’d told them the day before: that they didn’t know him, his Father, or their doctrine, and that they weren’t disciples of Moses or his Law.  If they were without sin, they could cast a stone.  But they were full of sin: they were judging unrighteously.  So before he even addresses their question, he first reminds them of their sinful state.  And as implied, they are in violation of the Law themselves – the very Law of which they claim to be experts.  So having drawn their attention to what he’s written on the ground, he again stoops and begins to write.  Except this time, he remains until they’re all gone.[6]
9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Notice that Scripture doesn’t say that they “read it,” but that they “heard it.”  In other words, between what Jesus said and what he wrote, there existed the power to convict; and the reason for this is because God’s Word is a Living Word (Jn. 16:7-11).  Thus the Law did its job in making them aware of their sin (Rom. 3:20; 7:7 etc.).  The proof of this is seen in what happened next.  Convicted by their conscience, they all begin to leave, beginning with the eldest to the youngest.  The older men quickly realized they’d been bested, but it took the younger men a little longer.  But as they saw their elders leave, they too lost heart and followed.  And her accusers having left, Jesus was then left “alone” with her.  This doesn’t mean they were “all alone” by themselves; it meant that of the second group of people that arrived, only the woman remained with Jesus.  Those in the Bible study group are still present.  And notice that throughout this entire conversation we never hear a word from them.  All this time they’re just sitting there in stunned silence.

But of course, everyone wants to know what Jesus wrote on the ground.  Since Jesus had been asked what should be done with the woman according to the Mosaic Law, then only an answer from the Mosaic Law would do.    
10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
After he’d written the second time, Jesus remained stooped until they all left.  And this he did as if to say, “There’s nothing more I can add.  All I need is a decision.”  In other words, Jesus just let the Word speak for itself.  Had he stood, it would have given them the impression that he had more to say.  But he didn’t and so that’s why he paused.  He wanted them to take the time to meditate on what he’d written and then decide for themselves what they were going to do, and so he just patiently waited, and he didn’t have to wait long.  Because although they were convicted; unfortunately, they weren’t convicted enough to repent, and so they all began to leave “one by one” (9). 

He stands and asks the woman where her accusers were.  He knew the answer; he was just trying to make a point.  She committed the crime and was deserving of the death penalty, but Jesus can’t judge her because by Law there was no man and no witnesses, of which there must be two or more they’d all left![7]  It was his way of saying, “You may have avoided the death penalty, but it doesn’t mean that you’re not guilty of it.” 

11She said, No man, Lord.  And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
In their initial address, the scribes and Pharisees called Jesus “Master,” which means “Teacher.”  But notice that the woman calls him “Lord.”  This suggests that she’s a Christian woman who’s been caught in the sin of adultery.  Had Israel not been under Roman bondage (Jn. 18:31-32), then by Law both she and her lover would have been put to death.  Their spiritual salvation was secure, but their earthly life would’ve come to an end (1 Jn. 5:16-17).  But notice that Jesus didn’t tell her to repent, he just told her to “sin no more.”  And so this suggests that she was a Christian woman.  Were she a sinner, she would’ve been told to repent rather than to just “stop sinning.”  This can’t be stated dogmatically, however, because Scripture teaches that many who call Jesus “Lord” aren’t saved (Mt. 7:21-23).  On the other hand, known Christians in the Bible have committed murder, suicide, and adultery, and they didn’t “lose” their salvation, and so it’s this author’s opinion that she was a Christian woman caught in the sin of adultery. 

But she did sin.  If it weren’t true, Jesus wouldn’t have told her to “sin no more.”  But this doesn’t mean that she got off the hook.  Her sin has been made public and so now everyone knows who she is and what she’s done – including the people in her “church.”  She’s experienced public humiliation, may have become pregnant, contracted a STD, face a divorce if married, etc.  So while Jesus didn’t judge her, he did discipline her.  So just because she didn’t face the death penalty, it doesn’t mean that she won’t have to face some consequences.  But which ones specifically we don’t know. 

So though she were guilty, she couldn’t be judged because the Law required that the man also be judged, and he wasn’t there.  She couldn’t be judged because there weren’t two or more witnesses.  So in the case, the Law actually protected her.  It didn’t protect her sin or turn a blind eye to it; it only protected her from the “punishment phase” of her charge due to a “lack of evidence.”  And so the Law is good if it’s used lawfully (1 Tim. 1:8).  And the proper use and application of the Law is what made both the woman and her accusers aware of their sin.  We call this “grace.”  And whereas the woman undoubtedly received the grace of God as a result of what happened, the scribes and Pharisees chose yet again to turn away from the gospel.  Jesus had told them to judge righteous judgment (7:24), but they could only do this after their own sin had been exposed.  And it’s in their failure to repent as to why they chose to walk away.


O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters14Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.  – Jer. 17:13

From this story, there are several important lessons that can be learned and applied.  First, we need to be careful of those who rush in and demand that we provide them with a quick answer.  It could be for ulterior motives.  We should pause and pray, especially when a crowd is present, being careful not to allow peer pressure to overcome us.  Scripture speaks of it: 

Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.  2Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:  – Exodus 23:1-2

And as the verse says, we shouldn’t render judgment based on what the crowd wants to hear.  Jesus knew God’s Word and so he was quickly able to discern the situation for what it was.  And although he spoke only 15 words (in English), he was able to diffuse the entire situation.  
Second, Jesus turned the tables on the scribes and Pharisees who’ve once again fallen into their own snare and trap (Pr. 26:24-28; 28:10 etc).  They used the Law to try and trap Jesus, but he used it to reveal their sin and deliver the woman.  And if they set a trap for Jesus, they will set a trap for you, and so we need to be wary (Jn. 16:1-4; Mt. 10:16). 

Third, this lesson illustrates the attitude of religious people who by any means necessary will always seek to preserve their own misguided notions.  They cared nothing for the woman; she was only a “means to an end.”  They claimed to love the Law but were willing to let her die to suit their purposes.  But Jesus used it to bring life.  He said they were murderers (7:19), and the days’ actions proved him correct.
Fourth, this lesson also exposes the shallowness of many professing Christians – many of whom are fond of saying, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!”  It’s been repeated so many times that it’s become a cliché.  Jesus didn’t judge this woman and so it’s thought that we can’t judge or make judgments about others.  But this is foolish, at best, because everyone on a daily basis devises opinions about others without any real evidence to support their conclusions.  We call it gossip.  But this isn’t what the Bible teaches: the Bible teaches that we ARE to judge, but to do so righteously (7:24).  In our story, Jesus couldn’t judge her because he didn’t have the authority.  Rome did, but they really didn’t care as they had no laws against adultery (Jn. 18:31-32).  Jesus couldn’t judge her because the Law required that both the man and the woman be charged, and there was no man.  Jesus couldn’t judge her because the Law required two or more witnesses, and they’d all left!  And so by Law Jesus couldn’t judge her even if he desired to do so. 

But although Jesus didn’t and couldn’t judge her for her sin, he did reprove her for it.  And there are yet unknown consequences that she may have to face.  Legally she may have “beaten the case,” but it doesn’t mean she didn’t sin.  The same thing happened to Cain.  He too “beat the case,” but was disciplined (Gen. 4:10-17).  In addition, Christ’s first appearing wasn’t to come as our Judge, but as our Saviour (Jn. 3:17).  But he’ll later return as both King and Judge and he will sit upon an earthly throne and render righteous judgment. 

But how unfortunate it is that most Christians quote this as a general statement that’s equally binding on all when in fact it was said to address a specific situation.  When Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”, he was addressing the sin of the religious leaders in not bringing the man.  If they did bring the man, they could cast a stone!  Also recall that these comments were directed to these unsaved religious leaders and not God’s people of whom this cliché is usually targeted.  Therefore those who glibly cite this passage as a catch-all to avoid discipline are no better than the religious scribes and Pharisees in this story.  They’re not rightly dividing the Word (2 Tim. 2:15).  And not rightly dividing the Word is what leads to sin and death – as these scribes and Pharisees learned.  Selah.      

These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.  – Proverbs 6:16-19

[1] They weren’t only angry because Jesus had broken the Law, or their interpretation of it, they were also angry because they couldn’t put him to death themselves.  This, in part, led to their murderous thoughts (19-20).
[2] God’s people today are often guilty of the same sin.  We seldom judge righteously because most of God’s people don’t know God’s Law nor do they exercise the faith that Moses had towards God.
[3] We fare little better.
[4] Having been named the Court of the Women doesn’t mean that it was “women only,” it means that it was as close to the Temple as a Jewish woman could travel.  Jesus is there with a mixed multitude of people (“all the people”), and since Jesus was called to the Jew first and then the Gentile (Mt. 15:24); and since this court is as far as a Jewish woman could travel, then logic dictates that this is the courtyard from which he’s teaching.
[5] As often expressed in ecumenicalism; i.e. “We all serve the same God,” “We’re all a part of the family of God,” “We’re all God’s children,” the “brotherhood of all men,” and of course the nonchalant, “God loves everybody.”
[6] For an explanation as to what Jesus wrote on the ground, see the article entitled, “What Did Jesus Write on the Ground in the Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery” written by this same author.
[7] Dt. 17:6-7, 19:15-19; Ex. 23:1-2; Jn. 8:17-18