FoundationsForGrowing

The Gospel of John: Part IV

by Joanna Pierce on November 17, 2016

In the Gospel of John, we find a story about a woman caught in the act of adultery. She was taken before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees, wanting Jesus to accuse her. Jesus writes in the sand and asks for any without sin to cast the first stone at her. The story ends with the woman alone with Jesus—all of her accusers had left—and Jesus gives her instruction to go and sin no more (John 8:1–11).

Two Problems

It may be easy for us to look at this story and think we’d never participate in dragging someone’s sin into the eye of the public. However, there are two concepts within this Scripture setting we must be careful we don’t fall prey to in this life.

Righteousness as a Weapon

The Jewish leaders were trying to use righteousness as a weapon. Our goal in this life should be to preserve holiness and to follow after it. God never intended for His righteousness to be a weapon against humans, but to birth His righteousness in us. If we use godly concepts incorrectly, our aim will not be to conform to the image of Christ, but to destroy others.

Part of the Law

The Jewish leaders were only trying to apply a part of the law to serve their purposes. They were picking and choosing what they wanted to enforce and ignoring what they didn’t want to abide by. For a woman to be accused of adultery, there must have been a man with her. Deuteronomy 22:22 tells us that both the man and woman are guilty—not just one party. But, nowhere in Scripture do we see the man accused. When we follow the law, we must follow all of it. If we offend just a part of the law, we’re guilty of all of it (James 2:10). We should desire to pursue the entire Word of God in our lives.

God’s Writings

This story captures Jesus writing on the sand with His own hand. We don’t know exactly what He’s writing, but it becomes the catalyst for conviction in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees. Some theologians believe Jesus was writing out the law, others believe He was penning the sins of others, but we’ll never truly know.

We see throughout Scripture when God’s own hand wrote truth into His children’s lives. God’s finger wrote the 10 commandments (Exodus 31:18) and also pronounced judgment on King Belshazzar for misusing the temple instruments in a banquet to idols (Daniel 5:5). But, God also writes His law upon our hearts so that we can live a righteous and holy life in Him (Hebrews 10:16).

Condemnation vs. Conviction

At the end of the story, Jesus instructs the woman to go, but to abstain from sin. He completely restores the woman from all condemnation. There are two concepts called forth in this Scripture setting (John 8:9–10), and it’s hard to tell the difference between the two and how it impacts us in our life.

Condemnation

God didn’t send His son into the world to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17). Jesus came to buy us back from the punishment of sin as an act of redemption. Condemnation will never come from God—it only comes from Satan, others, or ourselves. This is an experience that will push us away from God and make us feel like there’s no solution to our sinful state. We can be held in bondage by our fears and feelings manifested in condemnation that God never intended for us to experience. We must avoid condemnation and apply the facts in God’s Word.

Conviction

Conviction may not feel good, but it’s something we desperately need in our lives. We only find the word convicted in John 8:9. Convicted means convinced, rebuked, or reproved; these words are many other places throughout Scripture (John 16:8, II Timothy 4:2, Hebrews 12:5, Revelation 3:19, etc.). The reason why God convicts us is because He wants us to repent, turn from sin, and be zealous and passionate about living a life in Him. Conviction must come first before there can be conversion in our life (Romans 3:20). Because conviction comes from God, it doesn’t come with guilt or without solution. Conviction will always pull us closer to God and allows us to walk in freedom of the Spirit.

One or the Other

We will always have condemnation or conviction operating in our life. If we don’t allow God to convict our hearts now, we will live under His condemnation in the end. If we’re not sure what’s in operation in our lives today, we need to do a pulse check—examine the source, examine the feeling, and examine the result. It’s up to each of us to determine what we’re going to pursue after now, conviction or the latter.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on November 16, 2016