Archive for January, 2012


The Legalities of Lust… In the Sermon on the Mount

January 26, 2012

In Matthew 5:27-30…

Does this passage primarily function as an indictment against legalism (the Pharisees), or is it addressed toward everyone?

It does both. It condemns legalism and the “cover” that legalism affords.  Legalists maintain a sinful lifestyle but offset their sin by acts of righteousness in order to take shelter under those acts and feel forgiven.  To those who would draw the line and attempt to box God in and say, “well I’m not really being adulterous, I haven’t slept with that woman, I’ve just looked at her and thought about it…” Jesus says “ah but I am concerned with the desire of your heart.  If you claim to know me, and claim to want the blessing of my Father then listen to what I have said, mourn over your sin and you will be comforted; hunger for my righteousness and you will be satisfied; be pure in your heart and you will see Me for who I really am,  And that vision of me will outshine any earthly temptation you face.”

The message of Jesus is that the key to sexual purity is to seek “a circumcised heart (Duet 10:16), a heart on which God’s Holy Law is writtenJer 31:31-34), a new heart (Ezek 36:24-27), a heart that is pure (Matt 5:8).  Only God may grant such a heart in fulfillment of his new convenant promise, the promise that forms the theological foundation for the radical demands of the sermon on the mount.”[1]

 What does it mean to look at a woman to lust for her?  Is there to be no admiration for a woman’s body?

“The man whom Jesus here condemns (in Mt 5:27, 28) is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to stimulate his desires; the man who finds a strange delight in things which waken the desire for the forbidden thing.”  The verb here is a present participle, which is to say that it has the sense of on-going action.  To look and keep on looking, the lustful look “locks eyes on another person and uses him or her to fuel one’s sexual imagination.”[2]

“The “look” that Jesus mentioned was not a casual glance, but a constant stare with the purpose of lusting. It is possible for a man to glance at a beautiful woman and know that she is beautiful, but not lust (Job 31:1) after her. The man Jesus described looked at the woman for the purpose of feeding his inner sensual appetites as a substitute for the act (James 1:14, 15). It was not accidental; it was planned.[3]

The “lust” in view here is the word epiqumhsai or (epi-thu-meysai)  which means literally to fix the desire upon (object could be good Mt 13:17, Lk 22:15 used of Jesus; or bad 1Co 10:6). It means to have a strong desire to do or secure something. To desire greatly.

Mankind, both male and female were created in the image of God.  In the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. (Gen 2:27)  This includes their physical person as well as their spiritual nature and soul.  Whether one lusts and sins when one looks at the human body is not reliant on the ‘body’ viewed but in the heart of the viewer.  “To the pure all things are pure. But the man whose heart is defiled can look at any scene and find something in it titillate and excite the wrong desire.”[4]

To appreciate a human body properly, within the context of God’s good creation, one must see beyond the physical and see that this is someone created in God’s own image made to know Him and glorify Him.  The problem with today’s pornography culture is that individuals are not seen as the image of God but rather as a means to excite the eyes for sexual gratification.  They are a means to an end.  Anytime we look at the opposite sex as a means to some end we are not glorifying God but denigrating his creation, and ourselves.






[1] Quarles, 124.

[2] Ibid. 117.

[3] Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

[4] Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series. The Westminster Press.


The Costly Consequences of Sin… Christ’s Solution

January 25, 2012

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

-Matthew 5:29-30

Is there any Old Testament precedent for Jesus’ teaching on removing stumbling blocks for oneself (in this passage the right eye and the right hand).

There is no specific example of this (mutilation) being done; but its absence is key in and of itself.  Would that Israel had that mindset; that the Jews would have chosen to flee sin and idolatry instead of indulging it.  “Several Old Testament prophets used adultery as a metaphor to describe unfaithfulness to God. Idolatry (Ezekiel 23:27) and other pagan religious practices (Jeremiah 3:6-10) were viewed as adulterous unfaithfulness to the exclusive covenant that God established with His people. To engage in such was to play the harlot (Hosea 4:11-14).”[1]  Jesus is reminding and re-emphasizing the seriousness of adultery; whether physical adultery, mental adultery or spiritual adultery.  Israel, as a people, had been unfaithful to God, and as a result many had found judgment and condemnation.  Better to incur loss and stay in God’s blessing than remain whole and stand outside his presence.

The point of this hyperbole is to communicate the willingness of the individual to flee sin even at great personal and perhaps even physical cost.  There are two examples in Scripture that bear witness to this in principle; a positive example and a negative one.

The positive example is that of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:10-20).  Joseph, though single, viewed sexual relations with the wife of another man as a heinous act.  He fled and did so at a great cost to himself and his well being.  In this case it was not his hand that was causing him to sin, nor his eye but his proximity to Potiphar’s wife.  So he fled and eliminated that proximity.  As a result he lost his position, his job, and was cast into prison, but maintained his character and was ultimately restored.

The negative example would be that of David.  He gazed out over the rooftops of Jerusalem and saw Bathsheba. (2 Sam 11)  Instead of fleeing, he indulged the look, lusted and finally acted.  As a result of his sin; she became pregnant, David killed her husband, their child died at birth and David’s kingdom was greatly troubled.  If David had known the consequences that would come and could have chosen, one might assume that he would have been willing to loose an eye or a hand to prevent such evil from occurring.

What did Jesus mean when he said ‘tear out the right eye and cut off the right hand’?

Most scholars today take this statement is hyperbole, or extreme speech that was not intended to be taken literally.  Jesus mentions the ‘right’ hand and the ‘right’ eye, the right hand “typically had greater strength, dexterity, and purity.  The right hand was used to greet others, bestow blessings, and establish legal agreements.”[2]  Thus the right hand was seen as more valuable and useful, its loss would be greater than the left.  The point being that the Christian should be willing, not only to make sacrifices, but genuine even costly sacrifices to avoid sin.  For a life that does not avoid sin is a life lived in sin, a life bent for judgment.

“Avoiding spiritual downfall is worthy of any sacrifice, no matter how great!”

So if we think about this in modern terms; if your job is causing you to sin i.e. coworkers tempting you to steal or cheat etc. better to quit your job and maintain your integrity than to stay and engage in sin.  If your friends are tempting you to sin i.e. drink, have sex, do drugs, look at pornography etc.  better to remove those friendships and follow Christ than place those friendships above your relationship with Jesus.  If you are tempted by pornography or internet gambling etc. to the point that you can not sit at a computer without engaging in it, better to get rid of your computer and enter heaven; than to keep your computer and continue to live a life of sin.  Either way your actions reflect the orientation of your heart.  A pure heart endeavors to be pure in action; an impure heart is careless and inspires sinful action.

[1]  Butler, Trent C. Editor.. “Entry for ‘ADULTERY'”. “Holman Bible Dictionary”.
<;. 1991.

[2] The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), dexioV 2:37-40.


Back to the Future…Adultery in the First Century

January 25, 2012


So when Jesus uses the word “adultery,” what would this word bring to mind for his Jewish audience?  Certainly he is pointing back to Exodus 20, but what would constitute adultery in 1st century Judaism?

By the first century, society still viewed adultery as serious.  Jews had entire sections of their law, devoted to the explanation of adultery down to the finest point.  But we should never underestimate mankind’s ability to take a law or precept from God and begin to twist it and conform it to make excuses for the very sin it was meant to warn against.  Such was the case with the Jews.

Many in Jesus’ era “assumed that unconditional fidelity was demanded only of the woman in a marriage.”  There is some biblical example for this assumption. “The incident with Tamar and Judah in Genesis 38:24-26 vividly illustrates this attitude.  Judah considered himself above reproach when he dallied with someone he thought to be a prostitute (Tamar in disguise) at his shepherds convention, but he was ready to stone Tamar when she turned up pregnant.  This chauvinistic attitude was prevalent in the Roman world.”[1]   Laws concerning adultery were very much lopsided and favored men far more than women. This was not God’s design by any means, as the Seventh Commandment reflects.  But man had twisted God’s law and bent it to excuse bad behavior.  The man is exhorted in proverbs to be faithful to his wife (Pr 5:15-19) but according to Jewish law his infidelity is only punished if he violates the rights of another man by taking a married woman as his partner.[2]  Jews would have viewed adultery “as sexual intercourse with the wife or betrothed of another Jew,”[3] and sought to punish the woman first, before the man.  Consider the story of woman brought to Jesus “caught in the act of adultery” (John 8:1-11).  The woman is present for punishment but the man is absent.

Moreover, the Rabbis made a distinction between the thoughts of a man and those thoughts acted out.  They held that a man’s good intentions were reckoned to him as good deeds, while his evil intentions are counted ONLY if he succumbs to them.  In other words, you were not guilt per se if you had lustful thoughts; but only if those thoughts were turned into action.[4]

[1] Dockery, David and David E Garland Seeking the Kingdom: the Sermon on the Mount made Practical for today. Wheaton: Harold Shaw Pub. 1992. 53.

[2] de Vaux, Roland. Ancient Israel: social institutions. Vol. 1 New York: McGraw Hill. 1965. 37.

[3] Johnson, Sherman The Gospel According to St. Matthew. The Interpreters Bible Vol. 7 Nashville: Abingdon. 1951. 297.

[4] Ibid. 297.


The Definition of Mistrust: Adultery in Matthew 5

January 24, 2012

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”   -Matthew 5:27-3

 What does the sin of adultery include? (as the word is used in the passage) In other words, define “adultery” as used here.

The Word Jesus uses here in this passage for adultery is the Greek word “moiceuw” or (moi-keu-oh) which is used some 18 times in the New Testament for Adultery.  Those who were familiar with the Old Testament knew the Seventh Commandment “do not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14; Duet 5:18).  According to Scripture adultery was when a married man or woman had a “sexual relationship with someone other than his or her spouse.”[1]  It was a sin punishable by death under OT Law. (Duet 22:22; Lev 20:10)

Old Testament Israel’s covenant law prohibited adultery (Exodus 20:14) and thereby made faithfulness to the marriage relationship central in the divine will for human relationships. Many Old Testament regulations deal with adultery as the adulterous man’s offense against the husband of the adulterous wife. The severity of the punishment indicates the serious consequences adultery has for the divine-human relationship (Psalms 51:4) as well as for marriage, family, and community relationships.[2]

Adultery does not merely involved the married.  Deuteronomy 22:22 never defines the marital status of the adulterer.  So adultery here should be seen as extra-marital sex in any form. Whether husband with some other woman or man; a wife with some other man or woman; un-married individuals engaging in sex; the act of adultery begins in the heart with lust and is not restricted to any segment, group or individual.  Jesus explodes the traditional understanding of adultery, confronting those who had taken shelter in tradition.  Those who would have tried to explain away lust, even acts of adultery as understandable or “not my fault;” “she (or he) made me do it.” etc.  Jesus is removing the excuses for sin and exposing the heart.  For as we have seen, when that when an individual’s heart is pure, he/she shall see God and be blessed. (Matt 5:8)

[1] Quarles, Charles. Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s message to the modern church. Nashville: B&H Academic. 116.

[2] Holman Bible Dictionary, Butler, Trent C. Editor.. “Entry for ‘ADULTERY'”. “Holman Bible Dictionary”.
<;. 1991.


The Twin Terrors of our Fallen Nation…

January 24, 2012

Our nation, and indeed the world, is beset with an abundance of adultery and divorce.  Often the two go hand-in-hand wrecking lives and destabilizing society.  Neither are a recent plague, so we find that it was no accident that our Lord addressed both in His Sermon on the Mount.  At the heart of both sins is the idolatry of the self.  Putting the needs and wants of the self above the rightly ordered plan of God.  Adultery takes the gift of sex, intended to unite husband and wife, and turns it into a weapon of division and discord.  Divorce often follows in the destructive wake of adultery leaving behind scarred lives and broken families.  But there is Hope.

God sees us in our sinful state and provides mercy, grace, renewal and redemption to all who repent, turn from their sin, and seek shelter under the sufficient sacrifice of Christ.  In the next several posts, I am going to try and dissect these sticky verses in Matthew 5:27-32.

First, we will look at the root of adultery: lust; the sin, Christ’s solution, and His message regarding our hearts.

Second, we will look at divorce: its history, its pain, and hope for the divorced among us.

Ultimately, and this can not be stressed enough, both are grievous sins with horrific consequences which shatter lives, leaving the participants hurt and broken.  Likewise, though, we must stress that Jesus tackled these issues head on, and His grace is great enough to overcome the sin, mend the broken, and soothe the hurt.

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them,“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”  
                                                                                                                        -John 8:7-12