The Ten Commandments - Seventh - Adultery Forbidden

Bible Book: Exodus  20 : 14
Subject: Adultery; Sex; Fidelity; Marriage
Series: The Ten Commandments - Paul Brown

The commandment against murder is followed immediately by the commandment against adultery. Unquestionably, this seventh commandment is one of the most significant admonitions in the whole Bible. It is foundational in its importance, and its implications are profound. It is recorded in Exodus 20:14: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

First of all, for the record, let’s take note of

I. The Meaning of Adultery

While the Bible strongly forbids all types of illicit sexual activity, the seventh commandment deals specifically with adultery. Generally the terms “adultery” and “fornication” are used differently in the Bible, with “fornication” sometimes referring to sexual immorality prior to marriage, and at other times being used in a broader, more inclusive way--but in at least one or two instances “adultery” and “fornication” are used interchangeably. There are two ways in which a person may be guilty of the sin of adultery.

A. It Is An Outward Act

The Hebrew word used in the 7th commandment is na’aph, and it refers to the sin of a married person having sexual intercourse with someone other than his or her spouse.

B. It Is An Inward Attitude

But one can also be guilty of adultery without committing the outward act. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” He went on, then, to give several examples of how the commandments have a much deeper meaning than men are prone to realize. In verses 27-28 he said: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery [Greek moicheuo]: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Jesus did not say that adultery in the heart does the same amount of damage, or receives the same punishment, as outward adultery. Nor did he say that since lusting makes you guilty of adultery anyway, you might as well go ahead and commit the outward act. That sort of illogical reasoning is both foolish and wicked. Committing adultery in your heart is a terrible, shameful, God-dishonoring thing, and by all means we are to refrain from it--but to go on, then, and also commit the outward act would increase the damage profoundly, enormously. To commit one sin is bad enough; to commit two is even worse. Hebrews 2:2 states a timeless truth: “...every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward.”

So, the seventh commandment tells us to avoid adultery--and Jesus said that that includes lust, which--in the sight of God--also makes a person guilty of adultery.

Now, consider with me

II. The Prevalence of Adultery

A. It Was Widespread In Moses’ Day

The people of Israel had come out of Egypt, where sexual immorality ran rampant--and now they were headed for Canaan, where sexual sin was the order of the day. Furthermore, all along their journey toward Canaan they encountered people whose lifestyles were characterized by moral looseness. Thus, they needed this warning.

B. It Is Widespread Today

But so do we need it, because adultery is terribly prevalent today, and it partly stems from the fact that modern-day Americans are, generally speaking, preoccupied with sex--as evidenced by the fact that sex is used today to sell everything from clothes to automobiles. Many factors contribute to this preoccupation. One thing is the obscene literature, movies, and TV programs. The immodest dress of some women is another factor. I wish those women could understand that when they dress immodestly they’re not attracting wholesome admiration; they’re merely inviting cheap, tawdry, unholy lust. Another factor is that many men have an ungodly mindset, and make little or no effort to be pure in their thoughts. 2 Peter 2:4: “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin.” The largest factor, of course, is that many people don’t know the Lord, and are pushovers for Satan and his temptations.

Sexual immorality has become not only commonplace today, it has become accepted by much of society. For example, often the news media refer to Hollywood personalities living together, though unmarried, and having children together--and they refer to these situations glibly and smilingly, as if such ungodliness is fine and dandy. There is no sense of shame whatsoever. In many TV shows and movies, the “hero” sleeps with someone who is not his wife, and it is portrayed as the normal, acceptable thing to do--whereas the truth is that such ungodly behavior is abomination in the sight of God, as well as in the sight of people with their heads on straight.

We are living in a day of almost unprecedented moral looseness. C. S. Lewis said, “We grow up surrounded by propaganda in favor of unchastity.”

Think with me now about

III. The Destructiveness of Adultery

So serious is the sin of adultery that, for a limited time in Old Testament history adultery was punishable by execution. We read in Leviticus 20:10: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

The Bible makes it clear that by the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry God no longer willed that adultery be punishable by death. However, the New Testament also makes it clear that God‘s disapproval of adultery has not diminished one iota--he simply has decreed, for reasons best known to himself, that no longer is adultery to be considered a capital offense. It is every bit as serious a matter in the sight of God as it always was--he has simply ordained that we address the problem differently than in the Old Testament era.

A. Adultery Is Destructive To The Individual Offenders

In Proverbs 6:27-29, 32-33 we read: “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbor’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent....But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonor shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.”

When a person takes his wedding vows, he pledges to cleave only unto his wife--so when he commits adultery he becomes a liar and a cheat. When you commit adultery you destroy whatever integrity and trustworthiness you might have had--and when finally you face up to the enormity of what you have done, you’ll lose whatever self-respect you might have had.

B. Adultery Destroys The Family

The marriage bond is “the holy of holies” of all human relationships. When a person commits adultery, he grossly dishonors that sacred bond. Adultery is the one justifiable reason that Jesus mentioned for divorce. When a person commits adultery he breaks the heart of his spouse and, if he has children, he also breaks their hearts.

C. Adultery Is A Sin Against Society

The home is the basic building block of civilization, and the marriage relationship is the foundation of the home. Psalm 11:3 says, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Adultery was the sin that crumbled mighty Rome; it was the sin that dealt the death-blow to ancient Greece; and adultery is rapidly destroying modern-day America. Sexual immorality runs rampant in our society--and if you think we’re already experiencing the judgment of God, I submit to you that we haven‘t seen anything yet compared to what is coming. The Bible warns in Hebrews 13:4 “...whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

D. But Adultery Is Also A Sin Against Our Creator

All sexual immorality is a sin against God--including sexual sin on the part of unmarried persons. After Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, he wound up down in Egypt as a servant in the household of Potiphar, one of Pharoah’s officers. While he was working in the house and was alone with Potiphar’s wife, she tried to seduce him, but he resisted her advances. We read about the incident in Genesis 39:7-9:

 “And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I: neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

E. Adultery Also Has Destructive Eternal Consequences

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 we read: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionist, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

Let’s consider now

IV. The Prevention of Adultery

A. Be Certain That You Are Saved

First of all, Be Certain That You're Saved

Be sure that you’ve met God’s two non-negotiable conditions for receiving the gift of eternal life. Those two conditions are named in Acts 20:21: “...repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Only a truly saved person has the moral and spiritual foundation upon which to build a life of purity.

B. Be Sure That You Are Walking Daily With The Lord

Be sure, also, that you’re Maintaining A Close Daily Walk With The Lord

Don’t let any day go by without spending time in prayer and Bible reading. In Luke 18:1 we read, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” In Acts 20:32 Paul said, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”

C. Think On The Right Things

Make it a point to Think On The Right Things

The best defense is a good offense. Romans 12:21 says, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Let your prayer be that expressed in Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” In Philippians 4:8 we read: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

Guarding our thoughts requires that we not look at things which arouse unholy, lustful thoughts. There is great wisdom in that line that the little children sing: “Be careful, little eyes, what you see.” The author of Psalm 101:3 said, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes....”

D. Love Your Spouse

Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”--and Titus 2:4 tells us that aged women are to teach the younger women “to love their husbands.” You ladies can make the application for yourselves; I want to speak for a few minutes to the men. When God said, “Husbands, love your wives,” he was giving a command. A command is an appeal to the will. Emotion and romance are wonderful--but never forget that the basic ingredient in love is commitment.

Sometimes when things aren’t going well at home and his marriage relationship is strained, a man will find himself attracted to some other woman and he’ll say to himself, “I’m falling out of love with my wife and in love with this other woman, and I can’t help it.” Oh, yes, you can help it. To tell yourself that you can’t is to tell yourself a lie from the bottomless pit of hell. When you find your emotions wandering, you just remind yourself that you are under a divine mandate to love and honor your wife. She is God’s gift to you. She gave up her name for you, she placed her trust in you, she put her very life and her future well-being in your hands--and to betray her trust would be the sorriest, most unGodly, most low-down thing you could ever do. Don’t try to let yourself “off the hook” by the weak- kneed, sophomoric claim that you “can’t help it.” If you’ve got one ounce of backbone and decency and real manhood in you, you most certainly can help it. Ask God to forgive your foolish, wandering thoughts, and by his grace get your thinking straightened out--and reaffirm your commitment to love your wife.

Never forget that sex is one of God’s good and beautiful gifts, but that it is intended only for the institution of marriage--not before marriage, and not outside of it. Sex before or outside of marriage is cheap, tawdry, and unfulfilling. That’s one reason that affairs don’t last. The gift of sex can only reach its God-given potential within the sacred confines of a God-ordained marriage.

IV. The Cure For Adultery

Someone says, “That’s all well and good, but I’ve already committed adultery. What about me? Is there hope for me?”

A. For The Lost Person, Salvation Is The Cure

Let me refer back to a passage cited earlier. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 the apostle Paul, writing to some converts in the city of Corinth, reminded them that “neither...adulterers, nor”--and he names a number of other sins--“shall inherit the kingdom of God.” But then in verse 11 he says: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God.”

You can be changed, by the power and grace of God. In John 8 is the story of a woman who was brought before Jesus by a group of scribes and Pharisees. In verse 4 we read: “They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.” They went on to remind Jesus that according to the Mosaic law of the Old Testament such a person should be stoned--but they wanted to know what Jesus thought should be done. According to verse 7 Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” One by one, her accusers went away. Then Jesus said, in verse 10: “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” Verse 11: “She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

Notice that she called Jesus “Lord.” She was not using the word “Lord” merely as a term of courtesy or respect. This woman obviously had a conversion experience. During that dynamic encounter with the Son of God, she repented of her sins and received him as her Lord and Savior. Thus, she was now forgiven, cleansed, and given a new lease on life. She now was filled with the desire to live a holy life, and she now had Jesus in her heart to help her live that new, clean life. She had passed from darkness into light. Thus, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

B. For The Backslidden Believer, Confession And Rededication Is The Cure

But what about the saved person who has slipped and committed adultery? What is his situation? Is there help for him? Yes. Our God is the God of another chance. Sin in the life of a believer grieves the heart of God--but he doesn’t write his child off. That person does not lose his salvation. Hear the words of Jesus recorded in John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”

But while the backslidden Christian doesn’t lose his salvation, he does lose his joy, peace, and effectiveness--and he faces the grim consequences of his disobedience. But forgiveness is available to him. He must face up to the heinousness of his sin, repent, and recommit himself to the Lord--but he can then be cleansed and can make a new start.

One of the saddest stories in the Old Testament is the story of King David’s tragic sin of adultery. When confronted by Nathan the prophet with the full heinousness of what he had done, he deeply repented and cried out to God for mercy. Listen to these excerpts from Psalm 51, which records David’s confession and plea for forgiveness. Verses 2-3: “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” Verse 7: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Verse 10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Verse 12: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Verse 17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

Whether you’ve committed the sin of adultery, or some other sin, that’s the way back for a Christian who has fallen by the wayside. He must repent of his sin, confess it to God, ask the Lord’s forgiveness, and determine--by God’s grace--to make a new start. God will always hear that kind of plea. Listen to the wonderful invitation of Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”