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Who Is an Adulterer? Part 1 B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
October 5, 2020 4:00 am

Who Is an Adulterer? Part 1 B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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When God said, Thou shalt not kill, when God said, Thou shalt not commit adultery, when God gave any other precept in the Old Testament, He was talking about far more than the deed itself. And that's what Jesus wants them to understand. The external system of law isn't going to cut it, because God is after the attitude. It was not so long ago that a movie star or a politician who cheated on his or her spouse would face a potential scandal.

But these days, celebrities, and almost anybody, can flaunt their infidelities, and it hardly raises an eyebrow. That said, has the world's cavalier attitude about moral purity affected the way the Church views it? What does God say not only about committing a sinful act like adultery, but even the very idea of it? Well, today on Grace to You, John MacArthur looks at what Christ himself said about trivializing sinful thoughts and attitudes, as John continues his series called The Sinfulness of Sin.

With a lesson now, here's John MacArthur. We're looking at Matthew chapter 5 in our study. We're going to look at the passage in verses 27 through 30. Matthew chapter 5, verses 27 to 30. As we come to this passage in verses 27 and following, it's a very fitting word for the society in which we live. We need to see what Jesus is saying. Now, the Pharisees had their own viewpoint. Verse 27, thou shalt not commit adultery. And because they didn't do that, they thought they were righteous.

They thought they'd go right into the kingdom and have the chief seats. Maybe you're like that. Maybe you say to yourself, I'm not so bad. I've never actually gone out on my wife. I've never committed adultery.

I've never done that kind of thing. But Jesus says, if you ever look on a woman to lust after her, you've done it in your heart. And that's enough to damn you to hell forever. That's the implication of verses 29 and 30.

So your self-confidence is shattered here, see. The external system of law isn't going to cut it, because God is after the attitude. And you see what Jesus wants to do is show them they can't help themselves. You see, they could deal with the outside, sure. They could not commit adultery, but they couldn't do anything with the inside. And so Jesus hits them where they're helpless, hopeless, powerless, which should drive them in desperation to God who alone can change the heart. They desperately wanted to believe they were okay. Jesus shows them they weren't. Now, with that in mind, I want to digress for a minute. Notice the beginning of verses 27 and 28.

The beginnings again kick me off into this, and I think you'll find it helpful. Jesus starts, ye have heard. Then verse 28, but I say. Now this contrast is tremendously important. You've heard, but I say.

This is the same formula. Verse 21, you have heard. Verse 22, but I say. Verse 31, it has been said. Verse 32, but I say. Verse 33, you have heard. Verse 34, but I say.

It's all the way through here. It points to their misunderstanding of God's law. You have heard from the rabbis, from the traditionalists, from the scribes and Pharisees, from those who interpreted the law. But I'm telling you the truth of the law. What you have is not right.

It's not sufficient. They have reduced the law of God to a simple external, and they haven't given you the whole story. They've told you you don't have to commit adultery, and that's it, you're okay.

But I'm telling you there's more to this than just that. You can always invent a system that you can live up to and then convince yourself you're righteous. They could avoid committing adultery, but they couldn't do anything about their secret life. And so they missed the whole point of the Old Testament. When God said, thou shalt not kill. When God said, thou shalt not commit adultery. When God gave any other precept in the Old Testament, He was talking about far more than the deed itself, and that's what Jesus wants them to understand. Now let me show you what I mean.

Stay with me in this. The basic revelation of God's message to man came through Moses, all right? In fact, the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, are basically the heart, the center, the core of the Old Testament. The prophets and the writings that follow the Mosaic writings are simply explanations, commentaries, elaborations of what is contained in the law of Moses. Many, many times as you read through the prophets, you find the prophets indicting the people because they didn't keep the law of Moses. You find the prophets going back and saying, Moses said unto you. Or have you forgotten what Moses said?

Have you forgotten what God did during the time of Moses? In other words, the Pentateuch sets the pace. There you find the gospel of Moses, the gospel of God given through Moses. The rest of the Old Testament elaborates on the Pentateuch. It elaborates on that law of God, that set of standards which God laid down through Moses. Now, the essence or the heart of the gospel of Moses is found in the book of Deuteronomy.

Now let's look at it together. Deuteronomy is the fifth and last of the five books of Moses. And in this book, we have a summary of the law of God.

I believe, I don't know if you agree with me on this, but stay with me and maybe you will. I believe that Deuteronomy is the most important book in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy is coming from two Greek words. Deutero meaning second and namas meaning law. It is the second law. It is the reiteration of the law given by God.

It is the summation. As the book of Deuteronomy opens, the people are ready to enter the promised land. They are about to go into Canaan.

They have been delivered from bondage in Egypt. They are God's people. They have been identified as God's people and now they're going to take their land.

They're going to take the possession of the land God gave them. Now as they move into the land, God reminds them of all they need to know. And so we have here the summarization of all the gospel of Moses, of all of the standards for living in God's kingdom. They're here in the book of Deuteronomy. In fact, even the Ten Commandments are repeated in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy. Did you know this? Did you know that Jesus quoted Deuteronomy more than He quoted any other Old Testament book?

And did you know this? The New Testament writers quote Deuteronomy more than they quote any other Old Testament book. So it is a critical book. It is the summarization of the whole Old Testament because all that comes after Deuteronomy comments on the Pentateuch. And Deuteronomy is the summary of the Pentateuch. So it is really the key, the high point of the Old Testament. As we go to the Old Testament, we find the key is in the Pentateuch. As we look at the Pentateuch, the key is in Deuteronomy. As we look at Deuteronomy, the key is in chapter 6, verse 5, Thou shalt love the Lord.

Now listen to me. The Old Testament is not building a relationship on law. It is building a relationship on what?

Love. And people do not understand this. They think the Old Testament economy was an economy of law.

It is not. It is an economy of love. It is a relationship that God is after. Love is the key to a relation to God.

And all throughout Deuteronomy, God continues to say, I want you to love me. I want you to love me. I want you to love me. I want a heart commitment. I want a heart devotion.

I want a wholehearted kind of genuine affection for me. Now listen. Moses throughout Deuteronomy, and if we had time, we'd go right through the book and you could do it yourself. Over and over and over he says to the people as they enter the land, you must love the Lord. You must love the Lord. You must love the Lord. Why? Because it is a relationship of love that God has always sought with man.

Always. Now let me tell you something that will help you. Before God ever gave the law, as we know it, the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue and all the other statutes and commandments.

Listen to this. Before God ever did that, he established a relationship with Israel. He first loved Israel. And so the New Testament says the same thing.

The Gospel of Moses, the Gospel of Jesus, the Gospel of Paul, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of James and the Gospel of John are all identical. We love him because he first, what? Loved us. God loved Israel, that's how it all began. God loved us, that's how it all began. First we had a relationship of love and then we had a response of obedience to his law. God has always wanted a heart relationship.

Listen, people. Somebody in the Old Testament who just mechanically kept the Ten Commandments didn't fulfill the plan of God. The Ten Commandments were only given to regulate a relationship that was based on love. And if the love relationship wasn't there, the regulation didn't mean anything.

That's the point. In the Old Testament, you see, God put this standard. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor like yourself. And the people in the Old Testament would say, that's God's standard. Man, we can't keep that standard.

And that's exactly what he wanted them to say. He said, but if you can't keep the standard, what happens? You get guilty. And you get convicted. And you get to feeling sinful.

But you know something? God didn't just leave them in the sense of conviction. He didn't leave them just boggled by their own sinfulness. He didn't just leave them frustrated with guilt. He gave them not only the standards, but he gave them a system to deal with their inability to keep it.

What system was that? Sacrificial system. And the sacrificial system was given by God in order to give man a way to deal with his inability. When a man said to a woman, I can't keep the law of God and I'm overwhelmed with my sin, God said, then confess your sin to me and prove the genuineness of that confession by an act of sacrifice. And the sacrificial system didn't make men right with God. It simply pointed out that only God could make them right with him. It pointed out they needed a sacrifice.

It pointed out their inabilities. And so here's the way it went in the Old Testament. God gave a standard and the standard was a relationship of love.

Men couldn't fulfill all that that standard required and so they were guilty and convicted of sin. And in order to deal with that, God provided a sacrificial system. And the sacrificial system was itself futile. The sacrificial system never gave a lasting peace. The sacrificial system never really relieved the guilt. And in its futility, it pointed to the fact that there had to be some day, some place, a full and final and ultimate sacrifice that would once and for all do away with this sin. Don't you see?

The whole thing pointed to whom? Jesus Christ. Therefore, the gospel of Moses was the gospel of Christ. Jesus Christ is no Johnny-come-lately-to-the-standards-of-Israel. Jesus Christ is the fruition of everything Moses ever taught. The whole sequence just points to his Savior because He's the only one that could deal with man on the inside. Now you say, John, how do the Ten Commandments fit in?

That's easy. The Ten Commandments are simply a way to regulate love, that's all. That's right. Did you know the Ten Commandments are just a definition of love? You say, oh, I've heard the Ten Commandments are law, thou shalt not, thou shalt not.

That's just law. No, it's love. They're simply a way to regulate love. Did you know that the first four commandments relate to God and the last six commandments relate to your neighbor?

They are merely a regulation of love, that's all. Once God established a relationship with people, they came out of Egypt first, their relationship was there. The law was only a way to define how that love worked and it was twofold toward God and toward your neighbor. That's the epitome of the Old Testament in the book of Deuteronomy. That's the gospel of Moses. And it is no different than what Jesus said and it is no different than what the epistles of the New Testament teach.

You see the point? The whole law is to love God and love your neighbor. And that expresses itself toward God in being loyal, faithful, reverent and set apart. It expresses itself toward your neighbor in respecting authority established by God, respecting life made in his image, being pure, unselfish, truthful and contented. And beloved, let me tell you something, every single one of those is a heart attitude, isn't it?

Every one of them. Thou shalt not kill and thou shalt not commit adultery are much deeper and broader statements than the scribes and the Pharisees ever allowed for, do you see? They were simply statements of regulating a heart attitude. And the sad thing that happened in Israel was the Israelites began to focus only on the external, focus only on the ritual, focus only on the religious observance, focus only on the outside so that morality became a matter of what you do rather than a relationship of love.

And they missed the whole thing. If you understand that, then you understand the background of the Sermon on the Mount. You see, you understand what Jesus is saying. So in verse 21 of Matthew 5, when He says, "'You have heard that it was said by them of old, thou shalt not kill, whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of judgment.'"

They stopped there. They just said, don't kill and you're all right. But I'm telling you, if you're angry with your brother, you're in danger of hell. Why? Because you don't love your brother and that's the thing that's the issue with God.

And in verse 27, "'You heard him say you should not commit adultery, but I'm telling you, if you lust and you're in your heart, you are guilty.'" Why? Because your attitude toward your brother is wrong. You're not pure and you're coveting something that isn't yours.

This is the whole background. And so our Lord drives them down deep to the matter of the heart and says, that's the issue with me. Their tradition had obscured the original message and corrupted it. Christ wanted to reiterate it. Now, when He gives the law here to the scribes and the Pharisees, what's going to be their reaction?

They're going to say the same thing the Jews of old would say. We can't keep that law. It can't be done. We can't do it. We're not that good. We can't love like that all the time.

We need help. We can't maintain your standard, God. And that is exactly what He wants them to say. In the Old Testament, when they couldn't maintain it, they went directly into the sacrificial system, right? And ultimately the sacrificial system consummated in Jesus Christ who was slain as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world and of whom the writer of Hebrews says by one offering He perfected forever them that are sanctified. The writer of Hebrews said He did what the blood and bulls of goats could never do, take away sin. And that's why, beloved, after Jesus died on the cross and paid the final penalty, Jesus brought judgment on the city of Jerusalem. The Roman soldiers came down within about 30 years or so into the city of Jerusalem and they literally destroyed the city. They destroyed the temple which by then had its veil rent in twain anyway because the sacrificial system was done when Jesus died. But in 70 A.D. they came in and they literally destroyed the temple, obliterated the city of Jerusalem, and since that time to this very hour there has never been a sacrificial system in Israel since.

Why? Because it was over. Because that for which it pointed was there and arrived in Jesus Christ. And it was the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ that took away the sin that all the system of sacrifices could never take away but simply pointed to. You say, well then how would that person in the Old Testament be saved? Because the efficacy of Christ's death in this period of time when He died went forward to us and backward to them. And if they believed God when they lived and if they looked forward to the fact that God would take away their sin by His power and if they knew they couldn't do it on their own and they believed God for a sacrifice that would, then He applied to them the sacrifice of Christ though as of yet He had not even given it. And us?

We're on this end. And though Christ died 2,000 years ago, His sacrifice is applied to us today if we believe and accept Him. And so Jesus wants to force us to frustration and an inability to keep the high exalted law of God and run for mercy to Jesus Christ who alone can grant us a righteousness we cannot on our own obtain. In 2 Corinthians 5 21, Paul sums it up in these words, For he hath made Him who knew no sin.

Who is that? Christ. To be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. In other words, we couldn't be righteous because we were sinful. But He became sin that we might become righteous.

He bore our sins to make us righteous. And so, beloved, I'm telling you this, the words of this covenant that cemented the relationship in the Old Testament were not legalistic. The Ten Commandments weren't even legalistic. They simply brought out a standard by which a loving relationship to God and your neighbor could exist.

And there had to be the relationship first or all the law keeping that went on meant absolutely nothing. You know something? There are people today in our society who live by New Testament ethics. Did you know that? They're good fathers, good mothers, nice people, good neighbors, give to charity, go to church, don't kill people, don't commit adultery. They keep the outward law. But you know what?

They don't have the relationship, so the law means nothing because it isn't the outworking of love. The inner attitude, I'm telling you, was always the issue with God, whether you're in the Old or the New Testament. And that's why Jesus can say, I didn't come to destroy the prophets, I didn't come to set Moses aside, I didn't come to change one single thing, just put it back where it belongs. And unless you get up to that level, which is higher than the scribes and Pharisees, you will never, under any circumstances, enter my kingdom. And of course we realize we can't, and that forces us to Christ.

So Moses was pushing people to Jesus, just like Christ was pushing them to Himself. In fact, in Luke 16, 15, the Pharisees who were so covetous in their hearts, Jesus said to them, You are they...listen to this, it's great. You are they who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.

Isn't that good? And then he says, For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. It is an abomination to God to keep an external law without a heart relationship. God knows your hearts. The law and the prophets, nothing has changed. It's still the heart. So our Lord simply redefines the original standard, and in so doing, He defines righteousness and sin in true biblical terms.

And this is so important. What Jesus is really doing is preaching on sin. If you don't understand sin, you'll never understand anything else in the Scripture. Jesus spends a tremendous amount of time dealing with the problem of sin. Listen, when the memory of John Newton was nearly gone, and he was an old man, that great saint of God couldn't preach anymore.

He'd forgotten so many things that he couldn't carry on a conversation. But he said this, he said, It seems as though there are only two things I can remember. One is that I am a great sinner. And the second is that Jesus Christ is a greater Savior.

That's the issue. That's what Jesus wanted the Pharisees to see. That's what He wants you to see. You were so great a sinner, you couldn't atone for your sin.

He did it for you. I read this week about a child who was bitten by a poisonous snake. And the mother was there when the child was bitten. And the mother was just struck with love for the child. And so she placed her lips over the wound to suck the poison out. She succeeded in doing it to save the child's life.

She had a little cut on her lip. The poison went into her and she died. So it is with Jesus Christ who drained out of us, as it were, the poison of the serpent, and in so doing died in our place. We are great sinners, but He is a great Savior. Amen? Let's pray. We thank you, Father, again for giving us insight into your precious Word.

Help us to know that it is a relationship you want, not a set of rules. A relationship that we could never keep in our own strength. And so we fly to Jesus Christ for grace and mercy. Forgiveness and righteousness that He alone can give. And so, Father, we thank you for what you will do and have done for all who believe. In Jesus' name.

Amen. Thanks, John, about your own experience studying and teaching through the book of Matthew. Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, this was a kind of turning point in your ministry.

Talk about the impact this had on you and the congregation of Grace Community Church. Well, in my education, I had been taught that the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5 to 7, was a kind of manifesto for the Millennial Kingdom, that it did not relate to the current church age. That may seem bizarre for people to hear me say, but that is exactly what was taught. That was the old Scofield view. That was the old Scofield dispensational view. And so it was dismissed as any kind of standard for evangelism or Christian life, just pushed off into the future millennium. That never set well with me.

There were other things about traditional dispensationalism that didn't set well either. And systematically through the years, my instincts have been validated because I've come to the conclusion that most of what I thought sounded wrong was, in fact, very wrong. So the first thing that happened to me in Matthew 5 was I took it as a message from our Lord that was transcendent, that basically was for every person in every age in every period of time, and it could be applied to every life. It was a great, masterful, evangelistic sermon that had implications throughout all of time. So this was a huge turning point in me as I had to kind of reshape my theology as I went through the Sermon on the Mount, and that meant Matthew 5. It all started with the Beatitudes. I honestly had never really thought much about the Beatitudes because I had been taught that they really don't apply. Once I got into the Beatitudes, it was absolutely life-transforming.

I would probably say my time in the Sermon on the Mount was the most transformative time in half a century of teaching the Bible. So this is profoundly important material. This is the first real sermon we hear in the New Testament from the lips of our Lord.

We need to know everything that's contained in it. If you want more information on this, you need to order the four commentaries on Matthew, and start in that first volume and flow through the whole series. As you know, we have a commentary on the entire New Testament, 33 volumes. If you want to get started with that, get the four volumes on Matthew, affordably priced from grace to you, and begin to think deeply about that incredible gospel. Yes, don't settle for a surface understanding of Scripture, especially when it comes to the life of Christ. Get one or all four volumes of John's Matthew commentary when you get in touch today.

Each volume costs $19 and shipping is free. To order, call 800-55-GRACE or go to our website, Again, that's And friend, if something John said today encouraged you, would you let us know? It's always a joy to hear that friends like you are benefiting from these broadcasts, and it's helpful to us as we plan our radio schedule.

It lets us know that what we're doing is hitting the mark. So when you have a free moment, jot a note and send it our way. Send an email to letters at

That's letters at For more, if you prefer regular mail, write to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. And to order John's commentary on the book of Matthew in four volumes, or the entire MacArthur New Testament commentary series, call 800-55-GRACE or go to Now for John MacArthur and the whole Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to tune in tomorrow when John continues his study on how you can effectively fight sin. Be here for another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-23 23:26:41 / 2024-02-23 23:37:14 / 11

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