…And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
– John 8:11
How can the gift of no condemnation possibly be the power and impetus to sinning no more? To the human mind, it seems totally at odds and contradictory, incongruous even.
Yet such is the wisdom and power of God.
When the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, He said nothing at first. They challenged Him with the question of whether to stone the sinner woman or not, as the law required. (It was a test, because if they had wanted to uphold the law, they could have just stoned her themselves.)
Jesus’s response was simply to write on the stony ground of the temple precincts with His finger. It was a reminder to them of the other time God wrote on stone with His finger i.e. when He gave the Ten Commandments. In other words, He was responding to their challenge: “Are you forgetting that I wrote the law?”
But they didn’t get the hint, and kept pressing Him for an answer. So He proceeded to unleash the full standard of the law on them: “Let the first stone be thrown by the one among you who has not sinned.” Not a single one of them could stand before the full light of the law, so grudgingly they left.
Jesus Himself could have cast the stone at the woman, but He didn’t. Instead, the only words He spoke to her were words of no condemnation.
He asked her to check if no one had condemned her, to which she replied “No one, Lord.” And then He said the beautiful words of our study verse above: “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Jesus didn’t remind her of the law she had broken. There was no need to. He simply gave her what she needed to get out of her sin: the power and gift of no condemnation.
There are some who read this as Jesus giving the woman grace, then laying the truth of the law on her by telling her to go and sin no more.
But Jesus wasn’t switching between faces of “grace” and “law”. He doesn’t do that. The beginning of John tells us “the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
The truth that comes by Jesus isn’t on the side of the law, nor is it synonymous with the law. The truth that comes by Jesus is on the side of grace.
In fact, truth and grace are seen as one in God’s eyes. Because in the original Greek of John 1:17, the verb “came” is in the third person singular.
It isn’t that the law isn’t true. It is true. But it isn’t the truth that will set us free. As Jesus told the Jews – who already knew the law – later in the same chapter of John 8, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Thus Jesus’s words and gift of no condemnation to the woman was simply the truth that would set her free from her sin. He was telling her, “I have given you the gift of no condemnation. Now know this truth, and be free of your sin.”
It is called the gift of no condemnation because it isn’t given when the person is deserving of it. It is a gift.
The reason we often struggle with getting out of sin is because we still experience condemnation, either from ourselves or from others. The law – being told the “right” thing we should do – will always bring condemnation. And the law is the strength of sin (1 Corinthians 15:56).
But thanks be to God that the victory has been given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, who fulfilled every bit of the law and paid for every sin at the cross.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, NASB). That is the answer out of every struggle in the Romans 7 experience of not doing the good we want to do but rather doing the evil we don’t want to do.
Receive the gift of no condemnation in Christ. And let this truth set you free from every sin.
Because when you encounter Jesus, you encounter grace.