Our Master is not telling us here that we must not judge between truth and error, between right and wrong. Whatever God forbids is wrong; whatever He teaches is right. Rather, by His apostles Christ exhorts us to be constantly “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:10-11). “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Christ is not telling us that we must never condemn as evil the opinions, behavior, and doctrines of men. Our Lord teaches later in His Sermon on the Mount the necessity of spiritual discernment: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). We are to “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1). “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). We are to hold fast to that which is good and hold fast the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Timothy 1:13). There is only one Lord, one Body, one Spirit, one God and Father of all, and there is only one name under heaven given men whereby we must be saved (Ephesians 4:4-6; Acts 4:12).
But the Pharisees in John 8 made a fatal mistake. First, they judged a woman to be guilty of death for her sin of adultery before hearing Christ’s judgment. Second, they judged Christ as guilty of breaking God’s law because He received sinners. Third, they tempted Christ to take one of the only two options that they considered possible: either condemn the guilty without mercy, or clear the guilty without justice. But, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15).
Christ reproved the Pharisees in John 8 for their treachery. He exposed their hypocrisy and revealed that they were worthy of the judgment which they thought to bring on the woman. Paul did the same thing in Romans 2:1-2, “Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things”.
John 8 teaches many lessons. First, If we are judged for our sins, none of us will stand. “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalm 130:3). Second, Christ alone searches the hearts (Jer. 17:10). Third, the Judge of all the earth will do right, and this is our salvation and the basis for our godly fear (John 5:22; Hebrews 12:28). Fourth, God reveals His heart in the case of the woman: He is both just and merciful. In Christ He justifies those who in themselves are ungodly because Christ propitiated God for them; all such are made to look to Christ only (Romans 3:26; 4:5). God found the only possible third option. The Pharisees could not discover it. But with it, He silenced all self-righteous accusers, saved the guilty, and makes known His wisdom, grace and justice in Christ.
The woman represents every believer and all believers for whom Christ died. God the Father did not spare His Son from the justice of His wrath, but delivered Him up to it for all of His elect. God judged His people in Christ. Christ substituted Himself under the wrath of God for them. God convinces His people that their judgment was accomplished in Christ. Every believer knows that his or her own sin deserves God’s judgment. They fear that judgment. But God has given His word, the Gospel. The Gospel is that Christ answered God’s law for them and silences all accusers, Galatians 3:13; Romans 8:34. Christ answered all of God’s demands for judgment against chosen sinners. He was made sin for His people. God judged their sins in Him, 2 Cor. 5:21. His answer is the answer He gives to their conscience from His word, Hebrews 10:1-23. All that God requires of His people, He finds in Christ, 1 Cor. 1:30-31.
With what judgment we judge, we shall be judged. What is that judgment with which every believer judges? Every believer relies on the judgment Christ endured in their place in their conscience, in their prayers and as they consider the day of judgment. In the heart of every believer is the conviction that God judged Christ for them, and He is all their confidence, 1 John 4:17-18.
Do you hold to Christ as your only hope, and hold Him out as the only hope for any sinner who sues for mercy at the throne of God’s grace? Or do you hold to some thought of escaping judgment based on your own personal obedience? Maybe you hold out only condemnation for those who don’t toe the line? Or maybe you threaten real sinners with judgment who look to Christ alone as their only sin payment and obedience? With the judgment you judge, you shall be judged.
Don’t ignore God’s third option. The first option condemns all sinners. The second option denies God’s justice. The third option both saves sinners and glorifies God’s Son for His wisdom, justice, grace and love for sinners. It is the only assurance and the on-going hope and joy and peace of every believing sinner (Romans 15:13). The third option is Christ and Him crucified. Every believer declares this as his only hope and the only hope for sinners. Outside of Christ, all will face God in judgment. In Christ, justice has been answered and continues to receive an answer that pleases God and secures all blessings to believing sinners: His mercy, forgiveness, righteousness, eternal life and all grace. What an Advocate we have in Christ Jesus our Lord!