(Matthew 5:27-30)


Dr. John Hoole – June 5 & 12, 2016



Before we  look at our text for this lesson, let me make a few observation concerning the context of Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount.  In the Sermon on the Mount, a fairly significant factor is the way Jesus interprets the Law, as opposed to the interpretation of the scribes and Pharisees.  In many ways, the Sermon on the Mount is a face-off between Jesus and Judaism, as it was taught and practiced by the religious leaders of His day.


You see the confrontation in a number of places, such as in Matthew 5:20, where Jesus said:  “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”  These are pretty strong words, especially for the scribes and Pharisees, who thought they lived exemplary examples of righteousness.


At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, you may remember that the people came away saying, “Wow!”  They were amazed and said, “This man teaches with authority and not like the scribes.”


Beginning with verse 21, we are introduced to six illustrations Jesus uses to help us understand how our righteousness can exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.  They deal with the specific subjects of murder, sexual sin, divorce, speaking the truth, retaliation, and loving others.  He makes their application very practical by bringing them down to where we actually live.  So today we come to illustration #2.


Matthew 5:27-28  (NKJV)


27      "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'

28      "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.


When Jesus said our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, he was saying that He didn’t want our righteousness just to be a matter of external show.  When speaking to His disciples, He said of the Pharisees, “All their works they do to be seen by men.” (Matthew 23:5)


Jesus warns us in Matthew 6 not to “DO righteousness” – whether it be giving, fasting, or praying –  in order to be seen of men.  He says, “Live your life before the eye of God, not the eyes of men.  Your Father sees in secret, and that is sufficient.  If you live for the praise of men, you have already received your reward.”


From the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus focuses on the internal, -- on what men and women are like in their minds and hearts.


Christ is reemphasizing the divine standards for living in His kingdom that He began to establish in the Beatitudes.  Spiritual characteristics found in the Beatitudes, such as spiritual poverty, mourning over sin, hungering & thirsting after righteousness, meekness, purity in heart (integrity), all reflect an inner righteousness.  Even “showing mercy” and being a “peacemaker,” although outwardly displayed require a correct state of one’s heart.


So, when we come to verse 21 through the end of chapter 5, Christ gives us six illustration of what he had said up to this point, namely, that true righteousness is a matter of the heart, and to teach us about the nature of the righteousness that surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees.


He says it is not just the outward act of homicide that is wrong but hatred and anger in one’s heart is equally murderous.  And it’s not just the physical act of adultery which is sinful, but he that looks and lusts (desires) after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart.  This is the pattern Christ uses through these illustrations.


Contrary to the external, superficial, and hypocritical righteousness that typified the scribes and Pharisees, the righteousness God requires of his followers is first of all internal.  If it does not exist in the heart, it does not exist at all.


In our lesson on Matthew 5:21-26, we addressed what Jesus taught in His first illustration.  He takes the 6th of the Ten Commandments and corrects their understanding of it by showing that the full intent of the commandment includes the subject of anger.


Today we study the second illustration.  In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus continues to unmask the self-righteous externalism typified by the scribes and Pharisees by showing that the only righteousness acceptable to God is purity of heart.  His  second illustration of heart righteousness has to do with adultery specifically, and sexual sin in general.  In these four verses He focuses on the act of adultery, the desire behind it, and the deliverance from it.


Just as in His first illustration, this one begins with a reference to one of the Ten Commandments.  The second illustration points to the 7th of the ten commandments, and is found in Exodus 20:14.  Not all of the 6 illustrations are related to one of the Ten Commandments.  The power of anger and the power of sex are two of the most dynamic forces operative, not only in our society, but in all of human experience.  Followers of Christ must not only know how to cope with anger; they must also know how to handle and control sex.  Their example of how they deal with these two forces greatly influences the effectiveness of their Christian witness in the world.


The sixth commandment protects the sanctity of life and the seventh the sanctity of marriage.  And anyone who gives anger and sexual lust reign in their life, will soon find that he is more controlled than in control.




As a general rule, adultery is the voluntary sexual relations between a married person and another person who is not their lawful spouse.




                   •  Whoredom                                     (Hosea 4:11)

                   •  Fornication                                     (Matthew 19:9)

                   •  Lie with neighbors wife                    (Leviticus 18:20

                   •  Lasciviousness                                (Galatians 5:19) [unchaste, lewd]

                   •  Wantonness                                    (Romans 13:13) [lustful]

                   •  Uncleanness                                   (Romans 1:24)

                   •  Homosexuality                               (Romans 1:27)     [men with men]

                   •  Harlot                                            (Matthew 21:32)

                   •  Lewd                                             (Jeremiah 11:15)

                   •  Rape                                              (Deuteronomy 22:25)




         In a limited, more restricted sense, it denotes voluntary sexual relations between an unmarried person and one of the opposite sex.       In a wider sense, the Bible also uses the word “fornication” to refer to all sexual immorality.


These two words – adultery and fornication – are related, in that they both address sexual activity, but their use in the Scripture shows they are two different things.  We know this from the fact that both are, at times, mentioned in the same Passage.


1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NKJV


9       Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,

10     nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

11     And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.


See how 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 reads in the Complete Jewish Bible.


9       Don’t you know that unrighteous people will have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don’t delude yourselves — people who engage in sex before marriage, who worship idols, who engage in sex after marriage with someone other than their spouse, who engage in active or passive homosexuality,

10     who steal, who are greedy, who get drunk, who assail people with contemptuous language, who rob — none of them will share in the Kingdom of God.

11     Some of you used to do these things. But you have cleansed yourselves, you have been set apart for God, you have come to be counted righteous through the power of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah and the Spirit of our God.


I’m sure glad Paul didn’t stop with verse 10.  Few if any of us would inherit the kingdom of God.


In both the Old and New Testaments, there is only one Hebrew and one Greek root word for each -- adultery & fornication.


         In the Greek:            Moicheuo   moixeu/w  (moy-khyoo'-o); Strongs 3431 from 3432 (Moichos)


                                        Porneia         pornei/a      {por-ni’-ah}΄ Strongs 4202 from 4205 (Pornos)

                                        (from which we get pornography)


I think we are living in a time that is perhaps the most erotic in American history.  People, young and old, are bombarded with sexual stimulation such as we have never seen.  The media and all kinds of visual and graphic images, provide a constant undermining of the biblical ethic.


Some people would say this unabashed openness about sex today is good because Christianity has suppressed and denied sex for too long.  I beg to differ.  God has no hesitation in talking about sex.


The words “commit adultery” (e.g., the verb) is used 17 times in the Bible.  The word “adultery” appears 40 times;  “Adulteries”, 5 times;  “Adulterer and adulteresses” another 15 times.


The word, fornication(s), is found in the Bible 16 times (all but one in New Testament).  Fornicator(s) occurs 5 times (All in the New Testament).


What we have here is an enormous amount of information in the Bible about adultery.  It is the most frequently mentioned sin in the Bible.  No, God does not run from or suppress talking about sex.  He does not blush when He deals with it.  His Word puts it on the line when it comes to telling the truth about sex.  And that’s what we want to do in our lesson.


It seems to me that we ought to go back to the Creator of sex to get our correct information.  Let’s allow God to teach us.  Let’s let the Maker of sex do the sex talking, since He is not ashamed to talk about it.  We are letting the wrong folks do the teaching.


In case you don’t know, let me state right up front that sex is a wonderful and beautiful gift of God.  It was designed by Him for human fulfillment.  God invented the ecstasy and the pleasure found in sex.  The whole emotion involved in it is His plan.


And this is the reason He made the rules.  It is His intent that all He had in mind for the fulfillment of mankind’s sexual capability, would not be hampered or contaminated by anything that would poison, pollute, or distort it.


Satan has taken this God-ordained activity and has done with it what he does best.  He has counterfeited it and sold his cheap imitation as the real thing.  So men lose their virginity trying to validate their manhood.  And women sacrifice their purity seeking for someone to love and accept them.  To say that God puts a very high value on sexual purity is to really understate the case.  Otherwise He would not have made it one of the “Big Ten.”


The Mosaic law portrays adultery as one of the most despicable and heinous of sins.  It was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10;  Deuteronomy 22:22-24).  Yes, this was a very serious offense in the Old Testament Mosaic Law.


Proverbs 6:32 NIV


32     A man who commits adultery lacks judgment; Whoever does so destroys himself.


When the scribes and Pharisees told Jesus that Moses commanded them to stone the woman caught in the act of adultery, they were correct (John 8:4-5).  Had not Jesus forgiven her of her sin she would have deserved stoning.


Throughout the New Testament, prohibitions against sexual immorality are every bit as clear as those of the Old Testament.


Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV


19     Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,

20     idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,

21     envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.


Hebrews 13:4 NKJV


4       Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.


Regardless of how much a couple may care for each other and be deeply in love, sexual relations outside of marriage are forbidden.  God says marriage is the only “safe sex” program He has.  But you know mankind,  We always have a better idea, so we think.  And adultery has become an every-widening curse upon mankind.  God’s only legitimate vehicle for sexual expression is marriage.


Let’s look at what Jesus says about this subject, beginning in verse 28.


Matthew 5:28   (NAS)


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.


“I”      The Greek word translated “I” is EGO, from which we get our English word “ego.”  Here it is used emphatically, indicating that Jesus is putting His own words above that of the oral traditions of the religious leaders.


"LOOKS"   -- from blepo               


Jesus uses the word, blepo, five times in the Sermon on the Mount (5:28, 6:4, 6, 18; 7:3).  This is a present participle and refers to the continuous process of looking.  In its usage, the idea is not that of an incidental or involuntary glance but of intentional and repeated gazing.


Blepo is in the present tense which pictures one continually looking.  The idea is that what may have begun as a glance, becomes a gaze.  This look characterizes the man whose glance is not checked by holy restraint.  Men, don’t go there!


"TO LUST FOR"  -- from epithumee’sai  {ep-ee-thoo-meh-ee’-sigh}


Comes from EPI: upon, intensively, + thumos: passion.  Epithumia literally means to fix a great desire upon.  The object could be good, as with Jesus in Matthew 13:17, Luke 22:15, or bad, as in 1 Corinthians 10:6.  It means to have a strong desire to do or secure something.  And the prefix EPI can express motion toward or upon.  This wording indicates the intentional looking with the purpose of lusting.  He is speaking of the man who looks so that he may satisfy his evil desire.




Jesus said that when a man looks lustfully on a women, he has already committed the adultery in his heart.  The desire of the heart comes first.


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.  The heart is the soil where the seeds of sin are imbedded and begin to grow.


I think we can take this a little further without doing despite to what Jesus says here.  Because the lustful looking on a woman is the result of the adultery already committed in the heart, then Jesus also includes the person who goes to an X-rated movie because they go to satisfy what they already desired in their heart.


He is also talking about the person who selects a television program or rents a video because they know and desire the sexual content that is in it.  He is speaking of the person who goes to a beach known for its scanty swimsuits or does any such thing with the expectation and desire of being sexually titillated.


Jesus is not speaking of unexpected and unavoidable exposure to sexual temptation.  When a man happens to see a woman provocatively dressed, Satan will surely try to tempt that man with lustful thoughts.  But there is no sin if the temptation is resisted and the gaze is turned elsewhere.  It is the continuing to look in order to satisfy lustful desires that Jesus condemns.


Let’s look at a Biblical example of this.  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 (2 Samuel 11:1-4).


A popular Ralph Waldo Emerson proverb goes,


         “Sow a thought and reap an act.  Sow an act and reap a habit.  Sow a habit and reap a character.  Sow a character and reap a destiny.”


That process perfectly illustrates Jesus’ main thrust in this passage.  No matter where it ends, sin always begins when an evil thought is sown in the mind and heart.


Although Jesus here uses a man as the example, His condemnation of lustful thoughts as well as actions applies equally to women.  Women are equally susceptible to lustful looking.


As we have noted in the words of Jesus, the adulterous heart panders to itself in advance of any action.  In like manner the godly heart protects itself in advance………by praying with the Psalmist, “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Thy ways.  Establish Thy word to Thy servant, as that which produces reverence for Thee.” (Psalm 119:37-38)


Paul exhorted Timothy to “flee from youthful lusts” and to cultivate a “pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)


None of us are free from the potential for lustful desires.