Why Didn't Jesus Stone Adulterers to Death?

Here’s the progression of thought I’m addressing in this article:

  1. Leviticus 20:10 requires death for adultery.

  2. Jesus defined adultery as lust in your heart toward another woman rather than actual act of adultery. He raised the standard of the law from actions, to the intention of the heart. See Matthew 5:27-30

  3. When Jesus encountered an adulterers, he didn’t kill them. John 8:3-11 and John 4

  4. Why?

We have more than one historical record of Jesus encountering adulterers, neither time does he kill them, even though the Law requires it, why? Does Jesus contradict himself? Do the teachings of Jesus not apply to us? Should we throw out what he says because we have a New Covenant?

It’s none of that. Jesus honored the standard of the Law yet treated people in the context of love and grace. Jesus is the Word of God in action. He is God in the flesh. He is the embodiment of the righteous standard of God. Yet when he encountered a sin that required death, he lifted off every ounce of guilt, removed condemnation, forgave the person and gave them another chance.


Because Jesus knew something, he knew what he was about to fulfill on their behalf. Something that would forever change the way God interacts with people. This new way honors the standard and wisdom of the Law but it allowed God to relate to people outside of the Law.

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.


Jesus was treating people based on the new standard he came to enact. He would be cursed for them and redeemed them. Jesus didn’t curse, punish or condemn people for their sin because he knew that he would take all that for them, everyone, all humans, everywhere, for all sins.

Jesus filtered his treatment of sinners he encountered through himself, who is the sacrifice for that sin. He alone had the authority to do so. He first showed us what it looked like so we would know how to live and minister in the truth of his redeeming sacrifice.

So, no, we don’t throw out or twist Jesus’ teachings to make them fit an agenda or to tickle people’s ears. We properly contextualize Jesus’ teachings and show just how merciful God through how Jesus treated people caught in the very act of something that deserves death. By the way, he’s still treating people this way.

Side note: We should still have civil law and a judicial system for the protection of society, but as far as our acceptance with God is concerned, he’s not looking at us through the lens of the Law. Sin isn’t ok, it’s just not the standard through which our relationship with him is based on.

This also applies to other teachings, like; God won’t forgive you if you don’t forgive others, sell everything you own to inherit the kingdom and be more righteous that the Pharisees. Jesus honors the Law in holding up that standard, but he displays God’s new legal system by forgiving and healing people trapped in sin.

If you truly grasp the gravity of Jesus’ display of grace and love, you gain a deeper appreciation for freedom. Freedom actually breeds more personal responsibility. Freedom requires more discipline. Freedom doesn’t blame anyone else for failure. Freedom embraces the position God has placed us in and responds with and overwhelming desire to walk in righteousness, peace and joy, displaying the holiness of the indwelling spirit of God.

Your task is this, help people understand how Jesus was cursed and died for their sin and God is not angry with them when they fail. God is not waiting for you to miss it so he can execute judgment. In fact, God is pursuing you to set you free from the guilt and condemnation of sin so you can live in the freedom he’s given you by grace through faith.

I want you to be so confident of your acceptance with God that you never again question if God will reject you for your failures. I want you to be so appreciative of what Christ did that you tell others about what he did, and how he can help them shed the guilt and shame.

The church has spent too much time heaping guilt and shame onto people rather than helped them take those loads off and see the mercy of God.

God is still relating to people the way Jesus did, setting us free from condemnation and giving us the grace to live free from the lure of sin. Tell somebody!

Clint Byars

Believer, Husband, Father