What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.27-30

“Who is Guilty of Adultery?”

Matthew 5:27-30

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.27-30

Matthew 5. In 1 Kings 20, Ben-Hadad in the 800’s BC, king of Syria, for the second time attacks King Ahab and the northern kingdom of Israel.

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Ben-Hadad has 32 kings helping him, but King Ahab defeats Ben-Hadad and the Syrian army by the LORD’s help. A prophet says they will strike again next spring. In the spring, the two armies meet. Through the prophet, the LORD predicts the Syrians defeat so that Ahab will know that the LORD is God. Israel inflicts 100,000 casualties in one day. The Syrian officials ask Ahab to spare their lives and Ahab grants them mercy … which he shouldn’t have done. That would have been like reinstating Hitler after his defeat.

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A clever prophet sends the LORD’s message to King Ahab. The prophet pretends to be a soldier who had allowed another prisoner to escape. King Ahab wanted this soldier dead. But the prophet reveals himself to be a prophet and explains Ahab allowed Ben-hadad to escape, which he should not have done, and that Ahab will die because of it.

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Just as God’s prophet predicted, Ahab was killed while in battle against the very man he had spared (1 Ki. 22). What you fail to put to death, will put you to death. That is the same it is with our sin. Romans 8:13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

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That OT story illustrates the need to deal decisively with sin, putting sin to death. And Jesus teaches the same thing in our passage.

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There are 6 sections from Matthew 5:21-48. We’re in the second statement only this morning, but I want you to notice how statements 2 and 3 are related. See if you can spot the one word that ties them together. Our text, the 2nd statement, is in vv. 27-30 and the 3rd statement is vv. 31-32. Let’s read both of them vv.27-32

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Matthew 5:27–32 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. 31 “It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

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The common theme that ties these two sections is adultery. You could underline the word adultery in verse 32 and then back up in verse 28, so that you ever know that that is the theme of these 2 statements from our Lord. And so the question for these two passages is, “Who is guilty of adultery?” And the answer is meant to be shocking.

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TRANS: First, in verse 27, Jesus states what they have heard.

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  1. What They Heard (5:27)

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    1. You shall not commit adultery

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Matthew 5:27 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery

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Jesus again quotes from the 10 commandments, Ex. 20:14 and Deut. 5:18. He moves from the 6th commandment of murder that he quoted in Matthew 5:21 to the 7th commandment, you shall not commit adultery.

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Jesus is primarily speaking to married men, when He speaks v. 28 of looking on a woman to lust for her. So Jesus is speaking primarily to married men because of the cultural context of the 1st century. Unfortunately, in that culture, women were considered more like property and that’s also the cultural context of the Ancient Near East when the Old Testament was written. Knowing that His people had hearts like the nations around them, the LORD commanded what He did in the OT. But the NT intensifies what is considered adultery.

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And so today, since we’re under the New Covenant, we therefore should not think that adultery is in any way limited to married men.

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Adultery Defined

Today, technically speaking, adultery, is any sexual contact between a spouse and a third party. However, in the OT, it was considered adultery only when the woman was married or engaged to be married. Deut. 22:22, if a man is found lying with a married woman, they are both guilty of adultery. If she is engaged, and a man lies with her in the city, they are both guilty of adultery. If a man lies with an engaged woman in the field, only he is guilty of adultery. But if a man lies with a woman who is not engaged, then the man must give her father 50 shekels of silver and become his wife and he can never divorce her. That’s a deterrent from committing that sin, but it didn’t constitute the guilt and punishment of adultery.

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So, adultery was defined by the marital status of the woman involved. If the woman was engaged or married and the man lies with her, it’s adultery. Keep in mind, this was national law, for the nation of Israel. It would be like laws for our nation today. Under the New Covenant, it’s different.

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In our passage, Jesus expands the sin of adultery beyond that of marital status.

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TRANS: So, why is adultery wrong? Why is adultery wrong?

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Reasons why adultery is wrong

First, according to God’s design, Genesis 2 teaches that a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife and they become one flesh. Marriage is a God-instituted, one-flesh union between one man and one woman made by a covenant until death. Adultery rebelliously breaks and violates God’s fundamental design for marriage going all the way back to creation.

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Second reason why adultery is wrong, is that adultery breaks God’s picture of Christ and His church. Eph. 5 teaches that the relationship between a husband and wife is a picture of Christ’s relationship between Him and His church. Adultery takes that picture and tears it in the face of Christ, who spilled his blood for that adulterer or adulteress.

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And it almost goes without saying that it hurts spouses and children, and it encourages and participates in the further degradation of society.

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Examples of Adultery

ILL: This is what happened in the case of David the king of Israel. David was walking around on the roof of his house and from there he saw a woman bathing, very beautiful in appearance. David sent messengers and took her and when she came to him he lay with her.

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This is what the exiles were doing during the Babylonian captivity, they are lying with their neighbours’ wives and even the prophets during Jeremiah’s day commit adultery and had become like Sodom and Gomorrah, Jeremiah says (Jer. 23:14-15; Jer. 29:23).

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TRANS: And the penalty for adultery, like murder, is death, capital punishment.

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  1. What is the OT penalty for adultery

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    Deuteronomy 22:24 charges that the adulterer and the adulterous shall be stoned to death, thereby purging the evil from among you.

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    From literature outside the Bible, we can see that the Jews viewed immorality as a terrible sin and demonic. It was viewed as one of the most serious sins along with idolatry and murder. Therefore according to Leviticus 21:9, if a priest’s daughter engages in prostitution, she is to be burned to death with fire (Lev. 21:9) as well as if a man marries a woman and her mother, the three of them are to be burned to death with fire (Lev 20:14).[1]

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TRANS: Capital punishment for adultery? … “I mean, come on, it was just a mistake?” Or, “Come on, they weren’t hurting anybody physically” or “how is this really going to help society.” Even if you accept capital punishment for murder, capital punishment for adultery? I mean, in Jesus’ day they heard that “you shall not commit adultery” and the punishment was death, but I haven’t heard of that!

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However, we know that capital punishment is the right course of action, because all sin is against an eternal God, deserving of any punishment that the eternal God deems necessary.

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“But of course, our society accepts sexual immorality.”

Many modern thinkers allow for adultery in certain cases.[2] Other social studies even promote cheating on your spouse to strengthen your relationship with your spouse.[3]

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More and more, adultery and immorality are accepted. Living common law, living with someone of the opposite gender and committing immorality, this is wrong and it grotesquely violates God’s law.

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In the United States, adultery is a misdemeanour offence in 21 states, punishable with fines. In five states, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Idaho it is a felony, punishable by a prison sentence. As far as I’m aware, I could be wrong, but in Alberta, up until October 1, 2005, a husband could sue another man who committed adultery with his wife and be awarded monetary damages.[4] But on that day, Alberta passed the Family Act, which simply says that adultery only affects divorce proceedings.

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Adultery is becoming more and more accepted. And that is because it is not seen as a sin against an eternal God deserving eternal punishment, but adultery and immorality are simply violations of human desires or feelings.

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The media today is saturated with immorality, in advertisements, songs, TV, internet, and even at the grocery stores. And our society is increasingly ok with it.

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TRANS: Jesus on the other hand, does not tolerate it … at all. What Jesus says next is shocking and it’s this, “Looking with lust makes you guilty enough for the lake of fire.”

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  1. What Jesus Says (5:28-30)
    1. Who Jesus says commits adultery (v.28)

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      [spectrums]

      [Right] On one end of the spectrum, our society views immorality as increasing acceptable. Perhaps in the middle, the Old Testament applied the death penalty to adulterers, but not to those who where immoral before marriage. [Left] But on Jesus’ end of the spectrum, Jesus applies the eternal lake of fire to those who even look with lust.

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Matthew 5:28–30 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell [not Hades, but Gehenna, the lake of fire]. 30 “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

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Here, Jesus is getting to the heart of the 7th commandment “do not commit adultery” by interpreting it in light of the 10th commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife.”

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So what does Jesus mean “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

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First, what Jesus is not talking about.

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WHAT IT IS NOT

1. He is not talking about having normal conversations between members of the opposite gender. That is totally normal and helpful.

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2. He is not even talking about …with purity, appreciating the pleasant, God-honouring appearance of someone else.

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So what is it?

WHAT IT IS

Jesus is talking about an adulterous heart, not the external act, but the lustful choices of the heart. It is purposeful intent to lust. The ESV translates it this way…

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Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

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The word “lust” translates the word “covet” in Ex. 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife.” It’s a desire. You must not desire her in a way that is only appropriate for those married, or set your heart’s, your mind’s passion upon her. You must not desire another in a way that is only appropriate for those married.

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This happens primarily through the eye, as Jesus points out… in verse 29, “if your eye causes you to stumble.” John calls it the “lust of the eye.” But those without sight, of course, can commit adultery of the heart as well. Because everyone has a heart, a spirit, a mind. If you are desiring someone in a way that is only appropriate for those married, you are violating this commandment.

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And women can commit this too. In the book of Genesis, Potiphar’s wife seeks to lie with Joseph, a righteous man. The text says that Joseph is handsome, in his face and his form. And she seeks to lie with him.

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So, women can set their passion upon a man, too.

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APP: Inf act, 1 in 3 pornography viewers today are women. But it is much more prevalent among men than women…70% of men aged 18-24 view porn in a typical month.[5]

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Men and women seducing each other….

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ILL: “I never thought it would happen to me,” says Sue, married to Don with four kids. Sue is strong, confident, and solves problems easily on the job. This problem, however, was a different story.

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Although married to Don, Sue meets Jim at work and they immediately hit it off. At first, they just had casual conversation in the break room. They would talk about their weekends and their families, a normal friendship between two people who loved their spouses very much.

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But pretty soon, Sue began to realize that she looked forward to coffee with Jim. Arranging times to meet for coffee, Sue would reveal to Jim her burdens and struggles.

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Jim was compassionate, and would listen well. Her husband on the other hand always seemed to have all the right answers, with none of the love and care she thought she needed.

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And she craved what Jim gave her and was finding satisfaction in her relationship with Jim. This is adultery! She shouldn’t be expressing to Jim what she should be expressing to her husband.[6]

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ILL: We need to have the attitude toward heart lust that others have toward hearing about someone who has just murdered someone else…. Let’s view heart lust as grievous as murder, since both deserve the same punishment.

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I mean….”He was a good kid, always. You would never expect something like this to come from him.”

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“Just from knowing her for a brief time, I didn’t think that would happen,” he said. “It is unbelievable.” “I mean, she was the product of a good family, how could she commit murder heart adultery like this?”

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“He was a very respectful man, raised by upstanding parents, who would do anything for others. This is an incredibly tragic event, and we should pray for the other children. This is so incredibly out of character for him to lust like that, something went terribly wrong somewhere.”

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“They were a loving, close family, and they were really proud of him, what happened?”

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TRANS: What is your response, not just to physical adultery, but heart adultery?

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  1. Perform radical spiritual self-amputation (vv.29-30)

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    This is how serious this is: the only proper response to heart adultery, desiring someone in a way that you should only desire a spouse … the only response to heart adultery is that you need to perform radical spiritual amputation.

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Matthew 5:29–30 29 “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

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That is the response to heart adultery, self-amputation… perform radical spiritual self-amputation.

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Jesus is graphic here.

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What Jesus is saying is that if there is anything at all, even if you think it is beneficial, like a right hand or a right eye, if there is anything at all that is influencing you to sin or if it keeps you from Christ, you need to do something radical about it. …

if there’s anything that’s got such a grip on your life like that, Jesus urges you to cut it off…

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This horrific imagery of cutting off your hand, and gouging out your eye, this is talking about repentance, the kind of repentance that saves. There is no one in here who has received eternal life and who has genuinely come to saving faith in Jesus Christ who has not cut off his or her hand.

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Both of these pictures, cutting off your own hand and gouging out your eye are graphic illustrations for you to wake up … to show you how desperate your condition really is!

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ILL: It’s like your hand is trapped on the escalator going down into hell and your only option is to perform that radical surgery.

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Turn violently away from everything that is sin.

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Jesus says the same thing 2 different ways to emphasize the point so that you get it. He is intentionally graphic 2 times so that you make sure that it sticks in your memory.

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A hand or an eye are all something that you would consider to be of incalculable value. What value can you place on your eye or your hand? You would almost give anything to keep them wouldn’t you?

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Now, Jesus is saying, if there is something in your life that has incalculable value and that thing in your life is preventing you from depending on Jesus that is, it is causing you to stumble and sin and to love sin, it is preventing you from receiving the life of Jesus, eternal life…there’s something in your life that is preventing you from going on for Christ, Christ is calling on you to perform spiritual, self-amputation.

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Make a break from your adulterous heart that is preventing you from receiving Christ in a saving way. Cut off…desperately hate instead of love that pornography, that lust, covetousness in your life that has got such a hold on you … it prevents you from receiving Christ for salvation … Do the unthinkable and cut it off!

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ILL: On April 26, 2003, having told no one nor having a way to call for help, Aron Ralston was hiking alone through Blue John Canyon, in Utah. While he was descending in a canyon, an 800 lb boulder became dislodged while he was climbing down from it. The rock smashed his left hand, and then crushed and pinned his right hand against the canyon wall.

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He spent 5 days sipping what little water he had and eating what little food he had. He tried to break and lift the boulder, to no avail, so he prepares to do the unthinkable: self-amputation. Using torque, he breaks his own bones and then uses a 2-inch dull knife to do the rest. He climbs down the canyon, rappels down a 65 foot wall, and hikes out of the canyon and found a family on vacation and was rescued by helicopter 4 hours after the self-amputation.

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Three years later, Ralston appeared at the Swiss Economic Forum and gave a speech about “how he did not lose his hand, but gained his life….”

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Mark 9:43 43 “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into [the lake of fire], into the unquenchable fire

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And you know, apart from Christ’s saving work, you love heart adultery. You will seek it out. If that is what is keeping you from coming to Christ, He is calling on you to want to be done with it to such an extent that you’d be willing to do something drastic…cut it off. It will hurt. It will hurt like cutting off your hand, but you must do it.

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And if that’s you, and you truly trust Christ, you will gain life, eternal life!

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APP: The adulterer must hate her adultery, the pornographer, his pornography…Hate it, cut it off, tell Christ you really, really want to be done with it, knowing you’re poor in spirit and mourning over your sin….because you know He hates it and call upon Him to save you from your sin! This is self-amputation!

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If you do that, there is life for you!

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ILL: At our opening service for Northlight Church, I preached on this same topic of cutting off your hand, and there was a pastor there…a pastor, who would later commit adultery and is now out of the ministry.

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You must take heed to these warnings and be done with your life.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.27-30

Men, women, children, if you are struggling in this area, get help! Because heart adultery is so prevalent in churches, you must conquer this! And you can with Jesus’ help.

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ILL: At the command of the Lord, Hosea marries a wife who would commit adultery against him…. and he does, they have children … and she does…she commits adultery against him.

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And she’s gone, out into the night and commits acts of harlotry against him, a prostitute.

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And the word of the LORD comes again, “Go again, Hosea, Go! Love your wife, pursue her even though she loves another man and continually commits adultery.” And that is just like the LORD, who loves sinful people who turn their hearts to other gods and commit this sensual sin.

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“Go find her again, Hosea, go find her and love her…that’s just like my love for sinful people.” Where might you find such a woman of the night? As her husband, what devastation would be in his soul, what anguish what grief! You’re looking for your wife who is presently prostituting herself…in the streets, selling herself….

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He’s looking for who again, among the carnal street dwellers? His wife! And he finds her, painfully sees her … with her hustler…

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Hosea says, “I bought her for 15 shekels of silver and a 1.5 homers of barley.” He paid for his own wife! If you were there that day, you could have seen Hosea negotiate. “But she’s my wife!” “The price is the price, take it or leave it.”

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“So I bought her.” He buys her back, she who was already his.

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Hosea pictures God and you, you adulterer and adulteresses, you are Gomer.

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!!!!God owns you, you are His. He made you. And to buy back adulterers like us, He Himself came to the earth that He owns and paid the price of His own blood to buy you, whom He always owned.

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And you don’t have to be in this kind of an industry any longer; God can deliver you from the penalty and power of the sin of heart adultery if you make a radical turn away from your sin.

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Like Gomer would have said, you can say, “He bought me? I’ve abandoned him and our family, yet He would buy me, to care for me again, and to love me?” Yes!

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Rescuers went back and found Aron Ralston’s arm, and then they cremated it. It’s all gone! That old life, all gone! And by God’s grace, you too can have life and freedom from this sin, if you but make that decisive turn and plead with God to buy you.

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400 Jesus thy blood and

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Go to Matthew Main Page

Go To New Testament Books

Go To BibleTrove Home Page

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  1. Craig S. Keener, “Adultery, Divorce,” Dictionary of New Testament Background: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 10.

  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/maybe-its-just-me/201003/adultery-is-it-ever-justified

  3. https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/25/health/cuckolding-sex-kerner/index.html

  4. https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/7354/index.do

  5. http://www.techaddiction.ca/files/porn-addiction-statistics.jpg

  6. https://bc4women.org/2017/04/emotional-adultery-never-happen-to-me/

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