When the scribes and Pharisees had brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, he said to them in John 8:7,
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
I am sure you have seen people use these words of Christ, ripped out of their context, as an escape from reproof and accountability. Of course, Christ was not speaking here against all forms of reproof and punishment, but rather was exposing the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. As the Huguenot Augustin Marlorat (1506-1562) says on this text in his A Catholic and Ecclesiastical Exposition of the Gospel of John:
“This is not a precise and simple interdict and prohibition by which Christ forbiddeth sinners to do their office in correcting and punishing other mens offences, but he only reprehendeth hypocrites, who being too severe and cruel Judges of other men, do quietly passover their own sins. No mans sins therefore shall be a lette unto them, but that he may correct other mens faltes, and punish them also so often as nede shall require, so that he hateth as well in him self as in another, that thing which is to be condemned. Yea every man ought to beginne here, and to aske his conscience, and to be a witness and Judge against him self, before he come to other men.
And so it shall come to pass that we shall warre against sins withoute hatred against any man. In these words therefore due correction and the autority of the sword against offenders is not taken away; only the mallice of the Pharisees and Elders, is reproved, and restrained.”
Grace and forgiveness is not a license to continue in sin. After Christ had rebuked the scribes and Pharisees and they had left, he turned to the woman caught in adultery and said (John 8:10-11):
“Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” [emphasis added]
“Notwithstanding least any man should think that the same free remission of sins, was a giving of liberty to sin, he [Christ] by and by addeth a restraint from sin. Hereby we gather what is the end of the grace of Christ: namely, that the sinner, being reconsiled to God, may worshippe and serve the aucthour of his salvation in innocensy and holiness of life.
For the Gospel remitteth sins, not because it is lawful to sin, but to the end we might repent and walke in neweness of life. For by the same word of GOD, when pardon is offered unto us, we are called to repentance.
They therefore which are receyved into the grace and favour of GOD, and whose sins are forgiven them must take heede that they take not unto them selves liberty: and being taken out of the handes of their enemies, let them see that they serve GOD their deliverer, in holiness and righteousness before him all the dayes of their life.
And in that, that Christ sayeth not, Gooe thy way, and committe no more Adultery, but, Go thy way and sin no more, we are taught how necessary, Innocency, Righteousness, and holiness, is to those that repent: in so muche that we should not only abstaine from sins, but also from all show of evel.”
In short, justification is to be followed by sanctification. The Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 32 summarizes this well:
Question 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?
Answer: Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.
Question 87. Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?
Answer: By no means; for the holy scripture declares that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the kingdom of God.