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Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV):

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Romans 8:1-17 (ESV):

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

On the one hand, Jesus seems to be teaching to be radical and drastic when it comes to triggers of lust, to the point of even being willing to pluck out one's own eyes if that needs be. However, Paul seems to be teaching a different approach that works against the flesh in general: walking in the Spirit.

Are Jesus and Paul teaching different approaches to overcoming lust and the desires of the flesh? How to reconcile the two teachings?

3
  • See John 6:63.
    – Lucian
    May 30 at 16:41
  • I don't think the tags used are fitting to the question. Only the contradiction tag if it exists is suitable. I will answer this Q.
    – Michael16
    Jun 2 at 6:21
  • @Spirit Realm Investigator, I suggest that the question needs to be revised, because the wording carries some connotation of putting Paul on a par with Jesus. Paul is a servant of the Lord, does not/ cannot have a "different approach." Jesus speaks about the seriousness of sin (sins) and the consequences (ultimately Jesus was maimed on the cross for us), and Paul is teaching about practical ways to overcome sin (sins) - by walking by the Holy Spirit.
    – Sam
    Jun 25 at 21:26
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Jesus didn't give an approach to lust in the Sermon on the Mount. The point Jesus was making there was self-righteousness falls short.

While lust isn't specifically listed, Jesus' way to deal with lust is in John 14-16.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:15–17, ESV)

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him (John 14:21, ESV)

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23, ESV)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5, ESV)

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:12–15, ESV)

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13–15, ESV)

Thus, Jesus' approach is similar to Paul's approach involving the Holy Spirit. By the way, when Paul used the term flesh, it does not mean lust. It means the human will of the unregenerated person (eg. Gal. 4:29). This will Paul called the flesh still battles the Holy Spirit within a Christian.

Note Paul also wrote:

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Rom. 13:8–14, ESV)

Thus, essentially Jesus' approach and Paul's approach are the same.

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Not at all. Jesus is, as He's very much wont to, employing rhetoric to make His teachings more memorable, and to drive the point through. (I think it's quite clear that Jesus didn't intend for us to be limbless, eye-less, etc. people, which we would be if we took this, and obeyed it literally.) Rather, He's teaching us to remove occasions of sin (things that cause us to sin — stumbiling blocks) from our lives in order to avoid spiritual death — that is, "hell." He uses very vivid imagery to do so, but it can hardly be interpreted literally.

But interpreting non-literally does not be not seriously. The part that would be hyperbole would not be the fact that lust really leads to hell, but rather the drastic measures to avoid it (by the use of which He teaches the necessity of avoiding the sin which calls for them) — these are the hyperbole.

He's teaching olden day the equivalent of, 'If watching certain movies tempts you to sin, throw the TV in the trash — is it better to watch those movies, but spend eternity in hell? Or to enter heaven, but have missed out them?'

You don't need to throw the TV in the trash, but instead know not to subject yourself to that which — even situations — could become a stumbling block for you (or which, more precisely, you know could be).

This makes sense, since deliberately putting yourself in the way of sin, is to do nothign else than to willingly tempt God, and presume on His mercy.

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  • 1
    But why would you need to throw away your TV if you can kill the source of the desire, the flesh, with the power of the Spirit? You only focused on Matthew 5, and seem to have completely forgotten about Romans chapter 8, which is explicitly mentioned in my question. May 29 at 18:54
  • Paul is the less rhetorical, so I said by way of "No" that they are saying the same thing. (How could anything else be true, anyway?) That's what is meant by putting to death the deeds of the flesh — ridding your life of them, by avoiding them, not partaking in them — which, yes, is a power and strength that only comes from God, not mortal bodies, but with bodies made alive by the Spirit. The setting free from sin — what's the opposite? Slavery to do sin. To be set free by the Son is to be no longer a helpless slave of sin. May 29 at 19:11
  • The point is: if you are set free from slavery of sin by the power of the Spirit, then you should be inmune to lust, then what is the point of drastic measures such as throwing away your TV, plucking out your eyes or cutting off your hands? You are inmune by the power of the Spirit, so what's the point of the drastic measures? They are redundant. May 29 at 19:18
  • Who said you're immune to lust if you're a Christian? You're not imminue, you have the power to resist temptations. May 29 at 19:28
  • Are you using "lust" as the temptation to lust, or as the sin of consenting to the temptation? May 29 at 19:36
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Yes. Different Clearly so. Let’s look a little closer ...

MAT 5:5 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him

Your quoted verse from Matthew are from what is commonly known as the sermon on the mount. Here Jesus is teaching Law, to the ‘nth’ degree, explaining it up to the highest standard - because that’s the standard you need to maintain in order to be [self] righteous, to ‘achieve’ the standard of righteousness God demands.

But - the Law was for the ‘flesh’. It was for you t do. And, you, or more specifically, your ‘flesh’ can’t. You can not overcome ‘lust’ with self effort. Note, ‘self’ here is you, in the flesh. Impossible.

Here as Paul in Romans 8 is teaching to not rely on the ‘flesh’, but let your spirit guide you.

ROM 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,

If you let your flesh dominate, ‘dictate’ your action, you will fail. However if you let your ‘spirit’ dominate [your body] you will [slowly] overcome the desires of the ‘flesh’.

Lust is a desire of the ‘flesh’, and the ‘flesh’ [you, your ‘old man’] can not overcome this. You need to walk in the spirit.

So yes, the two are different. One looks to the ‘flesh’ [using the Law], and one to the [reborn] spirit - to overcome Lust.

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The difference is only apparent, for Jesus does not say in a direct sense but in a metaphoric sense about "cutting one's hand" or "plucking one's eye", for it is not that hand or eye are tempting us, but a sinful desire is tempting us; thus, "cutting of hand" or "plucking of eye" means nothing else than killing the sinful desire within us. This is possible only in and with Christ Himself, for as He says, "impossible for men is possible for God" (Luke 18:27) and "apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), that is to say the "cutting off" of the sinful desire is possible only through the baptismal Grace of Jesus Christ and Him working cleansingly in depths of our fallen essence and hearts, which Paul also affirms in a perfect concordance with Jesus' words, that only through Jesus Christ can he, Paul, perform the deeds accounting for salvation (Philippians 4:13), that is to say, through Christ working in him powerfully (Colossians 1:29).

1

The Matthew 5 passage is not a teaching on how to deal with sin here, it is a teaching about the severity and consequence of sin and that he gives no provision for sin (5:19-20). Jesus is essentially saying he is greater than Moses by comparing himself to the contemporary teachings. It is also full of hyperbolic language, you can figure the logic, it is relatively better to chop off a hand than to let the whole body be punished. It is like a proverb saying. He is warning against sinning. Those who walk in the spirit or God, will not lust or fall into temptation in the first place. They would not let the thoughts and desire to germinate (1 John 3). Jesus also taught about the intent and spirit of the law, only the pure spiritual being can enter heaven. Jesus showed the leniency or limitation of the law due to the hardness of hearts. The social and earthly laws give righteous justice only so far as the righteousness of the judges implementing it. I'd say again that you have to consider the hyperbolic language used by Jesus, he did not mean that we should cut off our hands or eyes if lustful thoughts persists. The teaching is actually showing how earnestly God seeks to save the lost souls and how great lengths he is willing to save a sinner. (cf. Eze 18 and 33)

[ESV Matt 18:1-14] 1At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4​Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5​“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8​And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9​And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. 10“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 11--- 12​What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

[ESV Matt 19:7-8] 7They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Paul too is not dealing with how to deal with sin per se, his arguments in Romans about walking in spirit to overcome the temptation to fall back into the expired law or any fleshly mindset that gives preference to vain, elementary, worthless things of the world (Gal 4). He is describing the difference between those of the flesh and those of the spirit. The underlying truth of overcoming sin by walking in the spirit or being born again is common throughout the NT. The man who set his mind to the spirit of God, will come to the light, life and peace. Setting the mind on the spirit is to seek the requirement of God or God's law. To seek God and his ways as opposed to vain rituals, tradition, works of the flesh, that is the meaning of being spiritual, it is not a humanistic attitude. Faith is also a fruit of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22) The apostles of Jesus only taught the way of Jesus in details.

[ESV John 3:19-20] 19​And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20​For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

0

This is clear, once again Paul is contradicting / changing the teaching of Jesus.

Jesus is saying; to stop your-self from sin, it is better for you to pull out your eye than committing sin and burning in hell. The spirit is something given to you by God – guidance, knowledge etc… has nothing to do with rhetoric, law for the flesh (Paul) etc…

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. Job 5:17

I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Luke 13:3

If this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 2 Peter 2:9

Matthew 5:17-20 – Jesus never came to change the laws

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:17-20 ESV]

Exodus 21:22-25 - 22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Leviticus 20:13 - 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

Exodus 20:14 14 You shall not commit adultery.

Jesus says only 1 teacher

Matthew 23:8–12 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:15 - 15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

See also: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/60694/33268 - following the law

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