Question: "Why did Jesus tell people to ‘go and sin no more’ if sinlessness is impossible?"
Answer: There are two instances in the New Testament when Jesus told someone to “sin no more,” and they were each under very different circumstances. The first is when Jesus healed an invalid by the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1–15). Afterward, Jesus found the man and told him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (verse 14). It is clear that Jesus knew what had caused the man’s condition. We are not told the specifics of the man’s physical impairment, but the context implies that it was caused by sinful choices. Jesus warned the man that he had been given a second chance and that he should make better choices. If the man returned to his sinful behavior, he would have wasted the opportunity Jesus gave him to live whole and forgiven.
The second instance is in the account of the woman taken in the act of adultery (John 8:3–11). When the woman’s accusers brought her before Jesus, expecting Him to pronounce judgment, He told them that the one who was without sin should throw the first stone. One by one, the condemning crowd left. Then Jesus told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (verse 11). She had been caught. She was guilty. She did deserve stoning according to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). But the religious leaders who had dragged her there had no concern for holiness. They were trying to trap Jesus into saying that the Law did not matter (verse 6).
Jesus often reminded those religious leaders that He had not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He, as God, was the Author of the Law (2 Timothy 3:16). The Pharisees focused on the letter of the Law but missed the true spirit of it, which is given in Galatians 5:14: “The whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” When Jesus refused to condemn the woman, He was not minimizing the importance of holiness. He was offering her the same kind of forgiveness He offers every one of us (Acts 3:19).
In saying, “Go and sin no more,” Jesus was not speaking of sinless perfection…
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