The message of forgiveness comes through very strongly in the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). In this story, we have not only Jesus and the woman. We also have “the scribes and the Pharisees” (John 8:2). This is a story about (a) Jesus – the One who gives forgiveness; (b) the woman – the one who received forgiveness; (c) the scribes and the Pharisees – the people who refused forgiveness.
Whenever we consider the Bible’s teaching concerning the forgiveness of sins, there are three things which must be emphasized – (i) We are all sinners; (ii) To all, the offer of forgiveness is extended; (iii) To all, the call for faith is issued.
When I lived in Glasgow, there was a lady in our Church prayer meeting who prayed regularly that people would be convicted and converted. This expression, “convicted and converted”, helps us to see the way in which the Lord leads us into a real experience of the forgiveness of sins.
First of all, we need to be convicted – convicted of our sins;
Secondly, we need to be converted – converted to faith in Jesus Christ.
This expression, “convicted and converted” helps us to understand the difference between the woman caught in adultery and “the scribes and the Pharisees.”
The scribes and the Pharisees were convicted but they were not converted. they were conscious of their sin but they did not come to the Saviour. It is possible to be convicted without being converted. there is no joy in being aware of your sin if you do not come to the Lord Jesus and receive the forgiveness of your sins.
The woman caught in adultery was not only convicted. she was also converted. She came to Jesus with a burden of guilt. She went away with the joy of knowing that her sins had been forgiven. For the rest of her life, she could look back on that day, and say: “My sins are gone, gone, gone, far away, Happy day, Happy day.” Forgiveness makes a world of difference to our lives. Once we have the assurance that our sins have been forgiven, our lives can never be the same again. The woman caught in adultery would never be the same again, after this day when she met Jesus. She would never forget the words which Jesus spoke to her: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (John 8:11). In these words, Jesus speaks of the grace which forgives the sins of the past, the grace which lays claim to our lives in the future. Jesus stresses that those who have been forgiven by Him are to go on and live for Him.
How did the woman caught in adultery live, after she had been forgiven by Jesus? Did she live like the scribes and Pharisees? There is no way that someone who has really tasted the joy of forgiveness can ever be satisfied with living like the scribes and Pharisees. Their religion was a religion of legalism. They knew plenty about rules and regulations, but they knew nothing of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. they tried very hard to keep their rules and regulations – especially when other people were watching them. They did all this in their own strength. They knew nothing of the power of the Spirit of God. This was not the way for one who had really experienced the Lord’s forgiveness. The woman caught in adultery had been forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ. She went on to live by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There was a world of difference between the woman caught in adultery and “the scribes and Pharisees.” She was convicted and converted. They were convicted without being converted. She would look back on this day with happy memories – memories of the day she met Jesus, the day she was forgiven by Jesus. They would remember this day as a day they would rather forget. The memory of this day would be, for them, a very uncomfortable memory. from that day, the woman lived by grace. Her accusers lived without the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not, however, the end of the difference between the woman and her accusers. There was not only a world of difference. There was an eternity of difference – different in this world, different in the world to come.
To the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus did not say, “Neither do I condemn you.” This is what He did say, “You will … die in your sins” (John 8:21). Why did Jesus use such strong language when He spoke to these men? Jesus was urging them to respond to Him, to have faith in Him. Even when Jesus said to them, “You will … die in your sins” He was calling them to faith – “you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He” (John 8:24). Even to those who had shown no inclination towards faith, Jesus is still holding out the opportunity of the Gospel, the opportunity to believe, the opportunity to be saved.
The Gospel opportunity is here for each and every one of us. It is an opportunity which can be lost. It is an opportunity which may never return. “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Now is the time for faith . Today, we have heard the promise of the Gospel – “Neither do I condemn you.” Today, we have heard the warning of the Gospel – “you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He.” Trust the Lord Jesus Christ. Rejoice in the assurance of forgiveness – “There is … no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).