The Heart of Adultery – Matthew 5:27-30

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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
April 13, 2014

The Heart of Adultery
Matthew 5:27-30


Please turn again to Matthew 5 as we continue in our study of the Sermon on the Mount. We are now in the section of the sermon in which Jesus is giving concrete examples that contrast the false self-righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees with that of true righteousness.

Jesus described the qualities of true righteousness in the Beatitudes. People who are truly righteous are characterized in being: poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. The unrighteous will respond to them with insult, slander and persecution. They are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, so they influence the world by their righteousness and to bring glory to God by what they do.

Jesus makes it very clear in 5:17-20 that what He is teaching is in complete harmony with all of the Old Testament down to the last stroke of the pen. This is in contrast with the scribes and Pharisees who perverted or ignored the law by their interpretations and traditions. Jesus condemns their self-righteousness and warns the people in verse 20 saying, “unless you righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and Pharisees did not meet the standard of righteousness needed to enter heaven for that requires true righteousness, not self-righteousness.

Last week we examined verses 21-26 in which Jesus contrasts what the scribes taught about murder with what God says about anger, name calling and slander. The Scribes correctly repeated God’s prohibition of murder given in the Law to Moses, but they then reduced that by their traditions to only being liable to the judgment of the court if you actually physically murdered someone. Jesus exposes their teaching by setting forth God’s standards for the heart. The origin of murder is the heart and it begins with anger. That is why Jesus said the person who is angry could be liable before the court. The person that expresses that anger by calling another person names would be guilty before the supreme court, and the person that allowed his anger to erupt into slandering the character of the other person would be guilty enough to go into fiery hell. There is a great contrast between the teaching of Christ and that of the Scribes.

I want to point out here that to this point Jesus has not condemned the Scribes themselves, but only their teaching. In fact, Jesus will not condemn them until they utterly reject Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. In this passage Jesus is just exposing their teaching and their hearts. What they will do with that exposure would determine their future destiny. Would they accept the corrections, become poor in spirit and hunger and thirst after righteousness? Or would they continue in their religious self-righteousness to their own condemnation?

A story is told that many years ago, while on a visit to England, a wealthy Chinese businessman was fascinated by a powerful microscope. Looking through its lens to study crystals and the petals of flowers, he was amazed at their beauty and detail. So he decided to purchase one of these devices and take it back to China. He thoroughly enjoyed using it until one day he examined some rice he was planning to eat for dinner. Much to his dismay, he discovered that tiny living creatures were crawling in it. Since he was especially fond of this staple food in his daily diet, he wondered what to do. Finally he concluded that there was only one way out of this dilemma. He smashed the microscope to pieces destroying the instrument that caused him to discover facts he found distasteful!

Eventually the Scribes would react the same way as this Chinese man who smashed the microscope because it revealed to him something he did not want to know. The Scribes, along with the Pharisees and other religious leaders, would crucify the Messiah because He revealed what they did not want to know. They were happy being self-deceived by their own self-righteousness and did not like that challenged by truth.

As we go through each of these illustrations of true righteousness, your own heart will be exposed. The test will be what you will do with that exposure. Will you accept the rebuke received at the hands of the Holy Spirit as He works on your heart and then repent by turning from that sinfulness to the Savior? Will you become even more poor in spirit, mournful over sin and meek? Will your hunger and thirst for righteousness increase along with your drive to be pure in heart? Or will you be like the self righteous religious leaders and reject what Jesus says and continue on in your own self deception?

In the passage we studied last week, Jesus laid open our hearts and exposed the murder that is in them. Murder that expresses itself in unrighteous anger, in calling other people names and in slandering their character. The only proper response to that exposure is brokenness over sin. Freely admitting you are a PINOGAM – a Person In Need Of Grace And Mercy – and finding that in God and the forgiveness He grants to those who have faith in Jesus Christ.

This morning we come to a section that will also expose each of our hearts. What will you do with that exposure?

Sin in Deed

Jesus begins his next practical illustration of true righteousness by pointing out that the Scribes quoted the seventh commandment. 27 You have heard that it was said, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY.” Other Scriptures made it clear that this was a very serious prohibition because the consequences for it could be severe. God sets the punishment for it in Leviticus 20:10, “the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” In the New Testament, Hebrews 13:4 adds “for fornicators and adulterers God will judge,” and Paul warns about it in 1 Corinthians 6:9 that “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.”

The Scribes did well to teach this commandment. It showed that they were very concerned about what the Bible said, and it was their practice to study the Scriptures in detail. That was very good and commendable. However, they also made a separation between the mind and heart and the physical actions performed. In one sense there is a proper caution in their practice for it is true that you cannot see a person’s heart to discern their motives. You can only examine their actions which may or may not give clues about their heart and motives. One of the problems with this is that it resulted in them defining sin only by specific actions which then generated their lists of do’s and don’ts by which they tried to live. They became self-righteous because they then evaluated themselves by the lists of standards they had formulated instead of all of what God actually said. Many evangelicals have fallen into this same trap resulting in legalistic self-righteousness. I am good because of what I do and don’t do.

The fundamental problem in the Scribes teaching is that they forgot that God can see the heart and is very concerned about it. Consider that even in the Ten Commandments given in Exodus 20 God’s concern was for the heart. The chapter begins with God’s reminder that He is the one that brought them out slavery in Egypt. God then commands them: 1) You shall have no other gods before Me (vs. 3), 2) You shall not make any idols nor worship nor serve them (vs. 4-6), 3) You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain (vs. 7), 4) You shall keep the Sabbath (vs. 8-11), 5) You shall honor your father and mother (vs. 12), 6) You shall not murder (vs. 13), 7) You shall not commit adultery (vs. 14), 8) You shall not steal (vs. 15), 9) You shall not bear false witness (vs. 16), 10) You shall not covet (vs. 17). The religious leaders had turned each of these into specific physical actions you did or did not do. Yet each command has an element that must come from the heart, and the last one, “You shall not covet” is only a matter of the heart. If any action is taken to gain the object coveted, then one of other commandments will be broken. Coveting the things owned by a neighbor leads to stealing. Coveting a neighbor’s wife leads to adultery.

The Scribes had decided that they were righteous because they had not broken the seventh commandment in committing the physical act of adultery. Because the Scribes were the lawyers of the period, there is no doubt that they were also very good at redefining what was and was not physical adultery much like former President Clinton did after his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Considering the sexual perversions of our own society it would be easy for a person to think he was fairly good if he managed to stay true to his current spouse. Our society is preoccupied by sex with the entertainment media glorifying infidelity, divorce and perversion while sneering at marriage, sexual fidelity and moral purity. This began in the “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s. That has been true for a long time and it is only getting worse. By 1992 Vice President Dan Quayle recognized that it had become unfashionable to talk about moral values, but he did it anyway because there was already a recognized breakdown of the American family because of it. His speech became known as the “Murphy Brown” speech because he used the sitcom character as an example of the entertainment media promoting the immoral values that were breaking down the family. After the speech, the media did just what he said they were doing of those who would point out some things are wrong. He was jeered, chided and laughed at. All the social statistics 22 years later prove Dan Quayle was correct in his assessments and predictions, but it is even worse today.

We live in a post Clinton society. Serial monogamy, adultery and fornication are all taken in stride as normal parts of American life. Marriage is optional in having children. The shame has been removed and replaced with bravado to the even greater perversions of homosexuality and beyond. Talking about proper moral family values not only lacks fashion in today’s society, but it is dangerous. You will be attacked by what is now being termed the “gaystapo” which is the radical faction which has no tolerance for anyone that does not fully support their perversions. Their most recent victim was Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich whose crime to them was making a donation to the California Proposition 8 fund in 2008.

In a society with this much sexual promiscuity and perversion, it would be easy to think that God would be very pleased with you by comparison if you simply remained physically faithful to your spouse.

Sin in the Heart – Matthew 5:28

The Scribes taught the seventh commandment’s prohibition against adultery. This was good because God does hate adultery. But again, the Scribes had missed the point of the commandment because they isolated it from the rest of the commandments. They thought they were righteous because they had avoided sexual intercourse with anyone other than their own spouse. Jesus did not stop there but again exposed the wickedness that is in the hearts of men and women.

28 but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Jesus directly applies the tenth commandment, which is the prohibition on coveting, to the seventh commandment’s prohibition of adultery. Jesus states that anyone that lusts for anyone other than their spouse has committed adultery in their heart. That is a judgment against everyone whether they are married or not. Notice that Jesus uses the all-inclusive word “everyone” and that He does not distinguish the woman. He simply states “a woman.” Jesus’ statement applies both to the married and those who are single. And though Jesus uses the male as the example of the one that lusts, the injunction applies to females that do the same. There are many statements made throughout Scripture that warn about the adulteress and the harlot with Proverbs 5 & 7 focusing on just that topic.

But what does Jesus mean by His statement? Is this a blanket condemnation? I do not believe so, but I do believe that all of us fall prey to our sinful hearts.

The word “look” here is ble;pw / blep means to see “in the sense of becoming aware of or taking notice of something.” This is not a “glance” or “incidental sight.” The grammar is a present active participle indicating a person that sees and continues to look. This is intentional and repeated gazing the purpose of which is to satisfy the evil desire of the heart. The word lust, ejpiqumia / epithumia, simply means “strong desire.” The context will indicate whether this is good or bad based on the object and purpose of that strong desire. In this context, the object of that strong desire is the woman being gazed at, and its purpose is sexual immorality.

Those that are caught up in pornography obviously commit the sin Jesus is describing. I could spend the whole sermon speaking about the evils of pornography and the effect it has had on our society, but that would side track us. I believe all of us are well aware of the pervasiveness of pornography in our society and that such material is intended to titillate the sexual interest of the viewer. Don’t kid yourself if you think you can look at the so called soft porn such as Playboy and its genre of smut and not get burned. The stuff is designed to drag you into sinful thoughts and actions. And do not think you can elevate that trash by calling “artistic,” “provocative” or “educational.” The world can use any term they want, but Jesus pointedly calls it sinful to look at someone to lust after him or her, and it is irrelevant whether they are being seen live in the flesh or in a picture. If you have any pornography, then you need to get rid of it – NOW!

Also obvious are those who guys who are “girl watchers.” They like to go to places where they will see scantily clad or provocatively dressed women. Of course such men do not have to go to any particular place to do this because they are also looking whenever a pretty woman walks by wherever they may be. They may or may not say something or whistle, but they leer. The term “wolf” applies well.

But don’t think that you avoid this sin because you do not wolf whistle or make some comment when someone of the opposite sex walks by. And don’t think you avoid this because you avoid overt pornography or only watch movies rated G or PG. That helps, but temptation in this area will come into your life through a variety of channels. TV is a big one. Much of what is carried on network television (including PBS) and on most of the cable channels revolve around sexual themes, and even when they do not, a sex scene or two in thrown in somewhere to keep viewer interest high. How do you respond if you are watching something and a sex scene comes on – and most often it seems it is between two people who are not married to each other. Do you turn the TV off? Do you feel like writing a letter to complain about it? Do you feel disgusted and violated yourself? Or do you quietly tolerate? Maybe you are thinking “I am glad he got the girl” or “I am glad she got the guy” or “isn’t it good they love each other?” Maybe you even smile a little at it.

Let’s be frank folks. The material is written to entice you into a sympathetic relationship with the characters and it does a very good job at getting you to condone immorality and even say it is good. A good test for this: If this were your son or daughter doing this in real life, would you feel the same?

This sin of lusting after someone else does not have to involve the eye to occur. The “look” can also occur within the mind such as when reading trash novels, which is generally a greater danger to women. You do not have to have pictures to create fantasy images and fantasy relationships. The book, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” has been properly described as pornography for women because of this. The lust in the heart is the same whether sparked by something visual or not.

This sin is even promoted by many psychologists and especially the so called “sex experts.” They advise those who feel unfilled by their mate but don’t want to jeopardize their marriage with an affair to just fantasize about someone else when they are with their spouse.

But maybe that strikes at the core of what Jesus is saying. The problem with sin is that it is not external – it is internal. The sin is in your heart. The problem is not that a guy may see a beautiful woman walk by. That woman is a creation of God and her beauty should give glory to her creator. The problem is not even that a guy may see a woman clothed immodestly or not clothed. The problem is in the human heart, and religious pride in thinking we are better than we actually are only sets us up for a fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns us to take heed to what occurred to the Israelites because of the failure to follow God and then says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Everyone is vulnerable to some degree.

The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. He loved God and proved it over and over. Yet, David let his guard down. He was not diligent to do all that he should have as the king. 2 Samuel 11 recounts that David was in Jerusalem instead of being out with the army in battle, and so while on his roof he saw a woman bathing. Was it a sin that David saw the woman bathing? No. The sin came when David saw that the “woman was very beautiful in appearance.” How did David know she was very beautiful? He continued to look. David was not as Job who said, “Behold I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin” (Job 31:1). The old adage is true. While you cannot keep the bird from flying over your head, you can keep it from building a nest in your hair. You cannot avoid seeing every sight that might be enticing, and you cannot block every improper thought from going through your mind, but you can restrict anything you see to a glance instead of a gaze, and you can keep a thought passing rather than lasting.

Sin’s Seriousness – Matthew 5:29-30

How serious did Jesus see this problem of sin in the heart? Look at Matthew 5:29-30, “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts for your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

That sounds serious doesn’t it? And it is serious. Some have taken what our Lord says here literally and torn out their eye and cut off their hands with the hope that doing so would enable them to escape hell and enter heaven. The sad part of this is not just that they failed to recognize when Jesus speaks figuratively, but that in their doing these things they did not escape their sinfulness. History is full of ascetics who have shut them selves away, deprived themselves of food, sleep and any sort of comfort. Some have physically injured themselves even to the extreme of castrating themselves, yet with all that, sin was still present. Athanasius says of St. Anthony, “that the devil sometimes appeared to him in the form of a woman.” Jerome relates of St. Hilarion, “that in bed his imagination was often beset with visions of naked women.” Another monastic named Ptolemy spent three years alone in an unwatered desert. He quenched his thirst with dew he collected during December and January and saved for the rest of the year. His end was skepticism, madness and debauchery.

Jesus is not advocating self inflicted injury or even asceticism as the way to avoid sin. Plucking out your right eye leaves your left eye with which you would still sin. Cutting off your right hand still leaves your left hand with which you would still sin. Jesus is being figurative here as a means of emphasizing the seriousness of sin. The Jews considered the right eye and the right hand to be of supreme value. Jesus is saying that if something is hindering you from living for God, then it is better to be without it than let that drag you into hell. This is a call for severing from yourself from anything that is feeding your sinful desires even though it would otherwise be valuable to you.

Anything that morally or spiritually traps you, those things that cause you to fall into sin or to stay in sin, should be eliminated quickly and totally. I don’t know what your particular area of temptation may be, but whatever it is, do all you can to set it aside that you might live a holy life.

If you are in an immoral relationship, then end it now regardless of how nice that other person makes you feel. If you have pornographic material, then get rid of it now in a way that neither you nor anyone else can see it again – shred it or burn it if needed. If it is in electronic form, then delete it so that it cannot be retrieved. If it is coming through the internet, then get blocking software even if it does slow down your computer. If TV causes you to stumble, then admit it and switch to something like Skyangel or get rid of TV service all together. If it is pulp novels that glorify sin, then get rid of them and don’t get anymore. This would include the supermarket tabloids. When you get in line at the market, look straight ahead at the person in front of you and not at the magazine rack. If you lack discernment in what you read and watch, then only read and watch what has been approved by someone who actually is godly. You say that is too radical? Then you do not yet understand the seriousness of sin. You do not yet understand the condemnation, the judgment and the punishment that sin brings. Eternity is a long, long, long time – it never ends. You do not want to spend Eternity shut out from God and suffering everlasting punishment.

But now you say, “wait a minute preacher!” “You say the problem is in the heart and that the heart is sinful and now you are telling me to do external things.” “I am confused!”

Obviously getting rid of harmful influences will not change a corrupt heart into a pure heart. The example I gave of several of the monastics already shows that. But just as the outward act of adultery reflects a heart that is already adulterous, the outward act of voluntarily forsaking whatever is harmful reflects a heart that hungers and thirst for righteousness. The outward actions have to be generated from the heart if they are to be effective. Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful lusts” which is just what Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife sought to seduce him. Joseph fled because he loved God more than any pleasure she could have given him (See Genesis 39).


Jesus’ teaching here only proves again that one cannot become righteous by outward rules and regulations, which is what the Scribes and Pharisees sought to do. They were self-righteous. The first step toward true righteousness is recognizing your own sinfulness. That is being poor in spirit and mourning over sin. Without that you can never truly turn from sin to the Savior. Do you recognize your sinfulness and that your only hope is God? That is the first step to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. You cannot be holy and you cannot please God on your own. You must place your hope and trust in Christ alone.

A true Christian hungers and thirsts after righteousness and they desire to be pure in heart. A true Christian is concerned about both the inward as well as the outward. Do you profess to know Jesus? Then consider whom you want to please – is it yourself or God? I said in the beginning of this message that this passage will expose your heart. What will you now do with that exposure? That will be determined by what you lust after. If your strong desire is to be righteous, then you will walk with Jesus Christ confessing your sins of both mind and body as the Holy Spirit convicts. You will be a PINOGAM who thanks God for His forgiveness in Jesus Christ and also seriously strives to live a life pleasing and glorifying to Him. If your strong desire is to please your mind, emotions and flesh as you think best, then you will continue to judge yourself against a false standard made by man. You will be self-righteous and consider yourself to be good enough, but you will fail to meet Jesus’ standard and will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Will you be like Joseph who fled, David who confessed, or the Scribes and Pharisees who justified themselves?


The Heart of Adultery
April 13, 2014– Matthew 5:27-30


Jesus described the qualities of true ________________ in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-16)

Jesus’ teachings are in complete harmony with the ________, and only the truly righteous will enter heaven

Both physical murder and the attitudes that can lead to it make you _________before God (Matt. 5:21-26)

Jesus is exposing the ____________of the Scribes and Pharisees, they could be righteous if they repented

Jesus’ teachings will expose your own heart, you can be ________________if accept the rebuke and repent

A P.I.N.O.G.A.M. will find ________________through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ

Sin in Deed – Matthew 5:27

The Scribes did well to teach the _______Commandment (Exodus 20:14; Lev. 20:10; Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9)

Their ___________between mind and heart and the physical action led to man-made standards and legalism

God can see the heart and is very concerned about it – The Ten Commandments are issues of the _________

They thought themselves righteous for not committing adultery as they _________________ as lawyers

In our sexually perverse society, people who remain physically true to their spouse may be considered _____

Sin in the Heart – Matthew 5:28

Jesus applies the 10th Commandment to the 6th – adultery begins with ________________

“Look” is ble;pw / blep : to see “in the sense of becoming aware of or taking ___________of something.”

The grammar indicates an intentional and repeated _______________, not a glance or incidental sight

Lust is ejpiqumia / epithumia: “strong ____________” – context determines if the desire is good or bad

All _________________is designed to produce evil lust – get rid of it, avoid it, flee it

“Girl watchers” (wolves) seek out and take advantage of opportunities for __________________

Temptations to lust come from many sources – how do you __________________when temptation comes?

The test: Would you feel the same if you were watching your _________________________?

Trash novels (pornography for ______________________) also create evil lust

_____________________creates this sin of the heart

Be _______________, all are subject to temptation (1 Cor. 10:12), even King David fell to it (2 Samuel 11)

You can’t eliminate all you see, but you can keep a sight and a thought passing instead of ______________

Sin’s Seriousness – Matthew 5:29-30

_____________________does not solve the problem

Jesus is being figurative, not _____, because plucking out an eye or cutting a hand does not eliminate the sin

Anything that causes you to fall into sin or stay in sin should be __________________quickly and totally:

Immoral relationships; Pornography; Internet; TV; Pulp novels, trash magazines

Sin is ___________________for its condemnation lasts for eternity

Outward actions must be generated from the _____________if they are to be effective: Joseph in Genesis 39


___________________is not produced by outward rules and regulations

The righteous have a strong ________to walk in humility with Christ and live life to please and glorify Him

The self-righteous have a strong desire to please mind, emotions and flesh as ____________think best

Are you like Joseph who ____, David who confessed, or the Scribe and Pharisees who justified themselves?

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