Adultery and Divorce

Matthew 5:27-33


A. Though our society takes adultery lightly, it is a serious
offense in the eyes of God

1. God listed it right after murder in the Ten
Commandments – Exodus 20:13-14

2. He made it a capital offense in the Old Testament, worthy
of the death penalty – Leviticus 20:10

3. God has promised to judge those who are adulterers

a. Hebrews 13:4

b. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

4. Adultery destroys friendships, marriages, and families,
contributing to the destruction of many children’s lives!

5. How can one avoid the sin of adultery?

B. Divorce is a big problem in our society as well

1. We live in an age of easy divorce…

a. Many if not all states have “no-fault” divorce laws

b. In some cases, all it takes is for one person to decide to
have a divorce, and their spouse can do nothing to
prevent it

2. What does God think about divorce?

a. What was His view of divorce in the Old Testament?

b. What does He think of it now?

C. Remember Jesus challenged His disciples _ Matthew 5:20

1. He illustrated what He meant through a series on contrasts

a. Between what they had heard from those of old

b. And what He was now declaring to them

2. In this lesson we are going to address the issues of
adultery and divorce



1. The oral traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees certainly
repeated the written commandment found in the Law –
Matthew 5:27

a. But they evidently stressed that as long as one did not
commit the actual act, one was not guilty of anything

b. Thereby emphasizing the “letter” of the Law, but not
appreciating the “spirit” behind the Law as well

2. Jesus taught differently

a. One does not have to commit the “act” to be guilty of

b. One is just as guilty when one “looks at a woman to lust
for her” – Matthew 5:28

c. If a woman sees her husband lusting, can she divorce
him for adultery? The answer is “no” for the following

1) Jesus adds the phrase in your heart which separates it
from the actual act of adultery.

2) This is not the same as “the act” of adultery, which
requires two people (Jn. 8:4).

3) The sin of adultery requires the two becoming one
flesh (1 Cor. 6:16).

d. Notice also that is not the “looking” per se that is
wrong, but the looking “to lust” for her

1) To “lust” means to have a strong desire for, to possess
and dominate completely

2) A person may look at another with admiration for
beauty and not be guilty of “lust”

3. Jesus’ interpretation was in harmony with the Law

a. Notice that the Tenth Commandment condemned
coveting a neighbor’s wife – Exodus 20:17

b. Even in the time of Job, to “look at a woman to lust for
her” was considered wrong – Job 31:1

c. So the problem begins in the heart – Mark 7:21-23

1) If we can prevent the lusting in the heart (or the
“lustful eye”), the problem of adultery is “nipped in the

2) Jesus goes on to say what we should do with respect to
the lustful eye or any other stumbling blocks…

4. Matthew 5:29-30

a. That Jesus is not being literal should be obvious, for one
could still stumble with the left eye or hand

b. The key to understanding this passage is found in
Matthew 18:7-9

1) The “eye” and “hand” represent “offenses”

2) Offenses are “stumbling blocks” that lead to sin

3) These would be enticements to do wrong, beguiling

c. The meaning of Jesus’ teaching:

1) “Take drastic action in getting rid of whatever in
the natural course of events will tempt you to
sin” (Hendriksen)

2) Such should be the case in regards to ALL sin, as well
as the sin of adultery

3) As we contemplate Jesus’ words, there are several…

5. Important lessons to be learned:

a. The present is not our only life – we are destined for

b. Nothing, no matter how precious, should be allowed
to doom our glorious destiny

c. Sin, being a very destructive force, must not be


1. Matthew 5:31

a. This was the “traditional” interpretation of Deuteronomy
24:1-4; handed down orally

b. In applying the Law, they had focused on the idea of
giving certificates of divorce

c. They concluded divorce was permissible as long as a
certificate of divorce was given

2. Is this what Jesus actually said?

a. Lets read Deuteronomy 24:1-4 carefully…

1) Verses 1-3 simply describe a particular situation

2) It is in verse 4 that Moses actually commands what
must not be done

a) Which was: “her former husband who divorced her
must not take her back to be his wife after she has
been defiled; for that is an abomination to the Lord”

b) This passage is simply forbidding a man to remarry
his wife after she had been married to another –
Jeremiah 3:1

c. Note also Paul’s understanding of the Law – Romans

1) A woman was bound by the Law to her husband as
long he lived

2) If she married another while her first husband was still
living (implying a certificate of divorce was given), she
became an adulteress (i.e., defiled)!

3) So the scribes and Pharisees had interpreted the Law
to permit divorce as long as a certificate of divorce was
given to the wife. But this was not what the Law taught

4) What does Jesus say?

3. Matthew 5:32

a. The only acceptable grounds for divorce is
fornication, or sexual immorality

b. Otherwise, divorcing one’s spouse “causes he/her to
commit adultery”

1) How? By placing them in a position where they are
likely to remarry, in which they become an adulteress
or adulterer

2) This is what the Law implied in Dt. 24:4 and Jer. 3:1

c. Jesus made clear what the Law itself implied: To divorce
a woman for any reason other than sexual immorality
would cause her to be defiled (when she remarried)!

d. Jesus goes on to say that anyone who marries a
person who has been divorced (lit., “put away”) also
commits adultery!

e. A person who is divorced for reasons OTHER than
adultery cannot remarry

f. Nor can a person “put away” for the reason of
adultery remarry

1) For such a person is an “adulteress” or “adulterer”

2) As such, is “defiled” and would thereby cause anyone
who married that person to commit adultery!


About from the Preachers PC

Gospel Preacher for the Park Heights church of Christ in Hamilton, TX. I stand for and defend the truth of God's word. All other degrees and diplomas mean very little in comparison.
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