I was having a discussion about God & the gospel last night with someone & I told him that God loves people & does not condemn them even when they're at their worst just like the lady in the Bible that was caught in adultery - when her accusers had left, Jesus told her that he did not condemn her, either. His reply was that Jesus told her to "go & sin no more," & then he said that God destroyed the people in Sodom & Gomorrah because of the sexual sins they were committing. I really didn't know how to reply to his comment about Sodom & Gomorrah. Can you please share your thoughts about this?
Hello, and thanks for asking your question ... I would love to share my thoughts about this. :) Consider what Paul wrote to the Roman believers many years ago where he described the difference between the revealing of the righteousness of God and the wrath of God.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. Romans 1:16-19
Simply put, the good news declares that everything has been changed through what Jesus Christ did ... everything. The good news is that Jesus came to be condemned for us, and he did so when he hung on the cross. It was not because he was able to follow a ritual demanding sacrifice so that an angry God could be placated (satisfied), but it was the destruction of a twisted humanity devoid of life so that it could be completed in the life of another.
Now, the fact is that the Christian religion has so misunderstood the sacrifice of Christ that simply doesn't know what to do with all these supposed problems and/or contradictions. So many sermons and teachings have been modeled after the famous "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" that we simply don't know how to handle the truth that God is love. We have supposed that God's anger is something akin to man's anger ... even though we know there's a Bible verse that says it isn't. Religion will always force us to try to resolve contradictions that are only contradictions from the flesh's point of view.
The person you spoke to, based upon the two references you mentioned, seems to come from the viewpoint that God will not condemn someone as long as they can stop their sinning. Does God condemn sin and was God justified in destroying the people of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin? Yes, "for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness". Peter even used the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as an example. But an example of what? That God will get mad if we cross the line too far? Well, that's what religion would have us believe.
God's wrath has been revealed against ALL sin (not just the transgressions against certain laws, even those recorded in the Bible) and the reality of this was fulfilled in Christ, for in him sin was condemned in the flesh. In him, everything of Adam was condemned so that a new resurrected life would come to pass. Though we so often view ourselves according to what we are in the flesh we need to know that there is NO truth in this ... our truth is only found in the life of Christ.
What we have learned from the Christian religion about the love of God and His lack of condemnation is based upon a view of Christ ACCORDING TO THE FLESH. It may contain true points and some good Bible verses but that makes no difference, for the fleshly view cannot rise above itself. But that is where we are encouraged to see all things:
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. FOR YOU HAVE DIED AND YOUR LIFE IS HIDDEN WITH CHRIST IN GOD. When Christ, WHO IS OUR LIFE, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4
And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. John 8:11
Jesus didn't tell the woman caught in adultery to "Go and sin no more" as if by ceasing her whoring around that she would somehow become forgiven or become cleansed or that she would be made new or that she would enter the kingdom as a result, etc. He instead declared a miraculous reality that went way beyond our sin-conscious considerations of the statement. Jesus was speaking to her of the reality in himself, one that was coming, one that would fundamentally change the very basis of her life of sin ... for he was soon to be hung upon the cross to destroy what she had BEEN and to remake her in himself!
Jesus is the WORD ... and in his statement he spoke the seed of the coming reality into her very being so that, as Paul put it, she would soon be walking in newness of life! Those who would argue that John's writings don't suggest such a thing simply don't understand John's writing. As a matter of fact, the account John wrote is premised upon the coming of something that explains everything. The writing includes strange little comments like, "My hour has NOT YET COME" and "My time is NOT YET COME", which seem to be mostly overlooked, but the whole sense created by them is fulfilled in this:
And Jesus answered them, saying, 'The HOUR HAS COME for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.' John 12:23-26
If you ever saw the movie (or read the book) 2010 (the sequel to 2001: a Space Odyssey), there is an ongoing hint of a something that was about to happen that built such a suspense it was almost maddening. I mean, I remember wondering what in the world it might be as the whole story was otherwise a total mystery. Whatever the coming something wonderful was it was so clearly put forth as the explanation of the whole unexplained story. Once you finally got to see what this thing was then you could go back and understand all the unanswered mysteries that preceded it. If you were to either miss the end, or ignore the implications, you would be left with only a multitude of worthless speculations.
Christianity seems to have done that with most of the Bible. Christ, the new creation, resurrected from the dead to new life, is the explanation of all that which is not able to be seen apart from it. But we have been intimidated into cowering in fear to those who have their Biblical explanations (i.e. doctrines) of truth. Yeah, right!! If the new creation in Christ is not their answer to everything then they have the wrong answer, period! They are just like those who try to explain a story like 2010 as if they can do it without totally immersing it into the something wonderful that finally happened! For THE REALITY OF CHRIST that has brought us forever into a real union with God is our good news, our something wonderful. The religious mind has regarded the good news of Christ simply as an important part of God's truth when in fact it is the very definition of truth.
God's condemnation is not absent because He loves people, it is absent because in Christ there is no longer any condemnation. I suspect we too often try to relate a freedom from condemnation based upon an attempt to counteract a hidden fear that God has very good reason to do so. If God is to view people apart from Christ then only His wrath and hatred is revealed (Sodom and Gomorrah as prime example)... but through Christ we are free to INSIST that God no longer holds people's sin against them for the simple reason that sin has been done away in Christ.
"Go and sin no more!" Jesus' words to the woman caught in adultery were a statement of WELCOME, spoken ahead of time, into the life of the resurrected Christ where sin has been removed so that IN TRUTH we no longer live in it. Oh, we will insist that such a reality cannot be! We will often live as if this is not true, and then DEMAND that our sinful actions somehow negate the only real life that has no connection whatever to sin. We will call ourselves sinners because we have viewed ourselves according to law. And THIS is the insanity that provokes our craziness!
The same John who recorded the words, Go and sin no more!, would later write a letter demanding that sin was part of a former life to which we no longer belong.
NO ONE who is born of God practices sin, BECAUSE His seed abides in him; and he CANNOT sin, BECAUSE he is born of God. 1 John 3:9
The fact is that this same reality is declared all through John's writings, but religion has altered meanings for us so that simple words like forgiven, made righteous, new creation, passed from death into life, etc don't impact us as declaring the same. Do not let anyone cause you to leave Christ out of the picture when discussing scriptural words and teachings. He has changed EVERYTHING ... especially YOU. :) Love, Jim