God’s Last Word on Sin

Last Sunday at Redeemer, I unpacked the well known account of the woman who was caught in adultery. The difference between the religious leader’s judgemental hatred toward the woman and God’s gracious heart toward her is a chasm.

What the religious leaders thought Jesus ought to do and what Jesus actually did could not have be more opposite. The religious crowd salivated over judgement, Jesus extended mercy.

The reason that Jesus merciful actions were not a defiant act that contradicted God’s law is because Jesus came to bear the full weight of judgement for her, and provide the once-for-all-sacrifice that would fulfill God’s law. Her sin didn’t evaporate into thin air. It had to go someplace, otherwise God would be unjust.

He took it.

Trying to trap Jesus, the Pharisees said that the Law of Moses called for stoning and then they asked Jesus, “what do you say?” They weren’t just asking Jesus to give an opinion. The force of the phrase, given to us in Greek could also be translated, “say something conclusive” or “put this argument to rest”. [a]   

In other words …

What’s God’s final word on sin?

Famously, Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground.

This is the 3rd time in all of Scripture we see the finger of God writing something. In Exodus 34 the finger of God wrote the 10 Commandments. In Daniel 5 the finger of God wrote a message to the evil king Belshazzar telling him that he was “weighed in the balances and found wanting” and here, the gesture of writing with His finger in the sand paints a portrait of Christ as the divine legislator.

Before answering their question and giving God’s final word on sin, Jesus shines a spotlight on the fact that none of the religious accusers understand the perfect, perpetual, standard of God’s law they are so eager to invoke.

Jesus said, “Let the one w no sin can cast the first stone” and the pompous religious snakes, salivating to exact judgement on the woman’s sin had to concede that they were all guilty of sin.

“Without sin” is God’s standard. God’s law cleared the room and one by one, all the religious leaders left. Nobody can keep God’s law as it is meant to be kept and Jesus presented Himself as the only One who could keep it for us.

Alone on the street with the woman, Jesus gave His answer to the question, “What’s God’s final word on sin?”

“Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”

God’s FIRST WORD on the sin in her life was the exposing work of His law.

God’s FINAL WORD on sin in her life was the exonerating work of His gospel.

She was guilty. You’re guilty. I’m guilty. We’re all guilty. Pick your poison. God is not unjust. He doesn’t wink at sin – God incarnate, Jesus Christ, came to absorb it and pay the ultimate price for it. He became sin. He took it all. Our God justifies the guilty.

God’s law is good because it exposes our sin and our need for a saviour. God’s gospel is good because it exonerates us from our sin through Christ our Saviour.

The phrase “Whoever has no sin can cast the first stone” is Jesus, the LIGHT of World illuminating our NEED for saviour. The phrase “Neither do I condemn you, Go and sin no more” is Jesus, the Light of World presenting Himself as the Saviour.

It worth noting that both the irreligious woman caught in adultery and the best religious rule keepers in the city had the exact same problem: they were not without sin and they needed someone to take it away.

Notice the divine order in how Jesus extends His grace to the woman and calls her into a life of true liberation. He says  “Neither do I condemn you.” 1st, and “Go and sin no more” 2nd.

This divine order is critical in understanding the gospel. Forgiveness for your sin by God’s grace comes 1st. Turning from your sin to live to the glory of God’s grace comes 2nd.

Being forgiven of all our sin is what God’s grace is for us. A continual and increasing desire to turn from our sin is what God’s grace does in us.

The Legalists erase the gospel by reversing what Jesus said: “Go, sin no more and THEN God will not condemn you.

Legalism is performance driven, works righteousness. The legalist insists that your standing before God is in a constant state of flux, depending on how worshipful and loving you are day to day – which erases the gospel entirely. DIY justification is not Christian faith.

The Lawless erase the gospel by only giving attention to ½ of what Jesus said. Tehy love the sound of “Neither do I condemn you” but react with utter disdain for “go and sin no more?” Don’t talk to me about sin – no condemnation! I enjoy my sinning, God keeps forgiving .. this arrangement is perfect.

Lawlessness is living with indifference to the obedience of Christ, which makes a mockery of the grace of Christ. By mockery I am referring to the nonsensical idea that Christ’s grace inexplicably gives you immunity from bending your knee to His Lordship, refusing to allow God’s Word to guide your life. “Come in Saviour, stay out Lord” is not Christian faith.

This woman was completely forgiven, completely free and then called to walk out her  freedom by not returning to the darkness of her sin, but rather enjoy life living in the light of God. The same is true of us.

When God’s law does it’s exposing work on the sin you struggle with, take heart. His law is not His final word – it is doing it’s job as His first word.  His final word on your sin is “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”.

Jesus Christ is the light of the world, who dispels the darkness of your sin with the light of His grace. 

Press on,

Paul


[a] σὺ οὖν τί λέγεις

[1] Matthew 22:37-40

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