Grace Goes Away, or Grace in the Law?
2 Early in the morning he came
again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught
them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4
they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the
act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to
stone such women. So what do you say?" 6 This they said
to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus
bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who
is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." 8
And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9
But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning
with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before
him. 10 Jesus stood 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 from now on
sin no more."]] (John 8:2-11 ESV)
Question. Did Jesus introduce the doctrine of Grace here and "do
away" with the Law, or did the Grace in the Law save her?
Some considerable speculation has been advanced as to what exactly
Jesus wrote in the dirt (twice). Some think the accuser's names were
written, then their sins. But, maybe, He was writing down the references
in the Law that they were not including in their impromptu court case.
The first time He might have written the following two references.
10 "If a man commits
adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the
adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 ESV)
22 "If a man is found lying
with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay
with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
(Deuteronomy 22:22 ESV)
Obviously, if she was "caught in the very act" then there was a party
to the proceedings that was missing. The scriptures say that both people
should be put to death, but they only had one person. They persisted in
their testing, so Jesus may have written the following references the
6 On the evidence of two
witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to
death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one
witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first
against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the
people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy
15 “A single witness shall not suffice
against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any
offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or
of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious
witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to
the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the
judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire
diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his
brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to
his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy
With this second set of references He may have been pointing to
another problem: if she was "caught in the very act" there should be
witnesses, and the witnesses should have to throw the first stone. The
curve in the question was that if the accusations were being made
"without sin" (i.e. according to the Torah), then let the stoning begin.
Torah comes from an archery term meaning "straight shooting (hit the
mark)." The word for sin is also used in archery and means to "miss the
mark." The Mark was Torah, and all of God's Word is Torah.
In any case, whatever was written, it is beyond doubt in my opinion
that Jesus, using the Grace in the Law, was dealing with the core issues
in the matter: lack of the presence of the other offending party, lack
of witnesses, and false testimony. In other words, as the defending
counsel, without resorting to "eliminating" or "remaking" the Law, Jesus
brilliantly maneuvered His line of questioning to illuminate the
Grace-filled provisions of God in the Law and expose their own
intentional misuse of that Law.
Many who attempt to excuse their own sin have also misused the
statement made by Jesus concerning the first stone. "Only someone
without sin can cast a stone at me" has been the rallying cry of many
who attempt to dodge responsibility for their actions. Meaning, of
course that since none of us are without sin (Romans 3:23) then no one
can properly judge the sinner's actions. It seems people nowadays are
almost frantic to find some reason to avoid judgment so they can
continue with their behavior. Even Grace has been twisted out of
proportion to justify disobedience.
Only by understanding the whole of the Word, including it's beautiful
Grace-filled Laws, can we arrive at a correct judgment, and exercise our
God-given responsibility to rightly divide, and apply, the Word of Truth
to daily living.
Jesus did not condemn the woman, probably because He was not a
witness to the act (although she probably was actually guilty of wrong
behavior). This does not mean Jesus approved of her actions, although
the admonishment to "sin no more" implies He knew. But according to the
Law, He could not pass judgment at that moment as far as physical death
was concerned. How many of us are not punished instantly for some sinful
action only to presume on the Grace of God and do something else?
The point of this narrative seems to be, not the guilt or innocence
of the woman, but the proper and Just application of God's Word. His
justice goes a lot deeper than a few rules and regulations, so also His
Grace. But the one does not exclude or eliminate the other. In His
infinite Mercy and Wisdom they BOTH are balanced to the fullest degree.
Praise Him that has justified us, not by erasing His Word but by
giving it to us filled with His Mercy!
May the Lord bless you and keep you
Bruce Scott Bertram
Word of God Ministries