It is not possible to commit adultery unless you’re married
If a man looks at a woman with the precise aim “to lust after her”, it is a sin according to the teaching of Jesus Christ. However, Jesus does not say that it is a sin to simply look at a woman and find her attractive. The sin in question is adultery, and it is not possible to commit adultery unless you are married.
Matt. 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman TO LUST AFTER HER hath committed ADULTERY with her already in his heart. (KJV)
The sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery”
Based on the verse Matt. 5:28, a man commits adultery (is unfaithful to his wife) if he looks at a woman to lust after her. This means that this verse is in reference to those who are married and who still choose to look at a women with the aim to lust after her. This statement was a surprise to many of the pharisees since they likely were of the view that you could only be an adulterer unless you actually committed the physical act of adultery and/or broke up a marriage.
What about those who are not married? Are they free to look at women with the aim to lust after them, and particularly if the women are unmarried, in order to not break the 10th commandment which says ”Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s”? No, even though Matt. 5:28 is in reference to married men, the fact is still that our thoughts and intentions reveal our inner thoughts and our true intentions. Do we stay away from temptations as much as we can, or do we seek to be tempted? This is how we will be judged:
Rom. 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
We can read in the Bible that one man and one woman are meant to be one flesh (Mark 10:8), and that a marriage is supposed to be for life. (At least this is the ideal situation.) In order to achieve this goal, we are created to be attracted to the opposite sex, but also with the possibility to be in power over our own bodies. Since 1+1=2, it is not good for a man to purposely look for tempting situations with other women which could easily lead to sin.
God knows if we happen to end up in a tempting situation with no fault of our own, and he knows what we do to get out of the situation (if anything). He knows our possibilities and our limitations and he does not demand the impossible from us but what is possible. We are human beings with free will, and no robots:
1 Cor. 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
God created man to be attracted to the female body and this means that women would do well to not tempt men by dressing too revealing. When it comes to such female temptations, the attacks from the devil can perhaps be viewed as more severe today compared with Biblical times, because many women unfortunately dress themselves as though they were prostitutes (encouraged and normalized by the current world view) and there are loads of pornographic material available. Many men have confessed to be addicted to pornography, so the best way is to not even start watching such material in the first place. Watching pornography is usually optional (if we do not count the times when they are forced upon someone, such as in a liberal class room) and can therefore be avoided. It is harder to get away from other types of temptations – for example if your class mates or colleagues at work do not dress modestly. Each individual can still do his best to skip as many spiritual attacks as possible, even if he cannot avoid all tempting and awkward situations. During the time of Paul, people married at an early age so they did not have to wait that long to be husband and wife, and they were generally not affected by the same pressure and sex propaganda as today’s school children.
It is important to remember that temptations are not sins in themselves. Also Jesus was tempted just like us, and he never sinned. It is giving in for temptations which is a sin. To involve even more people in one’s sinful behavior is of course even worse. If someone is guilty of sin, he must confess his sins, ask for forgiveness and start walking in the light. There is hope for everyone!:
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. —-9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Bible does not say that it is a sin for an unmarried man to fall in love with another unmarried woman, and to feel mutual love and attraction for each other. It is enough to read in the song of Solomon to realize this much. This Biblical book also concerns God’s love for Israel, but it still involves a romantic communication between two unmarried individuals who feel an attraction for each other. We are created to be two in one union. Adam initially lacked something in his life when he was alone on earth, and Eve was created for him to make their union perfect. It is natural for a young person to seek a soul mate in his/her life and to long for a life long companionship where even the bed is shared. We generally do not feel complete without the other half, just like in Adam’s case, and that means that it is natural to look for our other half. This is not a sin!
A life long relationship is of course not only about a physical attraction but about being attracted to a special person who shares the same moral values and outlook on life. If we do find this someone and there is mutual attraction, it is not a sin to also feel a physical attraction. Paul says “The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife”.
1 Cor. 7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
Paul’s advice for singles is not “Simply avoid having an attraction for each other, because it is a sin. Just stop having such feelings!”. Instead his advice is actually to get married, for it is better to marry than to burn … With other words, such normal feelings are hard to just shut off based on a decision because we are created into sexual beings and even to replenish the earth. This does not mean that we are unable to control our bodies.
1 Cor. 7:8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
It would rather be unnatural for a young engaged couple to not have any physical/sexual attraction for each other. Both still have the responsibility to not tempt the other person, but to save the gift of a physical union until the wedding. I believe that a young couple will be very blessed if they decide to wait until the marriage with their intimate relations. This is also a sign of true love for each other, and that each person places God first in his life. Eccl. 4:12 “— a threefold cord is not quickly broken”.
Understanding Matt. 5:28 is important since loads of men (particularly young, single men) erroneously believe that they are sinners just because they happen to meet a woman on the street who they find extremely sexy and attractive. They might also believe that they are sinners because they happen to see a billboard with an attractive woman that they would like to take a second look at. Still, this does not mean that it is a good idea to make room for further fantasies about these women without making any attempts whatsoever to halt the thoughts.
God is always willing to forgive a humble heart.
Unfortunately many Christians view Matt. 5:28 as support for man’s inability to be faithful to God and to obey his commandments. Maybe their erroneous thoughts go something like this:
“Since Matt. 5:28 tells me that I am failed human being no matter what I do, I can just as well give into other sins once in a while, as long as I don’t overdo it – like watching pornographic films, like going to the beach and look at half dressed women to lust for them in my mind, and even go to bed with a woman. I’m saved anyway, and even my pastor at church tells us that God doesn’t see our sins but only the blood of Jesus, and that no one can stop sinning and that this is precisely why Jesus died for us, that faith + nothing saves us, that it’s man’s sinful nature that makes him sin, that God accepts us if we only confess our sins every day and do our best, once saved always saved, Jesus is our righteousness and that means that we don’t have to be righteous too, etc. In fact, there is only one detestable sin that could jeopardize your salvation and that is if you start teaching that there is something you must DO to stay saved and that it is possible to obey God’s commandments. God gets very upset with that type of legalistic pharisaical attitude, but other than that you’re good to go. Sinning is natural, and not sinning is unnatural. We will not die because we’re Christians!”
In reality, it was the Serpent (Satan) who persuaded Eve that she could be saved despite sinning and he said “Ye shall not surely die”. God does not give us commandments he knows we cannot obey. The problem is if we add to the commandments and make them impossible to follow, like the pharisees did. Read this passage from the same chapter (Matt. 5), and try to think which category fit you the best? The description in blue, or the the description in green? Which one are you? Do you break the commandments and teach others that it is impossible to obey God, or do you obey the commandments and teach others that it is possible to obey them?
Matt. 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus does not teach us to give up, but that we can be perfect the way our Father in heaven is perfect. This mean that we can. In the same chapter we are told to love and pray for those who persecute us. Are we to believe that this is also impossible for us to follow, and that Jesus can obey this commandment for us and instead of us?
Matt. 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
The question should not be if we can be perfect (we can indeed according to Jesus) but what it means to be perfect. We know that it does not mean “to never ever having sinned”, because Jesus said this to his disciples and they already had sin on their accounts. We can choose to repent and start walking in the light, and we do not get only one single chance to do it right.