Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:27-32; John 8:1-11
"Moral purity" is not a very good choice of words as a title for this lesson, which deals explicitly with the sin of adultery. Abstention from adultery is no guarantee of moral purity; liars, thieves, and coveters, for instance, are immoral characters, even if they never commit adultery. Use of the word "immorality" as a euphemism for adultery is a mealy-mouthed avoidance of plain Bible language.
Jesus did not mince words in condemning all kinds of sins. He knew that sinners must be brought to realize the enormity and destructiveness of their sins before they can realize their need of Him as Savior and Lord. It is too bad that so much of modern so-called Christianity has so little convict- ion of sin and so little knowledge of Christ.
Scripture selections in this lesson can be outlined as follows: 1. Mandate, Exodus 20:14. 2. Meaning, Matthew 5:27-32. a. Lustful, 27-28. b. Morbid members, 29-30. c. Divorce disaster, 31-32. 3. Mercy, John 8:1-11. a. Temple teaching, 1-2. b. Hypocritical heckling, 3-5. c. written word, 6-8. d. Convicted by conscience, 9. e. Personal penitent, 10. f. Message of mercy, 11.
NOTES ON THE TEXT:
MANDATE, Exodus 20:14. Like others of the ten commandments, this simple mandate, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," is abundantly amplified and repeated elsewhere in the Scriptures, both in the Old Testament and in the New. It is acknowledged by all that the ten commandments are basic to Biblical morality. No matter what wickedness the prevailing customs of society may allow or condone, adultery is always a heinous sin against God. Besides, it is exceedingly destructive of family ties, and tends to drag men and women down from the human to the lowest animal levels.
MEANING, Matthew 5:27-32. Jesus sees through religious hypocrisy and reminds us that outward acts are generally the result of inner desires. Before God we are responsible not only for the most flagrant sins which are evident to all, but also for lesser sins which lead to greater, and even for secret thoughts and de- sires opposed to His holiness.
Lustful Look, 27-28. Peter wrote of wretched souls "having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin" [II Peter 2:14]. So Jesus speaks here of the lustful look -- not a look of friendship, or even a look of admiration with bounds of decency -- but a looking to lust. God knows what is in our minds and hearts, and how evil thoughts lead to evil deeds. This does not mean that the thought is the same as the deed. The fact that one thing leads to another does not mean that the two things are identical. There are degrees of sin, and an adulterous thought or an adulterous look is not the same thing as an adulterous act. Rather the point here is a warning that if we find ourselves thinking evil thoughts we need to ask God for forgiveness and for His help in getting rid of such thoughts. Otherwise, given opportunity, wrong thinking will lead to wrong doing.
Morbid Members, 29-30. A misguided scholar by the name of Origen is said to have mutilated himself in a somewhat stupid attempt to apply this Scripture in his life. It would seem to make better sense to refuse to be "offended," snared or stumbled, by any morally diseased member of the body. After all, our heads are supposed to control our bodies; if we get our heads on straight we can control that sinful eye, hand, foot, or other member, instead of resorting to physical mutilation.
Divorce Disaster, 31-32. Easy divorce tends to make marriage a trifling matter, and if it was so considered by some of the ancient Jews, they were no worse than many modern Americans. Because of the hardness of men's hearts [Matthew 19:8], divorce is some- times a necessary evil; but from the beginning it was the divine order that marriage should be a lifetime contract, with man and wife becoming one flesh. On this as on other matters, Jesus set forth the highest principles of conduct without regard for human traditions. "Fornication" is a broad term for illegal sex relations, including adultery, which of course is the meaning here. True Christians cannot consider divorce as an easy way out of an unpleasant marriage. Divorce is disaster, not only to the parties directly involved but also to others, often including innocent children, and ought to be recognized as disaster, even if God's holy law does sometimes allow it.
MERCY, John 8:1-11. God is both just and merciful, and in His Son "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" [Psalms 85:10].
Temple Teaching, 1-2. "Early in the morning" suggests a full day's work of teaching in the temple. The fact that "all the people came unto him" shows that He was an interesting Teacher. Jesus' example should be enough proof, for those who need proof, that it is possible for a man to teach or preach while sitting down.
Hypocritical Heckling, 3-5. Hypocrites that they were, these hecklers were not seeking instruction or guidance. They knew that Jesus knew the law of Moses better than they did, but like modern dispensationalists they tried to find some contradiction between the law of Moses and the teachings of Jesus.
Written Word, 6-8. Perhaps Jesus' writing with His finger on the ground was intended as a reminder that the ten commandments were originally given on "two tables of stone written with the finger of God" [Deuteronomy 9:10]. What Jesus wrote on the ground we are not told. We can speculate if we wish (and at least no one on earth can disprove it) that He may have written some commandments or other Scripture quotations which served to remind the scribes and Pharisees of their own sins. At any rate, His answer to their challenge was a challenge of His own: "He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her."
Convicted by Conscience, 9. Not always perceptible by man, there is nevertheless a great difference between being convicted by conscience and being convicted by the Holy Spirit. Those religious rascals were not convicted by the Holy Spirit, but "by their own conscience," while the adulteress was convicted of her sin by the Spirit of God; and the results were quite different.
Personal Penitent, 10. Our relationship with Christ must be established personally with Him alone; not referring to physical space but to spiritual experience, we must stand alone before Him: we must receive Him and be received by Him personally and individually without regard to any other soul. So this woman stood alone in the presence of Jesus.
Message of Mercy, 11. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;" said Jesus, "and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" [John 6:37]. Here we have an example of this truth. Jesus is the Friend of sinners, but He does not show mercy to encourage sin; rather He saves His people "from their sins" [Matthew 1:21]. So to this sinful woman, as to any repentant sinner, the message of mercy was: "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more."
CONCLUSION [Hebrews 13:4] Contrary to some perverted notions, sex is not something evil in itself: God made man male and female [Genesis 1:27]. Sexual sin is the pursuit and expression of sexual desires in ways and conditions prohibited by the Word of God. Such sins as adultery, fornication, sodomy or homosexuality, bestiality, pornography and other forms of sex perversion are as abominable now as they ever were, and will be so judged at the judgment bar of God. ===============
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, October 20, 1978, pp. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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