The seventh commandment of God’s law given to Moses states “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. At first glance it seems simple and self explanatory, but there’s far more to it than one might think. The majority of Christians would bring to mind the infidelity of a spouse and think of course, such a breach of a covenant bond and trust ought to be warned against and forbidden by God. Still, there is much more that is included in the seventh commandment.
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”Hebrews 13:4
According to the Westminster Larger Catechism the answer to the question (Q138) “What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?” goes like this: “The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections,[ I Thess. 4:4; Job 31:1; I Cor. 7:34 ] words,[ Col. 4:6 ] and behavior;[ I Peter 2:3 ] and the preservation of it in ourselves and others;[ I Cor. 7:2, 35-36 ] watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses;[ Job 31:1 ] temperance,[ Acts 24:24 ] keeping of chaste company,[ Prov. 2:16-20 ] modesty in apparel;[ I Tim. 2:9 ] marriage by those that have not the gift of continency,[ I Cor. 7:2, 9 ] conjugal love,[ Prov. 5:19-20 ] and cohabitation;[ I Peter 3:7 ] diligent labor in our callings;[ Prov. 31:11, 27-28 ] shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto [ Prov. 5:8; Gen. 39:8-10 ]”.
As you can see there are a lot of topics that fall into the category of adultery, but for the sake of brevity I’d like to focus on the issues of sexual immorality. As Christians we are not under the dominion of sin, yet a remnant of sin remains within the converted in the form of lust. Paul talks about his own struggle with the sinful desires of the heart in Romans 7, and we too are to be intimately aware of the besetting sins of our own lusts. Sexual lust is a major topic that is not often dealt with properly. This is evident in the failures exposed in today’s congregations, so often a church leader is caught in fornication or using pornography. In our generation the temptations are everywhere, in movies, songs, clothing etc. Too easily have Christians not only succumb to the lustful temptations but in some cases they’ve celebrated it; the most notable one in our day being homosexuality.
Homosexuality is a violation of the seventh commandment and anyone who succumbs to such lust must repent and mortify the flesh against further stumbling. Those who refuse to repent, encourage it, and celebrate it are acting as enemies of God [ 1 Corinthians 6:18 ]. The same should be said of any sexually immoral sin; how long before incest or bestiality are encouraged and/or celebrated? Why do we voraciously address certain versions of sexual immorality like infidelity or pornography but ignore homosexuality, polyamory, premarital sex, etc.? We must show no partiality in this regard simply because the culture of this present world has shifted it’s view on marriage and of sexuality. We must foster a culture in the Christian community of chastity, sexual purity, and we must do so gracefully without unnecessary burdening legalism. Individually we must develop habits that will guard the heart, and as a community we must hold each other accountable with discipleship and discipline.
One of the liberating insights of the Reformation is that sex in marriage is not simply for procreation, but also for pleasure and a God-given protection against unlawful lusts. Sex belongs in marriage, a union between one man and one woman. Anything outside of that are heinous sinful crimes against God’s law. Leviticus 20:10-21 gives some of the clearest examples of such crimes: incest, bestiality, sodomy, homosexuality, etc. Some of these sins, of all others, fools who think themselves wise (to the world) are most apt to make a mockery of or reject as invalid; but God has good reason to put these down in Scripture. It is God’s will that every man should possess his vessel in sanctification and in honor [ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ].
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”Genesis 2:24
Holiness is the goal of our calling and therefore we must set our sights upon what it means to be Holy according to God’s standard. He didn’t pluck us out of the wickedness of our former life to continue to pollute our minds and body with unrighteousness. Scripture tells us to live as citizens of Jerusalem, not Sodom and Gomorra. The philosophers of this world would encourage us to live according to nature, to do that which makes us feel good, and not allow any restrictions to be placed upon us in order to tame our lustful hearts. But I say that if we do not manifest ourselves as being sons and daughters of the Father who sent us in accordance with the laws that have been written on our hearts, then we have spit in His face and shown ourselves to be ungrateful children [ Ephesians 5:1 ].