Saved by the Law
I often hear people talking and saying statements such as “The Law cannot save anyone” or “No one has ever been saved by the Law.” However, these and other statements like them are incorrect and untrue. I am about to share with you an example straight out of the Bible that shows someone being saved by the Law. Not only that but the example I will use comes not from the Tanakh or Old Testament but from the New Covenant writings. I know some of you are concerned, and others have already clicked to another page or article angry at me and proclaiming I am a legalist or worse. But for those who continue reading, I think you will find not only a real blessing in this article but also hope and promise that will encourage you.
Let’s take a look at Scripture together and see what we find.
In John 8:3-5 we read:
The Torah scholars and Pharisees bring in a woman who had been caught in adultery. After putting her in the middle, 4 they say to Yeshua, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the Torah, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?”
Now for the sake of this article let’s set aside all of the peripheral issues like. Where is the man? If they were able to catch them in the act, why wouldn’t the people stop them before the began sinning? Instead let us focus on the woman, the accusers and Yeshua (Jesus). There are many teachers that present these verses as proof that Yeshua was showing us that His love was more powerful than the Law. They will point at this event and say “look, Grace, is more powerful than Law.”They will say Yeshua forgave her and that His forgiveness did away with her punishment.
However, none of these statements are Biblically accurate. Rather what we find here is one example of a person being saved by the Law. Stick with me here. The woman was caught in sin. She didn’t deny her sin nor try to justify her actions. She is brought before Yeshua by Torah Scholars and Pharisees to test if Yeshua would violate the Law. But Yeshua does not. Instead, he does what we read in John 8: 6-9:
Now they were saying this to trap Him, so that they would have grounds to accuse Him.But Yeshua knelt down and started writing in the dirt with His finger. When they kept asking Him, He stood up and said, “The sinless one among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then He knelt down again and continued writing on the ground. Now when they heard, they began to leave, one by one, the oldest ones first, until Yeshua was left alone with the woman in the middle.
As we read above Yeshua began to write on the ground with His finger. We don’t know what He wrote but whatever it was it causes every one of the woman’s accusers to leave. After everyone else was gone, Yeshua spoke to the woman and said the famous statement. In John 8:10-11:
Straightening up, Yeshua said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” “No one, Sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Yeshua said. “Go, and sin no more.”
Yeshua asks, “where are they? Did no one condemn you? The woman responds “No one, Sir” At this point, Yeshua says “Neither do I condemn you” “Go and sin no more.” It is from these words that preachers conclude Yeshua overturned the Law and forgave without punishment. But this is not a Biblical conclusion. Why? Because The Law itself proclaimed this woman free from the punishment of the death penalty. The Torah in Deuteronomy 17: 5-7 says:
Then you are to bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and stone that man or woman with stones to death. By the word of two or three witnesses, the one who is to die is to be put to death. No one is to be put to death by the word of one witness. The hand of the witnesses is to be first to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you are to purge the evil from your midst.
Notice that in order for someone to be put to death as punishment for a sin there had to be two or three witnesses and that those witnesses had to be the first to stone them. Once Yeshua finished writing in the dirt, there were no witnesses to condemn the woman. The only thing Yeshua could do at that point was to tell her He doesn’t condemn her and to encourage her not to sin anymore. Because He was not a witness and because even if He were there had to be a second witness present to condemn to death and to participate first in the stoning. Yeshua followed the Torah to the letter in his actions. The truth is that this woman was saved by the Law.
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Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, #ManWisdom, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians, God Has No Plan "B", and his most recent book Galatians in Context.