DUNCAN/God’s law vs. human tradition: Part II

DUNCAN/God’s law vs. human tradition: Part II


Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 5:27-30. In this passage our Lord Jesus shows us the deadliness of sexual immorality. Specifically, he reminds us that sexual immorality occurs not only literally and physically but that it also takes place in the heart. In other words, Jesus wants believers to be careful that we do not become external in our keeping of the law and fail to look at how the law reaches into our hearts. As such, we learn three lessons from this passage. First, Jesus shows us that the Pharisees misinterpreted the law. Secondly, Jesus teaches us what the law really means. And thirdly, Jesus applies the law to our relationships. 

I. Jesus Contradicts the Pharisees Interpretation of the Law. 

In verses 27-28, Jesus says, “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 lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’” The Lord Jesus wants to make it clear that this command cannot be kept by literally refraining from adultery in sexual immorality. It must be kept at a deeper level because the law is a matter of the heart. Notice that Jesus is not attacking the Old Testament, but the Lord is attacking the interpretation of the moral law by the Pharisees in His day. The Pharisees were very harsh on the literal breaking of this command but they were very lenient in their divorce law. They had gone back to the book of Deuteronomy and they had read a passage which said that a man could send his wife away if he found something unclean or indecent with her. The Pharisees had interpreted that clause so broadly that it would allow a man to divorce his wife even if he did not like her cooking. If he had become indifferent towards her, he could divorce her. They had found all manner of loopholes in the law and the Lord Jesus is saying to the Pharisees, “Your attitude towards marriage shows me that you are adulterers in your hearts.”

II. Jesus Teaches What the Law Really Means.

In verses 28-29, Jesus says, “But I say to you, that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” The Lord Jesus makes it clear that the law is spiritual. That is, the requirements of this commandment extend not only to our outward physical actions but to our eyes, the way we look, and even to our hearts, what we’re thinking, and what we are desiring. In this passage, Jesus tells us that we can break the commandment in at least three ways. There is not only literal, physical adultery but there is also eye adultery. That is, Jesus is speaking of lusting, and He calls it adultery. We can commit adultery with our eyes. And it is no mistake that the Lord Jesus speaks of the eyes as a gateway to temptation in the area of sexual sin. The Lord Jesus is warning here that any gateway into the heart, which is an opportunity for sin, especially in this area of sexual immorality, must be guarded against. 

Then, Jesus goes deeper than the eyes, those portals which allow things into our hearts. He goes to the heart itself. He says that that indulgence of the eyes leads to a heart adultery. So he says, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus knows that indulgence of the eyes leads to heart adultery which so often leads to actual, literal adultery. For the Lord Jesus has explained to us here that that physical attraction can be an opportunity for lust and for covetousness in the hearts of men. They see, they desire, they imagine, they meditate, and then they actually begin to seek that object which is forbidden.

III. Jesus Applies the Law to Our Relationships. 

Finally, the Lord addresses corrupt desires in our relationships in this passage. God has created His world in such a way that when we seek holy desires we can find contentment. But if we seek something that is unholy or something that is sinful, we will find that in God’s universe we will never be content with what we have and we will always want more. Therefore, Jesus brings home a brutal prescription for how we are to respond to sexual temptation and sin. And notice that He uses the most graphic language, “mortification” and “dismemberment.” It is important to note that Jesus is not calling us to mutilate our bodies, though there have been some Christians who have wrongly interpreted Him to be saying that in these verses. Instead, Jesus is using a physical illustration and applying it to the spiritual realm. Jesus is saying that we must take drastic action in getting rid of whatever may be the conduit of temptation. The Lord Jesus is saying that sexual sin must not be pampered. It must be put to death. Mortification is not passive. This is a striving against sin. Jesus is calling on us to wage war against this sin in our hearts and in our lives. It must be flung aside immediately and decisively. The Lord Jesus is calling on us not to entertain this sin because it is eternally deadly. 

What are we to do as believers when faced with this temptation? We must immediately resort to Christ. We must be absolutely dependent on Him. We must have desire for Christ which exceeds our desire for the pleasure of the flesh. That’s going to mean going to Jesus in prayer. We must come back into His arms because the desires that are building in us when we are prone to this sin are so powerful that they can be matched by no desire except a supernatural desire implanted into our hearts. If you are in the grip of this sin, you know how hopeless it is to struggle against. That very hopelessness is your greatest hope because if you have learned that you are hopeless against this sin, you have just learned that there is no hope in you. My friend, only hope in Jesus and in Him alone. Christ’s arms are open wide. Put aside the obstacles of Satan and come to Christ. The only way you will ever overcome this temptation is in the arms of Christ, who will give you a greater desire than the flesh can ever fulfill. May God, by His grace, enable us to wage war on temptation and sexual sin for His glory and our good.

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