What does Matthew 5:27 mean?
ESV: "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
NIV: "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
NASB: You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’;
CSB: "You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery.
NLT: You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’
KJV: Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
NKJV: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
Verse Commentary:
Jesus is giving examples to back up His statement in verse 20 that nobody can enter the kingdom of heaven unless their righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. In part, this is meant to suggest that those groups were hypocritical. More immediately, it was meant to emphasize the level of perfection demanded by heaven. Christ's first example connected the commandment against murder with God's expectation not even to lash out with insults in anger or risk the hell of fire (Matthew 5:21–22).

Now Jesus says that His listeners have heard, "You shall not commit adultery." This is the seventh of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14), taught to every Jewish person by their religious leaders. When Jesus uses the "you have heard" phrase, He does not mean to imply that the statement is false. Rather, He follows those statements with a more accurate understanding. Jesus does not go on to contradict the law against adultery—He magnifies it.

As he did before, Jesus will point out that it's not "good enough" to simply avoid physical sin. What we think in our hearts leads to what we do with our bodies—so honoring this commandment means something more than not having sex outside of marriage. God's intent is for people to control what happens in their hearts and minds well before the opportunity for physical adultery becomes available.
Verse Context:
Matthew 5:27–30 continues to expand on a theme Jesus introduced in Matthew 5:20. True ''righteousness'' is not merely about what a person does but includes what they think and feel. This teaching is meant to explain the reality of sin, and to highlight the need for grace and faith, not good works, in salvation. In this passage, Jesus acknowledges that adultery is a sin, but also declares that attitudes of lust are sinful as well. He does not say that lust is exactly, precisely the same thing as adultery. He does, however, teach that lust is absolutely a sin, even if it never results in physical action.
Chapter Summary:
The Sermon on the Mount contains some of Jesus' most challenging teaching. It begins with the unlikely blessings of the Beatitudes. Jesus' disciples must do good works in order to be a powerful influence: as the salt of the earth and light of the world. The superficial righteousness of the Pharisees is not good enough to earn heaven. Sins of the heart, such as angry insults and intentional lust, are worthy of hell just as much as adultery and murder. Easy divorce and deceptive oaths are forbidden. Believers should not seek revenge. Instead, God intends us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. In short, we should strive to be perfect, as God is perfect.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 5 follows Matthew's description of the enormous crowds that were following Jesus (Matthew 4:25). One day, Jesus sits down on a hill to teach them, in an address we now call the Sermon on the Mount. He describes as blessed those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, and who are persecuted. Christ also explains how God's standards of righteousness go far beyond behaviors and speech; they also include our thoughts and attitudes. Meeting God's standards means perfection. Chapter 6 continues this sermon, with more examples of Jesus clarifying God's intent for godly living.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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