Lust, Fornication and Adultery – The Fruit and Its Sin
(The Fruit and Its Sin)
For this illustration, we will compare lust as being a tasty desirable fruit. Yet not all fruit is good for you, as was demonstrated in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:6, 16-17). More often than not, lust is better known for its negative influence, those influences that result in acts of sin, such as fornication and adultery. So, let’s examine some of the components often associated with lust.
Lust is an “intense” desire that makes plans to obtain the object of the lust. The scriptures speak of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17).
Sex is a specific type of activity, created by God, generally for reproduction and to be enjoyed within the context of marriage (Genesis 2:24, 4:1).
(Genesis 4:1, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain . . . “) The knowledge involved in the Hebrew of the Old Testament is far beyond just having the mental awareness of another person. This is the physical union of becoming of one flesh.
Fornication is the physical sexual union (the becoming of one flesh Genesis 2:24) between any two people that are not married to each other. For there to be one flesh (Matthew 19: 5), there has to be physical penetration. One person can lust, but it takes two to fornicate.
Adultery is very similar to fornication. The distinction between fornication and adultery is that single people can fornicate, but it takes at least one of them being married for it to be adultery.
Understanding Matthew 5:27-28
Mat 5:27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
Mat 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust (G1937) after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
English Words used in KJV:
lust after 1
Many teach that sexual lust is equivalent to the actual act of sexual sin; that is, if a man sexually desires a woman, he has already committed adultery with her in God’s eyes.
Understandably, this passage is often taken out of context giving some the premise that any bad thought that enters the mind equates to sin. That interpretation however is not correct. A person who is thinking about doing something wrong (sinful) and later deciding not to go through with it, although the thought existed, the actual sin did not occur. For example, if I “thought about” going on a 24 hour killing spree (out of anger) but didn’t follow through with it, regardless of my intent (to commit a crime, murder, steal, sin) the crime (the actual sin) never took place.
This is not to say that it is okay to dwell on sinful thoughts, but merely having a sinful thought (often called temptation) without it being acted upon is not the same as committing the “the sinful act.” This dilemma is more inline with the scripture that addresses how to deal with anger (Eph 4:26).
*Note: In addition, many of us forget that Jesus himself (a man) also had to overcome temptations, including those that were sinful in nature (prohibited desires -which would include thoughts of adultery), and His thoughts were not said to be acts of sin. (Heb 4:15)
Thus we need to fully understand the wording used here in (Mat 5:27-28).
The Greek word (G1937) translated here as “lust” in this passage (ἐπιθυμέω; epithumeô) happens to be the same word used to translate the Hebrew word for “covet” (חמד) in the Tenth Command in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), which says:
οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ πλησίον σου. οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ πλησίον σου οὔτε τὸν ἀγρὸν αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ οὔτε τὴν παιδίσκην αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ βοὸς αὐτοῦ οὔτε τοῦ ὑποζυγίου αὐτοῦ οὔτε παντὸς κτήνους αὐτοῦ οὔτε ὅσα τῷ πλησίον σού ἐστιν. (Ex 20:17 LXX)
“thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife…”
The command we are given here in Mat 5:28 is not forbidding the thought of a woman’s beauty (even if that thought was of a sexual nature), it forbids the action of coveting that thought.
Coveting denotes a desire which is directed at obtaining that which is forbidden, not the mere existence of the desire itself.
“Lust” makes room to go and commit the sin (James 1:15), if it is not properly governed and put under the authority of the Spirit. But not every lust (G1937) [things long for or desired] is sinful. This is important to take note because the Greek word (G1937) didn’t change, the translator decided what English word would be used.
(Luke 22:15) And he said unto them, With desire (G1939) I have desired (G1937) to eat this passover with you before I suffer:
(Mat 13:17) For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired (G1937) to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them
(Luke 15:16 NIV) And he [the prodigal] longed [fain](G1937) to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
(Luke 16:21) And desiring (G1937) to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
It is therefore important that we understand the distinction between the “type” of desire (G1937) [or lust] in contrast to coveting (an act of planning) to partake in something which would be forbidden (like having sex with another man’s wife).
There is a clear difference between having a natural sexual attraction and “coveting” something that is prohibited by the Law: the Law forbids directing one’s desire towards that which is not lawful. Jesus is not condemning the desire itself but the action taken on the desire.
The presence of a beautiful woman may trigger a thought or an even an attraction, which is natural, but it’s the action associated with the thought. Yes, adultery (the act) is a sin, but the sin entered the heart (mind) the moment one plans to seek it out.
There’s an old saying “You may not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can prevent it from building its nest.”
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