Summary: According to the Law of Moses, adultery carried a death sentence. Jesus equates lust with adultery. Was Jesus commanding lust-filled people to be put to death?
How many of you remember Abigail Van Buren? She wrote a daily column answering questions from readers.
Once a man wrote: "Dear Abby, I am in love and I am having an affair with two different women other than my wife. I love my wife but I love these other women too. Please tell me what to do, but don’t give me any of that morality stuff." Signed: Too much love for only one.”
She replied: “Dear Too much love for only one. The only difference between humans and animals is morality. Please write to a veterinarian."
Today I am speaking on an issue that comes under the heading of morality. It’s the kind of message that makes people squirm including myself. It’s not judgmental but it is truth, God’s truth. The subject today is adultery.
Some Bible teachers want to lump sexual immorality and fornication under the heading of adultery. However, it seems there a distinct difference in the three. Adultery is when two people are engaged in a relationship that is sexual in nature and either one or both are married to someone else.
God determined that adultery would be a sin amongst his people. He commanded them not to participate in adultery. If they did there would be a heavy penalty to pay.
Leviticus 20:10-12 “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.”
“If a man violates his father by having sex with one of his father’s wives, both the man and the woman must be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.”
“If a man has sex with his daughter-in-law, both must be put to death. They have committed a perverse act and are guilty of a capital offense.”
God considers adultery a capital offense. God has determined that adultery is worthy of a death sentence so that justice is meted out. He equates it with homosexuality and bestiality. In our society we are stunned and sickened if someone is discovered in the act of bestiality. Some are quick to condemn the homosexual life style. However, we are reluctant to be as strongly opinionated toward someone caught in adultery. And only first degree murder is worthy of a death sentence. Can you imagine the uproar there would be if people were to be given a death sentence for adultery?
Adultery causes damage. It’s done in secrecy. It’s covered in deception and lies. When discovered, there is a sense of betrayal, depression, and anger in the spouse who was the victim. They question their value. They suffer a loss of trust and faith in their spouse. If discovered by others it can affect entire family relationships. Adultery is broken vows given to each other. Adultery can lead to the committing of crimes, assault and even murder.
In Leviticus 26:12 God makes this declaration “I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.”
The descendants of Abraham, the Jews, were God’s chosen people. As such, they were given commandments to live by. Their ability to abide with each other under these laws would reflect their ability to abide with their God.
The marriage covenant symbolized the covenant between mankind and God. If God’s chosen people could not keep their vows with each other, how could they possibly keep their vows with him? Broken covenant with God could lead to eternal separation from him.
But all of this applies to the Jews only, right? Romans 11:17 informs us “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”
Along with the blessings that were promised to the Jews and now offered to us also comes the responsibility to follow God’s laws as the Jews were required.
The Apostle Peter put it quite well when he wrote in
1 Peter 2:9 “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
We, the gentiles, the church, are a chosen people also. We are God’s very own possession. He owns us. He paid a high price for us. He gave his Son as a sacrifice for us.
So it was with this understanding that Jesus approached the people of his day concerning adultery and upset the apple cart.
Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.