Summary: This message reinforces the fact that Christ seeks to be our Savior AND Lord and not one at the expense of the other.
While Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,4they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.10Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”(John 8:1-11)
In this passage of scripture, the religious leaders brought a legal test case before Jesus Christ. They wanted his opinion on whether it was more important to honor the love of God or the righteousness of God. If Jesus had said that the woman should be stoned, then they could accuse Christ of intentionally neglecting the love of God. If Jesus had said that the woman should not be stoned, then they could accuse Christ of intentionally neglecting the righteousness of God.
Christ’s judgment suggests that the woman was in violation of the righteousness of God, but was that the penalty should be initiated by those who have no need for the love of God. Anyone who was in perfect compliance in God’s righteousness and had no need for God’s restoring love would be qualified to lead the execution. The people departed after assessing that they were not qualified to be witnesses and executioners.
Christ’s statement to the woman demonstrated his approach in actualizing the love and righteousness of God. He says that the love of God has removed her condemnation; he also says that the righteousness of God requires her to change her lifestyle.
In effect, Christ shows himself as Savior AND Lord. As Savior, he extends his love to make us acceptable; as Lord he defines the standards of acceptable attitudes and behaviors for those who have been accepted.
The Apostle Paul echoes this joint deployment of the love and righteous of God. In Romans 8:1-10, he suggests that the love of God negates the condemnation of the righteousness of God, but yet there is an expectation that the forgiven will intentionally live in a manner that pleases God:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot,8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
In a similar vein, Paul suggests that while the love of God has freed believers in Christ from condemnation, that freedom is not a license to sin:
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)