1 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning He was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and He sat down and taught them. 3 As He was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do You say?”
6 They were trying to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with His finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so He stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then He stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” ~ John 8:1-11 — NLT ~
This story has always moved me deeply, but never more than now, after having watched, “The Stoning of Soraya M.”, a true story about an Iranian woman falsely accused of adultery by her adulterous husband and stoned to death. As I watched this heartrending story of the atrocities committed in the name of Islamic law, I couldn’t help but think of a very familiar and similar story of the adulterous woman in the book of John. I also couldn’t help but think of the Mosaic Law, which carried the same punishment for adultery as the Islamic law, and compare it to the Law of the New Covenant, which those who are born-again now live under.
In this series, Live By the Law/Die By the Law, we have learned much about the Old Testament Law, as we examined whether we are called to Live By the Law and Die By the Law or not…
In Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 1, we learned that the Law does not have the power to save us, for salvation comes only by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ.
- In Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 2, we learned that God gave the Jews Ten Commandments, (also known as the Law of Moses and The Old Testament or Old Covenant), and from these ten Laws, the Jews created 613 laws, (known as the Tradition of the Elders), which were meant to supplement the Law of Moses.
- In Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 3, we began an in depth study of the first two Commandments…
- “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” ~ Exodus 20:2-3 — NKJV ~
- “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.” ~ Exodus 20:4-6 — NKJV ~
In Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 4, we continued our in depth study of the Ten Commandments, starting from the third Commandment and ending with the tenth…
- “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” ~ Exodus 20:7 — NKJV ~
- “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” ~ Exodus 20:8-11 — NKJV ~
- “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” ~ Exodus 20:12 — NKJV ~
- “You shall not murder.” ~ Exodus 20:13 — NKJV ~
- “You shall not commit adultery.” ~ Exodus 20:14 — NKJV ~
- “You shall not steal.” ~ Exodus 20:15 — NKJV ~
- “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” ~ Exodus 20:16 — NKJV ~
- “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” ~ Exodus 20:17 — NKJV ~
- In Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 5, we discovered that the purpose of the Law was to show people their sins, and that it was only supposed to last until Jesus, the Christ came. It was never intended to be an eternal law.
Never did it become more clear to me just how very wonderful and merciful our Lord is than after I watched “The Stoning of Soraya M.” last night. You see, if we still lived under the Old Covenant, then not only would we be bound to obey every command, we would also suffer the punishment meted out for every command that we break… According to Old Testament Law, we would be subjected to stoning if we committed any of the following sins…
Anyone who blasphemes the Name of the Lord must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel. Any native-born Israelite or foreigner among you who blasphemes the Name of the Lord must be put to death. ~ Leviticus 24:16 — NLT ~
23 Suppose a man meets a young woman, a virgin who is engaged to be married, and he has sexual intercourse with her. If this happens within a town, 24 you must take both of them to the gates of that town and stone them to death. The woman is guilty because she did not scream for help. The man must die because he violated another man’s wife. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you. ~ Deuteronomy 22:23-24 — NLT ~
- 13 “Suppose a man marries a woman, but after sleeping with her, he turns against her 14 and publicly accuses her of shameful conduct, saying, ‘When I married this woman, I discovered she was not a virgin.’ 15 Then the woman’s father and mother must bring the proof of her virginity to the elders as they hold court at the town gate. 16 Her father must say to them, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to be his wife, and now he has turned against her. 17 He has accused her of shameful conduct, saying, “I discovered that your daughter was not a virgin.” But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.’ Then they must spread her bed sheet before the elders. 18 The elders must then take the man and punish him. 19 They must also fine him 100 pieces of silver, which he must pay to the woman’s father because he publicly accused a virgin of Israel of shameful conduct. The woman will then remain the man’s wife, and he may never divorce her.
20 But suppose the man’s accusations are true, and he can show that she was not a virgin. 21 The woman must be taken to the door of her father’s home, and there the men of the town must stone her to death, for she has committed a disgraceful crime in Israel by being promiscuous while living in her parents’ home. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you. ~ Deuteronomy 22:13-21 — NLT ~
2 When you begin living in the towns the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman among you might do evil in the sight of the Lord your God and violate the covenant. 3 For instance, they might serve other gods or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars—the forces of heaven—which I have strictly forbidden. 4 When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 then the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death. 6 But never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses. 7 The witnesses must throw the first stones, and then all the people may join in. In this way, you will purge the evil from among you. ~ Deuteronomy 17:2-7 — NLT ~
18 “Suppose a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or mother, even though they discipline him. 19 In such a case, the father and mother must take the son to the elders as they hold court at the town gate. 20 The parents must say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious and refuses to obey. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of his town must stone him to death. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you, and all Israel will hear about it and be afraid. ~ Deuteronomy 21:18-21 — NLT ~
The examples above are just a few of the reasons that someone who lives under the Law of Moses and The Tradition of the Elders could be stoned. There are numerous other punishments and judgments meted out against those who break the Law, and each punishment seems quite harsh, especially to those with a western mindset. To those who reside in the Middle East, they are deemed appropriate. Indeed, as the movie, “The Stoning of Soraya M.”, revealed, these punishments are still leveled against people.
This is why Jesus’ response to the adulterous woman was considered to be so radical. Not only did He refuse to condemn her for the sin she committed, He turned the tables on those who wanted to condemn her with His challenge…
… “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” ~ John 8:7b — NLT ~
Suddenly, instead of looking at this woman, who was caught in the very act of adultery, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees were forced to look inward, and examine themselves. No one knows what Jesus wrote on the ground, whether it was related to their accusation or perhaps their own sins, or not. All that is known, is that the powerful words He spoke forced each of her accusers to stop.
Who, among them, had the right to pick up a stone and throw it? Who, among them, could be brazen enough to cast the first stone, thereby administering the punishment she surely deserved, when by doing so, he would be declaring before God and his cohorts that he had never sinned? I can just imagine the youngest ones, full of zeal and self-righteousness, respectfully waiting for one of their elders to cast the first stone, so they too, could join in, only to witness each one drop his stone to the dry and barren ground, as the very oldest left with their heads bowed low in defeat and consternation. As each one of the elders left, one by one, the younger condemners were also constrained to realize that they had no more right to throw the first stone at the woman than their senior counterparts.
Now, in case you’re wondering where I’m going with this post, and how it ties in with the series Live By the Law/Die By the Law, please allow me to enlighten you. There are many, many men and women born-again believers who get caught up in trying to live by the Law. Now, please don’t misunderstand me, God loves it when we obey Him, but He does not love it when we get so caught up in trying to live by every jot and tittle of the Law, and we also place that demand on others. You see, living by faith and living by the Law may produce the same outward effects, but the difference between the two lies within the hearts of mankind.
1 Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of His death on the cross. 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the Law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?
5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the Law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.
6 In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”7 The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. ~ Galatians 3:1-7 — NLT ~
You see, one who lives by the Law does so because he/she is trying to gain the approval of God and mankind. One might try to obey every letter of the Law in order to receive the accolades of man. Or one may try to obey the Law for fear that if he/she doesn’t, he/she may lose his/her salvation. A person who lives by the Law may do so because he/she believes that he/she must be an example for others to follow. One who lives by the Law is usually self-righteous, and lacking humility, though this person may not even realize it. A person who follows the Law often sees the sin in others, and sometimes feels superior to those who just don’t “get it.”
10 But those who depend on the Law to make them right with God are under His curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” 11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the Law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” 12 This way of faith is very different from the way of Law, which says, “It is through obeying the Law that a person has life.”
13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the Law. When He was hung on the cross, He took upon Himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing He promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith. ~ Galatians 3:10-14 — NLT ~
On the other hand, one who lives by faith walks in obedience because he/she loves the Lord, and it feels good to do those things that please Him. One who walks by faith does so regardless of what others may say. This person walks in the Spirit, doing those things He leads him/her to do, confident that he/she is a child of the Most High God, saved by His grace through faith. This person knows that his/her salvation has nothing to do with his/her behavior, and that he/she did not choose Christ because it was Christ who chose him/her. The person who lives by grace is humble, fully aware that he/she is no better than anyone, even the vilest sinner.
1 So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the Law.
2 Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole Law of Moses. 4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the Law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
5 But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. 6 For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. ~ Galatians 5:1-6 — NLT ~
Beloved readers, the whole point of this post and of this series, Live By the Law/Die By the Law, is that those who choose to live according to the Law rather than by the Spirit, must understand that they will then be judged according to the Law, and it is important to remember that there is no one who is righteous. Other than Jesus Christ, no one has ever obeyed the entire Law.
20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the Law commands. The Law simply shows us how sinful we are. ~ Romans 3:20 — NLT ~
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. ~ Romans 3:21 — NLT ~
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23 — NLT ~
Beloved reader, I am not saying that the Law is evil. What I am saying is that we must live by the Spirit, not by the Law. I’ll close with the following scripture, and I encourage you to pray about this post, and seek the Lord’s face regarding what we have studied here.
30 There is only one God, and He makes people right with Himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law. ~ Romans 3:30-31 — NLT ~
Cheryl A. Showers