Matthew 5:27–32 the Problem With Sex. The Bed Defiled.

Key Notes: Passion. Adultery and divorce. Remarriage. Avoiding the trap. Setting the stage for success.

This part of the Sermon contains the second and third commands and amplifies the VII and Xth Commandments of Moses' law. It has to do with sex. There are many issues Jesus might have addressed, such as fornication, incest, rape, concubinage or homosexuality. But He does not speak of these. Lust and adultery are the key words.
His focus on this serious problem commands our attention. This is a very hard lesson and touches the nerve of most of us. It is tempting to try to soften the message.

5:27–28 "Jesus said 'You have heard that it was said You shall not commit adultery,’  but I say to you that everyone who looks a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. He is referring to the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20.
The VIIth Commandment is
            “Thou shall not commit adultery.”
The Xth  Commandment amplifies it:
            “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife….”

The word for lust or desire in Greek is “epithymia”  which comes from “thumos” meaning rage or passion and from “thyo” meaning to kill, especially in sacrifice. So epithymia is desire under pressure, emotion out of control, impulsive and irrational. However, we know that some do lust willfully and with enjoyment. There are also passions that are legitimate and to be encouraged.

Jesus once used the expression of Himself, in Lk.22:15 “With desire I have desired (Gr. "Epithymia, epethymesa") to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. “  We speak of The Passion but do not realize its dimensions or its intensity. His was an entirely different passion from ours and our illicit passion was the cause of His suffering.

The word for adultery is “moixeia” meaning sexual intercourse with a married woman or man. A more general sexual word is “porneia” which means fornication or illicit sexual action outside of marriage. It comes from a root meaning to sell, as a prostitute. We get our English word “pornography” from it, literally, the writings of a prostitute. Pornography is intended to incite lust and must be considered evil.

Jesus brings us to the gold standard again. He forbids us to think the adulterous thought. Lustful looking precedes and sets the stage for the act of adultery.

5:29 “If your right eye causes you sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. “

The word “causes you to sin” or “causes you to stumble” in Greek comes from the word “skandalon” (the origin of our English word “scandal”) meaning a spring trap. So your eye or your hand can act like a spring-trap and you may be caught before you realize it.

None of the other Commands includes the suggestion of self-mutilation. He does not suggest we cut out our tongue to avoid verbal abuse of a brother, although the threat of Hell is mentioned. Lest we doubt that Jesus meant that, He repeated it later (Matt.18: 7–9) when He also said “Woe to the world for temptations to sin.” (Matt.18:7). This sin is more serious, and the penalty more severe than the sins that follow it--swearing, retaliation and vengeance.

5:31 Jesus moves from fantasied adultery to real adultery and particularly in its legal form—divorce.
“Whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. “

The sin of adultery can be seen as exceptionally serious on several grounds.
*No other sin uniformly breaks a solemn oath, the marriage vow, made in the presence of God and witnessed by the Christian community. (The next lesson is about vows.)
*No other sin involves physical union with another person.
*No other sin, Paul tells us, is against the body. ICor.6:18
*No other sin attacks the basic unit of society, the family, as this sin does.

Jesus allows only one ground for divorce—previous adultery. He reminds us that a divorced person is very likely to commit adultery. "Divorce causes adultery"--quoting a Christian man divorced for 20 years. Sexual experience, once set in motion, is hard to stop cold. A divorced person is likely to fall in bed several times before marrying again, and even that marriage is considered adultery.

Jesus offers us only one ground for divorce—adultery. Aren’t there others? There are grounds for separation.
*Incest (a special and particularly destructive form of adultery) demands separation from the guilty party.
*Physical abuse with threat to life demands separation from the guilty party.
*Many Bible students believe Paul adds a second, from contact with the Gentile Church—desertion of the new believer by the pagan partner.

So separation from the marriage partner may be necessary. The real question is permission to remarry. The basic Scriptural position is that we get only one sexual partner in our lifetime. That made the disciples ask whether anyone could or should marry. (Matt.19:10)
But modern divorce (perhaps 50% of Christian couples) is being granted for almost any reason: “incompatibility”, “we fell out of love”, “we weren’t getting along”, “he wanted children”,  “she didn’t like sex”, “she’s too fat”, “he was never home” . “he was a clutz, too mechanical”. What would Jesus say to this adulterous generation?


Looking ,and looking with lust are not the same. When does one move to the other? In a very short time (seconds) one can move from admiration to the desire for possession. And the desire for possession leads the body to respond, almost at once. The trap is sprung. Jesus says that is sin.

We all know where the line between admiration and lust is, from our own experience. Rather than see how close to the line we may safely come, it is better to look away. Move off. Run. There is Hell to pay. Run before the skin flushes and the heart rate goes up.

But can’t we admire beauty? People adore the beautiful. It is amazing to see the hold that Princess Diana had on the British people. They saw beauty and grace and they worshiped her like a goddess—old and young, male and female. Her adulteries were ignored. We equate human beauty with goodness. Beauty must not blind us to Truth. Truly beautiful people are often outwardly homely.

Why does Jesus pick on the men for lusting ? Don’t women have this problem too? Certainly, but men are the more frequently tempted and more prone to violence. But women are surprisingly compliant, else why is there a demand for hundreds of thousands of abortions every year.?

We oglers have plenty to say about those who walk by.
            “I’m married but I’m not blind.”
            “He’s a hunk.”
            “That’s eye candy.”
            “Awesome ”

The sexual urge is given to us by God, to "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth". (Gen.1:28, KJV). In the covenant of marriage it is a wonderful thing. It gives beauty and joy to our lives. It is a creative outlet that is often sublimated into art, music, and special care for children and the elderly. Watch a grandmother with a new-born grand-child. For singles, sublimation to a career,  spiritual ministry, or a great cause, can fill the void.

 “To the pure all things are pure but to the corrupt and unbelieving, nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.” Tit.1:15

We know our minds and consciences are corrupted. We cannot live in our society and not be contaminated by it. Sex is pushed hard upon us by the media and various idolatrous advocacy groups. Pornography is endemic among Christians, a silent plague. (Notes on Eph.6)

By the Sermon on the Mount, we are all doomed. We are all adulterers, in our hearts if not in our bodies. Mercifully there is great power available to save us.
*Christ died for our sins. We are forgiven.
*We "flee youthful lusts that war against the soul." IITim.2:22
*We must die to our old life. “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” Rom.8:13
*The Holy Spirit makes it possible to do what the Law could not do. Rom.8:3

Christians know about mortifying the flesh—not just eye and hand, but the whole body.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness which is idolatry.” Col.3:5 {Note the list emphasizes sexual sin.}
 “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal.2:20


All for Jesus, all for Jesus. All my being’s ransomed powers,
All my thoughts and words and doings,  All my days and all my hours.
All for Jesus. All for Jesus, all my days and all my hours. (repeat)

Let my hands perform His bidding. Let my feet run in His ways.
Let my eyes see Jesus only. Let my lips speak forth His praise.
All for Jesus all for Jesus. Let my lips speak forth His praise. (Repeat)

Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus,  I’ve lost sight of all beside,
So enchained my spirit’s vision, looking at the Crucified.
All for Jesus all for Jesus, looking at the Crucified. (Repeat)

Oh, what wonder, how amazing. Jesus, glorious King of Kings
Deigns to call me His beloved, lets me rest beneath His wings.
All for Jesus, all for Jesus, resting now beneath His wings. (Repeat)

--Text: Mary D. James. Music: unknown