Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Sin Forgotten and Forgiven through God’s New Covenant‘
©January 26, 2014 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #640 (Redemption in Christ – Romans 5); Prayer
Opening Hymn #96: Praise Him! Praise Him!; Choruses
Scriptures: Leviticus 20:10 and John 8:1-11
Let us pray…
Last Sunday, at BLCF, our Sunday message included the lesson of the Lord healing of a man who was blind from birth; a miracle challenged by the Pharisees. And two Sunday’s ago, the message dealt with what the Lord meant when he referred to himself as being the “Bread of Life”, warning his disciples to beware of the “Leaven of the Pharisees” and “leaven” being used as euphuism for the “teachings” of the Pharisees.
This Sunday, we have in John, Chapter 8, the account of the women caught in adultery, who was brought to the Lord, as he taught in the temple. We touched upon this account at last Wednesday’s Bible Study and little more in the message that I shared at the BLCF Café community Dinner. Today, I hope to conclude the topic, by looking at the involvement of the Pharisees, who sought the Lord’s opinion of a woman, who had committed the sin of adultery, as an opportunity to challenge Jesus and even have him arrested. But before we examine the Scriptures, let us go to our Wiki Bits definitions, to find out just who these miscreants of Christ, who were known as the Pharisees.
Pharisees – (wikipedia.org)
Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought in Judea during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty (140–37 BCE) in the wake of the Maccabean Revolt. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism (commonly known as simply Judaism).
The Pharisees appear in the New Testament, engaging in conflicts between themselves and John the Baptist and with Jesus, and because Nicodemus the Pharisee (John 3:1) with Joseph of Arimathea entombed Jesus’ body at great personal risk. Gamaliel, the highly respected rabbi and defender of the apostles, was also a Pharisee, and according to some Christian traditions secretly converted to Christianity. There are several references in the New Testament to Paul of Tarsus being a Pharisee.
The New Testament, particularly the Synoptic Gospels, presents especially the leadership of the Pharisees as obsessed with man-made rules (especially concerning purity) whereas Jesus is more concerned with God’s love; the Pharisees scorn sinners whereas Jesus seeks them out. (The Gospel of John, which is the only gospel where Nicodemus is mentioned, particularly portrays the sect as divided and willing to debate) Because of the New Testament‘s frequent depictions of Pharisees as self-righteous rule-followers (see also Woes of the Pharisees and Legalism (theology)), the word “pharisee” (and its derivatives: “pharisaical”, etc.) has come into semi-common usage in English to describe a hypocritical and arrogant person who places the letter of the law above its spirit. Jews today who subscribe to Pharisaic Judaism typically find this insulting and some consider the use of the word to be anti-Semitic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisees
Now back to today’s lesson. Let us begin by reviewing today’s Scripture verse, taken from John’s Gospel, Chapter 8, verses 1-11.
John 8:1-11 (ESV)
8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 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.”
So by what authority did the Pharisees, who were legalists with respect to the Scriptures, avoiding any spiritual interpretation of the Mosaic Law, and in some regard removing God involvement from the law. And without Spiritual discernment or guidance, the Scriptures become documents that can be best understood in a strictly literal way. It is not surprising therefore, that the Pharisees took the rules found in Leviticus 20, as their authority to be judge, jury and executioner of anyone who violated any of the Ten Commandments that Moses brought to the People of Israel.
And for women caught in the act of adultery, the punishment was quite clear, as we see in today’s second verse, which is from the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 20; Verse 10.
Leviticus 20:10 (ESV) Punishments for Sexual Immorality
10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of[a] his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Footnotes: a. Leviticus 20:10 Hebrew repeats if a man commits adultery with the wife of
If you look at the end of Leviticus 20, you will see the prescribed punishment being death by stoning. But there is something about implementing the sin of one commandment, “thy shall not kill” as a punishment for another, “thy shall not commit adultery.” Does this make sense? Who is supposed to judge such sins? What about God’s plan for forgiveness, through Jesus?
One may argue that Jesus had not yet died on the cross, and so the Pharisees were justified in expecting to kill the adulterous women, as forgiveness from sins would only be possible after Christ’s crucifixion. But wait a minute; there are a couple of “Old Testament” verses that we need to take into account.
If you read Ezekiel, Chapter 33, verses 14-19, we read that the punishment of death can be commuted.
Ezekiel 33:14-19 (ESV)
14 Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.
17 “Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19 And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this.
God judged the violation of any of His laws subject to the same penalty: death. But He did provide a plan for forgiveness, called “The New Covenant”, which is described in Jeremiah, Chapter 31, verses 31-34.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV) The New Covenant
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Now playing the devil’s advocate, some may say that the Pharisees were able to implement God’s judgement against the adulterous women because they were without sin. Let me direct you to Jesus challenge to the Pharisees in John 8, verse 7; “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” As he spoke this, Jesus was able to avoid engaging a debate with the Pharisees or others in the crowd and tempered their anger by continuing to casually write with his finger in the ground.
One by one, the accusers realizing that they were not sinless, and therefore not in a position to judge or execute the women, left the scene. And in the end, no one remained. And we read in John 8, verse 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.”
Jesus communicates volumes in just a few short sentences. By challenging the group that only the sinless may cast the first stone, Jesus points out that everyone is guilty of the sin, and therefore deserving of the sane judgment: death. The older men leave first, not necessarily because of their wisdom of their years. Because they were older they had accrued more sins in their respected lifetimes than the younger men.
Jesus statement in John 8:7 challenges the authority of the Pharisees to implement any judgement that is reserved solely to God. We see this expressed succinctly in James, Chapter 4, verses 11-12.
James 4:11-12 (ESV)
11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.[a] The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
Footnotes: a. James 4:11 Or brothers and sisters
As followers of the resurrected Christ and believers in the Way of the Lord, we are implored to exercise the same compassionate heart of forgiveness towards each other that was expressed in Jeremiah 31, this time echoed in Colossians 3, verses 12-15.
Colossians 3:12-15 (ESV)
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
And as a reminder, again, we see in Luke, Chapter 6, verses 37-42, what our judgement will be, if like the Pharisees, we are determine to judge and not forgive.
Luke 6:37-42 (ESV) Judging Others
37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
And we conclude today’s lesson with the Scripture taken from John 3, verses 31-36, with a reminder of God’s New Covenant, through His Son, Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit without measure and eternal life, by way of obedience and faith to God, by way of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we face God’s wrath and death described in Leviticus 20.
John 3:31-36 (ESV)
31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #308: My Hope Is in the Lord
Benediction – (Colossians 3: 15): And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.