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.” (Matthew 5:27–28, NKJV)
Sin, including the sin of adultery, begins in the heart. The actual sin of adultery puts lust into action. That is, adultery is the physical action of a lustful heart (Heb. 13:4). The sin of lust occurs in the heart, and it leads to the sin of adultery, which is committed with the body and against the purpose of the body (1 Cor. 6:18). Lust and adultery are two distinct sins, with one leading to the other. (This is similar to hate in the heart and murder – two sins, with one leading to the other, 1 Jno. 3:14-15.) Some say today’s passage justifies putting away a spouse who has committed a lustful action (such as viewing pornography). Viewing pornography is certainly a sin of fleshly lust, but it is not the sin of adultery (Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5-7). (One can lust without committing adultery, but one cannot commit adultery without lust being in the heart.) We cannot redefine adultery to include pornography, and then legitimize putting away a spouse for the cause of pornography. Viewing porn and committing adultery are distinct sins. Viewing porn is lewdness, uncleanness, evil desire, and sinful passion. But, it is not the sin of adultery. Let us help people repent and repair the damage done to their marriages by pornography. But, let us not sanction divorce and remarriage for the cause of lust (pornography), and call it “for the cause of fornication” (Matt. 19:9).
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matthew 15:19, NKJV)
Jesus identifies sin even though men and women refuse to do so. Such is the case with “adulteries” and “fornications.” The world often calls adulteries “love affairs,” but God calls it sin that He judges (Romans 7:2-3; Hebrews 13:4). Fornication is the general term for all forms of sexual immorality, including premarital and extramarital sex, homosexuality, bestiality and incest (1 Corinthians 6:9; Jude 7). In many (if not most) cases, the world calls fornication good, but God calls it sin. It is a work of the flesh that prevents one from inheriting the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19, 21). The world (that does not know God) demands we accept their sinful conduct. But, the word of God is clear that we cannot approve of sin in any form, including sexual sins (Ephesians 5:5-11). Sin does not disappear simply because people refuse to identify it as such. Jesus died for adulterers and fornicators – for all sinners (Romans 5:8). We ask our religious neighbors who are acknowledging such sinful conduct as acceptable, “Why did Jesus die?” He died for our sins. If there is no such thing as sin (like adulteries and fornications), then Jesus died in vain. We must identify and repent of every sin, including these (2 Corinthians 12:20-21). The wages of sin is eternal death, but God forgives sins and gives eternal life in Christ Jesus the Lord (Romans 6:23).
9 Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them. (Ezekiel 6:9–10, NKJV)
Israel was unfaithful to God by committing adultery with idols. The Lord was crushed by their adulterous heart as their eyes pursued harlotry. Clearly, the rebellion of His people grieves the Lord (Psalm 78:40-42). So, He understands the pain caused when a spouse is unfaithful. He knows the crushing grief of a child rebelling against parental rule and God’s will. Experiencing such pain causes some to compromise God’s will to avoid the emotional trauma of such rejection. But, a temporary “peace, peace” when there is no peace is not a winning spiritual strategy (Jeremiah 6:14-16). Though crushed, God punished Israel for her sins while leaving a remnant to escape and reclaim their faith (Ezekiel 6:1-8). Our sin crushes the heart of God, but He will not abandon truth to win us back. Instead He calls on us to repent and to return to faithfulness, warning us of eternal punishment if we persist in our sin. May we quickly sorrow over what our sin does to the heart of God and to the hearts of our loved ones, and repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:8–9, NKJV)
After affirming the value of both marriage and celibacy in 1 Corinthians 7:1-7, Paul gives divine counsel to those who are not married and those who are (as well as to subgroups of each) in 1 Corinthians 7:8-16. To the “unmarried and to the widows” Paul rehearsed the benefit of remaining single while exercising self-control against fleshly temptations. (Recall the context of “present distress” that further explains his divine advice, 1 Corinthians 7:25-40). It seems plausible that they had asked Paul whether a person should marry at all (7:1). He answered that remaining without a spouse was a virtuous choice, while being careful not to deny the God-given right to marry, particularly in light of its benefit against the temptations of sexual immorality (7:2). Without a doubt, if the unmarried and widows were to marry it must be a God-approved marriage. You see, not every marriage has God’s approval (Mark 6:17-18; Romans 7:3; Matthew 5:32; 19:9). We cannot legitimize any marriage that God calls “unlawful” and “adultery” without incurring His displeasure and wrath (Ephesians 5:5-7). Whether or not we are married, we must make choices that enhance and protect our moral purity.
1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1–2, NKJV)
The Corinthians sent a letter to the apostle Paul with questions about several matters, to which he replied as one who was inspired of God (1 Corinthians 7:40). Their first questions concerned marriage. Paul began by addressing the virtue of not touching a woman (a euphemism for sexual relations). He was not issuing a divine directive that celibacy is superior to marriage. (Nor does verse 2 demand everyone must marry.) Instead, Paul recognizes God’s clarion call to sexual purity. Given the present trials and pressures upon their faith, he will advise the Corinthians of the advantages of being single (1 Corinthians 7:26, 28, 32, 35). Marriage is designed as a guard against sexual immorality. The marriage bed is honorable, but the bed of fornication is defiled (Hebrews 13:4). The apostle explained that how designed marriage so that “each man” has “his own wife” and “each woman” has “her own husband” (verse 2). Marriage is between man and woman. More specifically, it is between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19:4-6). Polygamy, same-sex marriages, and every other marriage distortion is of human origin and is a sin against God and His will concerning marriage.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7, NKJV)
They had brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery (John 8:4). Desiring to accuse Jesus of wrong, His enemies tested Him by asking if He agreed with the Law of Moses that the woman should be stoned (John 8:5-6). If Jesus agreed with Moses, they could accuse Him to the Romans. If Jesus disagreed with Moses, they would accuse Him to the Jewish council. What they failed to remember is that Moses charged the witnesses of a death penalty offense to be the first ones to cast the stones (Deuteronomy 17:6-7). That is why Jesus replied as He did. He was not saying it is wrong to judge sin. He was exposing the hypocrisy of those who brought the woman to him (yet for some reason had not also brought the man with whom she was caught “in the very act” of adultery). Jesus was not a witness to her sin. When those who claimed to be witnesses departed, He had no legal ground to condemn her (John 8:9-11). But, He told her to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Jesus knew her sin and commanded her to stop sinning. Are you willing to let Jesus tell you to “go and sin no more?” Or, will you condemn Him for telling you that your conduct is sin?
7 The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They eat up the sin of My people; They set their heart on their iniquity. 9 And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds. 10 For they shall eat, but not have enough; They shall commit harlotry, but not increase; Because they have ceased obeying the Lord. (Hosea 4:7–10, NKJV)
The northern kingdom of Israel was in the throes of spiritual adultery. The nation was unfaithful to Jehovah with the idols of the land. Immorality and selfish oppression of others was the order of the day. Sin increased daily, even as did the scarcity of their daily provisions. Famine, drought, plagues, pestilence, and warfare had not turned Israel back to God (Amos 4:6-11). Their hearts were set on sin. The priests taught the people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4). So, God was ready to punish them for their sinful conduct (Amos 4:12). We must turn our hearts to God fully and be faithful to Him alone. Then He will bless us. Otherwise, judgment is certain.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13, NKJV)
More than a few times we have heard this passage misused to endorse accepting people in error and the immorality it produces. Such brethren defy the existence of absolute truth while tacitly accepting the moral relativism it produces. Since good and sincere brethren disagree on certain doctrinal issues (which they define as gray areas), they conclude each one will have to just “work out their own salvation” on the matter. This view is applied to divorce and remarriage. One of the problems with using Philippians 2:12 this way is it results in accepting adulterers as if they are faithful Christians. No longer is the sinner rebuked and called to repentance. Now he or she is tolerated and allowed to “work out their own salvation.” People “commit adultery” when they divorce and remarry in violation of Matthew 19:9. How do you “work out your own salvation” as an adulterer? God only forgives the adulterer when the sinner repents, prays and ending the adulterous remarriage. “Work out your own salvation” means to keep on obeying God (read verse 12 again). You bring your salvation to its full accomplishment by obeying God, not by remaining in disobedience.
27 Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? 28 Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent. (Proverbs 6:27–29, NKJV)
Just as one cannot put a firebrand to his chest without getting scorched, or walk on hot coals without burning his feet, adultery will not leave the person who yields to its temptation untouched by its pain, sorrow, and regret. Then, there is the broken trust, the broken marriages, and the lives of spouses and children that are left is tatters. And for what? For a tantalizing, momentary thrill? To fulfill fleshly lust? To escape the monotony of marriage? To follow the deceptive lie that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? Adultery is a betrayal of vows made before God and of trust mutually shared. It dishonors the bodies of those involved, while shaming God who gave the body for holiness, not moral defilement (1 Corinthians 6:16-20). Guard yourself against this transgression against your own flesh (Genesis 2:23; Ephesians 5:28-31). God’s warning is clear: “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul,” and, “Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away” (Proverbs 6:32, 33). God’s command against adultery is for your protection and purity (Romans 13:9). Honor your marriage by maintaining holy sexuality (Hebrews 13:4).
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NKJV)
Whose friend are you – God’s, or the world’s? The world is the system of evil that opposes God and His will (1 John 2:15-17). A Christian cannot join hands with the world, doing and endorsing what the world does, without becoming God’s enemy. Simple as that. James uses adultery to make the point. The world celebrates adultery. When husbands and wives commit adultery, the world calls it a “love affair,” but there is nothing loving about it. The entertainment industry (movies, television, the internet, etc.) celebrates adultery. The porn industry persuades it. But, God is very clear: The sin of adultery is not a love affair, it is a lust affair (James 4:1-3; Hebrews 13:4). Jesus said, “You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). The worldly-minded do not love Jesus, because they do not obey Jesus. They are driven by selfish desires. They are God’s enemies. Do not be counted among them. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:6-7).