Seventh Commandment- “You Shall Not Commit Adultery”
Written by Pastor Jim Law
God’s protection and love are on display powerfully in the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)
The seventh commandment forbids adultery which is viewed biblically as the shattering of the marriage covenant between a husband and a wife through sexual relations with another outside the marriage. This commandment became the basis for the prohibition of a whole range of sexual sins expanded upon elsewhere in Leviticus and the New Testament: fornication, homosexuality, bestiality, etc.
The warning against adultery is second only to idolatry in the Old Testament, and second to none in the New Testament. It was considered to be a treacherous sin, not only against another person, but against God, as expressed by King David’s cry in his post-adultery confession, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51:4)
We are commanded to honor marriage (Hebrews 13:4), and adultery is an offense to the sacredness of that union. The fallout of unbridled adultery is everywhere. Someone has quipped that in America every hour is “Sex O’Clock.” A perusal of the media reveals an epidemic of relationships birthed or ended because of adultery, and any type of accountability for this covenant shattering behavior is dismissed out-of-hand.
A national acceptance has settled like a dark cloud, and like the adulteress woman in Proverbs 30:20, “She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’” However, the pain, the regrets, the shame, and the awkward dynamics brought to family life through adultery last a lifetime. From our neighborhoods to our nation, we hear regularly of the blow-outs that come to marriages because of marital unfaithfulness.
You do not need to be a certified therapist or a Harvard graduate to know the sorrow and anguish that comes with adultery. Some years ago I was introduced to a woman who suffered the great sorrow of her husband leaving her for another. She gave me a copy of a book she wrote which was a collection of poems written out of the crucible of that experience. One of her poems touched me deeply. It was entitled, “The Anniversary”:
“Today is significant as it marks the day when we said the vows—-when we said we’d stay together, forever, until death do us part. But you left with her—- and you broke my heart.”
Or consider the truth of George MacDonald’s poem “Sweet Peril”:
Alas, how easily things go wrong;
A sigh too much, a kiss too long,
Then comes a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.
With adultery, life is never the same again. Yes, there is forgiveness found in Jesus Christ. Of course there are new beginnings by His grace. We find an example of that in the woman taken in the very act of adultery. She was thrown at the feet of Jesus by a rabid mob. As she faced a certain stoning, Christ said to her accusers, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” With a thud, the stones hit the ground, and Jesus said to this woman, “Go, from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)
Yes, there is forgiveness, but with any engagement in sin there are scars and often the collateral damage is more than we can bear. Seasons of sin always cost us more than we want to pay. The grass always looks greener somewhere else, but we need remember that in the case of adultery, it is Astroturf. It is not real. It is a hellacious lie.
Living for Christ in a culture with “no boundaries” requires an intense focus and discipline to pursue personal purity. (I Thessalonians 4:3; Ephesians 5:1-15) Keeping marriage vows and any other kind of vow begins with the heart. It highlights our need for a new heart found through repentance and faith in Christ alone.
Jesus’ expansion of how adultery is defined takes us to the root of the issue as He speaks of adultery including our thought life. (Matthew 5:28) Purity begins inwardly. We are called to pursue what is pure and right and holy and true. (Philippians 4:8) We must make covenants with our eyes. This is the pursuit of holiness without which we will not see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
In obedience to what God has said, let’s honor marriage for His glory and our good, and may we give thanks to our great God whose goodness and love are on display by forbidding something that causes so much pain and destruction.