Unpublished Scandal (Lessons from the Pericope Adulterae)

Unpublished Scandal
Robert Wurtz II

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say? (John 8:3–5 NKJV)

And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? (Romans 2:3 NKJV)

I have drawn attention to these two passages as a unit to illustrate a particular behavior pattern that the scripture denounces expressly. In John 8:3-5, we have the beginning of what scholars call the Pericope Adulterae — more commonly known as the woman taken in the very act of adultery. In Romans 2:3, Paul warns us not to judge others for doing something we “occasionally do” because that would be an invitation to the judgment of God. They taught things that they did not live by and then had the audacity to judge others who ignored their teachings. Apparently, certain religious Jews (perhaps teachers) lived as if they were immune to the law simply because they were Jews. Sadly, some Christians expect the same immunity. 

The story of the woman taken in adultery illustrates a severe character flaw in some religious people. How could a person condemn someone else for doing the very thing they do or have done in the past? Clearly, it is because they never got caught. Their sin was never widely known so they conduct themselves as if they never sinned. This is what the religious leaders attempted to do. It was not until Jesus told them, “You who are without sin cast the first stone” that they came to their senses. In fact, they were convicted by their own conscience. They would have had this woman stoned while deserving to be stoned themselves. Amazingly devilish!

Unpublished Scandal

There is nothing more disillusioning than to have a Christian condemn others for moral failures — only to have it discovered that they had moral failures in their own past. What is worse is when a person makes a life of condemning others for lesser crimes than they committed. Paul asks, And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? (Romans 2:3 NKJV) Apparently, God despises this attitude. As Matthew Henry once said, “Preaching against sin does not atone for the guilt of it.” 

Moreover, if there is one thing the world resents it is to watch religious people feign perfection. God never excuses sin, nor should we. Nevertheless, we must have the attitude of Jesus who showed mercy when it was needed. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:10–11 NKJV) Jesus had never sinned, and yet wanted mercy for this sinful woman. 

The attitude of the religious person is the opposite. They know they have sinned and need mercy, but are unwilling to extend that mercy to others. Why did they bring the woman? Why not the man? A religious spirit will always condemn the woman and let the man off scott-free. When Adam sinned God came calling his name not Eve’s. Notice their attitude was to condemn selectively and not universally. If they like you — you get a free pass. If they hate you — you get condemned. This is the hypocrisy of it all. People always show mercy to the people they love. If they don’t show mercy they don’t love the person. That’s the simplicity of it. 

Judgment Day Publications

There is coming a day when the pretenders who judged others for the very things they committed are going to be exposed for the frauds that they are.  Paul told Timothy, “Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later.” (1 Timothy 5:24 NKJV) If God were to pull back the cover and expose everyones’ life sins we would all be mortified. The sad and perplexing thing is that people will walk around as if they had never sinned — knowing they had lived scandalously and if God were to expose them they would be utterly ruined. It is because God’s instinct is to cover that we have any hope. Love covers a multitude of sins. 

The right attitude is found in Paul’s writings to the Galatians 6, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1 NKJV) Spiritual people work to gently restore those who have been “overtaken” in a trespass. The great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson comments on this verse, “The spiritually led (Galatians 5:18) are the spiritual experts in mending souls. Restore (katartizete). Present active imperative of katartizoœ, the very word used in Matt. 4:21 of mending nets.” We are to help people get back on track — not condemn.  

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