If you can remember back when we began to study the Sermon on the Mount we asked the question, "To whom was the Sermon on the Mount intended?" Do you remember the answer to that question? This is very important, because if the Sermon on the Mount is not for us, then why put forth the time and energy to study it?
It is Matthew's primary and deliberate purpose to show how the Old Testament prophecies received their fulfillment in Jesus; how every detail of Jesus' life was foreshadowed in the prophets; and thus to compel the Jews to admit that Jesus was the Messiah.
Jesus is a king, and he came to proclaim a kingdom. His public ministry centered around a significant statement in:
Matthew 4:17 (NKJV) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Jesus, as King, was announcing the presence of the prophesied kingdom for Israel in the person of the Messiah. What I want you to understand is that while the "Sermon on the Mount" was addressed to Jews, it speaks to Christians today, because "WE", Christians, are the seed of Abraham - we are true Jews:
Romans 2:28-29 (NKJV) For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
This sermon speaks to believers, true Jews; it tells us what our attitudes and actions should be. It challenges us to live an excitingly distinctive life, adding a savor to our society. It warns us of the evils of false religion which creep into Christian theology and practice. It instructs us as to how we should interpret and apply the Old Testament Scriptures. It places before us the measure of a man or woman of God.
So to answer the question, "To whom was the Sermon on the Mount intended?" I would say, "All believers". To be born again is to be a kingdom citizen:
Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
Who is the "us"? Believers! In Colossians 1:2, Paul says that he is writing to the "saints"!
It is clear from reading it that the great theme of the "Sermon on the Mount" is kingdom living. And Jesus says that to be in his kingdom, you must be more righteous than the most righteous:
Matthew 5:20 (NKJV) "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus says that if your righteousness is a self-righteousness, like the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of God. We can't get into the kingdom by our own works or efforts.
A typical response today to the question, "When you die where will you spend eternity?" Would be, "Well, I hope I'm going to heaven on the basis that I am a pretty good person." People, heaven will never be merited by our works:
Romans 4:5 (NKJV) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
The only way that anyone will enter God's kingdom is by faith. People, the only way our righteousness will exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees is when it comes by faith. God justifies us, that is makes us righteous, when we trust that our salvation can only come as a gift of His grace. It's not works but by faith.
From verse 21 through the end of chapter 5 of Matthew, Jesus elaborates on the righteousness that He is talking about. It is not a righteousness of external conformity to the Law, but a righteousness that comes out of a heart that is right before God. Without a proper heart condition, you cannot be acceptable before God, regardless of your external conduct. In this passage, Jesus is going to show that the laws of His kingdom go beyond external behavior.
This morning we want to look at verse 27 and what the Bible has to say about sex:
Matthew 5:27 (NKJV) "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'
Have you heard that? Do you know that adultery is a sin? Do you know what adultery is? Let me define the word adultery. The Greek word that Jesus uses here for "adultery" is moicheuo. The root means: "unlawful intercourse with the spouse of someone else." Many Bible scholars understand this to be not only a command not to engage in sexual activity with somebody else's spouse, but also as a general command against any type of illicit sexual activity, because the word is also used in a general way in some other places. For example, in some ancient sources, the word means: "To seduce or violate a woman, whether married or unmarried." Other places it is translated: "to commit harlotry." In a general sense, the word has been used to speak of any kind of illicit intercourse at all outside the bond of marriage. Though primarily it refers to a sexual relationship that violates a marriage, I believe the spirit of it extends further to include any kind of illicit sexual behavior.
I think the broader definition is indicated in verse 28 when our Lord says that anybody who looks on any woman "to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." And the woman He speaks of here isn't identified as being married or not. The context is broad enough to imply that anybody who lusts after any woman has committed adultery in his heart.
Now, to modern ears this teaching of Christ seems almost ludicrous. We live in a society that has largely lost sight of the fact that the act of adultery itself is an especially terrible thing, and sexual lust saturates our society. So I think it is important that we first reinforce the biblical laws about adultery. We live in a society where few people consider adultery unconditionally wrong.
Reverend Richard Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh, said, "God knew when he made us that he has given us a built-in sex drive to go out and sow our seeds. He has given us promiscuous genes." He went on to say, "I think it would be wrong for the church to condemn people who have followed their instincts." He said this in a speech on sex and Christianity, warning that humans were not designed to be faithful, and that man was born to have many lovers.
The church's attitude concerning sex has not always been God's attitude. In fact, God has much to say about sex in the Bible. After all, He created it. Jesus did not and would not agree with the Bishop Holloway in his evaluation of adultery.
What does the Bible say about sex?
Negatively - Let's first look at the negative side, and then we'll look at the positive. To put it as simply and plain as I can, the Bible teaches that: Any sex, other than with your spouse is sin. Any sex, all sex outside of marriage, is a sin!
Every believer, young and old, man and woman, ought to be very familiar with Proverbs 5-7, because that passage speaks so pointedly to the devastation caused by the sin of adultery or fornication:
Proverbs 7 (NKJV) "My son, keep my words, And treasure my commands within you. 2 Keep my commands and live, And my law as the apple of your eye. 3 Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," And call understanding your nearest kin, 5 That they may keep you from the immoral woman, From the seductress who flatters with her words. 6 For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, 7 And saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, A young man devoid of understanding, 8 Passing along the street near her corner; And he took the path to her house 9 In the twilight, in the evening, In the black and dark night. 10 And there a woman met him, With the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart. 11 She was loud and rebellious, Her feet would not stay at home. 12 At times she was outside, at times in the open square, Lurking at every corner. 13 So she caught him and kissed him; With an impudent face she said to him: 14 "I have peace offerings with me; Today I have paid my vows. 15 So I came out to meet you, Diligently to seek your face, And I have found you. 16 I have spread my bed with tapestry, Colored coverings of Egyptian linen. 17 I have perfumed my bed With myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18 Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with love. 19 For my husband is not at home; He has gone on a long journey; 20 He has taken a bag of money with him, And will come home on the appointed day." 21 With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, With her flattering lips she seduced him. 22 Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, 23 Till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, He did not know it would cost his life. 24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth: 25 Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her paths; 26 For she has cast down many wounded, And all who were slain by her were strong men. 27 Her house is the way to hell, Descending to the chambers of death."
Sexual sin is a sin for fools. Think about David and the results in his life; or Shechem, who defiled Dinah and was later slaughtered; or Absalom, who defiled others with sexual sin and wound up being hanged in a tree. The Bible says that when you commit this sin you "...Destroy your own life" (Proverbs 6:32). There are many warnings in the New Testament against this sin:
Romans 13:9 (NKJV) For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NKJV) Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
2 Peter 2:14 (NKJV) having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.
On thirty-eight occasions in the Bible, believers are commanded in one way or another to flee sexual sin. I don't care if you're engaged, and you believe you love each other; whenever sexual relations occur apart from the bond of monogamous heterosexual marriage, it is a sin against God and man. This truth of God needs to be shouted from the house tops in our day, because people don't believe it:
Hebrews 13:4 (NKJV) Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
"Marriage is honorable among all...." - I believe the construction here should be treated as hortatory, which means: "exhorting, advising", rather than declaratory. There is no verb "is" in the Greek , so a verb has to be supplied. The KJV understands an indicative, and thus renders it as a statement or affirmation. "Marriage is honorable among all...." But an imperative fits better with the context which is a sequence of exhortations. The sense then is "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be held as undefiled." The NIV renders it this way:
Hebrews 13:4 (NIV) Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
The hortatory sense provides the better antecedent to the ensuing warning: "...but fornicators and adulterers God will judge."
"Let marriage be held in honor" - the word "honor" is the Greek word timios, which means: "held as of great price, esteemed, especially dear."
Marriage is being dishonored today by lightly esteeming the marriage bond by condoning every kind of sexual license. "Let the marriage bed be undefiled" - "bed" is the Greek koite, which is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Marriage, since it is an ordinance of God, is neither defiling, nor is it to be defiled by sexual promiscuity.
This commandment is being violated today, and we are certainly defiling marriage! Infidelity is at an all time high today. The marriage bed is being defiled even by God's children.
Our verse tells us - "but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." Believers, God will judge those who dishonor marriage. Look with me at Proverbs 6, after warning his son not to lust after an immoral woman, Solomon asked two rhetorical questions:
Proverbs 6:27-28 (NKJV) 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?
The obvious answer is,"NO!" Consequences are inescapable. And in case the point of the illustration was missed, Solomon brings it home in:
Proverbs 6:29 (NKJV) So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent.
Violating God's sexual standards is like violating the law of gravity, it has a way of catching up with you. The laws apply regardless of who believes in them, and who doesn't. You don't need to believe in the law of gravity to be subject to it.
Galatians 6:7-8 (NKJV) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
In God's moral universe, whatever is right is smart, and whatever is wrong is stupid:
Proverbs 6:32-33 (NKJV) Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. 33 Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away.
To violate God's immutable laws is not too smart. Believers, we are to honor the marriage covenant by a life of sexual purity, and whoever violates the covenant will be judged.
When God says, "You shall not commit adultery," He confines the proper area for sexual relationships to marriage. You may say it another way: Sex is for marriage, and only for marriage. There is no room in the Scripture for homosexual marriage. But I might add that there is also no room for heterosexual sin through premarital or extramarital sex. Sex belongs in marriage, and only in marriage.
So, negatively, any sex and all sex outside of marriage is a sin. But, Positively, within marriage sex is the most intimate act of love, and it is a precious gift of God.
The church has had much to say about sex throughout history. Some has been good, and some not so good. Unfortunately, there have been some views, propagated by well-intentioned individuals, which have labeled the church as anti-sex. There has been a prudishness, a negativism, concerning sex which has been communicated to many. At various times, sex has been portrayed as the ultimate "no-no."
Some have viewed celibacy as a higher state morally, and marriage was an evil state morally. As a result, within the marriage relationship, they were abstaining. They thought it was the height of spirituality to abstain from any physical relationship within marriage. This belief has frequently appeared in the Christian Church. Church fathers, like Chrysostom and Jerome, spoke demeaningly of sex, even in marriage. Origen taught that sex was inherently wrong, Augustine that sex was part of the original sin of Genesis 3.
There's a well known teacher today who is saying that you can gain a greater amount of spirituality by abstaining from physical relations in marriage. And by the way, he's single. I was sharing the Gospel with a man, and he asked me, "If I get saved, do I have to stop having sex with my wife?" Why would anyone ask such a thing? He didn't get that idea from the world, that's for sure. That idea comes from some Christian teachers who have an unbiblical view of sex. Some, even today, are teaching that sex is only for procreation. Mary Pride, in her book The way home", makes this statement, "All forms of sex that shy away from marital fruitfulness are perverted." She says, "What Onan did was perverted, because he debased sex. He used Tamar for his selfish pleasure, but refused to give her children." Does this mean that if a couple is unable to have children that they shouldn't have sex? Does it mean that after menopause a couple should no longer have sex? Or that when a woman is pregnant all sex is to stop for nine months or so? The thing that's perverted is her view of sex. She's wrong! Sex is designed by God for pleasure within the bounds of marriage.
When God created man, He said that it was not good for a man to be alone. Then God created a woman to be a companion for the man. This was in God's plan all along. He created a man. He created a woman from the man. Then he brought the man and the woman together:
Genesis 2:23-24 (NKJV) And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
The Bible indicates that he received her as "Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." Adam received her as a part of himself. God then instructed them to come together in a one flesh union. He intended for them to have a personal, intimate, pleasurable, sexual union in which they would find fulfillment and satisfaction.
I want you to understand that sex in a marriage relationship is a sacred thing; it is not dirty; it is not sinful. It was God ordained. Sexual relations in marriage is the most intimate act of love, and it is a precious gift of God.
In the schools and in society today, so much is said about sex education for children. I want to point out something that is vitally important; parents have an absolute duty to teach their children about sex. Children and young adults must not be taught that sex is something which is dirty or sinful, but that it is instituted by the Lord. Parents must teach their children that sex is sacred and honorable in marriage; therefore, we do not commit adultery; therefore, we do not commit fornication. Why? It is because sex is sacred; it is the image which illustrates the relationship between Christ and His church. God has instituted it and it is honorable, but it is between a man and his wife.
We were created for companionship, with all the sexual aspects that that relationship implies. But that companionship was designed to exist in a committed relationship. We were not only created for companionship, we were created for commitment. That commitment is known to us as marriage.
When God created Eve and brought her to Adam, He joined them together for life. That was the first marriage in human history. Since that time, men and women have entered into a covenant relationship called "marriage" in which they have agreed to live their lives together as partners. In that committed relationship called "marriage", we share our lives together, face life together, reproduce and raise children together, share burdens together, and grow old together. And part of that relationship is sexual.
God has designed the physical relationship and has sanctified and blessed it, as is apparent from the Song of Solomon, and Proverbs, which describe the beauty of human love in a marital situation:
Proverbs 5:18-20 (NKJV) Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love. 20 For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, And be embraced in the arms of a seductress?
So it is that sex is pure and right, but our world has degenerated it into a twisted, jaded perversion that appeals to the hearts of sinful, evil men.
The Apostle Paul discusses God's design of a physical relationship in 1 Corinthians. In chapter 6, Paul dealt with the libertines who argued that everything was permissible, and in particular that sexual licence was a matter of ethical indifference. They came from the Epicurean viewpoint that the body was evil and so you might as well indulge it. They didn't view fornication as sin. Then in chapter seven he deals with those who are coming from a Stoic viewpoint, that the body was to be deprived of all pleasure. They argued that sexual relations of every kind were to be deprecated, that Christians who were married should henceforth live as though they were unmarried, and those who were unmarried should remain so.
There were those in Corinth that were teaching that you ought not to marry. They taught that celibacy was of a higher spiritual state than marriage. These were ascetics who taught this. They could have been over reacting to the sexual loose situation that was in Corinth. So the Corinthians had many questions on marriage, so they wrote to Paul to get some answers. In the first seven verses of chapter seven, Paul gives them and us the basic general principle in relation to marriage:
1 Corinthians 7:1 (NKJV) Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
The phrase "not to touch a woman" does not refer to the holding of hands or putting your arms around a woman. "Touch" is the Greek word haptomai, which means: "to attach oneself to, to apply oneself to." It directly relates to the sexual relationship. This is a euphemism for a sexual relationship. We see it used this way in:
Genesis 20:6 (NKJV) "And God said to him in a dream, "Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her."
God says to King Abimelech, "I am the one who kept you from touching (having a sexual relationship with) Sarah". The same thing is found in the book of Ruth, when Boaz exhorts Ruth to go out into his fields and to glean, he says, "I have instructed the men not to touch you". (Ruth 2:9) We see this also in:
Proverbs 6:27-29 (NKJV) "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."
What Paul has in mind here when he says, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" is sexual relations. So "to touch a woman" is a euphemism for a sexual relationship. Paul goes on to say:
1 Corinthians 7:2 (NKJV) Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
This verse makes it clear that God does not approve either of polygamy or homosexual "marriages." Marriage is a life long commitment between one man and one woman.
Paul says, "Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality....". Is this why a person marries? Is the only reason to avoid immorality? To avoid fornication is not the only reason for marriage, but it is one reason.
What Paul is saying in this passage is that the solution to the problem of sexual immorality is, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Marriage is the God ordained safeguard against sexual immorality.
A publisher once offered a prize for the best answer to the question, "Why is a newspaper like a good woman?" The winning answer was this. "It's like a good woman, because every man should have one of his own and not look at his neighbor's!" Paul's purpose here is to stress the reality of the sexual temptations of singleness and to acknowledge that they have a legitimate outlet in marriage.
In verse 3, Paul continues by saying that within that marriage relationship there is a general obligation:
1 Corinthians 7:3 (NKJV) Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
The word "affection" is the Greek word eunoia, which mean: "kindness; conjugal duty, benevolence, good will". And the word "due" is opheilo, which means: "to owe; fig. to be under obligation (ought, must, should); be bound."
Listen carefully believers; When you get married, you become obligated to meet the physical needs of your spouse. Marriage is no place for celibacy. You are not more spiritual if you abstain from sex in your marriage; you are, in fact in sin.
What this verse clearly teaches is that the responsibility of the husband is to pay what he owes to his wife. And the responsibility of the wife is to pay what she owes to her husband. She is to pay her debt. Almost all marriage problems can be traced to this cause. This commandment is not obeyed by many husbands and wives.
What is the duty of the husband? Paul tells us very plainly in:
Ephesians 5:25 (NKJV) "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,"
Paul is not saying that the husband is to be willing to die for his wife. Christ was not just willing to die for his church, he did die for the church. And the husband is to die for his wife. That is, he is to lay down his life for her, he is to seek what is her good. He is to sacrificially give of his life for her. Men, that is what it means when it says that we are to love our wives. That is the debt that you owe to your wife, it is to give your life to seek what is her highest good.
The wife is to fulfill her duty to her husband, she is to pay her debt to him. What is her debt to her husband?
Ephesians 5:22 (NKJV) "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord."
The wife is to be subject to her husband, and she is to do it voluntarily, she is to be subject to him in every area of the marriage. She is to reverence her husband, even as Sarah did when she called Abraham "Lord". That is the debt that she owes to her husband.
The not paying to each other what they are due is the reason why so many marriages are a mess. We are not to be concerned with our rights, "She is not paying me what she owes me." This text doesn't say that you have any rights as a husband, nor does any other text. As a matter of fact, you don't have rights, you simply have responsibilities. This text puts the emphasis on the rights of the partner, never on your rights. If we can grasp the general obligation in marriage, we will have a blessed marriage. We don't have rights, we have debts. The Bible is written to tell you what your responsibilities are, not to let you know what your rights are. You can't force someone to do what the Bible says, you are to make sure that you are living it out. We always seem to want to tell others how the Bible says they are to treat us, instead of applying its teaching in our own lives.
The general obligation is that I am to pay to my spouse what I owe them. I am to fulfill my duty as a spouse. Now there is a specific obligation, and it is found in verses:
1 Corinthians 7:4-5 (NKJV) The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Our obligation is stated very simply, it is given to us in the first phrase of verse 5. "Do not deprive one another", the word "deprive" is the Greek word, apostereo, which is a compound verb that comes from "apo,"which means: "from," and "stereo" which means: "to deprive, or keep back." The compound word means to deprive another of what belongs to him or her. The verb "deprive" is in the present tense and could be translated "Stop depriving one another." The object is the body which belongs to the spouse in the marital union. What Paul is saying is that you do not have the right to deprive your marriage partner of their conjugal rights. You do not have the right to deprive them of their rights within a physical relationship in marriage. It is not enough for us to say that sex is a marital privilege. It is that, but it is also a sacred responsibility, it is a debt that we owe.
When you are single, you do have authority over your own body, you decide how to use it. Keeping in mind it is God's temple. But once you are married, the right of authority is given over to the marriage partner. When you entered marriage, you forfeited your right to exercise authority over your own body. Thus, it is a sin to sexually reject your marriage partner.
Whenever you talk about sex, you not only have the people who sit up in their chair, because it's their favorite subject, you also have the people who grab their Bible and head for the door. Some have perverted sex by negative attitudes toward it. They would like you to believe that there is a certain shame attached to sex. But that presupposes that sex is sinful.. To conclude that sex is inherently sinful is to make a false assumption. That assumption is not supported by Scripture. God has wonderfully designed sex as a part of married life. Sex within the bonds of marriage is a beautiful thing, but outside marriage it is a destructive sin against God and man.
Believers, we are to honor the marriage covenant by a life of sexual purity, and whoever violates the covenant will be judged.
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