The Sanctity of Sex and Marriage
Matthew 5:27-32 | Ian Thomas
March 3rd, 2019
“The Bible speaks often of sexual immorality not because the Bible disregards the goodness of sexuality but because it affirms it. The Christian vision of sexuality is so high and positive that those forces that would twist it apart do great harm, both to human flourishing and to the grasp of the good news of the gospel.” ~ Russell Moore
Main idea: God’s people are to maintain sexual integrity and marital faithfulness because they have been transformed by the gospel
I. Sexual Integrity (5:27-30)
Jesus here is not saying that any and all sexual thoughts or impulses are automatically sinful; rather he is warning against looking at another “with lustful intent.” This is to look at someone else “with the desire to desire.”
Lust is ultimately using someone in a self-serving way. It is a theft of sorts, as it is entertaining what is not yours and what is forbidden. Lust is, at its core, dehumanizing.
“Sin is this terrible thing which so deludes and fools us as to make us feel quite happy and contented so long as we have not committed the act.” ~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The danger of lust and adultery is that it detaches sex from its good purpose and design. There are essentially 2 ways to view & treat sex:
Sex as self-serving, which comes from a posture of lust.
Sex as self-giving, which comes from a posture of love.
“Lust is a cheap thrill at the expense of another human being, but without any personal accountability or commitment to that human being.” ~ Scott Saul
“A Christian vision of life is one of genuine living sacrifice, not a series of self-absorbed transactions. In order to gain one’s life, one must really lay it down. That is the word of the cross, and the cross is to shape our sex lives as much as anything else.” ~ Russell Moore
Jesus calls us to fight lust not by a literal self-mutilation (5:29-30), but rather an extreme self-denial. This is the idea of “mortifying” sin.
“We are to deal drastically with sin. We must not pamper it, flirt with it, enjoy nibbling a little of it around the edges. We are to hate it, crush it, dig it out.” ~ D.A. Carson
“The issue isn’t whether sexual immorality is damnable- it is. The question is whether damnation can be turned back, and the cross says it can, by Skull-Hill crucifixion and Garden-Tomb resurrection. The first marriage was between two virgins; that is true. But the original one-flesh union reflected something else, something unveiled only ages later in the preaching of Christ. Jesus was a virgin; his bride wasn’t. Yet- he loved us anyway... The search for sexual excitement is not really men & women looking for biochemical sensations. We are not, ultimately, even looking for each other. We are looking for that to which sex points- something we know exists but just can’t identify. We are looking, whether we know it or not, for a Christ and for a church.” ~ Russell Moore (153)
II. Marital Fidelity (5:31-32)
The Scribes, Pharisees, and Rabbis in this time period frequently cited Deuteronomy 24 as the basis for pursuing a divorce. They used the language here in this obscure passage to justify ridiculous reasons for divorcing a wife.
Matthew 19:3-12 helps shed light to Jesus’ challenge. The Pharisees are asking if they can divorce a wife “for any cause” and later claim that Moses “commands” them to pursue divorce. Jesus continually draws them back to see God’s good design and to charge them with being self-serving.
Jesus continually draws them back to God’s good design for marriage. Divorce is never a “divine commandment” but a “divine concession” because of our "hardness of heart." Sexual immorality (and also “abandonment” - 1 Cor. 7) are the two “exception clauses” in Scripture. Reconciliation and restoration should always be the posture and desire of the church.
The husband “makes” the wife commit adultery in this scenario because women had little to no options besides remarriage in this culture to find protection & financial provision.
Why does Jesus come down so strongly on this issue? Marriage, according to Paul in Ephesians 5, is a “mega-mystery” but then says that the mystery “refers to Christ and the church.” Marriage is meant to point us to the heart of the gospel, which is why Jesus takes it so seriously.
The only hope that we have for earthly marriage is to be transformed by God’s covenantal love toward us. Even if we are not married, God relates to us as a faithful spouse who will not leave us or forsake us. This is the only place our hope is found, regardless of our marital status or situation.