“Emmanuel’s Ethics, Part 2” – Matthew 5:27-37

January 25th,  2015

Matthew 5:27-37

(see also: Hosea; Malachi 2:10-16; Ephesians 5:4:25-31; 21-33)

“Emmanuel’s Ethics – Pt 2”

 

Service Orientation: Until we see what real righteousness and faithfulness look like, we can never begin to model it.  That is what Jesus is presenting for us in the Sermon on the Mount and through His life and death.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. —  Hebrews 10:23                                                                                                                                                    

Background Information:

  • Anger and sexual lust are two of the most powerful influences on mankind. The person who gives them reign will soon find that he is more controlled than in control.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 300)
  • (v. 27) A. W. Verrall, the great classical scholar, said that one of the chief diseases from which ancient civilization died was a low view of woman. The first thing which wrecked the marriage situation among the Greeks was the fact that relationships outside marriage carried no stigma whatsoever, and were in fact the accepted and the expected thing.  Such relationships brought not the slightest discredit; they were part of the ordinary routine of life.  Demosthenes laid it down as the accepted practice of life: “We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately, and of having a faithful guardian for all our household affairs.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 153)
  • (vss. 27-30) Theoretically no nation ever had a higher ideal of marriage than the Jew had. Marriage was a sacred duty which a man was bound to undertake.  He might delay or abstain from marriage for only one reason–to devote his whole time to the study of the Law.  If a man refused to marry and to beget children he was said to have broken the positive commandment which bade men to be fruitful and to multiply, and he was said to have “lessened the image of God in the world,” and “to have slain his posterity.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 150-1)
  • (v. 31) The bill of divorcement simply ran: “Let this be from me thy writ of divorce and letter of dismissal and deed of liberation, that thou mayest marry whatsoever man thou wilt.” All that had to be done was to hand that document to the woman in the presence of two witnesses and she stood divorced.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 151)
  • (v. 31) It is not an accident that Jesus deals with divorce after having dealt with anger, contempt, and obsessive desire. Just ask yourself how many divorces would occur, and in how many cases the question of divorce would never even have arisen, if anger, contempt, and obsessive fantasized desire were eliminated.  The answer is, of course, hardly any at all.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 172)
  • (vss. 31-32) The passage that was intended to regulate man’s rebellion against God’s purpose in marriage was distorted to provide an excuse for divorce. The hard hearts that this law was meant to restrain used it to their own ends.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 91)
  • At the time of the Reformation, many in the Anabaptist tradition believed this was the case and refused by consequence to take oaths in the courtroom or anywhere else–a belief that many sincere Christians continue to hold. However, it is questionable whether either Jesus or James intended to address the issue of official oaths, oaths that responsible authorities ask us to take.  What both have in mind seem to be voluntary oaths.  Even with these, it is argued, the intention is not to forbid any oath, but only oaths that would have the intention of avoiding absolute truthfulness.  This would seem to be the problem that Jesus addressed (cf. Mt 23:16-22) and the evidence from Paul’s epistles show that he, for one, continued to use oaths (Rom 1:9; 2 Cor 1:23; 11:11; Gal 1:20; Phil 1:8; 1 Thes 2:5, 10).  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 174)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why is Jesus pushing His audience so hard in regard to our faithfulness and righteousness as God is faithful and righteous?

 

Answer: Because we should be righteous but we are not.  We fail to be who God created us to be:  Creatures designed and created to represent His image on planet earth.  Jesus is forcing us to recognize our spiritual poverty, so we might mourn over our unrighteousness and thus hunger and thirst for a righteousness we know we do not possess but should.  

               

The Word for the Day is . . . Faithful

 

What does Jesus have to tell us about integrity or purity of heart or faithfulness?

 

 

I-  For the Christian, real faithfulness in marriage is satisfaction with God’s gift, your spouse, that you resist even a thought or desire for another.  (Mt 5:27-30; see also: Gn 2:23-25; Dt 5:18; 22:22; Job 31:1, 7-8; Prv 4:23; Ch 5; especially 5:18-20; 6:20-35; Ch 7; 12:4; 18:22; 19:14; 31:10; Mt 15:19; Rom 8:13; 1 Cor 6:13-20; Gal 5:24; Eph 5:21-33; 2 Tm 2:22)

 

Looking at a woman lustfully does not cause a man to commit adultery in his thoughts.  He already has committed adultery in his heart.  It is not lustful looking that causes the sin in the heart, but the sin in the heart that causes lustful looking.  The lustful looking is but the expression of a heart that is already immoral and adulterous.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 303)

 

The “one flesh” status during intercourse of a married man and woman married in a covenant relationship, is eschatologically symbolic of God’s desire to be one with mankind.  Any perversion of that symbol is blasphemous to God’s nature and His relationship with mankind. (Gn 2:24; Mt 19:3-9; Mk 10:2-12; Jn 17; 1 Cor 6:12-19; Eph 5:21-33) — Pastor Keith

 

In this usage, the idea is not that of an incidental or involuntary glance but of intentional and repeated gazing.  Pros to (to) used the infinitive (epithumēsai, lust for) indicates a goal or an action that follows in time the action of the looking.  Jesus is therefore speaking of intentional looking with the purpose of lusting.  He is speaking of the man who looks so that he may satisfy his evil desire.  He is speaking of the man who goes to an X-rated movie, who selects a television program known for its sexual orientation, who goes to a beach known for its scanty swimsuits, or who does any such thing with the expectation and desire of being sexually and sinfully titillated.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 302-3)

 

He is not speaking of the natural, normal desire, which is part of human instinct and human nature.  According to the literal meaning of the Greek the man who is condemned is the man who looks at a woman with the deliberate intention of lusting after her.  The man who is condemned is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to awaken his lust, the man who looks in such a way that passion is awakened and desire deliberately stimulated.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 147)

 

To call the marriage “one flesh,” then, means that sex is understood as both a sign of that personal, legal union and a means to accomplish it.  The Bible says don’t unite with someone physically unless you are also willing to unite with the person emotionally, personally, socially, economically, and legally. Don’t become physically naked and vulnerable to the other person without becoming vulnerable in every other way, because you have given up your freedom and bound yourself in marriage.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 256)

 

Indeed, sex is perhaps the most powerful God-created way to help you give your entire self to another human being.  Sex is God’s appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another, “I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.”  You must not use sex to say anything less.

So, according to the Bible, a covenant is necessary for sex.  It creates a place of security for vulnerability and intimacy.  But though a marriage covenant is necessary for sex, sex is also necessary for the maintenance of the covenant.  It is your covenant renewal service.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 257)

 

The man whom Jesus here condemns 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.  To the pure all things are pure.  But the man whose heart is defiled can look at any scene and find something in it to titillate and excite the wrong desire.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 147)

 

Men may question why they keep going back to a woman who treats them poorly or may wonder why they never seem able to feel, deep inside, a commitment to a woman after having sex partner after sex partner.  Sadly, they simply do not know that their brains are flooded with vasopressin during sexual intercourse and that this neurochemical produces a partial bond with every woman they have sex with.  They do not realize that this pattern of having sex with one woman and then breaking up and then having sex with another woman limits them to experience only one form of brain activity common to humans involved sexually–the dopamine rush of sex.  (A. Aron, H. Fisher, et al., “Reward, motivation, and emotional systems associated with early-stage intense romantic love,” Journal of Neurophysiology, 327-37)  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 43)

 

An individual who is sexually involved, then breaks up and then is sexually involved again, and who repeats this cycle again and again is in danger of negative emotional consequences.  People who behave in this manner are acting against, almost fighting against, the way they are made to function.  When connectedness and bonding form and then are quickly broken and replaced with another sexual relationship, it often actually causes damage to the brain’s natural connecting or bonding mechanism.  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 105)

 

Theologian Christopher West remarked, “If the body and sex are meant to proclaim our union with God, and if there is an enemy who wants to separate us from God, what do you think he is going to attack?  If we want to know what is most sacred in this world, all we need do is look at what is most violently profaned.” (Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, 11)

 

Your sexuality is an intense battle because it is the arena where God desires to demonstrate who He is and what He’s like.  Through sexual intercourse, God desires to demonstrate what communion with Him is meant to be.  It’s the taste of the intimacy we crave.  (Michael John Cusick, Surfing for God, 113)

 

There is not the slightest suggestion here that natural sexual relations within the commitment of marriage are anything but God-given and beautiful.  We may thank God that the Song of Solomon is contained in the canon of Scripture, for there is no Victorian prudery there but rather the uninhibited delight of lovers, of bride and bridegroom in each other.  No.  The teaching of Jesus here refers to unlawful sex outside marriage, whether practiced by married or unmarried people.  He is not even forbidding us to look at a woman, but to look lustfully.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 87)

 

Some think that if lustful thoughts are sin, why shouldn’t a person go ahead and do the lustful actions too?  Acting out sinful desires is harmful in several ways: (1) it causes people to excuse sin rather than to stop sinning; (2) it destroys marriages; (3) it is deliberate rebellion against God’s Word; (4) it always hurts someone else in addition to the sinner.  Sinful action is more dangerous than sinful desire.  Nevertheless, sinful desire is just as damaging to righteousness.  Left unchecked, wrong desires will result in wrong actions, hurt others, and turn people away from God.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 96)

 

You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act–that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage.  Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theater by simply bringing a covered plate onto the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?  And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?  (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 75)

 

Jesus does not mean it is wrong to look at a woman admiringly, but it is wrong to do so lustfully.  He does not forbid the natural, normal attraction that is part of our humanity.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 107)

 

Ours is a day of unbridled indulgence in sexual passion.  People propagate, promote, and exploit it through the most powerful and pervasive media ever known to man.  It seems to be the almost uninterrupted theme of our society’s entertainment.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 300)

 

Throughout the NT, prohibitions against sexual immorality are every bit as clear as those of the Old.  “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals” will inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9; cf. Gal 5:19-21; Rv 2:22).  “Fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb 13:4).  Regardless of how much a couple may care for each other and be deeply in love, sexual relations outside of marriage are forbidden.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 302)

 

David was not at fault for seeing Bathsheba bathing.  He could not have helped noticing her, because she was in plain view as he walked on the palace roof.  His sin was in dwelling on the sight and in willingly succumbing to the temptation.  He could have looked away and put the experience out of his mind.  The fact that he had her brought to his chambers and committed adultery with her expressed the immoral desire that already existed in his heart (see 2 Sm 11:1-4).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 303)

 

Usually the only thing lacking for overt action is the occasion.  When the heart is ready, the action will occur as occasion offers.  Just as the thief is the person who would steal if circumstances were right, so the adulterer is the one who would have wrongful sex if the circumstances were right.  Usually that means if he or she could be sure it would not be found out.  This is what Jesus calls “adultery in the heart.”  In it, the person is not caring for, but using, the other.  The condition is wrong even though sexual relations do not occur.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 161)

 

Two of the Ten Commandments relate to the sanctity of marriage.  Not only is the act of adultery forbidden but even the intent of it in coveting another man’s wife (Ex 20:14, 17).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 312)

 

The most reasonable definition suggested by recent brain studies indicates that sexual activity is any intimate contact between two individuals that involves arousal, stimulation, and/or a response by at least one of the two partners.  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 16)

 

One recent study of sexually active adolescents illustrates that sexual activity has more ramifications beyond the physical.  The study showed that both boys and girls who have had sex are three times more likely to be depressed than their friends who are still virgins.  The study accounted for other factors in the lives of the young people, ensuring an accurate comparison with their peers.  The girls who became sexually active were three times more likely to have attempted suicide as their virgin friends, while the sexually active boys were fully seven times more likely to have attempted suicide.  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 20)

 

The primary things that change in the brain structure, that mold it, are its synapses.  Synapses either are sustained or they are allowed to deteriorate based on behavior and experience.  It may seem incredible, but the things we see, do, and experience actually cause part of our brains to flourish, i.e., synapses that survive and strengthen; and part of our brain to weaken, i.e., synapses that disintegrate or die.  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 29)

 

The inability to bond after multiple sex encounters is almost like tape that loses its stickiness after being applied and removed multiple times.  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 42)

 

We’ve seen how the brain is composed of multiple neurons, all of which are connected by synapses.  These synapses can be created, grow, or deteriorate based on our thoughts and actions.  In this manner, each person actually changes the very structure of the brain with the choices he or she makes and the behavior he or she is involved in.  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 45)

 

The terminology of 5:28 is quite clear if we will but attend to it, and many translations do get it right.  The Greek preposition pros and the dative case are used here.  The wording refers to looking at a woman with the purpose of desiring her.  That is, we desire to desire.  We indulge and cultivate desiring because we enjoy fantasizing about sex with the one seen.  Desiring sex is the purpose for which we are looking.

Another NT passage very graphically speaks of those who have “eyes full of adultery” (2 Pt 2:14).  These are people who, when they see a sexually attractive person, do not see the person but see themselves sexually engaging him or her.  They see adultery occurring in their imagination.  Such a condition is one we can and should avoid.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 165)

 

Covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God.

The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God.  When contentment in God decreases, covetousness for gain increases.  That’s why Paul says in Col 3:5 (RSV) that covetousness is idolatry.  “Put to death what is earthly in you; fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  It’s idolatry because the contentment that the heart should be getting from God, it starts to get from something else.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 221)

 

In short, according to Paul, sex with a prostitute is wrong because every sex act is supposed to be a uniting act.  Paul insists it is radically dissonant to give your body to someone to whom you will not also commit your whole life.  C. S. Lewis likened sex without marriage to tasting food without swallowing and digesting.  The analogy is apt.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 258-9)

 

Our Lord said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mt 5:28).  Has it ever occurred to you that He made no such directive concerning a woman lusting after a man?  The reason is clear.  Men are quickly stimulated visually, and the most beautiful object in a man’s world is a woman.

Many women counselors urge wives to make the daily homecoming of their husbands the most significant time of the day.  By bathing, fixing their hair, and putting on fresh attire, they are prepared to give their husbands an enthusiastic welcome home each night.  A contented husband is one who is assured that the loveliest sight of the day greets him when he opens the door at night.

Some women resent making their husband’s homecoming the object of such attention.  Others greet prince charming in their work clothes and curlers in an attempt to impress him with the grievous nature of their daily chores with “his kids.”  The sight of a bedraggled wife may engender sympathy (though it’s doubtful), but it will rarely inspire love.  A women has more assets than she thinks, so she might as well take advantage of them.  “Clean up, paint up, fix up” is a good motto for every loving wife to remember just before the time of hubby’s arrival.  We have observed that the women who go that extra mile seem to avoid the problem of “How can I get my husband to be content to come home at night and spend the evening with the family?”  If he is provided with a good reason to come home, he usually will.  (Tim & Beverly LaHaye, What Lovemaking Means to a Woman, 55-6)

 

The intertwined relationship of sexuality and spirituality is emphasized throughout the Scriptures by the frequency with which God uses sexual images to admonish Israel. Rebukes for “going awhoring after other gods” occur almost twenty times in the First Testament, revealing the interconnection between making sexual intercourse an idol and giving our love promiscuously to any of a multiplicity of other gods.  (Marva J. Dawn, Sexual Character, 58)

 

God created us with sexual passion so that there would be language to describe what it means to cleave to him in love and what it means to turn away from him to others.  (John Piper, Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, 28)

 

“Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee, O Lord.” — St. Augustine

 

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any other created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus.  — Blaise Pascal

 

Clearly “one flesh” (1 Cor 6) means something different to Paul than mere sexual union, or Paul would be reciting a mere tautology:  “Don’t you know that when you have physical union with a prostitute you are having physical union with a prostitute?”  Obviously, Paul also understands becoming “one flesh” here to mean becoming one person.  One flesh refers to the personal union of a man and woman at all levels of their lives.  Paul, then, is decrying the monstrosity of physical oneness without all the other kinds of oneness that every sex act should mirror.”  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 258)

 

In reference to the sanctity of sex as the sanctity which guards the marriage institution and the proper exercise of the procreative function it is necessary to make the necessary distinctions.  The line of demarcation between virtue and vice is not a chasm but a razor’s edge.  Sex desire is not wrong and Jesus does not say so.  To cast any aspersion on sex desire is to impugn the integrity of the Creator and of his creation.  Furthermore, it is not wrong to desire to satisfy sex desire and impulse in the way God has ordained.  Indeed, sex desire is one of the considerations which induce men and women to marry.  The Scripture fully recognizes the propriety of that motive and commends marriage as the honorable and necessary outlet for sex impulse.  What is wrong is the earliest and most rudimentary desire to satisfy the impulse to the sex act outside the estate of matrimony.  It is not wrong to desire the sex act with the person who may be contemplated as spouse if and when the estate of matrimony will have been entered upon with him or her.  (John Murray, Principles of Conduct, 56)

 

Sexual intercourse is such a profound sharing of ourselves with our partner that it needs to be protected–within the covenant of a lifelong, faithful commitment.  When God’s design is followed, how freeing it is for all the persons involved!  (Marva J. Dawn, Sexual Character, 24)

 

Sex is glorious.  We would know that even if we didn’t have the Bible.  Sex leads us to words of adoration–it literally evokes shouts of joy and praise.  Through the Bible, we know why this is true.  John 17 tells us that from all eternity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been adoring and glorifying each other, living in high devotion to each other, pouring love and joy into one another’s hearts continually (cf. Jn 1:18; 17:5, 21, 24-25).  Sex between a man and a woman points to the love between the Father and the Son (1 Cor 11:3).  It is a reflection of the joyous self-giving and pleasure of love within the very life of the triune God.

Sex is glorious not only because it reflects the joy of the Trinity but also because it points to the eternal delight of soul that we will have in heaven, in our loving relationships with God and one another.  Rom 7:1ff tells us that the best marriages are pointers to the deep, infinitely fulfilling, and final union we will have with Christ in love.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 270-1)

 

II-  For the Christian, real faithfulness in marriage does all that is possible to reconcile and salvage the marriage relationship so that divorce is a rare exception.  (Mt 5:31-32; see also: Prv ch 2; Bk of Hosea; Mal 2:10-16; Mt 10:11-12; 19:3-12; Lk 16:18; 1 Cor 7:1-7, 32-35; Eph 5:21-33)

 

 

The word translated “unfaithfulness” implies a sexually immoral lifestyle, not a confessed and repented act of adultery.  Those who discover that their spouse has been unfaithful should first make every effort to forgive, reconcile, and restore their relationship.  We should always look for reasons to restore the marriage relationship rather than for excuses to leave it.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 98)

 

The school of Hillel defined some indecency in the widest possible way.  They said that it meant that a man could divorce his wife if she spoiled his dinner by putting too much salt in his food, if she went in public with her head uncovered, if she talked with men in the streets, if she was a brawling woman, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s parents in his presence, if she was troublesome or quarrelsome.  A certain Rabbi Akiba said that the phrase, if she found no favor in his sight, meant that a man might divorce his wife if he found a woman whom he considered to be more attractive than she.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 152)

 

If you get into a covenant relationship . . . you finally have a zone of security, a zone of safety a place where you can finally be yourself. You see in a consumer relationship you are always marketing, you are always selling yourself, you’ve got to perform, you’ve got to meet the other person’s need or they’re out.  But in a covenant, in a marriage . . . you can finally have a zone of safety, you can finally get rid of the facades, you can finally let him know, her know about your insecurities.  You can finally be yourself.   (Tim Keller message, “Love and Lust”)

 

To be preoccupied with the grounds for divorce is to be guilty of the very pharisaism which Jesus condemned.  His whole emphasis in debating with the rabbis was positive, namely on God’s original institution of marriage as an exclusive and permanent relationship, on God’s “yoking” of two people into a union which man must not break, and (one might add) on his call to his followers to love and forgive one another, and to be peacemakers in every situation of strife and discord.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 98)

 

Chrysostom justly linked this passage with the beatitudes and commented in his homily on it:  “For he that is meek, and a peacemaker, and poor in spirit, and merciful, how shall he cast out his wife?  He that is used to reconcile others, how shall he be at variance with her that is his own?”  From this divine ideal, purpose and call, divorce can be seen only as a tragic declension.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 98)

 

Sex is sacramental because it is suggestive, reminding us not only of the mutual commitment of this couple but of our link with our Creator.  Our passionate unions resonate with that covenant of affection and fidelity that God has made with humankind.  This ability of our sexual lives to hint at God’s presence among us makes sexuality mysterious and holy.

In its fierce privacy and its unavoidable socialness, sexual life symbolizes the life of faith.  The covenant between us and God, resonating in the deepest recesses of our heart, affects all our public behavior.  The Church has long cherished the image of marriage as a compelling metaphor of its own commitment and fidelity with God.  Sex is mysterious because it is sacramental:  it can remind us of God’s passionate affection for us.  For this reason, too, sex is very good.  (Evelyn & James Whitehead, A Sense of Sexuality, 31)

 

All misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of Christ.  And, in the second place, all misuses of our sexuality derive from not having the true knowledge of Christ.

Or to put it one more way: all sexual corruption serves to conceal the true knowledge of Christ, but the true knowledge of Christ serves to prevent sexual corruption.  (John Piper, Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, 26)

 

Let me put this succinctly:  We can learn to use the sex drive to groom our character.  Out of a need to be intimate with their wives, husbands may learn to show tenderness and empathy.  Wives may use physical intimacy to help capture their husbands’ interest emotionally.  Emotionally.  Idealistically, we would seek opportunities to grow because that’s what we’re called to do as Christians.  Realistically, it doesn’t hurt to have such a physical need pushing us in that same direction of growing in character.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 220)

 

In marriage a man and woman are so closely joined that they become “one flesh,” which involved spiritual as well as physical oneness.  In marriage God brings a husband and wife together in a unique physical and spiritual bond that reaches to the very depths of their souls.  As God designed it, marriage is to be the welding of two people together into one unit, the blending of two minds, two wills, two sets of emotions, two spirits.  It is a bond the Lord intends to be indissoluble as long as both partners are alive.  The Lord created sex and procreation to be the fullest expression of that oneness, and the intimacies of marriage are not to be shared with any other human being.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 311)

 

The ultimate grounds for divorce is human meanness.  If it weren’t for that, even adultery would not legitimate divorce.  No doubt what was foremost in his mind was the fact that the woman could quite well wind up dead, or brutally abused, if the man could not “dump” her.  It is still so today, of course.  Such is “our hardness of heart.”  Better, then, that a divorce occur than life be made unbearable.  Jesus does nothing to retract this principle.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 169-70)

 

Only four basic interpretations of the biblical data on divorce and remarriage are possible, and all four are found to be held in various Christian circles.  The strictest view is that divorce is not permissible under any circumstance or for any reason.  The opposite position contends that both divorce and remarriage are permissible for any reason or none.  The other two views lie between those extremes.  One is that divorce is permitted under certain circumstances but remarriage is never permitted.  The other is that both divorce and remarriage are permitted under certain circumstances.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 308)

 

The Fall distorted and perverted the marriage relationship.  Henceforth the wife’s “desire” for her husband would not longer be the desire to help but the desire to control–the same desire that sin had for Cain (see Gn 4:7, where the identical Hebrew construction is used).  For the man’s part, his “rule” over his wife henceforth would be one of stern control, in opposition to her desire to control him.  At the Fall the battle of the sexes began, and women’s liberation and male chauvinism have ever since been clouding and corrupting the divine plan for marriage.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 312)

 

In the time of Jesus divorce had grown easier and easier, so that a situation had arisen in which girls were actually unwilling to marry, because marriage was so insecure.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 152)

 

They greatly exaggerated the importance of the exception, that which made divorce possible.  About that they were always debating (cf. 19:3-9).  He, on the other hand, stresses the principle, namely, that husband and wife are and must remain one.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 305)

 

In a consumer relationship you relate to a vendor.  And you have a relationship as long as  the vendor is giving you a product at a good price.  But you are always looking to an upgrade.   And so you say to your vendor, “We have a relationship.  But, you better keep adjusting to me because if you don’t meet my needs, I’m out-a-here because my needs are more important than the relationship.” . . . But a covenant relationship is exactly the opposite. . . . A covenant relationship says, “I will adjust to you because I have made a promise.  And the relationship is more important than my needs.  My needs are less important than the sustenance of the relationship.”

Now if two people get into a relationship, one as a consumer and one as a covenanter; that will be bad for the covenanter; that covenant will be exploited.  (Tim Keller message, “Love and Lust”)

 

When you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow.  For example:  The other covenant relationship is the relationship between parents and children. . . . In parenting you get very little back, for a long time, and they never catch up.   You give and you give and you never get back. It is not a consumer relationship at all.  You adjust to them. . . . What is weird is you do it and you are so invested in your children so that even when they in no way act in a lovable way, you love them.  There is a deeper richer kind of feeling because you are invested in them.  And in the same way, if you treat your marriage . . . as a covenant relationship, if you are committed in spite of feelings, deeper feelings grow.   (Tim Keller message, “Love and Lust”)

 

The penalty for adultery in Jewish law was death (Lv 20:10).  Obviously, when this penalty was exacted, the marriage came to an abrupt end, and the living partner was free to marry again.

In Jesus’ time (when Palestine was under Roman occupation), this death penalty was not carried out.  The person who committed adultery lived.  But Jesus’ teaching seems to suggest the rightness of acting as if the penalty had been carried out.  In this case, the wronged partner would be free to marry again.  There was no contradiction of the OT law in this.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 91)

 

I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 97)

 

Divorce, if it were rightly done, would be done as an act of love.  It would be dictated by love and done for the honest good of the people involved.  Such divorce, though rare, remains nonetheless possible and may be necessary.  If it were truly done on this basis, it would be rightly done, in spite of the heartbreak and loss it is sure to involve.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 172)

 

III-  For the Christian, real faithfulness in communication does all that is necessary to tell the truth at all times and in all circumstances unless it is unwholesome and does not serve to build up others in love.  (Mt 5:33-37; see also: Ex 20:7; Lv 19:12; Nm 30:2; Dt 23:21-24; Ps 15:1-4; 51:6; 58:3-4; 119:163; Prv 6:16-18; 8:7; 12:19-22; Eccl 5:5; Isa 65:16; Jer 5:3; Mal 2:6; Mt 12:34-36; 23:16-22; Eph 4:25-32; Heb 6:13-19; Ja 1:19; 5:12)

 

Well, if it is true that the taking of oaths is approved throughout the Bible, why is it that the Lord Jesus commands us:  “Swear not at all”?  The answer is that in Jesus’ day the taking of oaths had been greatly abused, and it had come about that the practice was actually weakening the cause of the truth rather than contributing to it.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 131)

 

“Honesty means that everything you say must be true, not that everything that is true must be said.”   —Laura Schlessinger

 

People who are pious use language to convince others that they are more holy than they actually are. — Alistair Begg

 

Without being bound to the fulfillment of promises, we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each man’s lonely heart, caught in its contradictions and equivocalities—a darkness which only the light shed over the public realm through the presence of others, who confirm the identity between the one who promises and the one who fulfills, can dispel.  —Hannah Arendt

 

What Jesus is saying is this–the truly good man will never need to take an oath; the truth of his sayings and the reality of his promises need no such guarantee.  But the fact that oaths are still sometimes necessary is the proof that men are not good men and that this is not a good world.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 162)

 

These verses do not forbid oaths under formal occasions, as in a court of law, since the Bible contains examples of such oaths (see Rom 1:9; 2 Cor 1:23; Phil 1:8; 1 Thes 2:5, 10).  Even God takes oaths (Heb 6:17-19).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 92)

 

The Jews divided oaths into two classes, those which were absolutely binding and those which were not.  Any oath which contained the name of God was absolutely binding; any oath which succeeded in evading the name of God was held not to be binding.  The result was that if a man swore by the name of God in any form, he would rigidly keep that oath; but if he swore by heaven, or by earth, or by Jerusalem, or by his head, he felt quite free to break that oath.  The result was that evasion had been brought to a fine art.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 159)

 

The principle which Jesus lays down is quite clear.  In effect Jesus is saying that, so far from having to make God a partner in any transaction, no man can keep God out of any transaction.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 159)

 

We will regard all promises as sacred, if we remember that all promises are made in the presence of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 160)

 

As we go on throughout the Bible we find God swearing never to destroy the earth again by flood (Gn 9:9-11), to send a redeemer (Lk 1:68, 73), to raise his Son from the dead (Ps 16:10; Acts 2:27-31), to preserve and eventually bless Israel (Isa 49:15-18), and many other things.  Why does God do it?  The author of Hebrews tells us why.  “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things [that is, the word of God and the oath of God], in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb 6:17-19 RSV).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 131)

 

Many people make a good living doing nothing but uttering in attractive or coercive ways “yeses” that are not really yeses at all, and “noes” that are not noes.  In social or political contexts, we now called them “spin doctors.”

The inherent wrongness of such projects makes Jesus simply say, “Don’t do it.”  Swearing, or the “song and dance” in general, does not respect those upon whom it is directed.  As God’s free creatures, people are to be left to make their decisions without coercion or manipulation.  Hence, “let your affirmation be just an affirmation,” a yes, and your denial be just a denial, a no.  Anything more than this “comes from evil”—the evil intent to get one’s way by verbal manipulation of the thoughts and choices of others.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 175)

 

Are you the kind of person who

 

• can’t say no when a caller asks for a donation?

• takes on too much at church?

• worries over whether people like you?

• worries over whether God likes you?

If so, this verse is your first lesson in assertiveness training.  You need to learn how to say yes and mean it, and how to say no and stick to it, as a child of God.

Try this.  Next time someone asks you to do something you cannot accept, resist the urge to launch into a twenty-minute explanation of your schedule conflict, and just say, “I’m sorry, but no.”  Wow!  Does that feel good?

Pretty soon, you will start believing in your own yes and no as genuine reflections of your intentions.  You’ll be you again, and not someone else’s image of you.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 101)

 

Any oath in which the name of God was directly used was considered to be definitely binding; but any oath in which direct mention of the name of God was not made was held not to be binding.  The idea was that, once God’s name was definitely used, he became an active partner in the transaction, but he did not become a partner unless his name was so introduced.  The result of this was that it became a matter of skill and sharp practice to find an oath which was not binding.  This made a mockery of the whole practice of confirming anything by an oath.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 126)

 

Scripture records cases where God takes oaths for the sake of those who do not know he is reliable.  Similarly, Jesus spoke under oath at his trial (Mt 26:63-64).  Paul also took vows, calling God as his witness (Rom 1:9; 2 Cor 1:23; 1 Th 2:10).  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 187) 

 

The oft-repeated OT phrase “As I live” offers further evidence of God’s swearing by Himself (Nm 14:21, 28; Dt 32:40; Isa 49:18; Jer 22:24; 46:18; Ez 5:11; 14:16, 18, 20; 16:48; 17:16, 19; 18:3; 20:3, 31, 33; 33:11, 27; 34:8; 35:6, 11; Zeph 2:9; Rom 14:11).  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 269)

 

David swore oaths with Jonathan (1 Sm 20:12-17; 2 Sm 21:7), Saul (1 Sm 24:21-22), Shimei (2 Sm 19:23), and God (2 Sm 3:35).  The people of Israel under Joshua swore an oath (Josh 6:26), as did the people of Judah during King Asa’s reign (2 Chr 15:14), and the returned exiles (Ezra 10;5; Neh 10:28-30).  The apostle Paul took a vow to God (Acts 18:18), and took an oath of truthfulness by writing to the Corinthians:  “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying” (2 Cor 11:31; cf. 1:23; Rom 9:1).  Even an angel swore an oath (Rv 10:5-6).  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 267)

 

Philo says, “Frequent swearing is bound to beget perjury and impiety.”  The Jewish Rabbis said, “Accustom not thyself to vows, for sooner or later thou wilt swear false oaths.”  The Essenes forbade all oaths.  They held that if a man required an oath to make him tell the truth, he was already branded as untrustworthy.  The great Greeks held that the best guarantee of any statement was not an oath but the character of the man who made it; and that the ideal was to make ourselves such that no one would ever think of demanding an oath from us because he would be certain that we would always speak the truth.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 126-7)

 

James flatly prohibits the use of oaths because even the honest use of oaths testifies that something is amiss in the community.  If believers reliably told one another the truth, what need would there be of oaths to guarantee truth-telling?  If I must make towering oaths to buttress my speech, I admit paradoxically that my speech is unreliable without such support.  The greater the weight of a man’s oaths in the short run, the greater the doubt about his veracity in the long run.

Instead, we should tell the truth so consistently that oaths become superfluous, a waste of words.  The existence of oaths, as a convention of speech, proves we live in a deceitful age.  The family of God should be so truthful that we never need oaths or vows to verify our words.    (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 186-7)

 

To say “yes” and mean it, to say “no” and equally mean it, is a matter of integrity of character rather than a form of words.  In this way James returns (as with his reference to the heart in v. 8) to his favorite topic, that we should be people without internal division, free of the double-mind, whole-hearted with God and with man.  We practice a devotion to the truth with our lips because the truth dwells in us.  (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 185)

 

The basic issue at hand is total honesty in everyday conversation.  The member of the Christian community should not need to use an oath to prove the veracity of what he is saying.  That would “make some speech more honest than other speech.”  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 127)

 

I know of only two alternatives to hypocrisy:  perfection or honesty.  Since I have never met a person who loves the Lord our God with all her heart, mind, and soul, and loves her neighbor as herself, I do not view perfection as a realistic alternative.  Our only option, then, is honesty that leads to repentance.  As the Bible shows, Gods’ grace can cover any sin, including murder, infidelity, or betrayal.  Yet by definition grace must be received, and hypocrisy disguises our need to receive grace.  When the masks fall, hypocrisy is exposed as an elaborate ruse to avoid grace. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 204)

 

“Being conformed to the image of Christ has more to do with our honesty than our purity.”  (Steve Brown, Steve’s Letter, June 2000)

 

Being truthful when you know it will cost you is the true test of honesty.

 

Radical truthfulness is one of the greatest needs of the church today.  The church needs people who not only refrain from blatant lying, but represent themselves and others as they really are.  Paul says truthfulness is necessary for growth in the church: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Eph 4:15).  We are to be literally truthing in love–speaking and doing truth to each other.  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 250)

 

I discovered an astonishing truth:  God is attracted to weakness.  He can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him. (Jim Cymbala; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 19)

 

God has no separate categories of sacred and secular.  Everything that pertains to Him is sacred, and all truth is His truth, just as all creation is His creation.  Every lie is against God, and therefore every false oath dishonors His name.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 325)

 

 

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION:  What response should we make to Jesus’s statements?

A-  Allow Jesus’ teaching to destroy any sense of self-righteousness you might think you possess by looking at God’s standard of true righteousness.  (Isa 64:7; Mt 5:20; Rom 1:16-17; 3:9-24; Phil 3:5-10)

 

Jesus again sets forth the impossible standards of His kingdom righteousness.  All people are murderers and adulterers.  Many do not realize that they are because of the subtlety of sin and its blinding effect on the mind.  Jesus does not suggest that the scribes and Pharisees, or anyone else, could deliver themselves from the propensity to sin.  As always, the impossibility that He sets forth has a twofold purpose:  to make men and women despair of their own righteousness and to seek His.  The Lord’s remedy for a wicked heart is a new heart, and His answer for our helplessness is His sufficiency.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 305)

 

The reason why so few believers “through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body,” is, a forgetfulness that the work has to do first and mainly with the root of sin in the soul:  “Make the tree good, and the fruit will also be good”; purify the fountain, and the stream will be pure.  Oh, were there a deeper acquaintance with the hidden iniquity of our fallen nature,–a more thorough learning out of the truth,–that “in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing,”–a more heartfelt humiliation on account of it, and more frequent confession of it before God,–how much higher than they now are would be the attainments in holiness of many believers!  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 172)

 

What then is the answer to this student and this man living in adultery?  The answer has been given before in this book:  we are justified by grace alone through faith alone (Rom 3:28; 4:5; 5:1; Eph 2:8f); and all those who are thus justified will be glorified (Rom 8:30)–that is, no justified person will ever be lost.  Nevertheless those who give themselves up to impurity will be lost (Gal 5:21), and those who forsake the fight against lust will perish (Mt 5:30), and those who do not pursue holiness will not see the Lord (Heb 12:14), and those who surrender their lives to evil desires will succumb to the wrath of God (Col 3:6).

The reason these two groups of texts are not contradictory is that the faith that justifies is a faith that also sanctifies.  And the test of whether our faith is the kind of faith that justifies is whether it is the kind of faith that sanctifies.  Robert L. Dabney, the nineteenth century southern Presbyterian theologian, expressed it like this: “Is it by the instrumentality of faith we receive Christ as our justification, without the merit of any of our works?  Well.  But this same faith, if vital enough to embrace Christ, is also vital enough to ‘work by love,’ ‘to purify our hearts.’  This then is the virtue of the free gospel, as a ministry of sanctification, that the very faith which embraces the gift becomes an inevitable and a divinely powerful principle of obedience.  (Robert L. Dabney, “The Moral Effects of Free Justification,” in Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, 96)

 

B-  Stop using your imagination to sin.   Begin to occupy your mind with what needs to be done to become who God created you to be.  One in His image. (Gn 1:26; Ps 1; 19:7-14; Rom 8:29; 12:1-2; Phil 4:8-9; Heb 12:2)

 

There is one way in which these forbidden thoughts and desires cannot be dealt with–and that is to sit down and to say, I will not think of these things.  The more we say, I will not think of such and such a thing, the more our thoughts are in fact concentrated on it.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 148)

 

The first way is by Christian action.  The best way to defeat such thoughts is to do something, to fill life so full with Christian labor and Christian service that there is no time for these thoughts to enter in; to think so much of others that in the end we entirely forget ourselves; to rid ourselves of a diseased and morbid introspection by concentrating not on ourselves but on other people.  The real cure for evil thoughts is good action.

The second way is to fill the mind with good thoughts.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 149)

 

To those who submit gladly to the truth of God about themselves as sinners, and about Christ as the Savior, and about the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier, and about God the Father as Creator–to them sex and food are sanctified.  That is, they are pure.  They are not unclean idols competing for our affections, which belong supremely to God.  They are instead pure partners in the revelation of God’s glory.  They are beams of his goodness along which the pure in heart see God (Mt 5:8).  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 189)

 

Now, it is this acquaintance with God that brings us into the knowledge of his character as a holy, loving, and faithful God; and it is this knowledge of his character that begets love and confidence in the soul towards him.  The more we know of God, the more we love him; the more we try him, the more we confide in him.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 98)

 

If you dismember your body to the point where you could never murder or even look hatefully at another, never commit adultery or even look to lust, your heart could still be full of anger, contempt, and obsessive desire for what is wrong, no matter how thoroughly stifled or suppressed it may be.  “From within, out of the heart of men, the thoughts of evil proceed:  fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and iniquity, as well as deceit, lewdness, the envious glare, blasphemy, arrogance and foolishness–all of these evils come from inside and pollute the person” (Mk 7:21-23).  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 167-8)

 

Deeds of shame are preceded by fantasies of shame, and the inflaming of the imagination by the indiscipline of the eyes.  Our vivid imagination (one of many faculties which distinguish humans from animals) is a precious gift of God.  None of the world’s art and little of man’s noblest achievement would have been possible without it.  Imagination enriches the quality of life.  But all God’s gifts need to be used responsibly; they can readily be degraded and abused.  This is certainly true of our imagination.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 88)

 

Seriously propose this question to your own heart: “Have I got any good by means of the wrongs and injuries which I have received?  If they have done you no good, turn your revenge upon yourself.  You have reason to be filled with shame and sorrow that you should have a heart which can deduce no good from such trouble; that your temper should be so unlike that of Christ.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 84-5)

 

Anyone who promotes abstinence from marriage on the basis that all sexual expression is evil of “paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (see 1 Tm 4:1-3).  Speaking of the marriage relationship, Paul commands, “Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband…Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor 7:3, 5).  Sexual expression not only is a thrilling privilege but an obligation of marriage.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 301)

 

To be right sexually before God is to be precisely as Job was.  It is to be the kind of person who has a detailed and established practice of not engaging his or her bodily parts and perceptions, thoughts, and desires in activities of sexual trifling, dalliance, and titillation.  It is to be the kind of person whose feet, eyes, hands, heart, and all the rest simply walk within the good policy that he or she has adopted because of the knowledge that it is good and right.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 160)

 

C-  Recognize spiritual pot-holes and avoid them before you become a spiritual casualty.  (Mt 13:1-23; Eph 4:17-32; Col 3:5-6; 2 Tm 2:22)

 

Obviously getting rid of harmful influences will not change a corrupt heart into a pure heart.  Outward acts cannot produce inner benefits.  But just as the outward act of adultery reflects a heart that is already adulterous, the outward act of forsaking whatever is harmful reflects a heart that hungers and thirsts for righteousness.  That outward act is effective protection, because it comes from a heart that seeks to do God’s will instead of its own.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 305)

 

Jesus’ point is that we should be willing to give up whatever is necessary, even the most cherished things we possess, if doing that will help protect us from evil.  Nothing is so valuable as to be worth preserving at the expense of righteousness.  This strong message is obviously not to be interpreted in a wooden, literal way so that the Lord appears to be advocating mutilation.  Mutilation will not cleanse the heart.  The intent of these words is simply to call for dramatic severing of the sinful impulses in us which push us to evil action (cf. Mt 18:8-9).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 304)

 

If we do not consciously and purposefully control what is around us, where we go, what we do, what we watch and read, the company we keep, and the conversations we have, then those things will control us.  And what we cannot control we should discard without hesitation.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 305)

 

If there is a habit which can be seduction to evil, if there is an association which can be the cause of wrongdoing, if there is a pleasure which could turn out to be our ruin, then that thing must be surgically excised from our life.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 148)

 

What then does Jesus mean?  Just this: we are to deal drastically with sin.  We must not pamper it, flirt with it, enjoy nibbling a little of it around the edges.  We are to hate it, crush it, dig it out.  “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexually immorality, impurity, lost, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).  Paul adds, “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming” (Col 3:6)–just as Jesus in Mt 5:29f. threatens with hell all those who will not deal drastically with sin.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 47)

 

Sin, being a very destructive force, must not be pampered.  It must be “put to death” (Col 3:5).  Temptation should be flung aside immediately and decisively.  Dillydallying is deadly.  Halfway measures work havoc.  The surgery must be radical.  Right at this very moment and without any vacillation the obscene book should be burned, the scandalous picture destroyed, the soul-destroying film condemned, the sinister yet very intimate social tie broken, and the baneful habit discarded.  In the struggle against sin the believer must fight hard.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 303)

 

The improvement of our graces depends on the keeping of our hearts.  I never knew grace to thrive in a careless soul.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 32)

 

The careless heart is an easy prey to Satan in the hour of temptation; his principal batteries are raised against the heart; if he wins that, he wins all, for it commands the whole man:  and alas! how easy a conquest is a neglected heart!  It is not more difficult to surprise such a heart, than for an enemy to enter that city whose gates are opened and unguarded.  It is the watchful heart that discovers and suppresses the temptation before it comes to its strength.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 33)

 

Here Jesus makes a great and a surgical demand, he insists that anything which is a cause of, or a seduction to, sin should be completely cut out of life.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 148)

 

This may be an appropriate moment to refer in passing to the way girls dress.  It would be silly to legislate about fashions, but wise (I think) to ask them to make this distinction:  it is one thing to make yourself attractive; it is another to make yourself deliberately seductive.  You girls know the difference; so do we men.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 88)

 

Let me elaborate and so interpret Jesus’ teaching:  “If your eye causes you to sin because temptation comes to you through your eyes (objects you see), then pluck out your eyes and fling them away, and were now blind and so could not see the objects which previously caused you to sin.  Again, if your hand or foot causes you to sin, because temptation comes to you through your hands (things you do) or your feet (places you visit), then cut them off.  That is:  don’t do it!  Don’t go!  Behave as if you had actually cut off your hands and feet, and had flung them away, and were now crippled and so could not do the things or visit the places which previously caused you to sin.”  That is the means of “mortification.”  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 89)

 

There is no doubt whatever that an inadequate view of sin is the chief cause of a lack of holiness and sanctification, and indeed of most of the false teaching with respect to sanctification.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 215)

 

(Lk 14:26).  This means that it does not matter who or what it is that comes between us and Him, if it is harmful to the soul, it must be hated and put on one side.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 216)

 

Again, and yet again would we repeat it–there cannot possibly be any true, spiritual, and abiding revival of grace in a believer, while secret sin remains undiscovered and unmortified in the heart.  True and spiritual mortification of sin is not a surface-work: it consists not merely in pruning the dead tendrils that hang here and there upon the branch; it is not the lopping off of outward sins, and an external observance of spiritual duties; it includes essentially far more than this:  it is a laying the axe at the root of sin in the believer; it aims at nothing less than the complete subjection of the principle of sin; and until that is effectually done, there can be no true return of the heart to God.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 33-4)

 

Indeed, the attempt to solve the problem of right sexual behavior by a law or laws that govern specific behaviors is what Jesus is addressing in Mt 5:29-30:  “If your right eye makes you sin, gouge it out and fling it from you.  Better that one of your bodily parts rot than that your whole body rot in gehenna” (v. 29).  And likewise for your right hand (v. 30).

Jesus is saying that if you think that laws can eliminate being wrong you would, to be consistent, cut off your hand or gouge out your eye so that you could not possibly do the acts the law forbids.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 167)

 

D-  Confess your need for a Savior and call on Jesus, the embodiment of truth and the true and faithful husband, to make you a new creation who operates on the basis of love rather than self-interest.  (Bk of Hosea; Mt 12:34-36; Lk 19:10; Jn 1:14-18; 3:1-21; 7:15-18; 8:31-32; 14:6; 15:26-27; 16:13-16; Rom 12:1-2; 2 Cor 5:17; 1 Jn 1:8-9)

 

Our ambition should be to have a heart which never knows bitterness, envy, jealousy, hate or spite, but is ever full of love.  That is the standard; and again I think it is quite obvious that this is the point at which we often fail.  We have only a negative conception of holiness, and therefore we feel self-satisfied.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 218)

 

Words that are truly godly come only from a godly heart.  Such a heart is one that is possessed first of all by a deep love for Christ.  The heart of the man who really trusts the Lord will express itself in words that are true and edifying.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 133)

 

Oh for a heart to love God more; to hate sin more; to walk more evenly with God.  Lord! deny not to me such a heart, whatever thou deny me:  give me a heart to fear thee, to love and delight in thee, if I beg my bread in desolate places.  ‘It is observed of an eminent saint, that when he was confessing sin, he would never give over confessing until he had felt some brokenness of heart for that sin; and when praying for any spiritual mercy, would never give over that suit till he had obtained some relish of that mercy.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 20)

 

‘My son, give me thine heart,’ is God’s request.  God is pleased to call that a gift which is indeed a debt; he will put this honor upon the creature, to receive it from him in the way of a gift; but if this be not given him, he regards not whatever else you bring to him.  There is only so much of worth in what we do, as there is of heart in it.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 22)

 

He that performs duty without the heart, that is, heedlessly, is no more accepted with God than he that performs it with a double heart, that is, hypocritically.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 22)

 

Get your conscience sprinkled with the blood of Christ from all guilt, and that will set your heart above all fear.  It is guilt upon the conscience that softens and makes cowards of our spirits: ‘the righteous are bold as a lion.’  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 62)

 

Wouldst thou have thy heart rest nowhere but in the bosom of God?  What better method could Providence take to accomplish thy desire than pulling from under thy head that soft pillow of creature-delights on which you rested before?  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 45)

 

An acquaintance with your own heart will furnish you a fountain of matter in prayer.  The man who is diligent in heart-work will be richly supplied with matter in his addresses to God.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 114)

 

John Newton, a minister, once wrote a letter to a man who was very depressed.  Take note of what he said:

You say you feel overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of unworthiness?  Well, indeed you cannot be too aware of the evils inside of yourself, but you may be, indeed you are, improperly controlled and affected by them.  You say it is hard to understand how a holy God could accept such an awful person as yourself.  You then express not only a low opinion of yourself, which is right, but also too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer, which is wrong.  You complain about sin, but when I look at your complaints, they are so full of self-righteousness, unbelief, pride, and impatience that they are little better than the worst evils you complain of.  (John Newton, The Works of the Rev. John Newton, Vol. VI, 185)  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 90)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God who is always faithful even to us sinners who are unfaithful but repentant.  (Ex 34:6; Dt 7:9; 2 Sm 22:26; Neh 9:33; Ps 18:25; 33:4; 36:5; 86:15; 89:1-2; 100:5; 119:75; 145:13; 2 Tm 2:13; Heb 2:17)

 

The entire book of Hosea is a picture of God’s forgiving and patient love for Israel, dramatized by Hosea’s forgiving and patient love for his wife, Gomer.  Gomer prostituted herself, forsook Hosea, and was unfaithful to him in every possible way.  But the heart of the story is that Hosea was faithful and forgiving no matter what she did, just as God is faithful and forgiving no matter what His people do.  God looks on the union of husband and wife in the same way He looks on the union of Himself with believers.  And the way of God should be the way of His people–to love, forgive, draw back, and seek to restore the partner who is willing to be restored.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 314)

 

So evangelism must start with the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the demands of the law, the punishment meted out by the law and the eternal consequences of evil and wrongdoing.  It is only the man who is brought to see his guilt in this way who flies to Christ for deliverance and redemption.  Any belief in the Lord Jesus Christ which is not based on that is not a true belief in Him.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 207)

 

Gospel Application:  Faithful Jesus died for His unfaithful bride, so that we might become faithful. (Bk of Hosea; Eph 5:21-33; Rev 19:7-9; 21:2-10; 22:17)

 

“One should remain pure before marriage and faithful afterward.  But I have not done that, and it is too late for me now.”  The answer to this type of person is, “No, it is not too late.”  The glory of the way in which God deals with sinful men and women, which we all are, is that God is able to pick us up where we are and as we are and set us in his way, which is always a way of blessing.  God can do that with you no matter how far you have fallen.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 102)

 

“Christ is the faithful One.  We are the ones who slip into flirtation and then into adultery with the world.  We are loved by Christ Jesus, but we are drawn aside by our desires and seduced from our love of Christ.  Such a seduction is the worst of all transgressions since it is the sin against the love of Christ.  He is faithful to the end, loving us when we were unlovely, and taking us through all steps of our wandering to the place of redemption and final attachment to himself forever.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 128)

 

The heart of the pageant would lie in the fact that Hosea would be faithful to her even in the midst of her greatest unfaithfulness.  He would even provide the means for her to continue in her runaway life.  And when the lowest point in her folly should be reached she would find her husband there at the nadir of her misery and he would redeem her and bring her back into the joys of truth and righteousness.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 124)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Do all that you can to encourage righteousness and faithfulness in your life for the sake of your faithful lover.  (Bk of Hosea)

 

 

 

Quotes to Note:

Most people, when they wish to be converted or reformed, expect to fill their lives with especially difficult and unusual acts, far more than to purify their intentions, and to mortify their natural inclinations in the most usual acts of their condition.  In this they often badly deceive themselves.  It would be much more valuable for them to change their actions less, and to change more rather the disposition which makes them act.  When one is already leading an honest and regulated life, it is far more important, in order to become a true Christian, to change the within rather than the without.  (Fenelon, Christian Perfection, 8)

 

 

 

Christ:

The Faithful One

 

 

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