Law and Grace: a Contrast

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 5
IN the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the Lord. Jesus is presented in the glories of His own Person, and, among others, we have this record of him given, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." It is in the character of the "light of men" that Ile is specially brought before us in this interesting eighth of John.
The first chapter also says, “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." "What a wonderful thing it is for us to stand in the presence of the One who in His own person brings to us life, light, grace and truth. The eighth of John deals clearly with light and with grace, for if there were not grace, none could stand the light. The light is most wholesome and blessed, because it shows things exactly as they are, but when the light has done its work on the conscience, what remains? Grace and truth!
We have Moses and Jesus in distinct contrast in this lovely narrative, and nothing is more important for the soul than to see the difference between law and grace, between Moses and Christ. What can the law do? Teach me to live. But if I do not live right what does it do? It condemns me. And can I say I have lived right? God says, “All have sinned." If I have sinned, then, what can Moses do? He can only condemn me. Has he no mercy? None. Has he no grace? Not an atom. Truth he has, but it is the truth of my ruin and my guilt, and the certain judgment that follows. If we have to do with the law it can only condemn. The law when it came in, brought with it blackness and darkness and thunderings, and words that the people could not understand, so that Moses himself, the mediator of that law, said, “I do exceedingly fear and quake." He knew what that law was. The Apostle Paul speaks of it in Cor. 3, as “The ministration of death, "and" the ministration of condemnation.”
We have, then, in this Scripture, the beautiful contrast of Christ, in grace, dealing with the one whom Moses must condemn. The scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus. They little thought they were bringing her to the place of blessing, the presence of Jesus. Have you ever, my reader, known what it is to be in the presence of Jesus? alone with Jesus? Perhaps you feel you would be afraid to be alone with Jesus. Then this Scripture just meets your case. What was it for this woman O be alone with Jesus? Only blessing. And what will the moment be when you for the first time get alone with Jesus? Absolute blessing to you. If you have never been alone with Jesus, you have never got to the spot of absolute blessing.
You need not be afraid of being alone with Jesus. He has only grace and truth for you, and if you knew the blessedness of thus being in His presence, you would not be without it another hour. The scribes and Pharisees bring in this wretched culprit, and they want the Lord to take the judge's seat, and give the verdict. He would not do it. They, in the wickedness of their heart, wanted an occasion against Christ, and they thought they had placed him in a difficulty, because if He stood up for Moses, He would deny his own character, for He had been going through the land preaching grace.
They thought He must side with Moses or against him, and, if he sided with him, He set aside his own teaching, while, if he said, “Let her go," they thought they would then have it to say, "You are an opposer of Moses and of the law, and therefore an unrighteous man.”
What does Jesus do? He “stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground.” Christ is never in a hurry to abash even the bold, daring, impious soul who comes to Him as these did. He is never in a hurry to show before others what He sees is the true state. So He stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground.
It was His own finger that had written the law He had given to Moses (Ex. 31:1818And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18)). His own finger, too, wrote the sinner's doom on the wall in Belshazzar's hall (Dan. 5:55In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. (Daniel 5:5)). In this scene He is writing in the dust, as though He would show that He would go down, where He has gone down, into that very dust, the dust of death, to rescue the guilty sinner. There is one more place where He writes, and that is on "the fleshy tables of the heart" (2 Cor. 3:33Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2 Corinthians 3:3)).
The Lord is not writing on the tables of stone now, nor is He yet writing your doom, my unconverted reader—nor is He even writing in the dust; He has done that, but He has not given up writing, He is writing now on the fleshy tables of the heart.
These scribes thought they had caught Jesus in a trap. "Master... what sayest Thou?” they ask. What does He say? “He that is without sin among you let him first cast," not a stone, but “the stone at her.
What the Lord says is this—It is only the sinless hand who can wield the sword of the law. Who was sinless in that company? “You want to make me a judge," says Christ," but I have not come to judge, but to save.”
What takes place? They which heard, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last. Why did the eldest go first? I have no doubt the youngers waited for the elders to cast the stone first. But that day they had got into the presence of the Lord, Moses' Lord, the One who spake from Sinai, and out all go, beginning at the eldest, for here was the full light of God, saying there must be reality. Their consciences convicted them, and to save their characters before men they all went out, and Jesus was left alone, and the sinner, the guilty one, alone with Jesus.
Do you not think this woman's heart must have trembled as these, her accusers, brought her in, knowing what her sin was, and knowing the sentence of the law? But when Jesus was so slow to condemn, what would she feel? She would think, "Surely, I have a friend here.” And then, when every one else had gone, and He still stooping down, not even looking at her, what might this woman have done when the last of her accusers went out? She might have gone, too. But does she? Not she.
Every enemy was driven out by the light of His presence, and her soul was left alone with Christ, alone for the first time in her history with perfect righteousness, absolute holiness, with Moses' Lord, alone with God.
Why did she not fly? Ah, surely she felt, here is the friend of the guilty sinner, of the self-condemned soul, such as I am. Does He make light of sin? Oh, no, no. When the soul is left alone with Jesus, what does He do? He says "Woman, where are those thine accusers?” You may feel you have plenty of accusers, that the devil accuses you, and your conscience accuses you. Quite true, but if you get into the presence of Christ, every accuser vanishes, and He shows that He did not come to judge, but to save; not to condemn, but to bless.
He says, "Has no man condemned thee?” and the woman answers, "No man, Lord.” She had never called Him Lord before, and Scripture says no man can call Jesus, Lord, except by the Holy Ghost.
Who could condemn? He could. He is just the one who can condemn; He, in whose eyes the heavens are unclean; He whose eyes follow you everywhere. What will He say when you have to meet Him by-and-bye? Will He say then? "Neither do I condemn thee.” No, if you put of a solitary interview with Christ till the judgment seat, you will hear no word like that, but what a word that was to that guilty, but contrite, believing soul. No hand but His could touch the stone, and He would not. He says, "Cast the stone if you can, but the hand must be sinless that casts it," and His was the only sinless hand, and He says, “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more.”
Is that making light of sin? No, no. Do you think she ever forgot that word? Never. He who only could condemn, met her as a Saviour. He did not come to condemn, but to save.
Have you, dear reader, ever known what it is to get into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, with the knowledge of your sin and guilt, and heard from His lips words like these? Do you say, “I do not know how I can help being condemned.” Turn to John 3:1818He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18). "He that believeth on him is not condemned." I suppose when that woman called Him Lord, she believed on Him, and, believing on Him, heard Him speak those lovely words, "Neither do I condemn thee, go, and sin no more." That is, go now, and live a holy life. Grace gives an object to live for, and grace gives power to lead a new life.
“Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Wherever there is a soul that simply believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, that soul not merely is not condemned, but has eternal life. I get the doctrine in the 3rd of John, and the illustration of it in the 8th of John.
What is the doctrine? That the soul that simply trusts in Christ, and believes on Him is not condemned. What is the illustration? A poor guilty soul, self-condemned, but believing simply on the Lord Jesus Christ, and He Himself saying to her, "Neither do I condemn thee.”
He that believeth not, is condemned already. You do not wait for condemnation, till the judgment day. That is the day of execution. The condemnation has passed already.
Do you ask, “Is this world, then, full of condemned criminals?” No, not full, thank God, for there are those in it who have heard His voice, saying to them, “Neither do I condemn thee." You think you are not condemned, you dream you are free, but it is only a dream; for Jesus says, “He that believeth not is condemned already. In spite of your dreams of freedom, you are still under condemnation, and the day of execution is near.
Will you, my reader, not Come to Him now? Come to the Saviour who welcomes, who blesses, let His own word win your heart. He says, John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24), "He that heareth my word end believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life. What did that poor woman hear that day? His word: And what did it say to her? “Neither do I condemn thee.”
He that heareth, and believeth, hath; they are all joined together, heareth, believeth, hath.
Have you, my reader, heard and believed, and now do you ask, "How am I to live?" Listen to what Jesus says, “I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." How will you be able to walk rightly? You have the light of life, you have God's own dear Son. Grace pardons the sinner on the ground of the precious blood of the Saviour, and brings that sinner into the light of life, giving him a new object, and a new power, and a guide to follow, and light to know the way.
If you get your heart drawn to Christ, you are blessed by Him, get eternal life, receive His grace, His truth, know you will never collie into condemnation, and have the light of life all the way along. Oh, what a Saviour He is. Who would not trust Him, and seek to follow Him?
W. T. P. W.