January 24, 2010

Sermon on the Mount, #9

Matt 5:27-30

Our next section starts with the next Ye have heard..

This ye have heard goes with the second beatitude, mourning over sin, v. 4. Mourning over sin leads to total dedication to purity.

Let me mention three points before we develop the passage.

1) in v. 21, the Lord added and whosoever shall kill... to the commandment. Here in v. 27, he added nothing: Thou shalt not commit adultery. The Lord quoted the eighth commandment, but look at how He did it:

The Lord Jesus restored the seventh commandment, Thou shalt not kill to its original intent. How he will restore the eighth commandment to its original intent.

He said, Ye have heard... Thou shalt not commit adultery. He did not say "The law says, Thou shalt not commit adultery." So why did He say the 8th commandment in this way?

Remember that Hebrews, or genuine Jews were Oriental, not Anglo. Today's Jew is simply an Anglo who practices the Jewish religion. BTW, Christ was not a blue eyed Anglo as he is depicted today. He was a "yellow" skinned Oriental. Even today, middle eastern Orientals are known for their multiple wives and concubines, harems. Of course, we do not hear much about such things, but it is still common.

What did these Oriental, Jewish doctors of law consider adultery in Christ's day?

Among the Hebrews, as in other Oriental nations, adultery was the act whereby any married man was exposed to the risk of having a spurious [out of wedlock] offspring imposed upon him. An adulterer was, therefore, any man who had illicit intercourse with a married or betrothed woman; and an adulteress was a betrothed or married woman who had intercourse with any other man than her husband. An intercourse between a married man and an unmarried woman was simply fornication — a great sin, but not, like adultery, involving the contingency of polluting a descent, of turning aside an inheritance, or of imposing upon a man a charge which did not belong to him. Adultery was thus considered a great social wrong, against which society protected itself by much severer penalties than attended an unchaste act not involving the same contingencies.

Adultery, thus, was restricted to simply a risk of having a child out of wedlock with a married woman, which polluted the other man's linage.

This Oriental limitation of adultery is intimately connected with the existence of polygamy. If a Jew associated with a woman who was not his wife, his concubine, or his slave, he was guilty of unchastity, but committed no offense which gave a wife reason to complain that her legal rights had been infringed. If, however, the woman with whom he associated was the wife of another, he was guilty of adultery — not by infringing his own marriage covenant, but by causing a breach of that which existed between this woman and her husband.

A man had "legal" liberty with his wife, his concubine, or his slave. Liberty with other unmarried women was simply considered "unchastity," and gave no legal reason for his wife to complain over her legal rights. Only if he took liberty with another married woman was he guilty of adultery. The "sin" was not against his own marriage covenant, but his sin was the breach of the woman's marriage covenant.

It seems that the Roman law made the same important distinction with the Hebrew between the infidelity of the husband and of the wife, by defining adultery to be the violation of another man's bed (violatio tori alieni); so that the infidelity of the husband could not constitute the offense. The more ancient laws of Rome, which were very severe against the offense of the wife, were silent as to that of the husband.
(Adultery, McClintock & Strong's Cyclopedia.)

Roman and Jewish laws concerning adultery were basically the same.

Christ preached in society that was as bad or even worse than ours today. The religious leaders had corrupted even the commandments to permit all kinds of wickedness. They defined adultery in such broad terms that the good, pious Jews had almost unlimited liberty with about any woman and still be within their corrupt understanding of the eighth commandment.

Here we see that Lord reads far more into human language than we do. The Pharisees took the commandment literally to mean that in order to commit adultery, one had to lay with another's spouse. The Lord said that to even look on a member of the opposite sex with lust is adultery.

So what is our point?

As we have pointed out several times, because man is basically a sinner, he desires to reduce God's word to its least possible meaning. But we see here that Scriptures must be interpreted far broader than their literal meaning.

Psalms 119:96, I have seen an end of all perfection: [but] thy commandment [is] exceeding broad.

A lot of folks have come up with some strange doctrine, particularly in the area of prophecy, because they failed to broaden the understanding of a passage. When folks refuse to broaden the interpretation of a passage to include a spiritual understanding, they are no better than these false religious leaders here who understood adultery only in a literal sense. The Lord broadened the definition of adultery to include thoughts and lustful looks.

2) Vv. 29, 30. The Lord threatens His hearers with hell. Hell here refers to the place of the future punishment call "Gehenna" or "Gehenna of fire". It was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned. It was a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.

Christ tells his hearers that if they do not get their hearts, minds and emotions under control, they are in danger of eternal damnation. He preaches hell hot even here in His sermon on the mount.

There are times when even the redeemed must be threatened with the law and its judgment. The fiery wrath of God's judgment in Hebrews 10:26-30 is written to believers.

Hebrews 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire.

When the fiery judgment of God is absent from the preaching of His word, not only society but Christians lose the fear of God.

3) a third point here in this Ye have heard is that it is primarily directed to the men, though it does not exclude women, vv. 28, 31. The law-word of God is typically addressed to men. Certainly, He did not say that it was OK for a woman to look on others with lust, or that it was OK for a woman to put away her husband.

The Old Testament law concerning adultery and fornication clearly lays the blame for such things upon the man, which is an interesting study in itself.

I have been astounded in my short lifetime at how many women today seem to be controlled by the lust that is so common with men over the years. The ungodly entertainment industry has led the way with their portrayal of lustful women.

Throughout Scripture, including here, God holds men responsible to preserve a godly family and society. When men fail to take their godly responsibility in the family, church and in society, the Lord raises up women to do it. It is the husband's responsibility to see that his family is taught right and serves the Lord.

The husband is the first line of defense against false teaching of his family, so he must know the word of God.

Women in places of leadership in the family, in the church, in the work place and in society in general are a sign of God's judgement against that society for the men failing in their godly responsibility.

(I have met many women who work outside the home because they cannot feel secure under their husbands.)

God's plan of holding the men responsible certainly does not relieve the wives of their responsibility. The wife does not leave her brains behind at the marriage altar, and many marriages and families have been salvaged from the trash heap by godly women.

Because the law speaks to the man as the head of the family and as the head of society, the family and all society is under the same law. By the Lord speaking to the man, all who are under his authority are included in the command given to him. And man has been given dominion over all creation.

The enemy of all righteousness is well award of the importance of godly men as the foundation of any godly society, so he uses everything possible to get men to compromise their God-ordained position.

The degeneration of the family and hence of society is clearly laid at the feet of the men of the society.

Now, let us look at vv. 27-30

These first two Ye have heards given by our Saviour takes law right to the heart of the matter. Christ assured the Jews that their actions according to the accepted teachings of the day were not acceptable by God, and man would be judged by God's standards, not the standards established by the religious leaders of his day. Three of the ten commandments deal directly with the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Observe:

Again, the Lord presented nothing new:

1) The eye and the heart are connected in the word of God.

Job 31:1 (I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?)

2 Peter 2:14 (Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:)

Mark 7:21, 22, (For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

2) right eye.. right hand...

Those who demand only a literal understanding of Scripture, especially prophetic scripture, must literally remove their right eye and their right hand if they expect to avoid eternal damnation.

The word of God is accustomed to describing affections with a part of the body. So the point we want to make here is that the Lord does not simply say eye or hand as He would if this passage were taken latterly.

Rather, He says, right eye and right hand. Christ sits at the right hand of the Father, representing that He now sits in the place of all power and authority.

Christ's words here denote the strength of a person, and by the Lord using this portion of our bodies to describe lust, He said that no matter how strong the desire might be, we are not to yield our eyes or our hands to the desire.

3) Right eye.. Right hand.. notice the order. The eye speaks of seeing; the hand speaks of action. Remember David—he saw, and then he acted.

4) offend.. The word used today to mean something like is given in v. 23, to displease or to make someone angry. But this is not the use of this word in Scripture. offence refers to anything by which one falls into sin – like stumbling over a stone or the trigger of a trap: the stone or trigger would be called instrument of offence. (The marg reads "do cause thee to offend." Cause thee to stumble.)

There was an article in the New York Times today, 1/24/10, "Foot on Bomb, Marine Defies a Taliban Trap."

On a Marine foot patrol here through the predawn chill of Friday morning, he stepped on a pressure-plate rigged to roughly 25 pounds of explosives. The device, enough to destroy a pickup truck or tear apart several men, was buried beneath him in the dusty soil.

It did not explode.

Lance Corporal Mathison's weight triggered the detonation of one of the booby trap's two blasting caps. But upon giving an audible pop and tossing small stones into the air, the device failed to ignite its fuller charge — a powerful mix of Eastern Bloc mortar rounds and homemade explosives spiked with motorcycle parts, rusty spark plugs and jagged chunks of steel...

The offence of vv. 29, 30 is like the trigger on that trap the Marine stepped on that did not go off. However, the trigger on the trap of our emotions of v. 29 will set off the destructive explosive

Thus, when the eye is used to look upon someone to increase lust, it is an offence; it is a dangerous trigger of a trap that causes one to stumble.

5) Pluck it out..

Obviously, the Lord is not telling us to actually pull out an eye because pulling out an eye or cutting off a hand would not solve the problem. The problem is the heart and emotions are out of control.

What He is saying is that no matter how dear to us the object is which is causing us to sin, it is to be abandoned.

One of the major goals of our Christian life must be to conquer anything of our nature which would drag us back to sin. Sacrifice and self-denial must prevail no matter how strong those things are that draw us toward evil. Particularly here, the Lord is condemning evil and uncontrolled imaginations

2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

V. 29, It is far better to deny one's self the gratification of an evil desire here in this life, no matter how much it might cost, than to allow it to control us. No matter how strong our evil passions might be, we are not to allow them to control us.

There is probably no sadder situation to see than when people get saved and they love the Lord in a marvelous way: their lives changes in obvious ways for the glory of God. But then in a few months or years, they start returning to the same old habits. Pride and rebellion returns to their hearts, and they do not protest against those evil things returning. Then they fall back. They did not pluck it out; they did not lay aside those things which caused them to fall back into many of their old ways.

6) The Lord implies that hell will include uncontrolled and unfulfilled passions. I think we can see examples of uncontrolled and unfilled passions in those who are slaves to drugs of all kinds, including nicotine and alcohol.

7) V. 30. The Lord says the same thing here about the right hand as He said about the right eye. In doing so, He emphasizes the absolute necessity of self-government, starting with the government of the mind. There is no sacrifice to great in order to bring the inner self under control to the word of God, including unplugging the TV or removing the cable if necessary.

8) The command also means that the Lord has provided the means through His work on the cross to overcome these passions upon our mind which lead us into sin. In other words, the Lord would not have required anything which He would not equip His people to do.

Both of these first two Ye have heards, anger & lust, deal with the mind. Therefore, the Lord double enforced that the mind must be controlled at all times.

The next two verses deal with divorce. I want to take some time with the divorce issue, so I will put it off till next time.