Questions to Consider
1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 27-32 in light of those passages.
Summarize, in your own words, the main idea of 27-32.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in 27-30 and 31-32? How?
How do lust, adultery, and unbiblical divorce bland your saltiness? (13-16) How can crucifying your lust and being faithfully devoted to your husband make you saltier and brighter?
2. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.
How does Jesus refer back to the Ten Commandments in verse 27? How do Jesus’ phrases “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” verbally transition the people from their focus on outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? Explain how refraining from lust and being faithful and committed to your marriage is the heart of the law (17-20) behind the seventh and tenth Commandments. Connect these passages with 27-32. Where should our outward, behavioral obedience to Christ spring from?
3. Review: Examine again the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” proclamation. Who had the people heard it (the law) said by? Who taught them the law? How does Jesus saying, “But I say to you…” establish Jesus’ supremacy over the Pharisees, scribes, priests, etc. Imagine you’re one of these Jewish leaders and you’re hearing Jesus say this. What might your initial reaction be?
Recalling our Sermon on the Mount / Ten Commandments motif, how might Jesus’ “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” proclamation have evoked images of Moses as lawgiver, and signaled to the Jewish leaders and people that the better Moses was here?
4. What is “lustful intent”? (28) Make the connection between lust, adultery, and divorce. How could lusting after someone else eventually culminate in divorcing your spouse?
5. Notice the progression from temptation to commission of outward sin in 28-30:
- Sin of the e_____(28a, 29) leads to…
- Sin of the h_____(28b) leads to…
- Sin of the h_____(30)
Which sexual sins does this progression apply to? Which other sins does this progression apply to? Is it fair to say that this progression applies to all sin? Explain what Jesus means by gouging out your right eye and cutting off your right hand as it applies to this progression from temptation to commission of outward sin. How can removing things in your life that are conducive to temptation and sin stop this progression?
6. Using your cross-references for verse 31, what were the Old Testament parameters for divorce? Why, according to Jesus, was this allowance made?
A spouse’s “sexual immorality” (usually adultery) (32) is one of the biblically permissible reasons for divorce. What is the other? Study these passages. How is marriage symbolic of God’s relationship with His people? If marriage symbolizes how God (the “husband”) cares for His people (His “bride”), what does divorce (for unbiblical reasons) say about God? About His people?
Compare 32 to Matthew 19:3-9. Why is divorce so closely tied to adultery? Who joins two people together and makes them one in marriage? Besides divorce due to adultery and abandonment1, what is the only other way God considers a marriage dissolved? Do man’s scribblings on a piece of paper (“certificate of divorce” for unbiblical reasons) change the fact that God still considers those two people married? How does this better help you understand Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:6: “What God has joined together, let not man separate.”? How does this concept help you understand why, in unbiblical divorces, God considers remarriage to be adultery?
1I know at this point many of you have “Yeah, but…” and “What if…” questions about abusive marriages and/or your own divorces. We can’t deal with those properly here. I would encourage you to a) use your cross-references and concordance to search the Scriptures about divorce and rightly apply them to your questions, b) get wise counsel from your pastor, c) if you’ve tried a & b and still have questions, send me your questions and I’ll attempt to answer them in a Mailbag article (protecting your anonymity of course). In the meantime, if you are currently being abused: please get to a safe place and reach out to your pastor, the police, or another appropriate person for help. Getting to a safe place is not a sin, and it is not the same as an actual divorce.
- Read my article The Mailbag: Is Lust a Sin for Women, Too? and study the Scriptures therein.
- Think of one pernicious sin in your life in which you can see the progression of: sin of the eye>>sin of the heart>>sin of the hand. Explain how each of these steps are fleshed out in your particular sin. What is something you could remove from or add to your life that would make it more difficult for you to be tempted to commit this sin? Prayerfully develop a plan or strategy to “cut off your right hand / gouge out your right eye” (metaphorically speaking) in this area and begin implementing it this week.