Read Matthew 5:27-32
Continuing on with Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, today we look at what Jesus had to say about adultery and some of the strange things he said in regards to that topic.
It is interesting to note that when you look up the word "adultery" in Strong's Concordance you get the standard definition of the word which is "to have unlawful intercourse with another's wife". But you also get this definition, "A Hebrew idiom, the word is used of those who at a woman's solicitation are drawn away to idolatry, i.e. to the eating of things sacrificed to idols."
So what did Jesus say about adultery in general? Like he did with anger, he looks at the intent of the heart. As he did with anger when he equated it as being the same as murder, he says that when a man looks lustfully at a woman it is the same as committing adultery with her. The intent of the heart is what is looked at here and to drive that point home Jesus added the following:
"If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:29-30, NKJV).
So did Jesus literally mean that he wants us to pluck out and cut off our body parts? Not at all! Jesus is using the eye and the hand as a metaphor for how dangerous it is to give into the sin of adultery. What Jesus implies is that if your right eye is infected with disease then the logical thing to do would be to pluck it out. Likewise, if your hand is diseased and it is spreading the logical thing to do would be to cut it off. His point is not that one should literally pluck out their eye, or cut off their hand but that one should recognize that the source of lust comes from within the mind and heart of man, not from the physical organ itself. It is when we allow those lustful thoughts to fester that they grow and are acted on, thus resulting in sin. Jesus is teaching that men and women need to bring their lust under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus goes on to discuss divorce and how the sin of the heart (wanting what it can't or shouldn't have) results in adultery. In fact, he stressed that those who are married should never divorce unless the sin of sexual immorality (fornication) is present. I talked about the meaning behind fornication in another post and why it was so important to abstain from it. The point is clear, lust begins in the mind or flesh (as does all sin) and weaves its way into the heart, infecting the whole body. Once the mind begins to make excuses for why it's okay to sin, then it has no trouble convincing the heart of following through. God looks at the intent of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10), so if we do not bring our desires under the total control of the Holy Spirit then we are allowing sin to reign in our lives and ultimately saying to God, "I don't want to be obedient to you. You are no longer in charge of my life." And God will do as you ask and leave you to your own desires (Romans 1:24-25; Psalm 81:11-12). This is why we are told time and time again in scripture to run from sin because it destroys not just your relationship with God, but in the case of adultery, it destroys whole families. This is why Jesus put it so bluntly, because in the end it would be better to lose a limb than to see the destruction the sin of adultery can wreak.
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For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
Have you ever noticed the first line of the verse above? I mean, really noticed it? If you haven't, let it sink in for a moment. What is God's ultimate will for you? Your sanctification. What does it mean to be sanctified? It means to be made holy or consecrated. God's ultimate goal for you then, is that you would become holy and consecrated. Why? Because nothing sinful can enter heaven. This is why Jesus was born of a virgin. If he had been born the normal way, he would have been born into a sinful body. God needed a body to house His Shekinah glory on earth (His Holy Spirit). Jesus was able to do that because he was not born a sinner and he never sinned while on earth. This is why he was the perfect sacrifice and why he was able to enter heaven. It is also why all who believe in Jesus Christ are saved. By His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5) and we are forgiven of our sins (Acts 13:37-39). How then should we live?
If you live your life following Christ's example, you do well. If however, you say in your heart, "I'm forgiven because I believe in Jesus, therefore it does not matter how I live my life. It is my own to live," then you are living a lie. For when you believed in Jesus and accepted his gift of salvation, his forgiveness of your sins and his gift of eternal life, you were in fact agreeing to live your life in such a way that it would honour Jesus' sacrifice for you and bring glory to God.