From Grace to Works: A Story

“Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” - John 8:11 (ESV)

The story of the woman caught in adultery recorded in John chapter 8 is a revelation of God’s mercy toward sinners.

I find the setting very suggestive: Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, He was on Mount Olives (olive oil was used for anointing); the height of the mountain indicates the height of our Lord’s benevolence and mercy.

There, the Jewish leaders brought a woman caught in adultery to Him. They sought her death according to the law. Jesus was confronted with the dilemma of whether or not she should be forgiven, thus putting his adherence to the law to the test.

By his response, Jesus maintains both justice and meekness. Without uttering a word, Jesus’ actions condemn her accusers as he writes on the dusty ground, which bears more fruit than her accusers’ hearts of stone. They are condemned by the very law by which they accuse - a law written by the same finger of God that now writes in the dust before their eyes.

Before Jesus stood the woman - condemned to death by the law. The scribes and Pharisees who dragged her there said, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 

The law could not save her, but Jesus could. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  All the accusers fell short of the glory of God. Convicted of their own sinfulness, they left one by one. Only the trembling, guilty, repentant woman remained.

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

The condemned sinner was forgiven and placed under grace, but then she was obligated to henceforth keep the law - to “go, and from now on sin no more.”

To be saved by grace does not relieve anyone from the duty of obedience to God’s law. Grace takes away the condemnation of the law, but it does not do away with the law.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus .

Rev. Robert Chew