"Go And Sin No More."

Whenever you discuss Jesus's radical welcome and embrace of "tax collectors and sinners" someone will eventually try to throw some cold water by bringing up John 8.1-11.

This is the famous story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. After challenging the men accusing the woman--"Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”--causing them to drop their stones and walk off, Jesus turns to the woman:
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you...” 
So far, so good. Jesus doesn't condemn the women like the men have. But that's not Jesus's final word. His parting word is this:
"Go and sin no more."
The way John 8.1-11 rhetorically functions in many conversations is as evidence that Jesus had moral standards. Jesus's embrace wasn't unconditional, it had strings attached. That is, Jesus's welcoming of tax collectors and sinners wasn't as radical as we might think. We must recall, the argument goes, that Jesus told the woman "Go and sin no more." And so, the argument continues, the church should follow Jesus's lead. We should embrace the sinners of the world but we need to tell them to "Go and sin no more."

The trouble with this, from a practical standpoint, is that way too often this is the first, last and only word the church offers the world. Instead of "Neither do I condemn you" it's always "Go and sin no more."

But I'd like to make a different point today. And it's this:

John 8.1-11 isn't even in the Bible.

Or at least not in the earliest manuscripts we have of John.  Check any modern translation.

Now, to be clear, I don't really want to push this too far. I don't really have a problem accepting John 8.1-11 as canonical. I mainly bring this up so we can ponder something.

Let's say John 8.1-11 really isn't a part of the Bible as certain evidence might suggest. Let's say that Jesus never said "Go and sin no more." Imagine those words aren't in the Bible. Then ask yourself this: is there anywhere else in the gospels where Jesus says anything similar?

And if not, what might that mean for our understanding of Jesus's radical embrace of tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners?

Food for thought.

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83 thoughts on “"Go And Sin No More."

  1. John 5:14, surely?

    Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."

  2. That is an interesting and perplexing text. Agreed that it's a case of Jesus telling someone to "stop sinning." But my hunch is that if that became the go to text for making this point (i.e., if we go with the thought experiment of the post and bracket John 8.1-11) we'd open a can of worms about how people think of the relationship between sin and physical disabilities. I'd hate to see what Christians would start saying to paraplegics.

  3. While people might handle such a text in a dangerous and profoundly unhelpful manner, I am not sure that such a treatment is demanded by the text itself at all.

    I would want to reverse the question that you ask: how might a readiness to presume that such a sentiment on Christ's part is not a canonical one cast a shadow on the broader understanding of the character of his welcome from which such readiness springs? Having indirectly acknowledged the surprise of a text such as John 5:14, what blindspot might that surprise name, and what ought to be the response?

  4. Thanks Brad. I'm very appreciative of this comment because it raises lots of interesting things that a lot of people don't think about.

    First, I'm glad you know that I'm thinking here in hypotheticals and I'm not attempting a Thomas Jefferson, scissors in hand.

    For my part, when it comes to the cannon my view tends toward the Catholic. So, like I said in the post, I take John 8.1-11 as canonical, particularly if we are thinking of canonical as the received tradition of the Church.

    What I'm pondering in this post is really a specific sort of thing. And I don't have any great answers, I'm just pondering something.

    What I'm pondering is proof-texting when one of those footnotes exits--"the earliest manuscripts do not contain..." How are we to think, particularly if we are Protestants, about proof-texting when the text we are using has that footnote?

    Here's an example. We all know Jesus never addresses same-sex attraction directly. Jesus's silence on this particular subject, we all know, is a subject of great debate. What does that silence mean? But let's say there was a text where Jesus did mention same-sex attraction in a judgmental way. Just one instance. But let's also say that this one instance is in the same category as John 8.1-11, that it's not found in the earliest manuscripts. Now my question is, would that footnote be relevant? If there was only one instance of Jesus saying something in this regard and that one instance had the footnote would that be an issue to ponder and debate?

    Stepping back, its arguable that this is the only instance in the gospels where Jesus says something along the lines of "go and sin no more" (see Alaster's comment in this thread), but my post is really about if those footnotes matter if the text in question is carries a lot of weight as a proof-text.

    The solution, of course, is to just not proof-text.

  5. Thinking about the surprise of John 5.14, it makes me wonder about what Jesus means by "stop sinning." The man was lame for 38 years. If the sin caused the lameness, 38 years ago, what might it mean that the man should "stop sinning"? The command to "stop" suggests that the man was currently doing something, something about his behavior today. Did it have something to do with his carrying is mat on the Sabbath and the blowback he gets from the religious authorities? That doesn't really seem to fit either.

    Given all the ambiguities I'd agree that this text could carry some of the weight if John 8.1-11, but I don't think it could carry all the weight and it would create its own problems as well.

  6. Perhaps 1 John 5:7 might be another example here, as the only explicit (but non-canonical) reference to the Trinity.

    I think that individual texts matter a lot, especially because they are often the places where the Scriptures kick back at our theories. If we pay attention to them, they can change our minds on the big picture that could otherwise Procrusteanize the text. While we should never miss the forest for the trees, forests do have trees.

    I think that people too easily conflate the referencing of particular texts and forming arguments that put weight upon them with prooftexting, when the two things are not necessarily the same.

  7. The text is resonant with biblical symbolism in many ways. I am inclined to follow most commentators on John 5:14 in seeing a connection between his illness and his sin, although this is a particular case and Jesus explicitly rejects the instinctive attribution of illness to sinfulness elsewhere. The fact that we are told that it was 38 years reinforces this impression, as 38 years was the period of sinful and unbelieving wandering in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2:14), and the specificity of the number would have jumped out to any original reader who knew the Scriptures. He ends up betraying Jesus to the authorities. One could argue that he ended up in a worse condition than when Jesus first met him (in the John 15:22 sense), subject to a greater condemnation.

  8. "So far, so good. Jesus doesn't condemn the women like the men have."

    The word "condemn" in this context has no meaning.  The woman specifically stated that the men had NOT condemned her.  "No one, sir".  So logically there must be more than one type of condemnation (and reasons for it), and which type is not explained by this story.

    "But my hunch is that if that became the go to text for making this point
    (i.e., if we go with the thought experiment of the post and bracket
    John 8.1-11) we'd open a can of worms about how people think of the
    relationship between sin and physical disabilities. I'd hate to see what
    Christians would start saying to paraplegics."

    What do you think they would say that they have not said already?  And how would this change the narrative which is already running inside the mind of the disabled?

  9. I understand your logic concerning the passage from John, and I personally wouldn't preach from it. Your conclusions about it concern me, though. I don't think that the story about the woman caught in adultery tells us anything new about Jesus that we can't already conclude from other passages. Is this the only passage where Jesus demonstrates forgiveness? Is this the only place that Jesus shows kindness to social outcasts? In the same way, I would argue that this certainly isn't the only passage in Scripture where Jesus tells us to "go and sin no more."

    What does it mean to have "life to the fullest?" Does this just mean we continue a life filled with sin? Is that the best there this for this life?
    Further, I think that the Beatitudes are a very clear example of how seriously Jesus takes sin. We often think of Jesus as "softening" the law and making it easier to follow, but in the Beatitudes he takes the law one step further. Instead of questioning outward actions, he questions inward motivations. "The law says it wrong to commit adultery, doesn't it? Well, even looking lustfully at a woman is sinful." Sin is taken very seriously.

    Perhaps you weren't intending to downplay sin, but I really think that we can still conclude that Jesus doesn't want anyone to continue sinning, including the tax collectors and prostitutes. He very loudly demonstrated a sinless lifestyle for everyone to imitate. I think that a holistic embrace of "sinners" does eventually include telling people not to sin. If we love God and love others, we will want to love God by eradicating sin and love others by helping them live an "abundant life" in right relationship with God. This may not be the first thing we do (as you wrote, it's also important to tell them that they are not condemned), but it is absolutely necessary.

  10. First, Richard, this is a valid and interesting thought experiment. This story is clearer about several things than any clearly-canonical story is. That said, I have a question. Why do you sound here like you are trying to separate forgiveness from "moral standards"? 
    What I mean is this. When I first saw the title here my first thought was, "Richard is exposing evangelicalism and its salvation-focus again." Just a few days ago you reminded us, as you have before, that the gospel is about theosis--becoming good--rather than simply about individualistic salvation--being forgiven for not being good.I wonder, do you think you can maintain that emphasis on becoming good, unless Jesus called for moral transformation alongside his radical forgiveness? Do you really think that this lovely story, Scriptural or not, can be improved upon? Do you want anybody believing in a Jesus who forgives but does not call us to leave sin behind?I'm really curious here--and let me propose a counter thought-experiment. If Jesus were dealing with a racist or slum landlord, would you want us to be thinking so hard about whether Jesus could forgive people with a "radical embrace" that doesn't require a changed, go-and-sin-no-more life? Or is the real issue that, like so many of my wise progressive friends, you simply don't believe that oppressed people (women about to be stoned) really have sins that count as sins--that for you, adultery isn't really "wrong" the way racism or greed is?Looking forward to your thoughts on this.

  11. First, thanks for pointing out John 5. That's exactly want I wanted to happen when I posted this, to flush out other locations where Jesus is on this theme.

    I've got a thought about John 5 vs. John 8, but it's too long for here. I'll have post up tomorrow about what I'm thinking. Not that you'd agree, but it's where you've pushed my thoughts. And for that, as always, I'm grateful.

  12. "The solution, of course, is to just not proof-text."


    By the way, this is the same answer I give students in a first-year biblical language course when they discover that almost every verse of the Bible could be translated in more than one way--and that for some verses, the possible ways to take the verse are extremely diverse. (E.g., John 1:1, "the Word was a god" is a perfectly legitimate translation.)

    They get really heated--then perplexed--then fall silent. And then I gently suggest, "Did we ever really base our beliefs on this one phrase? Really?"

    Just don't prooftext.

  13. You raise an important point. The context of the passage is legal. To 'condemn' would be to bear witness against her, and play a part of the witness in exacting the penalty of her crime. The witnesses needed to be the first to cast the stones, and if they were somehow guilty in the matter (entrapment, false witness, complicity, etc.), they would be subject to the same penalty. Jesus' judgment in the context, underlined this fact and called them to act accordingly. To be 'without sin' was not a matter of moral perfection, but of being without culpability relative to the case that they were deciding, which was obviously a set-up.

  14. I think that Richard's thrust here is that "Go, and sin no more" is applied in life-denying ways, and he asks for other texts that perhaps resist such abuse.

    Let me further elaborate.  The original audience understood uniformly that adultery is bad: they did not learn from the text that the woman should stop sinning.  They did learn, however, that the Pharisees' zeal for holiness did not produce transformation, for it would end only in death, while Jesus' forgiveness made a way for transformation.

    Some readers today --- perhaps many --- don't realize that the woman should stop sinning, while other readers believe (rightly or wrongly) that the world is awash with such faulty understanding skip straight over the teaching of the text about transformation through forgiveness and take their stand as survival-minded Pharisees, ready to pull out beards and pin with spears.

    That's my best understanding of the text, the present time, and Richard's motivation.  I could be wrong.

  15. "I am inclined to follow most commentators on John 5:14 in seeing a
    connection between his illness and his sin, although this is a
    particular case and Jesus explicitly rejects the instinctive attribution
    of illness to sinfulness elsewhere."

    Well good for Jesus.  It is the "instinctive attribution of illness to sinfulness" which I find to be the single most offensive and repellant idea in the Bible and in the head of many Christians.

    Acquiesce to this line of thought?  As Huck Finn was quoted the other day -- "All right then -- I'll go to hell".

  16. Maybe if we look at it less like a spiritual issue, and more like a court case?

    The woman was caught in the act of adultery. She was "brought to trial" before "the judge", Jesus.

    The accusers referred
    to the "law Moses commanded". It's that very law that says,

    HCSB Lev 20:10 If a man commits adultery
    with a married woman—if he commits adultery with his neighbor’s
    wife—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

    The accusers have broken the law by catching both the man and woman (how else could she be caught "in the act"?), but only arresting the woman. They have shown partiality.

    HCSB Deut 1:17 Do not show partiality when deciding a case....

    Maybe the doodling which Jesus did referred to these two laws which Moses commanded?

    Maybe not.

    Whatever, the result is that the men realized they didn't have a case, and could therefore not legally condemn her.

    If the accusers drop their case, how can "the judge" condemn the accused?

    Is this a case of sin and forgiveness, or is it a case of legal acquittal?

    If it's the latter, it makes sense for "the judge", who knows the
    accused is guilty but that she got off this time, to release the accused
    with the warning, "You're free to go, but don't do it again!"

  17. As a Lutheran we have this problem with Mark 16:16.  Baptism is core to Lutheran salvation theology and in the small catechism, and lets face it the only piece of theology many laypeople ever really digest, Luther quotes Mark 16:16.  Our typical explanation today is less to say canonical than to talk the inspiration of scripture and follow a thread through the bible chain reference style.  The quote may not be perfect, but it expresses a summary of biblical witness like the creeds.

    In regards to John 8, someone already brought up John 5 which to me is way more radical as it seems to contradict a Jesus statement in John 9:2-3.  To me the Sermon on the Mount is even tougher than these odd sayings.  If you hand causes you to sin, cut it off?!?  Out of exactly that vein you get Luther's Law and Gospel paradox.  The law is good and wise.  But it cannot save.  All it does is increase the sin.  Christ alone, out of pure grace, has defeated the power of the law.  The law is still good and still in force in this age, but it no longer can levy its harsh penalties eternally, because Christ is risen and all will be made new.

  18. John 3:3, "...unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God". Is there any place where Jesus recommends continuing in sin? I think Jesus is reaching past the "old man" to the "new man" within, seeking to set the captive free. That's psychologically very apt; you are not likely to help somebody with anger management problems by being angry with them. The birthing must take place at just the right time, when the mother and the child have reached the right stage of development. In the meantime, one must not chastise the mother at the expense of the fetus. 'pologies for confused mixed metaphors.

  19. In v.6, Jesus asks, "Do you want to be healed?" I believe the man's sin was in wasting his time on methods that he should see clearly haven't worked and can't possibly ever work.  ... but on the other hand, the frustrating time spent waiting for an accessible miracle apparently primed him to receive Jesus' healing Word. 

  20. Hi Richard: I love the post and the great conversation it has inspired in all the comments. I agree that many have taken this to be the new golden rule for interacting with others, and miss how significant and life-giving Jesus' words were for this woman who otherwise might have been stoned to death.
    Earlier in May, I posted on the topic with a cartoon giving a contemporary twist to the story: http://exclusionandembrace.blogspot.ca/2012/05/go-and-sin-no-more.html

  21. This post requires a some followup. I'll have something up tomorrow. Between now an then, some clarifications about "what this post is about."

    Regarding the most provocative aspect of the post--Is John 8.1-11 "in the bible"?--let me say a couple of things about what I'm kicking around in the post:

    1. On one level I'm just pointing out something about our bibles. Specifically, that they have footnotes that say things like "the earliest manuscripts do not contain verses 1-11." Those footnotes exist. Are people aware of them?

    2. If people are aware of the footnotes, what are they to do with them? Ignore them? Pay attention to them? Hold those texts more lightly? I'm curious about what the average person in the pew does and is supposed to do when they stumble upon these footnotes.

    3. More to the point of this post, what if a particular text with a footnote is carrying a lot of theological or doctrinal weight? Is that weight justified in light of the footnote? Is it "best practice" to look elsewhere for other texts to carry that weight? And what if other texts don't exist or are less clear and useful?

    (Another example in this regard is how the snake handling churches of Appalachia use Mark 16.17-18--a text with a footnote--to justify their practices. For more see: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2009/12/snake-handling-churches-of-appalachia.html )

    At the end of the day, all this is run of the mill stuff for biblical scholars and textual critics. My interests here have to do with how normal people using the bible and why they may or may not pay attention to the text-critical footnotes in their bibles.

  22. That's a great question. My post tomorrow is going to try to get at that issue. Sadly, I expect my treatment will be very progressive looking. I'm cursed that way.

    Some clarifications for right now. First, it's clear that Jesus had a robust vision of sin. So it would be crazy to say that Jesus lacks moral standards and is soft on sin. The question, as I see it, goes to Jesus's theology of sin. How did Jesus define what is righteous versus unrighteous? Jesus seemed to disagree strongly with how the religious authorities were defining such categories. That's where I'd like to see a robust theological conversation, what was the moral vision of Jesus? What did he condemn? What didn't seem to bother him?

    To be sure, I have no doubt that Jesus condemns adultery. What I'm thinking about, rather, is how John 8.1-11 tends to work when Christians are arguing about moral standards and embracing "tax collectors and sinners." I have often seen Jesus's final words in that text used as a way to undo or radically undermine the moral scandal of Jesus's ministry. Whenever you see a church or Christian start moving in that direction--toward radical embrace--the words of John 8.11 are used to put the kibosh on that, as a way--to not put too fine a point on it--to turn Jesus into a Pharisee.

    Of course, the best response to this is to address the hermeneutics of such a move rather than to suggest, even hypothetically, that John 8.1-11 isn't "in the bible." Totally agree with that. But my thought experiment isn't about cutting John 8.1-11 out of the bible. It's simply using the footnote of that text as an opportunity to say, Bracket this text and see how easy or hard it is to make the "Jesus is really agreed with the Pharisees" move. By opportunistically bracketing the text I'm pushing for a reading of Jesus that has to account for the radical and scandalous whole of Jesus's ministry, for a fuller reading of the gospels.

    The footnote on John 8.1-11 is just a provocative way of me saying, "Bracket this text and go read the rest of the gospels. What do we find or learn? And in light of those answers come back to John 8."

  23. With regard to the broader point you're making, I would say most people don't pay attention to the footnotes. I don't remember what I thought before I went to ACU, because I read the footnotes (I read everything), but didn't really think about them at all. Now I have a more fluid view of what the Bible is and means, and I prefer to look at themes instead of going to great lengths to try to reconcile seemingly contradictory texts. I think a lot of the attempted reconciliations feel forced and unwieldy.

    With regard to this specific text, this is why I think it's a bad idea to proof-text from any one encounter that Jesus had with the people. Jesus told this woman to stop sinning. He told several other women to go in peace, because they had been forgiven. He didn't even need to say anything to Zaccheus. On the other hand, there is no forgiveness, only condemnation, in the list of woes to the scribes and Pharisees. My takeaway from this is that every person is in a slightly different place, and Jesus knew exactly where they were and what they needed to hear. So what does that mean for us? It would be extremely arrogant and presumptuous of us to decide that we already know what someone needs to hear, so I think this means that we should reject ANY one-size-fits-all approach and seek to understand people's unique situations before telling them what to do.

  24. Absolutely, and that's a valid stance to take toward any text. For example, I love to tell social gospel types, "Bracket Matthew 25, and do you get any sense that salvation is all about being nice to people?" Or evangelicals: "Bracket John 3:16, and do you get any sense that salvation is all about believing in order to have eternal life?" I love provocative ways of making us look at all of Jesus' ministry, not just our favorite go-to passage.

    I guess my problem is that I sometimes see the opposite danger you see (turning Jesus into a Pharisee). What I see are a bunch of churches that are working very hard to embrace everyone, and would no more stone a sinner than the man in the moon. Yet those of us who love the radical edge of Jesus' teaching just can't be content patting the church on the back and saying, "Good jobs, guys, you're getting it." Instead we try to be as radical towards gracious-Jesus-followers as Jesus was toward legalists. We already see them loving sinners, so how can we get push even farther in the iconoclastic anti-legalist direction than they already are? The only way is to edit out the call to repentance, on the rather specious grounds that if we REALLY love people we won't talk about their sins at all.

    In other words, I see the standard Christian use of go-and-sin-no-more, not as validating Pharisaism, but as reminding us that Jesus' non-Pharisaism was not SIMPLY secular Oprah-like tolerance for any and all behavior. And I think you, like a lot of my progressive friends, waffle on that point--except when you're attacking oppressive sins.

    BTW, "progressive" is not a bad word for me; I'm really chewing this over. Maybe for Jesus there is no sin except for oppressing others. I'm open to being persuaded. But I kinda doubt it. For one thing, the no-sin-but-judging-and-hurting-the-weak, God-wouldn't-ever-hurt-a-fly Jesus sounds just like the sort of Jesus we hyper-tolerant 20th-century Americans would have made up for ourselves. (I know I would.) Makes me suspicious--I think most Christians of most ages and cultures would look at that conception and cry, "B.S.! Jesus hated sin, and God punishes it!" I'm not sure they're right; but I'm slow to assume they're wrong.

  25. "Then ask yourself this: is there anywhere else in the gospels where Jesus says anything similar?"

    The Burner thinks the answer is 'no,' but he's asked himself, and he doesn't really know. Help a brother out?

  26. I struggle with that pendulum swing as well, going too far the other direction. I think about it all the time. Because Jesus loved his enemies but he sure didn't look like Oprah.

  27. What is sin? 

    Don't most Christians define it at its core as rebellion against the authority of God?  That would imply that God has desires and we have desires, and when we do only what we desire, we rebel rather than obey.  That is, we sin.  This then requires some form of condemnation or punishment, in order to satisfy the need for "justice".  I don't care whether you call it "retributive", "rehabilitative", "instructional", "sacrificial", or "substitutional".  The order of things has been challenged, and someone must (apparently) answer for that.  Someone is "culpable", "responsible".  Justice may come -- or mercy -- but consequences can and do come.

    Otherwise, all human activity going back to the first human being is of either neutral or equal moral weight.  Empty all the prisons, please.  Those people may all be convicted felons, but who condemns them?  Why do they live lives of separation?

    Now let us go to a Shriner's Orthopedic Hospital for children.  These babes were born with faulty DNA.  Whose "fault" is that?  Is someone to "blame"?  Who is responsible for this?  Their parents?  Their great-great grandparents?  Adam and Eve?  People who pollute?  People who litter?  Would anyone suggest that these children themselves have sinned at conception?  How about at birth?  Age two?  Adulthood?

    Logically, if I am not "responsible" for my faulty DNA, then how do you explain it vis-a-vis my own "sin"?  And if I had no part or choice in this matter, how can anyone accuse me of anything "rebellious"?  Somewhere along the road from my conception to my death I might have real choices to make, but at its very essence -- my DNA -- my life has never been under my authority or control, and therefore the whole concept of sin/responsibility/culpability has broken down.  Someone else is obviously in charge, without any input from me.  I did not rebel against God, unless by this you mean that I am physically alive.  You cannot arbitrarily say that at some magic moment I became "responsible".  That's angel-dancing territory.  Either I always was, or I never was.

  28. Since we know that there are some verses added to the original autographs, because they are not in our earliest copies, then it would seem likely that there are other verses that were added in early copies that have not survived. In other words, we also must be suspicious of verses that are not footnoted. Some will say I have just attacked all rational basis for Biblical authority, but I say I have simply pointed out the necessity for "rightly dividing" the complete text, as this "bracketing off" technique does. All scripture is useful for encouragement, but we shouldn't be hanging major dogmatics on isolated texts.

    (Speaking of reducing existential anxiety, the "rightly divided" approach works to reduce it by "smoothing out" intra-textual dissonance.)

  29. "You cannot arbitrarily say that at some magic moment I became "responsible".  That's angel-dancing territory.  Either I always was, or I never was."

    Well said Sam. And indisputable. Unless one is religious of course, in which case reason and compassion have been abandoned in favor of self-righteousness by declaring that we "save" ourselves through our "responsible" acts, and all the "irresponsible" ones end up in hell.

  30. Richard,

    Could it be that this very passage itself as well as its later inclusion in earlier texts and the story of the woman being excluded are both about witnessing Jesus' resistance to scapegoating (judging, condemning)?  


  31. Yes indeed. Very well said Sam. I agree with you that when you start really thinking about stuff like this you realize that the legal frameworks of western christian theology just fall apart. Not saying that Christianity itself necessarily falls apart, but I know I started scrunching up my face and going "huh?" at a pretty early age when I started wrestling with these kinds of thoughts.

  32. I buy the hypothesis that this passage in John is so radicalizing and polarizing, it had to have been true. So, perhaps it was omitted from earlier manuscripts for being so controversial, but the story eventually gained traction and became canon. In historical Jesus scholarship, where you have many different communities retelling stories to try to get at the "real" Jesus, it might be a fallacy to always and invariably prefer older manucripts.

    You're right, there are two forces at work here, and neither should be ignored. The first: "Neither do I condemn you." The second: "Go and sin no more."

  33. I once analysed my sometimes temptation towards irresponsible sex and discovered that it happens when I am feeling insecure.  This discovery since happening has showed me what is going on inside me when tempted.  It seems that the awareness of this and then a prayer for nearness to God has strengthened me against temptation.  In this way I am being a friend to myself and I believe that God is supporting me in this because I am friending myself towards peace and love, Christ like Goals.  Then I am called to love my neighbour as myself, so I would do as I had been done to and friend them towards peace and love.  Glory to God.

    Which would be the greatest sin?  the woman returning to adultery or her believing that Christ condemns her?

    I would suggest that the greatest sin is to believe that Christ condemns her for her sin, this is the greater sin because it misrepresents Christ who 'came not to condemn but to give life, life in abundance'.

    Then I would consider that in 'Go and sin no more' sin is plural, simply doing something that is for disobeying one or more of the ten commandments - thou shall not commit adultery.

    But I return to the non condemnational nature of Christ.  Psalms speak about getting shelter under the wings of God.  All in all, we shouldn't be dwelling on condemnation but on our need to be close to Jesus which is made possible by the grace of God which we receive through our actively believing in Him.  With Him we can do good.  Without Him we have weak spots that channel us towards sin. 

  34. When someone is desperate to be healed, they sometimes, out of that desperation, go to the lunatic fringe looking for healing.
    Is this sin?

  35. Frankly, I don't quite see a disconnect between Jesus telling the woman 'to go and sin no more' and him accepting the hospitality of other sinners. Obviously, the woman wouldn't have packed a picnic to take along to her execution, so there was not much of a hospitality to accept. Sending her home, seems like the only sensible and loving thing to do.

  36. I have always thought it strange that no one in book of Joshua said "sin no more" to Rahab the prostitute.

  37. I think the line between tolerant and forgiving is too blurred. I tolerate people cutting in front of me in line. They do not need my forgiveness because it is not a big deal to me. I do not tolerate people punching me in the face. I would readily forgive them but my forgiveness includes the recognition that they acted like a real jerk. If somebody hurts me, love requires me to acknowledge that they hurt me and decide to look past it

  38. I think jesus' comment is right on point here.  He is saying to this man to quit looking for answers in places they do not exist.  Stop looking for salvation or healing or whatever else you are a looking for in any place other than a relationship with jesus.  Jesus is the answer.  And if you try to find it elsewhere, you are going to suffer much more greatly than this physical disability.  Its not a threat made by jesus, it is a recognition of the human condition and natural consequences of human behavior.

  39. John 5:14 "Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you." If it was not possible to stop sinning, why would Jesus command this..?

  40. Everyone is blind to their own sin. "Go and sin no more" is about searching out the sin in your own life to which you are blind. I think when we're intolerant to those we consider "living in sin" God must laugh because he sees all the things in our own lives that we don't even realize are just as bad. To God the things we decide to target must seem totally random. Like getting all wrapped around the axel with regards to homosexuality but not gluttony or fancy cars or obnoxiously large churches. In summary, those that are intolerant are simply blind to the enormity of their own sin. If they weren't blind to it, they would never waste a breath pointing out the sin of others...they would simply want to share the good news.

  41. 'How did Jesus define what is righteous from unrighteous?' By means of Mosaic Law, which he came not to abolish but to fulfill.  

    'Jesus seemed to disagree strongly with how the religious authorities were defining such categories.'  Yes, he did. They were corrupt and he told them so, 'vipers and hypocrites'.  The religious faithful had become unfaithful and distorted God's laws, thus distorting God.  Very likely got Jesus's blood boiling a few times, yep, Jesus got angry!

    '...the moral vision' - goes back to the first prophecy (Gen 3:15).  Adam, a perfect creation chooses (free will) to sin (disobey God), and now man must die.  All men thereafter are born in sin (or alienation from God - thank you very much Adam), and to redeem a relationship with God it required the ransom sacrifice of another perfect creation (thank you very much Jesus).  The moral vision hasn't changed with God from the beginning (all spelled out in the first few chapters of Genesis) don't over think it, God made it simple (we (Adam's kind) just blew it). But we're back on the right track (thank God and no pun intended)!

    'Go and sin no more' - what did Jesus mean?  Go and do not commit adultery again?  Go and never commit another sin? Or, I know (because you are human and born imperfect) you will sin again, and you may (or may not) commit adultery again, but if you do ...


  42. What do you think it means, 'the Word was a god' - you know, there is an explanation of why a lower case g is used and not a capital G.  You do know they're not same, right? God's word is not one of confusion and nor should it be played with like you're in a 6th grade Science lab.

  43. Sam, don't mean to burst your bubble pal, but come down from the clouds for a moment and put things into perspective:  

    1.  We know that God's desire for mankind was to do what?  Be fruitful and multiply and ... (fill in after dots).
    2.  What did God give man?  Free-will, right, free-will a range of emotions and intellect (Adam was no dummy)
    3.  How did sin enter into the world? You know the answer!  And Adam, very cheesy-move, tries to put the blame on who?
    4.  All men are born in sin?  Sin is imperfection, imperfections jack-up the DNA, people are not living as long, but it gets worse.
    5.  Remember the Fallen Angels (the little dancers you were talking about), yep, had their way with all the little earth hotties, more corruption with the seed (DNA), but Noah's a good guy (no corrupt DNA - a real human), OK, that had to be right, I mean, God saw that it turned out really bad when the Fly Boys were mating with the Eve-ites and some really bad stuff was happening (drop, drop, came the rain).

    Sam, it was us - we are the blame (I know, not you or me personally) but our kind - the big A!  Look, most everybody wants to blame God (for everything), and God is the most innocent of ALL.  The Creator of All Things is getting hammered by His creations for being responsible for our mistakes, and many angels did the same thing.  Before we start casting stones at the Big Spirit in the Sky, we have to first take responsibility for our own actions - but we still won't get it ... and in your heart you know why (well, maybe you don't know why) but until we close out the remaining chapters in the final days things aren't going to be to good around the home front (and besides, let's not forget who's calling the shots right now).

    Keep it simple Sam ... read the Bible, study the Bible and don't get into the esoteric mumble-jumbo philosophy crap.  Look, the bottom line, no one really cares how smart you are ... they care more about what's in your heart.

    PS:  Sam, no, sorry, there are people in prison we do not want walking the streets (don't even go there) there are some very crazy, demon possessed, weird stuff going on in the world.  Pay attention:  there is good and there is evil in the world.  As in the days of Noah so it shall be at end times ... pay attention on what's going on in the world and around you (and pray a lot). 

    PSS: and the commenters below ... yeah, yeah, nice words but read the Bible.

  44. Dan! ... 'legal frameworks of western christian theology just fall apart', I guess if you're a lawyer and you're looking for loopholes, but please, read the Bible pal and start putting two+two together (what is this site anyway? You guys like playing who's brain is farting today?)  Come-on fellas!

  45. Please! Hey genius-khan, you think you can think your way to where you think you want to go?  Better think again!  Forget it, how irresponsible of me.  OK, Jim, whatever.   

  46. Richard, ... a lame person Jesus tells to stop sinning and some have posted that it's because he is sinning that he's lame, right?

    Hey, you think the lame guy is going to have a lot of dates?  Hang out at a local and knock down a few pints of wine?

    Stop sinning could have meant, hey, I know you're slapping the monkey pretty hard ... ease up Kong and knock it off.  Or anything of a mental/physical nature that would have led Jesus to know that something wasn't right and was against God's laws.   

  47. You really believe that Marshall?  ',,,the man's sin was in wasting his time on methods...' what method(s)?  A little obscure here, pal - and since we're throwing darts, try this: He prayed daily seeking God in his heart ... and God answered his prayers - is this a sinful method, Marshall?

    Focus on the question: 'Do you want to be healed?'  Why would Jesus ask a lame person if he wanted to be healed?  Isn't that a no-brainer?  There must have been a very specific reason why the question was asked, you think?   

    Not sure why you believe this method thing (when you clearly have no idea) - think positive, the lame guy prayed for a healing and his prayer was answered but not first without asking, is this what you want, to be healed?  Now the lame might have been thinking, yeah! I've been praying about this for a long time ... ah, now we're on a different thought process (something having to do with faith, maybe?).    

  48. Ooops!  Faith, you threw a curve-ball at Marshall, and he's was waitin' for a slider.  Don't think he's going to hit this one out of the park. 

    Careful how you answer this one Marshall, Faith has got you on the ropes, pal - and I have a feeling how this might turn-out.

  49. Interesting thoughts!

    Q: What did Jesus say about the Mosaic Law?  Did he say, I'm here to abolish the Mosaic Law?  Or did he say, I'm not here to abolish the law (Mosaic Law) but to fulfill it.  What then is he fulfilling about the Mosaic Law that creates a 'new covenant' with God?

    The Jews were held to the Mosaic Law because that was their covenant with God, but they could not obey the Law and always failed.  There had to be a way in which they could find relief from the Law but still kept them bound to a covenant with God.  Again, God makes it easier for mankind out of his love for his creation.  This goes back to the fall of man to his redemption through God's grace and love, with a new covenant and with the sacrificial lamb, Jesus.  It's now God making the sacrifice to redeem that which he loves - yeppers, we be the ones!

    Now, Jesus sends the lady away and says, 'go, and sin no more'.  These Biblical accounts are not just practical demonstrations for the earthly physical realm, but they also have heavenly spiritual practicality and implication.  Our realities are interconnected, yet independent and interdependent.  What is the practicality of Jesus intervening and challenging the members of the crowd ready to cast stones?
    It is very likely that (some) members in the crowd were also guys (and maybe gals/wives) who spent a few nights with the whore.  And they were obviously OK with stoning her to death, she's a women who probably knew a little too much (if you catch my drift - wives, their names, kids, you get picture).  Jesus knew a couple of things about people: (all were without sin) (and there were probably a few guys in the crowd who were hypocrites, i.e. sleeping around on their wives).

    When he says to the whore, go and sin no more.  Isn't he kinda saying, look, I'm saving your bacon today, but keep in mind these same guys you're sleeping with are the same guys ready to kill you.  If you keep sleeping around with these dudes and I'm not around, they're going to hammer you with rocks.  I'm trying to save your life lady when I tell you, 'go, and sin no more' ... find a new occupation.

    Yep, sin is something we're all born out of, meaning, right now we're all separated from God.  You know the story we only have one way, the new covenant, in which to have a relationship with God.  Without it what do we have?  Books? mantras? group therapy? And let's not qualify sin, let's call it what it is ... and if you're thinking, well what may be sinful so some is not sinful to others? huh? That's a mental fart and cloudy. Most everyone has a conscious (save the socio/psychopaths - or that's what we think).  Now are there cultural and sub-cultural values that are not pleasing to God, you bet your sweet bacon, but that's way there's also a Christian commitment to get out there among the people of the world and let know about God's love, mercy, and forgiveness.  Isn't that part of our new covenant?  

    We've got to understand what we're up against.  Without God we lose friends, no question or doubt about it.  This world, presently, is under the iron fist of satan and his demons, make no mistake about it.  What does God say, (a lot) and taking in knowledge of God, who he is, is on the road to everlasting life.  It's written. 

  50. It could simply mean "You got an opportunity to live a normal life. Don't throw it all away."

    How would he throw it away? Alcoholism, stealing, murdering, getting to "know" the neighbor's wife, etc...

    If you get a fresh start, why would you handicap yourself again with other burdens?

  51. John 11 was the 2nd time he said this to a person.Here's the scripture below. You don't become strong by lowering the bar or lightening the load, or is just being good enough to get photographed with the team good enough? 

    John 5:14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

  52. I am no theologian.  But I do have an honest and innocent question.  My question is:  When Jesus said "Go and sin no more", was that a command or a gift? Was he saying, I have forgiven you...don't ever sin again?  Or was he saying, now that I have forgiven you,  by my spirit  you are free from your bondage to sin?   You don't have to go back to your old life of living in sin, but I have given you a new life and direection in life?" Can we, as men, just stop sinning on our own?  Or does Jesus offer us a supernatural power to live above sin?

  53. I'm not a theologian either, but considering that God confirms in Hebrews 6:18 that He cannot lie, and it seems, not capable of idle chit chat, that it's not a suggestion if we want to have a relationship with Him.

    Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin.   16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
    1 Corinthians 10:13  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
    Temptation in itself is not sin. Jesus was tempted ( Mt 4:1-11 ). Yielding to the temptation is sin. The Greek for “temptation” and “tempted” can also mean “testing” and “tested,” so Paul may have been speaking of “testing” with its accompanying temptation (see Mt 6:13 and  note ). stand up under it. Through God’s enablement to resist the temptation to sin or to endure the trial without falling.

  54. Jesus wasn't just asking, "Who condemns you and the woman said, "no one," as you stated.  Jesus was asking that after everyone had left.  Then the woman said, "no one."  Everyone was gone!  Look, I've seen so many people use this scripture to say we should not say anything about anyone else's sin for a long time.  I've even seen the sage of "The View," Whoopi Goldberg, use the words, "He who hath not sinned, throw the first stone," as a way to tell people they should not point out the wrong doing of others, missing the meaning of the whole scripture while making themselves look merciful and Jesus-like.  The problem with this "View" pardon the pun, is that the people surrounding the woman were not getting ready to just point out her sin.  They were getting ready to murder her! 

  55.  What's a sin about having a large church? Maybe it means your successful. And the church DOES talk about gluttony and living beyond your means. Kenneth Copeland is always talking about these things.

  56. Go and sell all of your possessions. Hate your father and mother. Faith without works is dead... Certainly the woman caught in adultery isn't original to the text, but it is a very strong tradition. If it were out of character for Jesus, it would not be included in most manuscripts.

  57. Once during prayer time after I was done praying and just still, I heard a small voice in my thoughts that said "Go and sin no more".  At first I was taken aback, affronted in a way.  Then, I came to the conclusion that I am a sinner as pitiful as this woman.  Go and Sin No More although convicting is also a very loving thing to say, it means my sins are forgiven and Jesus know requires an effort to be obedient like in Romans 6...

  58. Jesus had taken the sin of the whole world when He was in the Jordan River.  When Jesus said, "Go, and sin no more", He was telling her not to go back to the Old Law!

  59. But He never told us to stop things in our own power. He made it clear we can do this only in HIS power. All those things you mentioned are as impossible as going and sinning no more -- exactly His point. Without Him we are powerless. With Him we can do all things. The STRONG TRADITION we see is one of legalism, dependence on the law, dependence on our own abilities instead of Christ in me, the hope of glory!

  60. I absolutely love this. I teach this passage the way I learned it, which is Jesus saying, "You don't have to live this way!" That is what the original language means, I was taught. Yes, that casts the whole thing in a whole new light! Either way, go and sin no more is completely inconsistent with everything Jesus said. Who in the world goes and sins no more, anyway? No one. We can do nothing without His power anyway, He was clear to tell us. 

  61. It is submission after salvation that will lead us to go and sin no more. We can do nothing on our own, and there is nothing that God cannot do. It is clear in scripture that we are in a battle between the Spirit and flesh once we are set free from the law. Everyone is looking for loopholes in the interpretation of scripture that will allow for our flesh to have its day in the sun without fear of recompense. The truth is living out the Christian life is a difficult, but joyful thing. It is always entertaining to read man's opinions on what God calls sin, and why He would do so. He is God, and His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  We are His creatures made for His good pleasure. Many of will decide, I will just go to hell then. The truth is that this will not be the reason for their eternal hell. The refusal to accept the one and only Son of God will be the only reason a man or woman will enter into hell.  A good servant will obey the commands of his Lord, and until Jesus is truly Lord which only occurs after a person has been born again by Spirit and not by flesh can Jesus be Lord. There are those who have been born again and they are doing what is acceptable, and there are those who have been born again and they are doing what is profitable. There are many reasons for the confusion.  One is that there are many lost people who are entertained by theology, and they interject their human reasoning into the mix.  Another is that there are many "young" Christians who have not matured in the faith because of a lack of proper discipleship. The good news is those who belong to the Lord know His voice, and they follow Him.  The itching ears of the world will always leave room for many interpretations, but the truth will remain there is only one interpretation but there are many applications.

  62.  Well I really hope this message reaches all. For several years I too preached the gospel. I wants preached the message "How do I Go and Sin No More" The concept went against everything I head been taught, and more importantly it went against my own life. However, upon reading the passage, and looking over my life of sin, (sin that was a reproach to me as minister, a professing believer, a "child of God" -- My sins were so wretched a not only considered suicide, I attempted. So when I read this passage, unlike others, I did not care that it challenged what I once believed; I NEEDED IT. I wanted that experience. Three years ago God gave it to me. Ask and is shall be given. I wanted deliverance. God gave me that, there are others, my dear friend that does not want err from the commandment of God. There are others who choose to love God with our time, talent, and all. If this text is beyond what man feels make since, ask yourself three questions...What sin makes the life of a Christian better? What is the difference between a Christian sinning and a hypocrite? If we can sin and go to heaven what do we have to do to go to hell?

    In response to this writers question about where else in the gospel does he make this type of statement, I would argue everywhere. He urges that the only, and I mean only way we can really be Christians and demonstrate our love toward him is by "keeping his commandments"

    I speak in Love and pray God gives the understanding!

  63.  By the grace of God I have saved 3 years with no sin!!!!!!!! My life never been the same!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  64. How's that "sinless" thing going for you? Did you just say you've been 3 years without sin?

  65. I never looked at it that way. I have to look into that insight. Thx for sharing!

  66. The tragedy of the reduction of this story to "Go and Sin no more" is that it completely misses what this story is about. It is not about adultery. It's not about the woman's guilt in any way. It is about the use of capital punishment - an issue that was debated among first century Jews who lost the right to impose it to the Roman Empire around 30CE.

    It's also an issue which has huge implications for what the kingdom of God is supposed to be. The moral right to kill is the very definition of state power and Jesus is saying that this wont be a part of the definition of God's people - only God can take life.

    Both Liberals and conservatives seem determined to do this story an injustice by turning it being about something generic like judging or moralising. I think its about Empire instead. That maybe makes it less applicable to middle class concerns but women are still stoned for adultery in our world.

    I'm a bit fired up about this because I'm in the middle of writing a few posts about it....http://humblewonderful.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/jesus-and-murderous-men.html

  67. He says this more than once in the NT and I'm guessing you got your info from the dead sea scrolls. Right?

  68. You are completely ignoring the true gospel and completely ignorant of the word of God. Genesis 9:5-6 ... at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. 6. Whoso sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. This is what you call capital punishment.

    The gospel is not forgetting a persons sin its healing them or freeing them from all sin. This comes at a price and that price Christ said was to pick up your cross or crucify your flesh and die daily or deny yourself daily. This is the only way to be born again. The only way to sin no more is to be born from above. John was clear [I John 3:4-10] he who sins is not of God because God does not sin.

    And yeah we are to judge righteously. Throughout the whole bible it tells us to judge one another out of love and in truth.

  69. seems to me , the ones who added , and taught the last lines... wanted the right to kill people...

  70. When the serpent was added to the scenario in Gen. , did that not put the odds against us or kinda stack the deck in favor of us falling. Would we have sinned sooner or later without satan's help. I believe we sin because we are sinners, our nature took a big hit in Eden after we were stained by sin. It was after sin that they realized they were naked, they were not in Mayberry anymore they had move to the big apple and were seeing and feeling a lot different.

  71. The more a person Go away from Sin at Jesus words,They develop A Hunger for more of Jesus words ( the bread of Life). Faith cometh by hearing of the word of God


    The original proof-text for original sin is Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (NASB)

    Was David a sinner at conception? No. Was David a guilty of sin at his birth? No. David was a sinner only after he broke God's commandments.

    Psalm 51: 1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to your compassion blot out my transgressions. (NASB)

    David asked God to blot out his transgressions. David did not asked God to blot out the guilt that he inherited from Adam. He did not ask God to block out the guilt of sins that he inherited from his mother and father.

    Psalm 51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. (NKJV)

    David wanted to be cleansed from his sin. David did not ask God to cleanse him from original sin.

    Psalm 51:3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. (NASB)

    David did not transgress one of God's laws by being conceived. David did not commit sin by being born.

    Psalm 51:4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge. (NKJV)

    David did not do evil by being conceived and being born.

    Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (NASB)

    David was conceived in a sinful world. David was born into a world filled with sinner's. David was not guilty of the false teaching of original sin.

    Psalms 139:13-14 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. (NASB)

    God formed David in his mothers womb. God did not create David guilty of Adam's sin nor guilty of anyones sin. God does not create sin. How could a sinner be wonderfully made?

    Genesis 1:27 God created man in His own image , in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (NASB)

    God created David in His own image. Is God's image that of a sinner? David was created innocent of sin just like every person that God creates today. All men are created in God's image.

    Mark 10:14 ..."Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (NASB)

    Jesus said the kingdom of God belongs to children. Did Jesus mean the kingdom belongs to dirty little sinners who were guilty of Adam's sin at conception. Did Jesus mean that children who were sinners at birth belong in God's kingdom.
    If the false doctrine of original sin is true how did these children have their sins wash away. Jesus gave this command after His death. Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved...). Small children and infants are not guilty of sin.

    Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,(NASB)

    Men will go hell because of the unforgiven sins they commit. Men will not go to hell because they were sinners at conception. Men will not go to hell because they were sinners at their birth.
    Men will not go to hell because they are guilty of Adam's sin.
    Men will not go to hell because they are guilty of a false sin.
    The doctrine of original sin is a false doctrine invented by man and perpetuated by the uninformed.

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

  73. Sin is antithetical to everything God is. Sin is everything we are, until we are saved from the penalty of sin, through Jesus Christ. To attempt to reduce the severity of the consequences of sin, results in people not recognizing their inability of save themselves. How can you tell people they need a physician, if they don't know they are sick? Whether the words, "Go and sin no more" are mentioned once or fifty times in the Scriptures is not pertinent to the command. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Having said this however, I believe that Christ reveals to us that only by His power and might are we forgiven. Only He could forgive her sin and not the act of stones thrown. To bolster an argument for early manuscripts by referencing "modern translations" actually weakens a stance. Modern translations have corrupted and reduced the penalty of sin, which in turn leaves man without a remedy for their sin.

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