Lent – Day 15 – A Study of Matthew 5
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Matthew 5:27-30
As Jesus is going through each of the Ten Commandments here, and remembering that He said He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it, He contrasts the Law of sin and death and the Law of the Spirit of life in Him.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17
So then, each of Jesus’ contrasts to the Law of Moses is the fulfillment of it. The law that says “You shall not commit adultery” is fulfilled in understanding that adultery is a matter of the heart first, so don’t let your eyes become a portal for adultery that proceeds from the desires of your heart. Just as being angry with your brother without a cause and calling your brother “Raca” or “fool” is equal to and deserving the same judgment and penalty as murder, so too, is lusting equated with adultery. Because to lust with the eyes is to desire a relationship of intimacy at the very core of what defines a relationship between a man and a woman which is the image of the relationship of Christ and the Church.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh ”This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31-32
Jesus then says, if your right eye or your right hand causes you to sin pluck it out or cut it off and cast it from you, so that you don’t miss heaven having both eyes and hands whole, but a heart full of sin and death. Physical wholeness does not guarantee heaven, neither does having physical impairment or missing limbs prevent heaven. Only faith in Jesus Christ and the willingness to turn way from the lusts of the eyes and evil speaking against a brother and such like will insure our acceptance into eternal life with the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit.
All sin acted upon proceeds from what is in our hearts first.
“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” James 1:14
The fulfillment of the Law takes an even greater and most amazing turn here. It’s found in 1 John. I encourage you to read and read again the entire chapter considering these verses in particular as they relate to Matthew 5.
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.” Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” 1 John 1:5-2:11
Finally, the intent of Jesus’ message here is not to create a church of one-eyed one-handed people who barely make it into heaven. It is, rather, about considering and keeping our bodies, minds and spirits under the control of the Holy Spirit by the Word. The things that Jesus taught and the purpose behind John’s admonition was to keep us from sin, not to give us a "get out of jail free card” as a license to indulge in it without impunity. Yes, the flesh left alone to its own devices is weak and driven by its sinful nature. But, the re-born spirit is a new creation by the incorruptible seed of God. The soul and the mind are subject to change and renewal, but the spirit is complete in Jesus Christ.
The message of hope and promise for us is we don’t have to sin anymore, and we can live holy before God in this present world. If we stumble, if we fall if we give in to our weaknesses even when we know it is not God’s will that is not surprising or shocking to God. It just tells us that we still need to be and are being perfected in that area of our lives. If we sin, we must repent immediately and fall on the mercy of God, confessing our sins and trusting His promise to be faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse his from all unrighteousness.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 1:7-2:2