Exodus 20:14

"You shall not commit adultery."

Our study of the Ten Commandments, those rules that regulate the life of love to which we are called as believers, continues today with the seventh commandment. In a day and age when so many have abandoned the biblical sexual ethic, remembering what Scripture has to say about sex and marriage is more vital than ever. The commandment against adultery establishes the boundaries that prevent one of the most enjoyable and unifying aspects of the marriage relationship from becoming a force of destruction.

The Ten Commandments do more than just forbid particular behaviors. Each commandment encourages its opposite as well. Christian ethicists, particularly in the Reformed tradition, have long understood God's law in this way. Reformed confessions and catechisms such as the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity include lengthy discussions of the Ten Commandments and what each of them endorses and forbids. If the seventh commandment forbids adultery, then it commends faithfulness and even the sexual relationship itself within marriage. As an illustration of this, we just need to consider Paul's teaching that spouses, assuming they are physically able, should not deprive one another of the sexual relationship they enjoy except for brief periods in which they are to devote themselves to prayer. He bases his instruction on wanting to keep Satan from tempting the couple (1 Cor. 7:1-5). The Apostle wants husbands and wives to find fulfillment in one another so that they are less likely to seek it outside the marriage.

Genesis 2 describes the institution of marriage. In this text, the Lord pronounces only one aspect of His creation "not good"—Adam's lack of a helper fit for him. God created Eve and brought our first parents together to solve this problem. Marriage and its blessings, including the sexual relationship between husband and wife, were designed by the Lord as the chief solution to man's loneliness. At the end of this account, we find one of the key blessings of the marital union: husband and wife are naked and unashamed (v. 25). Moses refers here not merely to physical nudity—though that is in view—but also the privilege of being able to be open to another person without fear. The intimacy is so great that the two can even be naked in each other's presence and know one another in ways that they cannot know other people. Adultery destroys this intimacy, for in adultery one person shares with another that which he may not share with anyone but his spouse.

Coram Deo

God's prohibition of adultery shows His wisdom and mercy. To cheat on one's spouse is perhaps the greatest act of betrayal possible in human-human relationships, and it is so damaging that the Lord allows the offended spouse to get a divorce in the case of adultery (Matt. 19:1-12). We must do what we can to keep ourselves from falling into adultery. May we avoid situations that make adultery more likely and, by the Holy Spirit, may we love our spouses all our days.

For Further Study