Know Your Bible

VOL. 5                           November 5, 2006                           NO. 42

"He That Is Without Sin..."


    "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7). This is a verse of scripture that is often used entirely out of context by many brethren to excuse sin. Their contention is that since none are without sin, no one may point out the sins of another. This, of course, is absurd. The Lord does not refer to one who was absolutely sinless in every respect. That requirement would have made it impossible for anyone to be punished under the old law for Eccl. 7:20 clearly states, "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." What, then, did the Lord mean here in Jn 8:7?

    The scribes and the Pharisees had brought a woman to the Lord who "was taken in adultery, in the very act" (verse 4). Where was the man? They invoked Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 and stated "that such should be stoned, but what sayest thou" ( verse 5)? They overlooked the fact that the law required that both the man and the woman should be stoned.

    Were they truly concerned about the law of Moses? No! They were concerned about putting the Lord on the horns of a dilemma (verse 6). If He, thinking that the stoning would have been too harsh, said to turn her loose, He would have been in violation of the law of Moses. If He, on the other hand, had said to stone her, He would have been in violation of Roman law. Either statement would have furnished the Pharisees a pretext for accusations.

    However, the Lord maintained and vindicated the law but imposed upon them a condition which they had overlooked. That is, the one who executed the law must be free from the same sin, lest by stoning the women he condemn himself as worthy of like death. They knew that He knew their lives and that they were as guilty as the woman they had brought. He had previously called them "a wicked and adulterous generation" (Mt 16:4). These scribes and Pharisees forgot, too, the demand of Moses (Deut 17:5-7) that the witnesses (accusers) should cast the first stone. The Lord's answer to them apparently hit like a lightning bolt. There can be no doubt that His words impressed upon them the truth that freedom from the outward act did not imply inward purity of sinlessness. Covered with shame, they left one by one. Given this, the only conclusion possible is that the Lord meant that the ones who cast the stones must be innocent of the sin for which they wished the woman to be slain.

    Brethren, don't misapply this verse. The question is not: " Who is without sin?" The Bible makes that clear: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). The question is: "Who has humbled himself in the sight of God and repented of his sins?"

---Jimmy B. Hill

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    It was nearly midnight on the dark streets of a town in the Czech Republic. My co-workers and I were returning from a late night supper after a day of teaching the gospel. Across the way we could hear the cacophony of noisy singing coming toward us. A band of vacationing Germans, fully under the influence of a night of alcohol, howled their drinking songs to the disturbance of the neighborhood. Perhaps this scene illustrates what Paul had in mind in his exhortation to the Ephesians (5:18-20): "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and make melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father."

    From ancient times unspiritual men have sung impiously under the influence of strong drink; but Paul's exhortation to the disciples in Ephesus stands in stark contrast to worldly culture both then and now. In a section describing the general lifestyle of the disciple, Paul urged his brethren to live under the influence or "in-filling" of the Holy Spirit and to sing pure and holy words of praise and thanksgiving to God. In a culture where unbelievers entertained themselves in Bacchanalian revelry, the disciple of the Lord presented a beautiful contrast. Gathered with fellow believers, both in their assemblies as well as other gatherings, the disciples of the first century expressed their sincere joy in the deliverance of God (psalms), in the praise of His attributes (hymns), and in truth of His gospel (spiritual songs). Such worship was the occasion for mutual instruction and encouragement through heart-felt praise to God. Likewise, Paul's words continue to instruct those who seek to offer acceptable worship to God.

    Singing in worship is not about entertaining oneself with lively tunes and pleasing harmony. It is about being deeply moved in our hearts by the indwelling message of the Holy Spirit. Through meditation and application of "the word of Christ" (Col. 3:16), our hearts are stirred to declare to God our thanksgiving for what He has done in us, and to those around us what He has or can do for them, if they will "understand what the Will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:17). And as we do this, there is a real sense that our lives have not been wasted in "dissipation," but that we are instead "redeeming the time" (Eph. 5:16), that is, making the most of the life God has given us.

    However, if we are to experience the real blessings of worship, our singing must be thoughtful. Those of us who have attended services for years can easily put "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" on "automatic pilot," singing it without the slightest reflection on what we're saying. It is not that difficult with words in front of us to mouth mindlessly some of the profoundest truths without genuine reflection. But if singing is to be the experience of worship God had in mind, it must be both an intellectual and emotional expression of our spirit.

    Our singing must also be honest. I've wondered at times how some of us who live in upper-middle-class neighborhoods can honestly say, "Living Below In This Old Sinful World, Hardly A Comfort Can Afford..." It seems to stretch poetic license beyond the breaking point. Moreover, in our singing we often declare significant intentions and make solemn pledges to God. "I Want To Be A Worker For The Lord," we say; but do we then take the time to do any work for Him? "More, More About Jesus" we may sing while not bothering to open a Bible for the next week. "Morning, Noon, And Evening I'll Pray" we say; but then not pause to pray at all for days at a time. You get the idea? The warning of Eccl. 5:4-6 is especially relevant here: "...Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?" If we respect God, we will not offer Him disingenuous statements and empty promises.

    So then, let me encourage you to sing with your brethren with purity, sincerity, thoughtfulness, and honesty. And, as you do, realize that the experience of singing in worship is a foretaste of heaven itself where we'll sing together a new song in praise to our great God.

---Johnny Felker

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