Allen Rea, pastor
Dunn Memorial Baptist Church, Baxley
This section of the satisfying Sermon on the Mount hinges around two Old Testament quotations. Jesus first quotes from Exodus 20:14 and then from Deuteronomy 5:18. Jesus deals with purity of relationships in this passage. Specifically, He speaks about adultery and divorce. Therefore, think of this passage as the “A.D.” segment of the sermon.
The first part of this section is in verses 27-30. Jesus, as He will continue to do until the end of the chapter, begins by quoting the Old Testament. He quotes directly from the Ten Commandments. The command is simple: do not commit the act of adultery. Jesus leads us up to higher ground and declares that even a look of lust is the act of adultery in the heart.
Friend, please notice the place of adultery. Perhaps we are driving down a road and see a shabby hotel and think that such is the place of adultery. Friend, the place of adultery is not the hotel but in the heart. The heart is a sick thing (Jeremiah 17:9). Following your heart is bad advice (Genesis 6:5). Jesus’ claim to holiness must not simply stop us from the act, but from the very thought itself.
Friend, if adultery begins in the heart then you had better be careful where you take your heart. It pains me to hear preachers use illustrations from modern movies. Preacher, get in the Word or get out of the pulpit. Christians have no business watching the filth that Hollywood produces, much less preachers!
Holy hearts don’t belong at the theatre. The “look of lust” is what Hollywood cashes in on. Our eyes are not even safe at the checkout line in the grocery store. One look can produce one thousand sins!
This thought brings us to our second point. Will you please note the pain of adultery. In verses 29 and 30 Jesus uses a pair of illustrations concerning the right eye and right hand. These illustrations speak to the forcible removal of the conduit of sin in your life. Sin, specifically sexual sin, is incredibly easy to access. Smart phones may allow instantaneous email responses and social media updates, but it also allows for unsupervised access to pornography.
No amount of hashtags is worth a polluted mind. It is foolish for any addict to have access to his or her addiction. When it comes to sin, we give up our fight too quickly. “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). There is never an excuse to sin. Adultery begins in the heart, but should be cut short by the removal of the hand.
Obedient to Scripture, not looking for loopholes
The second part of this section is in verses 31-32. In this section we have the “D”: divorce. The statistics concerning divorce are indeed scary, but we should care more for Scripture than statistics. Divorce required a certificate. Jesus would deal with divorce in a more detailed way in Matthew 19:1-9. In that passage we find what scholars call the “Matthean Exclusion”, where Jesus stated that divorce should be permitted only in situations of adultery. Divorce was very common then, so the situation was very similar to our own day.
We should spend more time being obedient to Scripture instead of wasting time looking for loopholes that will allow our disobedience. Divorce shows that you are determined to be unfaithful. Marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman for life. It is a sacred bond.
I have personally been under the covenant of marriage for nine years, and I look forward to 90 more! The plethora of unbiblical reasons for divorce both in and outside of the church stems from unbiblical reasons for getting married in the first place. The cure for the divorce problem is the cure for the marriage problem. Divorce is more than a breech of faithfulness to your spouse. Divorce is a breech of faithfulness to a Holy God. Marriage is one of the many things that God uses for our holiness.
Divorce destroys God’s work. “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). Marriage is the work of God, and should not be destroyed by men. Success in marriage should not be claimed just because two people managed to stay together. Toleration is not too far from separation. Success in marriage is when we are obedient to our God-given roles in the marriage.
Marriage is not two separate people living two separate lives balancing two separate checking accounts. Marriage is two people uniting under One Holy God. God is the author of marriage, and He does not require our editorial insight.
Purity is a lost art form in our world. Modesty is regarded by many as ancient foolishness. Christian ethics must drive the purity of relationships that we have with others, especially those of the opposite sex. We must hold to purity at all costs, even it means saying “no” to what so many say “yes” to. You do not have to read that book everybody is gossiping about. You do not have to see that movie that everyone is raving about. Purity means self-denial.
Christianity is not just what we affirm, but also what we deny. God’s will in the area of purity is not abstract but very concrete. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Adultery and divorce are both far too common in the world in which we live. We should endeavor to see their extinction within the Southern Baptist Convention.