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“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 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. 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. 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.
It is not a new thing to downplay the significance of twisted human affections. Since the Fall of Man in the garden, people have harbored various affections within the confines of their heart. Some of those affections are wholesome, others not so much. From the first sin on, it has been a popular practice to diminish the importance of false affections so long as the practical outworking of those affections are avoided.
Even today with events such as the upcoming Revoice conference it is easy to tell affections are not taken as seriously as those visible or easily discerned sins. The conference website is telling. It says, “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.”
The premise of the website and the conference lines up fairly well with the milieu of pop-Christian culture; but does it align with God’s Word? The above passage quoted above, taken straight from the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ looks to be contrary to everything the conference stands for. Let’s drop the situational ethics for a moment and realize that God has spoken, and what God has said about sin takes priority, especially within the current context.
First, it’s not hard to demonstrate that Scripture’s teaching on sin extends not only to those outwardly expressed actions, but to the disposition of the heart. Those who are angry at their brother are condemned as murdered and those who are lustful (even in the straightest way) are condemned. Pay close attention to notice that neither anger nor lust require an outward expression in order to be condemned and the exact point Jesus is making is that external sin streams from those dispositional sins within the hearts of men.
Second, we are not talking about temptation here. There may be some who are anxious to throw the ‘temptation card’ out onto the table. But, anger and lust are not temptations, they’re actual sin. Moreover, even if we do grant that some affections are trivial enough to be labeled as a temptation, it must be asked whether or not those temptations are internal or external. In other words, did the temptation arise from within or come to the person from without?
Internal temptations, that is, temptation arising from the sin nature of a human being, is indistinguishable from a dispositional sin. Indeed those inward temptations would not be present if it weren’t for the sinful nature of one’s own person. On that basis, we are condemned when inward temptations arise because it is as if we are making an attempt to drag ourselves into union with Satan! Surely to tempt others is a sin, is it not a sin to tempt ourselves?
Therefore, internal sin (sins of affection) or dispositional sins are offensive to God. What are we to do with that which is offensive to God? Paul writes:
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry (Col. 3:5).
The word used for passion is pathos which is also translated affection and the word for desire is epithymia which can be translated as concupiscence or lust. Thus, Paul includes dispositional sin within the scope of that which is offensive to God. These things must be put to death within the members and the mind of the believer. It is not enough to settle for the destruction of external sins, the Pharisees tried very hard at this and even appeared to succeed at times according to onlookers. However, they were but whitewashed tombs. Externally, they looked great. Internally, they were rotten (Matt. 23:27).
Surely an affection which distorts the original created order established by God in Genesis 1-2 is an evil passion which ought to be put to death by the power of the Spirit of holiness. The aim of Revoice tips a permissive hat toward dispositional sins while focusing on outward appearance, but according to Scripture this is vanity. Christ came to redeem the whole man, affections and all.
Regeneration by the Spirit of God touches not only our outward appearance, but the whole man. For the Christian, passions, desires, and any other attribute of our humanity affected by sin is being changed to conformed to the image of Christ. As believers, we do not settle for pure outward acts, we want both the outward deeds and inward affections of Christ Himself (Rom. 8:28-30)!
Categories: Biblical Theology