Sermon Series: Five Words You Must Understand
1 Corinthians 14:19
Yet in the church I had rather speak
five words with my understanding,
that by my voice I might teach others also,
than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
Part Twenty-one: John 8:11
“Go, and sin no more.”
On the old Daniels and Webster program on ROCK107 we often heard from one Walter Nepasky. He would begin his commentary with either, “I'm Walter Nepasky and today I wanna talk about three things.”, or “Hi. My name is Walter Nepasky. How you doin'? Today I want to talk to you about tree tings.”
What if we had a modern Christian radio station —The Rock of Ages 316 — with a program that began, “Hi, I’m Paul of Tarsus, and today I want to talk about five words.”
The Apostle Paul wrote: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding,
that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
Paul follows up his introduction on The Rock of Ages 316 with his personal example — an extreme preference framed as a mathematical proportion: 5 versus 10,000. This is Paul’s “druthers”! This is when 5 is better than 10,000!
If Paul were here, and you could pin him down to a literal selection of five words, what do you think he would choose? “Gimme Five Paul!”
Before we get to a selected list of five word Scripture passages that might be in Paul’s “in box” we should also consider how Charles Haddon Spurgeon went even beyond Paul, perhaps due to “spiritual inflation” in the intervening centuries!
“But the seed, though very small, was a living thing. There is a great difference between a mustard seed and a piece of wax of the same size. Life slumbers in that seed. What life is we cannot tell. Even if you take a microscope you cannot spy it out. It is a mystery, but it is essential to a seed. The Gospel has a something in it not readily discoverable by the philosophical inquirer, if, indeed, he can perceive it at all. Take a maxim of Socrates or of Plato, and inquire whether a nation or a tribe has ever been transformed by it from barbarism to culture. A maxim of a philosopher may have measurably influenced a person in some right direction, but who has ever heard of a someone's whole character being transformed by any observation of Confucius or Socrates? I confess I never have. Human teachings are barren. But within the Gospel, with all its triteness and simplicity, there is a divine life and that life makes all the difference. The human can never rival the divine, for it lacks the life-fire. It is better to preach five words of God's Word than five million words of human wisdom. Human words may seem to be the wiser and the more attractive, but there is no heavenly life in them. Within God's Word, however simple it may be, there dwells an omnipotence like that of God from whose lips it came.”
Now for some possibilities from Paul’s “in box.”
Note: The five word statements from Scripture selected may not actually be five word statements in either the Hebrew or Greek originals, nor are they necessarily complete sentences or verses in English language translations from the Hebrew and Greek, including the King James Version which is the source translation for the statements. Nevertheless, they were selected for the fundamental truths and span of doctrine that they present. The current list of 36 examples is not intended to be comprehensive, and may easily be expanded or consolidated.
The 36 selections are categorized under the following four headings:
The Person of Christ — The Redeemer
The Work of Christ (as Prophet, Priest and King) — Redemption Accomplished
The Salvation of Christ — Redemption Applied
The Return of Christ — Redemption Revealed
The five word statement to be considered on this occasion, “Go, and sin no more,” falls under the third of these four headings, The Salvation of Christ — Redemption Applied.
Administrative matters —
1. There is a textual issue with this narrative, the Johannine Pericope, otherwise known as the Pericope Adulterae. The statement is found as part of a narrative whose textual pedigree is the source of sharp division. Mention must be made of the textual issue, that it is recognized, and has been considered. If anyone has issues with the fact that this will be preached as Scripture, as the Word of God, we can discuss that afterwards.
2. There is also a textual issue with these words that shows up in translations reading “from now on” (NASB, ESV, HCSB, NET), or “from henceforth” (ASV).
3. There are theological issue with these words.
I. The Contradiction of the Claim of the Gospel
II. The Rending of the Reality of the Gospel
III. The Dilution of the Demand of the Gospel
One of the quotes of the day that I collected during my unit’s deployment to Iraq ten years ago is,
“Go do great things!”
— Captain Robert Beaudry, the Battalion Maintenance Officer (BMO) at the end of each Maintenance meeting for Task Force Saber in Ramadi, Iraq during OIF 2005-2006.
Let us pick up where we left off last Lord’s Day with the woman standing before Christ after her accusers had put distance between them and the Lord. She had answered his two questions with a simple statement. The next thing she heard from him was the five word statement we considered last time, “Neither do I condemn thee.”
She must have felt rooted to that spot where she was standing.
What was she thinking? What would you be thinking at this point?
What was she expecting? Would she be numb, frozen, paralyzed with fear and emotion?
Would she be wondering, “Now what? What next? What do I do now? Where do I go from here?”
We don’t know the answers to these questions, but the Scriptures confront us with this historical reality, with this tremendous human drama, and so we must enter into it.
Perhaps we can agree that whatever she was feeling in the turmoil of emotions over what had just happened to her, she probably did not anticipate either the previous five word statement from Christ, or this one.
What she now hears from Christ are five more words following hard on the heels of “Neither do I condemn thee.” She hears the Lord add, “Go, and sin no more.”
In these five words are two commands, one positive and one negative.
The indicative in the previous five words is followed by these two imperatives.
That indicative affirming justification calls for faith. These commands of sanctification call for repentance.
Romans 5 related to the word of justification that she had just heard from Christ.
Now she hears a word of sanctification that relates directly to the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 6.
Romans 8:1 related directly to the word of justification and non-condemnation.
Now Romans 8:2 lines right up with the word of sanctification here.
It may good for us to consider the following questions at this point:
What would the aftermath look like?
What will her testimony be?
What was she to do?
I mentioned during the introduction that there is a textual issue with these words that shows up in translations reading “from now on” (NASB, ESV, HCSB, NET), or “from henceforth” (ASV). In a moment in time everything has changed for her. From this moment on nothing can ever be the same again. From now on she will have the words of Christ ringing in her ears, echoing in her mind, written on her heart, causing her to tremble in awe, and to weep in gratitude. From now on she must serve the Master who has commanded her. The answer to the three questions just asked must take this into consideration.
I also mentioned that there are theological issues with these words. These issues involve common errors encountered regarding the doctrine of sanctification that would color how some understand this five word statement. These errors must be avoided in any consideration of the answers to the three questions asked previously.
I. The Contradiction of the Claim of the Gospel
She was told by Christ: “Go, and sin no more.”
She did not got to an Adulterers Anonymous meeting, and stand up and say, “Hi, my name is Sarah, and I am an adulteress!”
That she cannot be. Neither should any child of God buy into speaking of themselves in such a way. To do so contradicts the assessment of those who are Christ’s in the Word of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 — 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
“The proper response to mercy received on account of past sins is purity in the future.”
What would be the impact of these five words?
What do these words mean?
“Go, and sin no more.”
John Murray, “Definitive Sanctification,” in Select Lectures in Systematic Theology, Vol. 2 of Collected Writings of John Murray, 4 vols. (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), pp. 277-293.
On this see also:
Sinclair B. Ferguson, “The Reformed View,” in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification, ed. Donald L Alexander (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), pp. 47-60.
Anthony A Hoekema, “The Reformed Perspective,” in Five Views on Sanctification, by Melvin E. Dieter, Anthony A. Hoekema, Stanley M. Horton, J. Robertson McQuilkin, and John F. Walvoord (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1987), pp. 72-75.
Benjamin B. Warfield, “A Review of Lewis Sperry Chafer's “He That Is Spiritual”,” Princeton Theological Review 17 (April, 1919), pp. 322-327; on Monergism at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/warfield/warfield_chaferreview.html [accessed 30 DEC 2013].
II. The Rending of the Reality of the Gospel
This is what she heard: “Go, and sin no more.”
Some would come away with the teaching of sinless perfectionism. Would they be wrong?
What is she went away and sinned again?
1 John 1:5-2:2 — 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
Perhaps the best publications available to counter such an error are the following:
Harry A. Ironside, Holiness the False and the True (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1912); available as free dowloadable PDF on Wholesome Words at http://www.wholesomewords.org/etexts/ironside/holiness.pdf [accessed 4 JUL 2015]; and on Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/HarryIronsideBooks [accessed 14 FEB 2014].
J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (London: James Clarke & Co., n.d.; 1952 reprint of 1879 ed. of 1877 orig.); on Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/ryle/holiness.html [accessed 4 JUL 2015].
Benjamin B. Warfield, Studies in Perfectionism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1958); also included in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932; 2003 reprint), Vol. VIII: Perfectionism, Volume II.
On this work by Warfield see especially the following:
Fred G. Zaspel, The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), pp. 456-505, s.v. “Perfectionism and the Doctrine of Sanctification.”
Jim Elliff, “Review of Studies in Perfectionism by Benjamin Warfield” (2013), on Christian Communicators Worldwide at http://www.ccwtoday.org/article/review-of-studies-in-perfectionism-by-benjamin-warfield/ [accessed 4 JUL 2015].
III. The Dilution of the Demand of the Gospel
“Go, and sin no more.”
Others would water them down, or dilute them to fit their perception of reality.
“Go, and try not to sin anymore.”
“Go, and do your best not to sin anymore.”
“Go, and give holy living your best shot.”
“Go, and start reducing the amount of sin in your life.”
“Go, and stop committing adultery. I know that you will still sin, but you have to put that one sin pattern behind you.”
This is precisely what the Lord Jesus Christ cannot say. This is part of the problem with the NIV’s interpretive paraphrase or dynamic equivalent: “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This is exactly what He did not say to this woman or to us. Nor is it what he said to the man he healed on the Sabbath by the pool of Bethesda in John 5.
John 5:1-14 — 1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? 7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. 8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
What does this mean for us?
What are we to do?
What if we sin?
Romans 6 — 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 85 — 1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. 2 Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. 3 Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger. 4 Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease. 5 Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? 6 Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? 7 Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. 8 I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. 9 Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. 12 Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. 13 Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.
Isaiah 55:6-7 — 6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
[Sermon preached 5 JUL 2015 by Pastor John T. “Jack” Jeffery at Wayside Gospel Chapel, Greentown, PA.]
 1 Corinthians 14:19.
 Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Mustard Seed: A Sermon for the Sabbath-School Teacher” (Lk. 13:18-19), Sermon No. 2110, delivered 20 OCT 1889, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, U.K.; in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 35 (1889), pp. 565ff.; in Charles H. Spurgeon, The Parables of Our Lord (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2003), pg. 707; and on The Spurgeon Archive at http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/2110.htm [accessed 23 DEC 2014].
 D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), pg. 337.
 Previously published in Calvin Theological Journal 2:1 (APR 1967). On The Highway at http://www.the-highway.com/definitive-sanctification_Murray.html [accessed 19 FEB 2014].
 Another issue with this translation is addressed by Carson: “niv’s leave your life of sin establishes the point directly, even if the expression almost paints the woman as an habitual whore (though the Greek bears no such overtones).” Carson, op. cit., pg. 337.