You Shall Not Commit Adultery

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Exodus 20:14

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called “The Ten Commandments for Today,” and today’s message is on the seventh commandment.

“You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)

Last month I came across an article about an internet dating site that put up a billboard in California with the message, “Life is short, have an affair.” How would you like that billboard off of I-91 here in Springfield? The creator of the website defended the billboard saying, “Monogamy has never worked in society and in many respects and in many regards it doesn’t deserve to be upheld as a social value. So we just want to call it as it is. … People stray, that’s all there is to it.”

No, that isn’t all there is to it. Just because people “stray” doesn’t mean we should encourage them to stray. To say that “monogamy has never worked in society” is a ridiculous statement. Monogamy is one of the key foundations to a stable society. The costs of widespread adultery in society are staggering.

A couple weeks ago we looked at the importance of the parent-child relationship with the fifth commandment. Today we will look at the importance of the husband-wife relationship with the seventh commandment.

I. The meaning of the commandment

    A. The definition of adultery

First of all, let’s talk about the meaning of the commandment. What exactly is adultery? Adultery is strictly defined as: sexual relations
  1) between a married man and a woman who is not his wife, or
  2) between a married woman and a man who is not her husband.
In other words, the two persons involved are not married to each other, and at least one of them is married to someone else. And so adultery is a specific form of sexual immorality that directly violates the marriage covenant.

    B. The implications of the commandment not to commit adultery

However, the implications of the seventh commandment stretch far beyond the strict definition of adultery. Remember, every negative commandment has a positive corollary. The positive corollary to the negative command, “You shall not commit adultery,” is that God designed the sexual relationship for the marriage relationship only. And that has the following implications.

1) First of all, any sexual relations outside of marriage are morally wrong. In Galatians 5:19 Paul gives a list of the acts of the sinful nature and guess what? Sexual immorality comes first on the list. (“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality …” – Galatians 5:19) The word translated “sexual immorality” there is a general word for sexual immorality that is used throughout the Bible for such things as premarital sexual relations, incestual sexual relations (Leviticus 18:6-18) and homosexual relations (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10).

2) A second implication of the commandment is that the marriage covenant contains two essential ingredients. First of all, the marriage covenant contains a covenant of sexual faithfulness. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.” And secondly, the marriage covenant contains a covenant of lifetime commitment. We read in Malachi 2:14 in a section on divorce: “The LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.”

So there are two ways of breaking faith with your marriage partner. The first is by adultery, breaking the covenant of sexual faithfulness. And the second is by divorce, breaking the covenant of a lifetime commitment. Jesus said in Matthew 19: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

These two essential parts of the marriage covenant are reflected in the traditional wedding vows that the bride and groom exchange even today: “John, will you have this woman to be your wife, to live together in holy marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her, as long as you both shall live?” Notice the vows contain both the covenant of sexual faithfulness and of lifetime commitment.

3) And then a third implication is that no one should intrude sexually in another person’s marriage. Anything you do that takes away from the closeness and intimacy that the husband and wife are meant to share with each other alone in marriage is morally wrong.

II. The prohibitions of the commandment

So that leads us to our second point. What are the prohibitions of the seventh commandment?

1) Well, obviously adultery is forbidden. (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18) That means if you are married, you should have no sexual relations outside of your marriage. And if you are not married, you should have no sexual relations with someone who is married. Actually, if you are not married, you should have no sexual relations with anyone at all. Which brings us to the second prohibition.

2) Secondly, sexual immorality is forbidden. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Did you catch that? Not just adultery, but all forms of sexual immorality violate the seventh commandment. Any sexual relationship outside of marriage dishonors marriage and defiles the marriage bed. Why? Because God has reserved the sexual relationship for marriage only.

3) Thirdly, lustful thoughts and immodesty are forbidden. Last week we saw that the sin of murder begins in the heart with the sin of anger or hatred. In the same way, the sin of adultery begins in the heart with the sin of lust and impure thoughts. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28) Adultery begins with lust and impure thoughts in your heart. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality …” (Matthew 15:19)

If lust is prohibited by this commandment, guess what? So is immodest dress and behavior. That is why Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:9: “I also want women to dress modestly.” Women, you need to know that a lot of men struggle with the sin of lust. Please don’t be a partner to someone else’s sin by immodest dress or behavior. Don’t dress in a way that could cause someone to stumble with impure thoughts. Don’t flirt with married men at the office or in the neighborhood. Lust and immodesty are both forbidden by the seventh commandment.

4) And then finally, unlawful divorce is also forbidden by this commandment. Jesus said in Mark 10: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12) Unlawful divorce is another way to commit adultery by breaking faith with your spouse.

God only gives us two clear lawful reasons for divorce in the Bible: 1) divorce for reason of adultery, and 2) divorce for reason of desertion by an unbelieving spouse. The Bible makes it clear that just because you have a piece of paper that says you are divorced, does not mean that you are lawfully divorced in God’s eyes. And so a person who remarries following an unlawful divorce commits adultery against his or her spouse.

III. Reasons for the commandment

What are the reasons for the seventh commandment? Once again, God does not just give us his commands without also giving us reasons why. Here are six good reasons God gives us in the Bible why he gave us the command not to commit adultery.

1) First of all, adultery is a sin against God. When Joseph in the Old Testament was tempted to commit adultery, he responded by saying, “How … could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9) Adultery is a sin against God because God is holy and pure. That’s why Ephesians 5:3 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3) You see, according to the Bible, marriage is meant to reflect the unity between God and his people and between Christ and his church. Therefore any sexual immorality, and especially adultery, distorts the primary picture God that has given us to understand his relationship with us as a people and to testify to his relationship to us as a people.

2) Secondly, adultery is a sin against your spouse and family. Adultery betrays the marriage covenant of faithfulness. We read in Proverbs 2 about “the adulteress … who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.” (Proverbs 2:16-17) Adultery betrays a spouse’s deepest trust, and it is one of the hardest sins to forgive.

3) A third reason God gives us this command is because adultery defiles the marriage relationship. This is what we saw in Hebrews 13:4 earlier: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.” (Hebrews 13:4) Adultery is an irretrievable act that defiles the purity of the marriage relationship. It can be forgiven, but we should also remember that it can never be undone.

4) Fourthly, adultery not only defiles the marriage relationship; adultery defiles the persons involved. Leviticus 18:20 says, “Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.” (Leviticus 18:20) The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

5) A fifth reason God gives us this command is because adultery is a shameful, dishonorable act. We read in Job 24:15: “The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk; he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’ and he keeps his face concealed.” Why does the adulterer try to hide his adultery? Because deep down inside he knows it is wrong. People don’t usually advertise their affairs, because they are not proud of them. In Job 31 Job says, “If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor’s door … that would have been shameful, a sin to be judged.” (Job 31:9-11) Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4 “that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5)

6) And then finally, adultery demonstrates lack of character and self-control. Proverbs 6:32 says, “A man who commits adultery lacks judgment.” Adultery is ultimately a character issue. It has to do with a person’s integrity, honor, faithfulness and self-control. The person who commits adultery breaks a solemn vow and shows extreme lack of character.

IV. Consequences of adultery

Beyond these six reasons why God gave us the seventh commandment, there are also very serious consequences for committing the sin of adultery. Here are some of the consequences we find in Scripture.

1) First of all, there was the death penalty under Israel’s law. Deuteronomy 22:22 – “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.” Once again the death penalty for adultery does not apply today, but it certainly demonstrates the seriousness of the sin in God’s eyes.

2) A second consequence is God’s judgment. After King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan told him, “Because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” (2 Samuel 12:14) Proverbs 6 says, “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.” (Proverbs 6:27-29)

3) A third consequence is a broken family. Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Make no mistake about it: Jesus took a strong stance against divorce. But even Jesus said that adultery provided just cause for a person to divorce his or her spouse. Countless families have been torn apart by the sin of adultery.

4) A fourth consequence is broken fellowship in the church. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:11, “You must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” (1 Corinthians 5:11) Adultery breaks fellowship in the church. Unrepentant adultery requires breaking fellowship, but often those who commit adultery find themselves wandering away from church and family and friends, and it is hard to come back even when forgiveness is extended.

5) A fifth consequence is a destroyed reputation. Proverbs 6: “A man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself . . . his shame will never be wiped away.” (Proverbs 6:32-33) Many men and women have destroyed their reputations by giving in to the sin of adultery.

6) A sixth consequence is economic hardship. Proverbs 29:3 says, “A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.” Proverbs 6:26 says, “The prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life.” Adultery leading to divorce has been a major cause of financial hardship for many people over the years.

7) And then a seventh consequence of committing adultery can be actual physical harm. Proverbs 6 says, “A man who commits adultery … destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot …for jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse the bribe, however great it is.” (Proverbs 6:32-35) Of course, in our day and age the adulterer not only risks physical harm from a jealous husband, but also from the many diseases that can be contracted from having more than one sexual partner.

V. Prevention and forgiveness

And then, finally, I want to say a few words about prevention and forgiveness this morning.

    A. Preventing the sin of adultery

Let’s talk about prevention first. Adultery is such a serious sin with such serious consequences, that we must ask ourselves the question: “How can we guard against adultery in our lives?” Let me give you seven practical suggestions.

1) Practice godly disciplines. Be faithful in prayer, Bible reading, fellowship and service. Practicing these godly disciplines will go a long way in protecting you from the sin of adultery.

2) Commit yourself to marital faithfulness. This is part of the vows that you take before God when you get married. If you are married, perhaps you need to renew your commitment in this area. Even if you are not married, you can commit yourself to this in advance, keeping yourself sexually pure until such time as God may grant you the gift of marriage in your life.

3) Seek to meet each other’s needs. If you are married, seek to meet each other’s physical, emotional and sexual needs. Don’t neglect your spouse, which could lead to temptation in other areas.

4) Be honest with each other. Don’t hide things from each other. If you establish a pattern of hiding little things from your partner, you are setting yourself up for hiding bigger things later, which could lead to the sin of adultery.

5) Be accountable to each other. Be willing to answer truthfully any questions from your spouse. Let your schedule, checkbook and credit cards be open books to each other.

6) Guard your eyes and your heart. If this is an area of weakness for you, ask God to help you. If you are tempted by pornography on the computer, take some measures to protect yourself from temptation. Move the computer into a common area in the house. Install a filter on the computer and let someone else hold the password. Find a prayer and accountability partner who will help keep you honest in this area.

7) Flee any compromising situation. Do not “test the waters” and see how far you can go in a certain situation before pulling back. As soon as you know that you are in an inappropriate conversation or situation, get out of there. Some people who have experienced serious temptation with someone at work have switched jobs rather than risk losing their integrity and their family.

    B. Practicing forgiveness and reconciliation

And then, let me just say a few words about forgiveness and reconciliation.

1) If you have committed adultery, please understand that your spouse will need time to work towards forgiveness. This will not be an easy thing for him or her. Do not expect that when you confess your sin, you will receive a quick forgiveness and get back into your relationship as if nothing had happened.

2) Understand that you will need to invest time and effort in regaining your spouse’s trust. Your spouse may find it difficult to trust you for a long time. Do not blame your spouse for his or her lack of trust. Realize that you broke the trust, and you will need to work hard to rebuild that trust over time.

3) Understand that you must break off all communication with your partner in adultery — period!!! You cannot keep on being friends. You cannot frequent the same places together. If you work in the same place, you will need to find another job.

Finally, when it comes to adultery, realize that although God will forgive you (John 8:1-11; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), your spouse may not. My hope, prayer and counsel in these situations is always that there would be forgiveness and reconciliation worked out over time, but the reality is that in committing adultery you may very well lose your marriage and your family. Don’t do it. It is not worth it. Too many people have dabbled in affairs only to lose their marriages and wind up lonely in their old age. Commit yourself to sexual purity in all areas of your life, and faithfulness in marriage for the rest of your life. You will never regret doing things God’s way.

CONCLUSION:

Finally, we need to pause at the end of a message like this and examine ourselves, sort of a quick seventh commandment inventory. I am going to ask you a few questions, and as I ask each one, I encourage you to answer honestly, yes or no, in your heart.

1) Have you ever been unfaithful to your spouse? Then you are guilty of the sin of adultery.

2) Have you ever intruded in any way in someone else’s marriage? Then you are guilty of the sin of adultery.

3) Have you been sexually active outside of marriage? Then you have dishonored the sexual relationship that is intended for marriage. You are guilty of the sin of adultery.

4) Do you entertain lustful thoughts in your mind? Do you look at pornography on the computer or elsewhere? Then you are guilty of the sin of adultery.

5) Have you divorced your husband or wife without just cause? Then you are guilty of the sin of adultery.

You may be thinking, “Great! I came to church last week and the pastor tells me that I am a murderer. This week he tells me I am an adulterer. What’s he going to say next time, that I’m a thief?” Well, that is the next commandment in line. The point is, you are a sinner, and you need a savior. The Bible tells us that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) Yes, we have all sinned. But Jesus died to save your from your sin, all of your sin, even the sin of adultery. If you doubt that, I invite you to witness the following drama of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.

Teen Drama – “Scribbling in the Sand” (by Michael Card)

© Ray Fowler

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