By Lee Jones
Adultery is bad. We know that. It not only hurts spouses and children, it most significantly is an affront to God. We know this and we know that people are notorious for their ability to equivocate and split hairs. They say, “if I do such and such, is that really adultery?” Or “this can’t be adultery, it’s just looking.”
Jesus would say, and did say, that “just looking” can be more than just looking, based on intent. Again, like he’s done before in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is driving the basis of the Law’s prohibitions back into the heart, rather than merely in the hands.
Look to Christ for your help, look to him who was pierced for your transgressions
Adultery was a serious offense under the Law, and it’s prohibition is codified in the Ten Commandments. The church is the bride of Christ, so it’s natural for God to put a high premium on faithfulness within the marriage covenant, and to place punishment on wayward spouses. Often in the Old Testament, God speaks of the wayward Israelites as “whoring after other people’s’ gods” (such as in Leviticus 20:5,6).
So Jesus here isn’t reinterpreting the Seventh Commandment, he’s rebuking those who had reinterpreted it with the intent to give license to sin. So here’s Jesus’ indictment: any man who’s looked at a woman with lust had committed adultery with her, whether that man has even touched her or not, and whether he’s married or not.
The lustful man (or woman) is unfaithful first to God because he or she prefers, in the moment, the cheap thrills of the flesh to the supreme and long-lasting joy of fellowship with the Creator. The supportive covenant between man and his God oftentimes pales when in the throes of temptation. It should not be this way, but the redeemed are not home yet and the old man still itches to get out and walk around a little.
I’m a big fan of the right balance of Law and Gospel, and we’ve gotten a lot of Law here, so let me say this: you are forgiven. Every sin of every individual who believes in Christ finds its covering in his shed blood. Repent and believe continually, not only once at your conversion, and remember that every sin is forgiven by God.
I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you know what you’re not? Faithful and righteous. But God is, and in Christ he is righteous to wipe away the guilt of every sin for which Christ died, and that’s all of your unrighteousness.
So take this explanation of adultery from Christ as a primer for searching out your own sins and running to Him in repentance. Every lustful look, every unfaithfulness to Christ can be forgiven.
Now go and sin no more, though that’s easier said than done. Look to Christ for your help, look to him who was pierced for your transgressions, not wasting a glance on sinful things. Pray that you will be more and more conformed to the image of Christ, and confess your sins to him, remembering his faithfulness to you in spite of it all.
Glory to God alone.