(Excerpt from Warren Wiersbe’s Life Sentences: What Sentence Will Sum Up Your Life?)
How we respond to the account of the woman caught in adultery helps us better understand our own character. The secret sinner who dwells on such things longs for more details or supplies them from his or her own imagination. The legalist is disappointed that Jesus didn’t recommend capital punishment. But the believer who has experienced the grace of God gives thanks that there is forgiveness with the Lord.
We don’t have to commit this particular sin to know how gracious and merciful the Lord is. “Then neither do I condemn you… Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). If you have ever heard those words spoken to your own heart, then you will want others to hear them too. You want them to be able to say from their hearts, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”
A trap for Jesus
The scribes and Pharisees had plotted the bringing of the woman to Jesus, hoping to trap Him. If He forgave the woman, then He broke the law of Moses and was in trouble with the Jews. If He condemned her to be stoned, then He was in trouble with the Romans who alone could execute condemned offenders. They must have planned the trap carefully; how could they have caught her “in the very act” unless they had been waiting for it to happen? But where was the man with whom she had sinned? The law required both parties to be judged (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22).
Four different lights are shining in this passage, the most important one being Jesus Himself, the Light of the World.
Light #1: Creation
It was daybreak, and Jesus was in the temple teaching the people. The scribes and Pharisees interrupted His ministry by thrusting the woman before Him and demanding an immediate answer. How rude can hypocritical religious leaders get?
Creation reveals that there is a God who is powerful enough to make the earth, wise enough to plan and sustain it, and good enough to use it for the benefit of all who live. ["For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." -Rom. 1:20 NIV]
But the God of creation, with all His wisdom, glory, and power, can never forgive people or rescue them from judgment unless He deals with sin. When Paul addressed the Greek intellectuals on Mars Hill, he began with creation but ended with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 17:27–32). The scientist can study creation and never meet the true and living God. The artist can admire it and the pantheist worship it, but creation itself offers no remedy for the guilty sinner.
Light #2. The commandments
The accusers knew the law of God; they had spent their lives reading it, studying it, and discussing it. They could say, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” and “The unfolding of your words gives light” (Ps. 119:105, 130). They agreed with Solomon: “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light” (Prov. 6:23). What nation had a greater law than Israel? … The woman didn’t stand a chance…
The only person ever to walk on this earth and perfectly obey the law of God was Jesus Christ, and of ourselves, we can’t imitate Him. The law of God is like a mirror that reveals our blemishes but can’t remove them (James 1:23 – 25). (Did you ever use a mirror to wash your face?) “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20 NKJV).
Twice during this confrontation, Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger. This should have reminded the accusers that the law was written “by the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18) and that they too would one day be judged. Perhaps some of them remembered Jeremiah 17:13, “Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord.” If your name isn’t written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, it is written in the dust and will disappear.
Light #3: Conscience
The fact that Jesus said nothing encouraged the religious leaders to press Him even further, because they were sure they had Him cornered. Then He stood up and said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7; see Deut. 22:22 – 24). He wasn’t accusing them of being adulterers; He was simply reminding them that they were sinners and perhaps had occasionally committed this same sin in their hearts (Matt. 5:27 – 30)…
Our Lord’s words don’t imply that every judge or juror must be perfect in order to try another person, but only that our motives for judging and condemning are right. Their motives were sinful; therefore they had no right to condemn her.
Conscience is not the law of God. Conscience is the window that lets in the light of God’s law and helps us to know right from wrong… If the “conscience window” gets dirty because of our deliberate disobedience, then the light within gets dimmer, and conscience no longer accuses us…
Conscience could not help this woman. It could accuse but never forgive or wash away sin.
Light #4: Jesus Christ
Ultimately, sinners must be left alone with Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, for He is their only hope… Jesus is to believers what the sun is to our universe — the center of our universe and the source of life and light for all that lives. God gave a pillar of fire to give light to Israel, but He gave Jesus Christ to bring life to all who believe. He is the light of the world, and His gift of salvation is available for all. He came to save the world, not to condemn it (John 3:16 – 21). To reject Him is to walk in darkness; to follow Him is to enjoy the light of life.
It must have thrilled the woman’s heart to hear Jesus say, “Then neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11). Our assurance of forgiveness isn’t in our feelings or the words of some religious leader, but in the Word of the Lord.
But God’s forgiveness brings with it the obligation to seek to obey the Lord and follow Him. We aren’t saved by our obedience, but our obedience proves that we have been saved. The New International Version gives the impression in verse 11 that the woman had lived “a life of sin,” but the Greek text simply reads, “Go, from now no longer sin.” Whatever her past life had been, she was now forgiven. God said, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” (Heb. 10:17).
-From Life Sentences by Warren W. Wiersbe
Learn more about Warren Wiersebe’s eBook Life Sentences: Discover the Key Themes of 63 Bible Characters?
Q: Warren Wiersbe sums up the woman’s life with Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation.” If you were to sum up your own life in one sentence, what would it be?
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