“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
(John 8:7 ESV)
In our journey through the gospel of John, we now come to the 8th chapter. In it, we find the verse above. However, although it is an important verse, it's also one of the most misused verses of Scripture today.
We see in this passage that the scribes and the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. They did so to test him. They were looking for an accusation that they could make against him.
They brought her to Jesus, pointing out the teaching of the Law. According to the Law, those caught in adultery were to be stoned. And they wanted to know what Jesus would say about this. Would he agree that she should be stoned? Or would he disregard the Law?
Jesus made this statement to prick the consciences of those who were using this woman. And this statement would do so in a couple of ways.
First of all, each of those who were accusing this woman were also guilty of sin. And, like this woman, each of them were deserving of death. By condemning this woman, they also condemned themselves.
Not only were they sinners in general. Not only were they generally deserving of death. They were also guilty in this instance. By bringing this woman to Jesus, they were sinning against the Lord, making themselves deserving of judgment.
You see, the Law didn’t only prescribe death for women caught in adultery, but also for men. And if this woman was caught in the act, where was the man? Why were they letting him off the hook while they condemned her? In this way, they were guilty of injustice. They were guilty of partiality. They were guilty of perverting judgment.
They were also guilty because of their motives. Their motives were to entrap Jesus. They sought to accuse him so they might put him to death. They were seeking to unjustly take the life of Jesus.
Recognizing their guilt, and recognizing the penalty they deserved, her accusers then went away one by one. And, finally, no one was left. As Jesus pointed out to the woman, no one was left to accuse her.
However, Jesus didn’t simply dismiss her sin. He didn’t let her off the hook. He never offered a word of forgiveness. He, instead, told her that she was to leave her life of sin. He called her to repent.
This is where this passage is often twisted today. People cite it, telling us that we’re to leave them alone. They tell us that we’re wrong to address their sin. They tell us that we're to mind our own business.
Now, as we reach out to others, it’s true that we must recognize our own sin. We must recognize the punishment we deserve. We must first repent and seek forgiveness for our own sin before we address others. We must not be hypocritical when it comes to this matter.
The other reminder that comes out of this is that we are not seeking to condemn the lost. Like Jesus, we’re to seek the salvation of the lost. Our hope is that those lost in sin will receive the mercy of Jesus.
Yet, this also means dealing with sin. Too often, today, we go about life pretending that we’re innocent, along with those around us. We spend our time justifying our actions rather than confessing our sin. In fact, we approve of sin. And this is something we must not do.
In sharing the gospel, sin cannot be ignored. It has to be addressed. We must do so that, like ourselves, others see and understand their need for a Savior. We must do so that they also might repent, and seek the forgiveness that is available through faith in Jesus.