“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Now we come to the second illustration of Jesus’ view on the Law from the seventh commandment dealing with adultery. The New Testament repeats nine of the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath was the only commandment not repeated, for it was given to the nation Israel as a national entity issue.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
Exodus 20:14 gives the command against adultery (Dt 5:18). The scribes and Pharisees were only concerned with the outward act of adultery. However, even the Ten Commandments lays bare the idea that a man should “not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Ex 20:17). The religious leaders neglected this aspect of the commandments.
“Fornication” refers to many different kinds of sexual sins, but adultery refers to sexual sin in which at least one of those involved is otherwise married. The purpose of prohibition against adultery is to maintain oneness in marriage. Commitment to one person gives stability to marriage. Having multiple partners divides and causes rivalries within a marriage. First Thessalonians says that adultery usurps the right of the violated spouse and is a desecration of the covenant between two people. It entails taking another person’s property.
The Old Testament corporate economy punished adultery with death. The New Testament economy judges adultery.
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Heb 13:4
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent
Looking at a woman with sexual intent is sinful. Adultery is a sin of the heart as well as an overt sin. This does not equate with noticing that a woman is attractive or sexually appealing.
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
It is not the temptation of adultery but the yielding to the temptation by actively committing adultery in the mind that is sin. All overt acts begin in the mental act of adultery.
It is not wrong to notice the physical beauty of a woman, but it is wrong to take her to bed in the mind.
Sexual lust is not casual but persistent and enveloping. Fantasizing immorality is sinful just as overt immorality is sinful.
None of us is free from this problem. Those who don’t lust need to be wary of legalistic judgmental condescension toward those who fall. But given the right circumstances, we all could fall into overt adultery.
The man after God’s own heart (David) committed adultery. From his rooftop he saw the wife of another man (Bathsheba) taking a bath. It would have been one thing for David to look, but it was another for him to leer with lust. That leering led to overt adultery (2 Sa 11:1-4). Fantasy leads to overt acts.