When Jesus walked with the disciples, He asked, “Who do men say that I am?” It was a leading question intended to draw a comparison between the revelation of God and how people viewed Jesus through human eyes. They explained many theories they had heard. Some said he was a prophet, teacher, good worker. Some even theorized that Jesus was one of the Old Testament prophets that came back from the dead. “But who do you say that I am?”
It’s a question every person answers. They either answer it with human understanding, or by the revelation of God. Those who know about Christ have various answers. Some even call Him Savior, but then shape that into their own world view. The truth of Christ only comes through God revealing Himself to the person. In Matthew 16:16-17 Peter said, "You are the Christ, son of the living God." Not only did Jesus affirm his answer, but said that flesh and blood could not understand this - it came by the revelation of the Father in heaven.
Unless God is revealing Christ to our hearts, we can only view Him through Human eyes. Even then, people can refuse the revelation of God and choose a god who fits their own desires.
If you look at the religious leaders of His day, they viewed Jesus as a deceiver, lawbreaker, and friend of drunkards and prostitutes. The fact Jesus showed love to those under the condemnation of the law caused those who held to the law to condemn Him.
Remember the woman caught in adultery? They dragged her to Jesus, cast her at His feet, and said, “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The Law says she should be stoned to death. What do you say?”
This question was meant to entrap Jesus. The woman was already condemned by the law, but now the law sought to condemn the mercy of God. Jesus held no office or position, so they didn’t need to come to Him in order to stone her. Their goal was to put Christ in a position where they could use the law against Him. Jesus stood there while they demanded an answer. Since they wanted the law, Jesus brought them under the law’s condemnation with the woman. He stooped down and wrote in the sand. The Bible doesn’t say what Jesus wrote, but I believe it was something like this:
Murder – hatred in the heart.
Idolatry –loving things more than God.
Stealing – the reality of greed in the heart.
Witchcraft – rebelling against God in the heart.
Adultery – lust in the heart.
On and on Jesus wrote. “Why is he writing these things,” they murmured. “Good teacher,” they said with sarcasm, “The law says she should be killed. What do YOU say?” they demanded again.
They thought Jesus was stalling, but He was preparing to make a point that would condemn every one of those who stood on the righteousness of the law. The fact is, they weren’t in good standing either. They were self-deceived in thinking they were righteous because they hadn’t done outward acts forbidden by the law, but that didn’t mean they were righteous under the law. Each of the above statements are teachings in the scripture. What those who trust in the law don’t realize is that sin is first born in the heart, thus condemning us – even if none of these things make it into our outward display to the world. In time, all of these things would become outward expressions as the religious leaders descended into a mad quest to destroy Christ, the one who exposed their condemnation under the law.
Jesus stood up and said, “Which one of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” He stooped down and began writing again. Their goal was to condemn Jesus by showing that He was not trusting in the law, but Jesus showed them the mirror of the law, and they saw their own condemnation. The younger men waited with anticipation for the elders to cast a stone. But they just looked at Jesus’ writing and then to one another. No one had the guts to claim their own righteousness, for the law stood before them, pointing at their own condemnation.
After a few minutes it became clear that not one of them had a clean conscience. The young men watched in astonishment as the older man began dropping their stones and walking away. These men were at the pinnacle of legalism, yet not one of them had a clean conscience. Each one saw their own condemnation when forced to look into the fullness of the law.
After a few moments, Jesus stopped writing and looked up. “Woman, where are your accusers?”
“There are none.”
“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
In one incident, the Law was used to challenge grace, but the law became condemnation to everyone who looked to it. Jesus was the only person present who was worthy to cast the stone, and He revealed that every person – religious or sinner, was under the Law’s condemnation – for all have sinned. And He also revealed that grace not only overcomes the law, but sets the sinner free from both condemnation and sinful passions. The message is not that you are uncondemned so enjoy sin, but that you are set free from condemnation so you can now walk in life. This will be explained in more detail in a future article.
This is the message of the gospel. According to John 3:17-18, Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, for the world is already under condemnation. The one who trusts in Christ escapes that condemnation. The one who refuses deliverance remains in the condemnation they are already under.
Compare this truth to what is often preached in most evangelical churches. The church has a tendency to focus on sin. Each week, the Christian is asked to re-focus on their sins. But the message of the gospel is that sin has been taken out of the way, and now our focuses onto Christ and the gift of righteousness. The law focuses on sin, for its demand is that everyone be perfect. Since the law is spiritual, but we are carnal (or of the flesh), we cannot attain to that standard of perfection. Therefore, the law focuses on where we fail. The gospel does the opposite. It takes the focus off our failures under the law and turns our eyes to Christ.
The law says, “You failed and are under condemnation.” The gospel says, “Your failure is irrelevant because once you enter into the gift of righteousness by faith, your old life is buried and a new life is given. Now you are righteous because you are given the righteousness of Christ.”
Those under the law always seek to condemn grace because they are not fully looking into the mirror of the law. The law is not singing your praises. Even the pinnacle of self-made righteousness falls short, for as the Bible says, “Even if you keep the whole law, but offend in one area, you are guilty of the whole law.” (James 2:10)
Religion teaches men that they can keep the law by rules, regulations, and good deeds. But the law disagrees. Religion teaches men to put blinders on so they only see the portions of the law that religion can keep, but this does not justify the person. The only time condemnation comes into the vision of grace is when grace takes off the blinders and says, “Look at the whole law, not just what you are able to do.” Once we look at the whole law, we are not condemned. We are made aware that we are already under condemnation. The very law we are trusting in is actually our condemner, for not one person can keep the law from birth to death – therefore all are under condemnation. And one offense makes us guilty – though anyone who is honest knows they offend on a continual basis.
Once our eyes are opened to the law, we see that we can’t use the law to condemn sinners. The law is a mirror for our own sins. That’s when Christ stands before us and says, “Where are your accusers?” Religion condemns. People condemn. But scripture takes both us and our condemners and reveals that we are too weak to keep the law. And then we recognize the gift of righteousness in Him. That is our escape. Take to heart Romans 3:19
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
This is the bad news. All are under the condemnation of the law. The religious person is condemned. The Baptist is condemned. So is the Catholic, Holiness, Church of God, atheist, New Ager, and every person – whether they are religious or not. The law drives us to the understanding that we can never measure up to God’s perfect nature, and then the good news is given. In Christ we are no longer under the Law. Look at Romans 8:1-2
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
In Christ we are set free from the law. No more condemnation for sin. No more penalty of death. In Christ, you are free. Judgment has been taken away in Christ. This is the good news – the gospel of Christ. The call of God is not to do the law, but to trust in Christ, who has fulfilled the law on our behalf!